CNN media critic Howard Kurtz on Sunday pushed back against a Fox News pundit who slammed the "deafening silence of too much of the media" over coverage of a Philadelphia doctor accused of killing seven babies and one woman while performing late-term abortions.
In a USA Today column last week, Fox News political analyst Kirsten Powers pointed to former Pennsylvania abortion doctor Kermit Gosnell as evidence that Planned Parenthood has been wrong to claim that it's "highly unusual" that infants survive late-term abortions.
Powers said that there was a double standard because conservative radio host Rush Limbaugh had received front page coverage after he called Sandra Fluke a "slut" over her advocacy of contraception coverage for students, but Gosnell had not gotten the same attention.
"You don't have to oppose abortion rights to find late-term abortion abhorrent or to find the Gosnell trial eminently newsworthy," the Fox News pundit wrote. "The deafening silence of too much of the media, once a force for justice in America, is a disgrace."
In his "Media Monitor" segment on Sunday, Kurtz agreed that the Gosnell case had not gotten enough national coverage, but suggested that conservatives had oversimplified the argument to attack the "liberal media."
"Some conservatives are saying this amounts to blackout by the so-called liberal media, but it's more complicated that that," he explained. "First, the Gosnell case has drawn some coverage since the FBI first raided that clinic back in 2010, in such outlets as Time, NPR, the AP, The New York Times, Slate and The Daily Beast. Now since Gosnell's trial began, CNN has done a half dozen segments, including one by Jake Tapper back on March 21 and Fox News did a story that same day."
"MSNBC, like Fox, has done a few stories," Kurtz continued. "CBS and ABC carried evening news segments back in January, but there hasn't been nearly enough on the trial. Almost nothing in The Washington Post, not enough in The New York Times. Perhaps the mainstream press is less attuned to a story that cast a shadow on abortion, but the conservative media didn't do much either."
"And it's not like even the staunchest pro-choice advocate would defend what Gosnell is alleged to have done. This is a gruesome case that journalists on both sides of the abortion question have told me is hard to stomach."
The Philly Post's Simon van Zuylen-Wood wrote last week that the media should cover the Gosnell case, but it was wrong to use it as a tool to fight against abortion rights.
"Powers is a liberal and an evangelical Christian; she criticizes the right on women’s rights, the left on abortion," he observed. "Powers’s aim is to draw attention to the fact that the Gosnell murder charges should make us consider whether there’s really a difference between killing a baby inside the womb, or outside, as he so horrifically did. But this is misleading."
"The moral to be drawn from the Gosnell trial is not that current abortion laws are screwed up. Indeed, Gosnell broke them, which is why he’s on trial. Rather, it’s that as individual states increasingly restrict abortion rights, more and more illegal clinics, like Gosnell’s may crop up."