The Washington Post awarded Sen. Kamala Harris with four Pinocchios for sharing a selectively edited video about Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh while arguing that he is “going after” birth control.
The California Democrat tweeted footage of an exchange Kavanaugh had with Republican Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas during the judge’s confirmation hearing last week before the Senate Judiciary Committee.
The nominee answered by recounting the plaintiff priests’ position in the case regarding filling out a Department of Health and Human Services form to obtain a waiver from the contraception mandate, which, if accepted by HHS, required health insurance providers to offer the coverage free of charge to those who were interested.
Kavanaugh told Cruz, “They said filling out the form would make them complicit in the provision of the abortion-inducing drugs that they were, as a religious matter, objecting to.”
Harris’s video omitted Kavanaugh saying, “they said,” making it appear that he was offering a statement about his views on the matter, and even birth control more broadly.
“Kavanaugh chooses his words very carefully, and this is a dog whistle for going after birth control,” she tweeted. “He was nominated for the purpose of taking away a woman’s constitutionally protected right to make her own health care decisions. Make no mistake – this is about punishing women.”
Kavanaugh chooses his words very carefully, and this is a dog whistle for going after birth control. He was nominated for the purpose of taking away a woman’s constitutionally protected right to make her own health care decisions. Make no mistake – this is about punishing women. pic.twitter.com/zkBjXzIvQI
— Kamala Harris (@SenKamalaHarris) September 7, 2018
Kavanaugh explained to Cruz that the reason he dissented in the case was based on the Supreme Court’s Burwell v. Hobby Lobby Stores decision, which found business owners have the right not to provide contraception coverage to employees if it runs contrary to their sincerely held religious beliefs.
The judge stated that the law in question in both cases was the Religious Freedom of Restoration Act of 1993 introduced by the late Sen. Ted Kennedy and then-Rep. Chuck Schumer in their respective legislative chambers. It was signed into law by then-President Bill Clinton.
RFRA calls on judges to weigh the state’s interest against the burden the law in question places on religious objectors. Kavanaugh believed the contraception mandate did place a substantial burden on the priests’ free exercise of their faith.
In 2016, the Supreme Court vacated the majority decision in Priests for Life, in light of an agreement the group reached with the federal government, and sent the case back to the lower court.
After receiving significant criticism for her misleading tweet, Harris included Kavanaugh’s comments in context in a subsequent post, but argued, “There’s no question that he uncritically used the term ‘abortion-inducing drugs,’ which is a dog whistle term used by extreme anti-choice groups to describe birth control.”
The Washington Post was not buying the senator’s explanation.
“Harris’s decision to snip those crucial words (‘they said’) from her first post on the video is certainly troubling,” wrote Post fact-checker Glenn Kessler.
Regarding her follow up tweet, he added, “But there was no acknowledgment by Harris that the original tweet was misleading.”
Kessler concluded, “She earns Four Pinocchios — and her fellow Democrats should drop this talking point.”
Four Pinocchios is the worst rating The Post awards for false statements.
Politifact also found Harris’ Twitter post in error.
“In Harris’ tweet, Kavanaugh appears to define contraception as abortion-inducing. But the video failed to include a crucial qualifier: ‘They said,’” Politifact reported.
“In fact, he was citing the definition of the religious group Priests for Life. He has not expressed his personal view,” the fact checker added. “We rate this statement False.”
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