"This case is about a doctor who killed babies and endangered women," the grand jury report in the case of Philadelphia abortion doctor Kermit Gosnell begins.
Gosnell is charged with seven counts of first-degree murder, and the specific details of the alleged crimes are gruesome and disturbing. The abortion clinic where he worked has been dubbed a "House of Horrors," and the grand jury report is loaded with graphic accounts of mutilation, evisceration, and violent, unsanitary late-term abortions.
Gosnell's trial began in mid-March, but despite the incredibly visceral content, it initially garnered little attention in the national media. Now, some on the right are pointing to that dearth of coverage as a sign of liberal media bias.
Here's Red State's Erick Erickson:
"M]ost reporters have never paid attention to the trial or the horrors of many abortion clinics. Reporters lean left, are sympathetic to abortion, and view the right's demands for coverage unsympathetically because of the reporters' biases.
Within the media coverage Gosnell is either a story they covered in 2011 or something they won't cover at all. If they cover it now, they do so in passing so they can say they covered it. But they won't devote the resources to it as they would if Gosnell had killed dogs. He only killed babies. [Red State]
Similarly, NewsBusters, a group dedicated to "exposing & combating liberal media bias," argues that President Obama and the media used the murders at Sandy Hook Elementary to launch a major policy debate, but that their silence here is revealing.
The reason the media and pro-abortion politicians are ignoring Gosnell's trial is because Gosnell was an abortionist. Seven of his victims were killed after they had been aborted, and one died after she had aborted.
Why would people who believe in legalized abortion want to shed negative light on bad things that happen during legalized abortions? [NewsBusters]
Many others have leveled similar claims, with Breitbart alleging "a full-blown, coordinated blackout throughout the entire national media." A group of anti-abortion House members have even demanded to know if there is a national "media cover-up" afoot.
The criticism reached a head Thursday when Fox News' Kirsten Powers wrote an op-ed for USA Today shaming the media and declaring, "This should be front page news." According to Powers, none of the three major networks covered the case in the past three months, while the New York Times published just one original story, tucked deep within the paper, on the trial's opening day.
You don't have to oppose abortion rights to find late-term abortion abhorrent or to find the Gosnell trial eminently newsworthy. This is not about being "pro-choice" or "pro-life." It's about basic human rights.
The deafening silence of too much of the media, once a force for justice in America, is a disgrace. [USA Today]
Without hurling accusations of media bias, other news watchers have also questioned why the story hasn't been consistently front page news. "The news value is undeniable," says The Atlantic's Conor Friedersdorf, who notes that he wasn't aware of the story until it spawned such an intense outcry on Thursday.
"To sum up, this story has numerous elements any one of which would normally make it a major story. And setting aside conventions, which are flawed, this ought to be a big story on the merits," he says.
So why hasn't it gotten the wall-to-wall coverage it seemingly deserves?
One response has been that the media did, in fact, cover the story — back in 2011 when it first broke. Gosnell was arrested in January 2011, but the story receded from the headlines over the ensuing two years.
Here's Salon's Irin Carmon, who on Friday posted an exhaustive response to the accusations of liberal bias directly titled, "There is no Gosnell coverup":
If you've never heard of the Gosnell story, it's not because of a coverup by the liberal mainstream media. It's probably because you failed to pay attention to the copious coverage among pro-choice and feminist journalists, as well as the big news organizations, when the news first broke in 2011. There would be something rich, if it weren't so infuriating, about these (almost uniformly male, as it happens) reporters and commentators scrambling to break open this shocking untold story. [Salon]
Another response is that the story, for all its intrigue, is arguably a local one at this point. While it touches on several hot-button issues with national implications, the fact that it hasn't been covered ad nauseam is hardly a sign of political media bias. Even some critics now alleging liberal media bias have at the same time noted that the local media has been all over the story.
"If it were a rogue banker, I'd want to highlight it too," says Kevin Drum of the liberal magazine Mother Jones. "But that wouldn't mean the rest of the media would somehow be implicated in a conspiracy if they didn't follow my lead."
Slate's Dave Weigel offers a similar take, shooting down a comparison one commentator floated between the media's coverage of the Gosnell case and the Trayvon Martin shooting, another local crime story, but one that received endless national coverage.
George Zimmerman was questioned by police, but not charged. That was what pulled in the national media, what spurred the resignation of the local police chief, and what turned the story into a discussion of "stand your ground" laws. Once Zimmerman was charged, the press largely looked elsewhere for stories.
Gosnell was charged, and magazines like Slate wrote about the charges at the time. [Slate]
THE WEEK'S AUDIOPHILE PODCASTS: LISTEN SMARTER
- I hate Ayn Rand — but here's why my fellow conservatives love her
- The 11 worst fast food restaurants in America
- 7 language habits that reveal your age
- Here's the schedule very successful people follow every day
- 7 things the world's happiest people do every day
- 7 grammar rules you really should pay attention to
- The biggest lesson Obama failed to learn from Bush
- Why Peter Capaldi has a bigger challenge than any Doctor Who in history
- The weird obsession that's ruining the GOP
- Britain has basically decriminalized internet piracy. The U.S. should, too.
Subscribe to the Week