CNN's Poppy Harlow let it slide once. But not twice.
Janet Porter, a spokeswoman for Senate candidate Roy Moore, began her interview on Harlow's program Tuesday by telling the anchor, who is pregnant, that Moore will “stand for the rights of babies like yours, in the womb, where his opponent will support killing them up until the moment of birth.”
Harlow ignored the remark and continued the interview, questioning Porter about accusations of sexual misconduct against the Alabama Republican.
Later, however, Porter invoked Harlow's unborn child again. “Doug Jones says you can take the life of that baby,” Porter said, referring to Moore's Democratic opponent.
“Let's leave my child out of this,” Harlow replied, calmly but firmly. “Let's leave my child out of this.”
“Well, it's really the children of Alabama that we're talking about,” Porter answered, “and the Alabamians understand that if we're talking about what's at stake here, we're talking about fake allegations, concocted stories, about an innocent man versus the real threat of child abuse.”
Quick fact-check: Porter misrepresented Jones's position on abortion. Jones opposed a House bill, passed in October, that would ban abortions after 20 weeks in most cases. He told the Alabama Media Group last month that he considered such a proposal too strict but also said he supports the current law in Alabama, which generally prohibits abortions after 22 weeks.
“The law for decades has been that late-term procedures are generally restricted, except in the case of medical necessity,” Jones said. “That's what I support. I don't see any changes in that.”
Porter's claim that Jones supports abortions “up until the moment of birth” does not match his stated position.
But the truly jarring aspect of Porter's argument was, of course, the intensely personal approach she took to Harlow. It was reminiscent of the way one of Moore's attorneys, Trenton Garmon, brought up MSNBC anchor Ali Velshi's “background” during an interview in November, while arguing that cultural differences color views about what are appropriate relationships.
“I looked up Ali's background there and, wow, that's awesome that you have got a — such a diverse background,” Garmon said. “It's really cool to read through that. . . . In other countries, there's arrangement through parents for what we would refer to as consensual marriage.”
Velshi, born in Kenya and raised in Canada, is of Indian descent. Garmon appeared to be likening a Christian fundamentalist culture in which some men court teenage girls to the tradition of arranged marriages in India — his point being that people should not judge others' customs.
Velshi's co-host, Stephanie Ruhle, was visibly irritated by Garmon's comparison. “What does Ali's background have to do with dating a 14-year-old?” she said.
“I don't know where you're going with this,” Velshi added, though he probably had a good idea.
The implied messages of Garmon and Porter were not very subtle: Roy Moore protects unborn babies, so pregnant Poppy Harlow shouldn't criticize him. Ali Velshi's forebears came from a country where arranged marriages are common, so Velshi has no standing to question a relationship practice that many Americans find peculiar.
The sample size is small, but it appears that one of the Moore campaign's strategies is to get personal with interviewers, perhaps hoping to provoke confrontations that will make journalists appear overbearing. Harlow and Velshi did not take the bait.