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Ted Cruz ad, assailed by Trump, leaves out Trump's declared shift on abortion

By W. Gardner Selby February 17, 2016

Ted Cruz stands by a provocative TV ad released two days after the death of Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia. Donald Trump, the ad's target, wants Cruz to yank it down.

The ad's theme: Trump as president couldn’t be trusted to appoint Scalia’s successor because Trump was once strongly in favor of abortion rights.

Cruz’s ad, "Supreme Trust," (posted above this story) excerpts a 1999 interview of Trump on NBC’s Meet the Press in which the host, Tim Russert, asked: "Would President Trump ban partial-birth abortion?"

Trump, then mulling a 2000 run for the Reform Party presidential nomination that he ultimately didn’t make, is shown replying: "Well look, I’m, I’m very pro-choice."

Then the ad shows Russert asking: "But you would not ban it?" "No, " Trump is shown saying.

Next, the Cruz ad’s narrator says: "We cannot trust Donald Trump with these serious decisions."

Notably and accurately, the Cruz ad includes a notation in writing that the Trump interview aired Oct. 24, 1999.

But left unstated are more current views of Trump, who no longer describes himself as pro-choice, as we noted in an earlier look at a factually flawed Cruz ad.

Trump said in a June 2015 CNN interview that he’d changed his position and would nominate Supreme Court justices sharing his "pro-life" stance. In an August 2015 Meet the Press interview, Trump said: "I'm pro-life. And I was begrudgingly the other way. But I have to say when those questions were asked, and that was many, many years ago, I wasn't a politician." In the 2015 interview, Trump also said abortion should be legal in cases of rape, incest and "if the mother is going to die," calling those conditions "pretty much the standard three exceptions that many Republicans have."

More recently, Trump opened a January 2016 opinion column in the Washington Examiner: "Let me be clear — I am pro-life. I support that position with exceptions allowed for rape, incest or the life of the mother being at risk. I did not always hold this position, but I had a significant personal experience that brought the precious gift of life into perspective for me." Trump also wrote: "Public funding of abortion providers is an insult to people of conscience at the least and an affront to good governance at best."

Another weakness in Cruz's new ad; it captures Russert’s 1999 abortion question but disregards a chunk of how Trump replied, including repeated declarations that he "hates" abortion.

Here, according to a transcript posted by, is the abortion portion of the 1999 interview:

RUSSERT: "Partial birth abortion, the eliminating of abortion in the third trimester: big issue in Washington. Would President Trump ban partial birth abortion?"

TRUMP: "Well, look, I'm very pro-choice. I hate the concept of abortion. I hate it. I hate everything it stands for. I cringe when I listen to people debating the subject. But you still just believe in choice. And, again, it may be a little bit of a New York background, because there is some different attitude in different parts of the country. And, you know, I was raised in New York, and grew up and work and everything else in New York City. But I am strongly for choice and, yet, I hate the concept of abortion."

RUSSERT: "But you would not ban it?"

TRUMP: "No."

RUSSERT: "Or ban partial birth abortion?"

TRUMP: "No. I am pro-choice in every respect and as far as it goes, but I just hate it."

Signifcant action took place years after that interview and years before the 2016 presidential election year.

In 2007, the U.S. Supreme Court upheld the congressionally approved Partial Birth Abortion Ban Act of 2003, which bars such abortions except to save the life of the mother. Also, as of February 2016, according to the Guttmacher Institute, a research center that promotes reproductive health and and abortion rights, 32 states had laws barring partial-birth abortions.

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Our Sources

Story, "Flawed Ted Cruz ad ties abortion to Donald Trump saying, ‘How stupid are the people of Iowa?,'" PolitiFact Texas, Jan. 26, 2016

Transcript, Donald Trump interview, Meet the Press, NBC, Oct. 24, 1999 (posted by Vote Smart)

Transcript, Chuck Todd interview of Donald Trump aired on Meet the Press, Aug. 16, 2015

News video, "Trump on healthcare, trade, climate, and gay marriage," CNN, June 28, 2015

Oped column, "My vision for a culture of life," the Washington Examiner, Jan. 23, 2016

Transcript, Meet the Press, NBC News, Aug. 16, 2015

Issue sheet, "Bans on 'Partial-Birth' Abortion," State Policy Issues in Brief, the Guttmacher Institute, as of Feb. 1, 2016 (accessed Feb. 15, 2016)

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More by W. Gardner Selby

Ted Cruz ad, assailed by Trump, leaves out Trump's declared shift on abortion