Editorial Media

Shannon Grove: From a ‘Crazy’ Comment to a Dishonest One

Sharona Coutts

Over the past week, our story about a California lawmaker who suggested the state's drought represents God's wrath over abortion has gained significant traction in state and national media. Now Grove is desperately trying to walk back from her embarrassing gaffe.

Some people only open their mouth to change feet, and so seems to be the case for California lawmaker Shannon Grove.

Last week, we reported her comments from an anti-choice event in Sacramento, where Assemblywoman Grove said the following:

Texas was in a long period of drought until Governor Perry signed the fetal pain bill. It rained that night. Now God has His hold on California.

The headline of our piece was, “California Assemblywoman: Drought Represents God’s Wrath Over Abortion.”

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Over the past week, our story has gained significant traction in state and national media. Now Grove is desperately trying to walk back from her embarrassing gaffe.

Earlier this week, she issued a bizarre statement in which she claimed that we had “incorrectly quoted” her comments.

Rewire stands by our reporting. We believe we quoted Grove fairly, accurately, and in context.

Here’s what the evidence shows.

A week before we published our story, our reporter, Zoe Greenberg, exchanged multiple emails with Grove’s spokesperson, Greg Burt, in which she explicitly included the exact quote we used, and asked a series of questions about the quote. Greenberg also spoke with Burt by phone. Of course, we have copies of those emails.

If Grove believed she had been misquoted, she certainly didn’t avail herself of multiple opportunities to say so. At no point did she or Burt dispute the exact words of that quote, including the claim that God had a “hold” on California.

For your enjoyment, here are some of the questions Greenberg asked about what Grove meant by her comment:

  • By this comment, did she mean in a literal way that God is punishing California with a drought because of the state’s laws on abortion?
  • Are there specific abortion-related laws that she believes are against God, and have led to negative outcomes such as the current drought?
  • Are there other laws in California, related to same-sex marriage, physician-assisted suicide, or other issues that Assemblywoman Grove believes are displeasing to God and might result in this type of catastrophe?

Given those questions, there was no possibility that Burt didn’t realize the thrust of our piece.

Burt declined to give a substantive reply to my email today seeking clarification on why neither he nor Grove attempted to push back against our reporting until after we had published our first piece. He also did not respond to our request to produce audio or visual evidence that supports Grove’s version of events.

And on June 11, after the story was published, Grove posted this to her Facebook page:

Is this drought caused by God? Nobody knows. But biblical history shows a consequence to man’s actions.

She did not assert that she had been quoted incorrectly.

In fact, parsing her recent statement, Grove doesn’t deny the essence of the quote, but rather, the interpretation of it.

“I did not say God made it rain in Texas because of the fetal pain bill,” she wrote in her statement. “I did relay a report I heard I knew would be interesting to my audience. I told them after the governor signed the fetal pain bill, it rained that night. I did not say, that God made it rain because of the bill.”

Got that? Grove just randomly babbled about some unrelated events, with no intention of suggesting a causal link between them.

And if you believe that, I’ve got a desalination plant to sell you.

Of course, the real-world test of what Grove’s comments meant is whether she intended her audience to understand—and whether they did understand—her to be saying that God was punishing California for its laws that comply with the U.S. Constitution.

And it turns out we know that’s exactly what Grove conveyed to them.

We know that because another of the prominent anti-choice leaders present at the event told us they thought Grove’s comments were “crazy.” The leader, who spoke to us on background, later clarified that they wouldn’t characterize Grove herself as crazy, but that Grove’s claims that she had been misquoted left them bewildered.

So here we have it: Grove jumping from making “crazy” comments, to disingenuous ones. Her press release is in keeping with the apocryphal official who calls a press conference to announce that he is not stupid.

I already know what you’re thinking. “What? An anti-choice activist playing fast and loose with the truth? Say it ain’t so!” Yes, it’s shocking, but Grove, like many of her anti-choice colleagues, seems ready and willing to dissemble when she sees fit.

One last curious observation about Grove’s statement. In our report, we noted that Grove—a member of the state agriculture committee—appears to be oddly hostile to small fish. Referring to state conservation measures, she previously asked, “What civilized society destroys its own food source for a three-inch fish?”

It’s a matter of basic common knowledge that the collapse of creatures at any point in an ecosystem can have ricocheting effects on other parts of the system, and as a result, on the economy. You know, it’s similar to the way that anyone with a basic respect for scientific facts will agree that abortion rights are critical to both the health and economic security of women and families.

Now, there are sensible debates to be had over how to best conserve California’s precious water supplies, including the protections afforded to native fish under provisions of the Nixon-era Endangered Species Act—and many of these conversations are already taking place. Grove, however, has dodged this sensible debate; in her view, apparently, little fish are not among God’s beloved creations.

In her recent statement, Grove doubled down on that contempt. “I have elevated awareness that this state has wasted water by shipping millions of acre feet of fresh water out into the ocean over the years just to save a few fish,” she wrote.

So there we have it: California Assemblywoman Shannon Grove, slippery-tongued foe of reproductive rights and three-inch fish.

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