With less than two months until Florida’s Democratic primary, Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried has ramped up her criticism of her opponent, U.S. Rep. Charlie Crist.
Most of Fried’s criticism has zeroed in on Crist’s past as a Republican, namely his inconsistent view on abortion access and reproductive freedom.
“Charlie Crist is pro-life and his opponent is pro-choice,” read the words that appear across an ad that Fried shared on Twitter June 28. The video spliced together archival and recent footage of Crist juxtaposed with images of Fried. Throughout the ad, Crist is heard repeatedly saying, “Charlie Crist is pro-life. My opponent is pro-choice.”
The campaign ad has been viewed more than 94,000 times. Fried also retweeted a user who, after seeing the video, described Crist as an “anti-abortion Democrat.”
PolitiFact has fact-checked claims related to Crist’s stance on abortion more than six times. We couldn’t pinpoint the precise origin of the audio used in this ad, but we do know that his attitude toward abortion is complicated and difficult to summarize. And this 30-second video misrepresents his current stance.
When we asked Fried’s campaign about the ad, a spokesperson said Crist has described himself as “pro-life” as recently as April. “Nikki Fried takes him at his word, and the word he uses is pro-life,” Caroline Korba, Fried’s press secretary, told PolitiFact.
Here’s what Crist said about 7½ minutes into the April 12 interview Korba was referencing:
“When I say I am pro-life, I mean I am for life, and I am for a woman’s right to choose and make her own decisions about her body.”
Crist’s campaign also rejects the definition of “pro-life” that is used in most political debate. When asked about Crist’s past use of the term, spokesperson Joshua Karp differentiated Crist from those who typically describe themselves as “pro-life.” “Those individuals clearly aren’t interested in the life of women,” Karp said.
Crist’s history on the issue provides more insight.
His early career as a Republican state senator was marked by his belief that the decision to have an abortion should rest with women, not the government.
At the time, Crist defended his position by saying it fell in line with Republican support of small-government involvement. Even so, his stance on reproductive freedom had its limits.
Get insights into Florida politics
Subscribe to our free Buzz newsletter
You’re all signed up!
Want more of our free, weekly newsletters in your inbox? Let’s get started.Explore all your options
He told the Miami Herald that he did not support state-funded abortion. He voted for a ban on abortion later in pregnancy, which critics call “late-term abortion.” Crist also told the Tampa Bay Times in 1998 that he was “pro-choice, but not pro-abortion.”
As he geared up to run for Florida governor in 2006, Crist began using anti-abortion rhetoric. He won that race and became governor of Florida for four years.
However, Crist’s remarks on abortion continued to puzzle “activists on both sides of the abortion debate,” according to the Miami Herald.
Even as a Republican, Crist said he wouldn’t support overturning the U.S. Supreme Court decision, Roe v. Wade, that made abortion legal. Further, Crist said politicians shouldn’t put “themselves in the place of physicians.”
During an unsuccessful campaign for the U.S. Senate in 2010, Crist left the Republican party. In 2012, he said in an op-ed published by the Tampa Bay Times that his decision was fueled by the party’s tendency to pitch “so far to the extreme right on issues important to women.”
Before he left the governor’s office, Crist vetoed legislation that would have required women to get an ultrasound before opting to have an abortion.
Crist’s view on abortion before he registered as a Democrat in 2012 was murky, but Fried’s ad suggested that his stance had not changed. Crist has been a Democrat for almost 10 years, and he has routinely expressed his support for reproductive rights.
In 2017, for example, Crist voted against federal legislation that would have banned abortion after 20 weeks of pregnancy.
He also voted against a bill that sought to defund Planned Parenthood, a nonprofit organization that provides health care services, including abortion.
The Planned Parenthood Action Fund gave Crist a 100% rating for the 117th Congress, which convened in 2021 and goes through January 2023. The rating is based on Crist’s votes on legislation related to sexual and reproductive health.
Conversely, Crist has a 0% rating from the National Right to Life.
Laura Goodhue, the executive director of the Florida Alliance of Planned Parenthood Affiliates, meanwhile, said on June 29 that her organization will not endorse either candidate over the other in the Aug. 23 primary because both are “pro-reproductive health care.”
Fried said, “Charlie Crist is pro-life.”
That’s misleading. While Crist has made conflicting statements regarding reproductive freedom throughout his decades in politics, even using the term “pro-life” to describe his stance, he does support a woman’s right to choose.
The ad omitted Crist’s record over the last decade, in which he has voted in support of legal abortion access for women.
Fried’s statement contains an element of truth but ignores critical facts that would give a different impression. We rate it Mostly False.