The Fox News PR machine has capitalized on Megyn Kelly's charade as a debate moderator, parlaying it into high-profile interviews on late night talk shows and morning news shows, and a new book she has in the works promises another round of media attention later this year. These interviews provide the media with an opportunity to question her about the misinformation she promotes on her own show, when she's out of the national spotlight, but few are taking advantage.
Kelly's supposed persona as a breath of fresh air and an unbiased journalist on Fox News -- bolstered by her position moderating the network's presidential debates -- has led to a series of laudatory profiles that have often willfully ignored her troubled past pushing conservative misinformation and bigotry.
Kelly has been called a "take-no-prisoners newswoman" who "isn't afraid to throw hardballs at Republicans" and "the brightest star at Fox News." That pretense was reinforced by the journalists and pundits across the political spectrum who stepped up to defend Kelly after Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump attacked her, kicking off a feud with the network and then declining to participate in its January 28 presidential debate.
Late night talk shows and morning news shows have not been immune to Kelly's hardball-throwing façade.
On the February 5 edition of ABC's Good Morning America, host George Stephanopoulos gave Kelly a platform to gratuitously boost her credibility as a political journalist and respond to Donald Trump's attacks without asking about any of her controversial remarks.
Kelly has also appeared on The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon and has an upcoming high-profile scheduled appearance on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert's post-Super Bowl episode, as well as a new book deal. In his interview, Fallon told Kelly that he didn't "really know your work as much until I saw you for the first Republican debate -- you were fantastic in that ... People that don't know you have to be like, 'Oh who is this person? She's phenomenal.'"
Megyn Kelly's so-called "phenomenal" reputation in the media lacks important context, found in the full spectrum of her time at Fox, including her problematic history on subjects including race and gender.
In the first two weeks of 2016, Kelly spent over 1 hour and 22 minutes promoting Michael Bay's myth-filled Benghazi movie "13 Hours" as "the gripping new film that may pose a threat to Hillary Clinton's hopes for the White House." She's used her prime-time Fox show to push falsehoods about Planned Parenthood, most recently asking whether a "political hit job" was at play in the grand jury indictment of two members of the group that released deceptively edited smear videos to attack the organization.
She regularly hosts Tony Perkins, the leader of an anti-LGBT hate group, and has shown a penchant for inflammatory rhetoric on race, ranging from blaming a 14-year-old black teenager who was the victim of a police officer's use of excessive force to calling Black Lives Matter protesters "beyond the bounds of decency."
When positive press praises Kelly's "occasionally, yet highly entertaining, bucking of the conservative party line," they downplay the fact that her show "is made up largely of the kind of stories you'd find on many other Fox News shows." Even the writer of Vanity Fair's glowing cover story, after making those observations, eventually noted that Kelly's "talent for fearmongering may be even more insidious than Trump's own. She, after all, is considered by many to be the reasonable one at Fox."
"Violent." "Sickening." "Disgusting." "Inhuman." These are all words regularly used by prominent media sources to stigmatize and mislead on the reality of abortion.
Listening to these words used to smear and shame women who exercise the right to an abortion, it'd be easy to forget that 43 years ago the Supreme Court protected that constitutional right.
Women's access to reproductive health care is as much in jeopardy as ever, as anti-choice activists and their GOP accomplices in Congress are rapidly chipping away at that right, emboldened by the echo chamber where media figures perpetuate abortion stigma.
Abortion stigma is the "shared understanding" that abortion is morally wrong or socially unacceptable. It shows up in all facets of popular culture but is especially dangerous when it taints news coverage of abortion stories.
Abortion stigmatization can be incredibly obvious in right-wing media, where abortion is often referred to as sickening, "grizzly," unethical, and on par with terrorism, while abortion providers are smeared as villains and compared to Nazis. But some of the most insidious perpetuations of abortion stigma are subtly pushed by mainstream media, like in news stories about abortion laden with emotionally manipulative language and images, and in popular culture, such as our favorite TV shows and movies.
When news outlets use footage of extremely pregnant women and even babies to cover abortion stories, the viewer's focus shifts from the women seeking abortions to the contents of their wombs. Stock footage that cuts off the heads of women and shows only their bodies in later stages of pregnancy is particularly egregious. These images also offer a subtle nod to the anti-choice activists who want news consumers and voters to believe that the majority of women getting abortions are 40 weeks pregnant. But that could not be further from the truth. The vast majority of abortions -- 90 percent -- occur during the first 12 weeks of pregnancy, when it's often not visible.
The media also help carry water for anti-choice activists when they squander opportunities to correct misinformation. In the past year alone, states have introduced 45 TRAP laws (Targeted Regulation of Abortion Providers), which are deceptive measures aimed at shutting down abortion providers by imposing medically unnecessary regulations under the guise of protecting women's health. TRAP laws include requirements for abortion providers to have hospital admitting privileges and rules that clinics must be outfitted like ambulatory surgical centers -- measures that are not only unnecessary, but that also impede abortion access and put women's health at risk by delaying or even preventing care. When the media report on these TRAP laws without acknowledging the medical community's consensus that these rules are medically unnecessary, they further promote abortion stigma by telling women that abortion is inherently unsafe and in need of regulation.
Rush Limbaugh is wrong -- Hollywood will not do "anything" to "normalize" and "promote" abortion. In fact, it's often the opposite. Abortion stigma shows up in other media as well, like when our favorite TV shows and movies depict abortion as anything other than a routine medical procedure. A recent study conducted by University of California, San Francisco sociologists Gretchen Sisson and Katrina Kimport of TV stories from 1916 to 2013 explained that abortion in fictional shows is often linked to death for female characters -- whether they obtain the procedure or not -- perpetuating the false myth that abortion frequently causes death. In reality, pregnancy is a more frequent cause of death than is induced abortion. Another study by Sisson and Kimport identified how TV depictions of abortion contribute to misconceptions about who has abortions and why. In an interview with The Washington Post's Alyssa Rosenberg*, Sisson explained that characters who get abortions on TV tend to be wealthy, white teenagers who have never given birth before. She noted that while in reality, such women do get abortions, the depictions on aggregate underrepresent the Latina and black women who obtain abortions, and distort the reasons why they obtain them. When shows emphasize women obtaining abortions when they either don't want children, or want to prioritize their careers or education, and underrepresent women who make the choice due to financial pressures, health risks, or a need to focus on their other children, they create the "perception that abortion is a want rather than a need." And when they depict a disproportionate number of women obtaining abortions because the pregnancies were the result of rape or incest, they send the message that abortion is a legitimate choice only in those horrific circumstances.
The year 2015 saw an uptick in the number of attacks against abortion providers over previous years, culminating in the deadly November shooting attack on a Colorado Planned Parenthood by a man who called himself a "warrior for the babies" and said he was trying to ensure that there were "no more baby parts." The phrase "baby parts" had been used repeatedly in cable news coverage about Planned Parenthood in the months prior to the attacks. The deadly attack on a Colorado Springs Planned Parenthood affiliate came after an FBI Intelligence Assessment reportedly concluded, "it is likely criminal or suspicious incidents will continue to be directed against reproductive health care providers, their staff and facilities." And as Vox's Emily Crockett pointed out in November, "threats, vandalism, and violence against abortion providers and clinics have escalated since this summer," when the anti-abortion organization Center for Medical Progress (CMP), "released deceptively edited videos that accused Planned Parenthood of 'selling baby parts.'" CMP's smear campaign was bolstered by the conservative echo chamber and right-wing media, which obsessively aired and backed the organization's false claims that Planned Parenthood had committed crimes. The Colorado Springs shooter's vitriol bore remarkable resemblance to the deceptively edited smear videos. It serves as a tragic reminder of the violent repercussions of pervasive abortion stigma when anti-choice activists are able to capitalize on the conservative echo chamber.
At least five other Planned Parenthood facilities were attacked in 2015 since the release of CMP's first video in July (some reports from September 2015 indicated there may have been as many as nine criminal or suspicious incidents targeting the group). Before Colorado, clinics in Thousand Oaks, CA; Pullman, WA; Aurora, IL; and New Orleans, LA, experienced attacks that in some cases impeded clinic operations.
There is no definitive evidence tying a specific attack to a specific media report, but it is crucial to note that the incidents have occurred in the midst of a prevalent smear campaign against abortion providers that has been enabled in part by abortion stigma.
Attacks on reproductive rights don't occur in a vacuum. According to RH Reality Check, "A report released in February  found that threats of harassment, intimidation, and violence against women's health clinics have doubled since 2010. Reproductive rights advocates have raised concerns that radical anti-choice activists have been emboldened by a wave of GOP legislative attacks on reproductive rights."
Legislative attacks by the GOP on reproductive rights are marshaled in by media figures perpetuating abortion stigma. According to a November 2015 report from NARAL Pro-Choice America, 22 states enacted 41 anti-choice measures in 2015. These measures included medically unnecessary TRAP laws, mandatory delays that force women to wait a certain period of time before obtaining an abortion, and laws barring abortion providers from receiving public funds.
This year there will be a landmark decision regarding abortion access when the U.S. Supreme Court hears Whole Women's Health v. Hellerstedt. The case is expected to determine the constitutionality of a Texas anti-choice law that, if allowed to stand, will have far-reaching consequences involving the ability to access abortion. The law is both medically unnecessary and based on the myth that abortion is unsafe and requires extra regulations to protect women's health -- a myth used to stigmatize abortion and shutter providers.
Unfortunately, the Supreme Court's previous decisions on abortion have already echoed stigmatizing language on abortion.
Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy has repeatedly adopted one of the right-wing media's favorite stigmatizing anti-choice abortion myths. Slate notes that Justice Kennedy has exhibited a troubling pattern of using "language straight out of the anti-abortion movement's talking points," including floating the right-wing media myth that women "regret" their choice to have an abortion. Medical experts have repeatedly debunked the stigmatizing myth, explaining that the vast majority of women receiving abortions "felt it was the right decision." Amicus briefs have been submitted to the justices in the Whole Women's Health v. Hellerstedt case that were meant to combat the media-encouraged stigma and ensure that justices hear from women who say access to abortion care improved their lives.
Anti-choice laws have dire consequences for women and families, causing clinic closures and restricted access to services. Texas' anti-choice restrictions have already forced about half the state's clinics to close, and some estimates predict up to 75 percent of clinics could ultimately close as a result of the law. The closures would disproportionately harm low-income women in rural areas of the state and strand nearly 1 million women more than 150 miles from the nearest abortion provider. The Texas Policy Evaluation Project (TxPEP) interviewed a number of women whose access to abortion care was severely impeded as a result of Texas' anti-choice law, and found that women's health care "was delayed, and in some cases [women were] prevented altogether" from obtaining an abortion. Investigators noted that women not only "reported a lack of information and confusion" in the wake of clinic closures, but also that once they had located an affordable provider, many "faced substantial added travel and hotel costs when seeking abortion services." Experts have warned that the Texas law could actually place more women at risk, predicting that women are more likely to self-induce abortion "as clinic-based care becomes more difficult to access."
Abortion isn't scary, but the threat that these laws and anti-choice extremists pose to women's health and basic human rights is terrifying. Imagine a potentially imminent future where women are forced back into the margins of society, and expected to sacrifice their lives, jobs, and education because they no longer control their own bodies or decision to give birth -- where miscarriages can become criminalized and the basis to investigate women for self-abortions. That future sounds alarmingly like the past, like a time when women were forced to take their health care into their own hands, and risk their lives to end unwanted or life-threatening pregnancies in the shadows. When women lose control over their reproductive health, they lose control over nearly every other aspect of their lives.
*Rosenberg is married to Media Matters Research Director Matt Gertz.
Image: Creative Commons: Thomas Hawk
Vanity Fair's new profile of Fox News host Megyn Kelly is the latest in a series of laudatory profiles that extol Kelly as the "brightest star at Fox News" while underplaying her bigotry and right-wing chicanery. However, buried in the article is the fact that her show, The Kelly File, is little more than a shill for conservative misinformation not unlike her primetime cohorts on the network.
Evgenia Peretz lionized Megyn Kelly in the glowing January 4 profile, calling her a "feminist icon of sorts," and suggesting her "star power" is similar to that of Julia Roberts. (Peretz even highlighted Kelly's husband comparing her to "Walter Cronkite, Barbara Walters, Oprah Winfrey," and "Grace Kelly").
But buried amid the praise, Peretz admitted exactly what makes Megyn Kelly so dangerous: though Kelly bills her show "as a 'news' show as opposed to an opinion show, like Hannity or The O'Reilly Factor, [it] is made up largely of the kind of stories you'd find on many other Fox News shows at any other time." In other words, beneath Kelly's veneer of credibility lies the same partisan misinformation typical of the network:
The Kelly File, which Kelly bills as a "news" show as opposed to an opinion show, like Hannity or The O'Reilly Factor, is made up largely of the kind of stories you'd find on many other Fox News shows at any other time. Some recurring themes are political correctness run amok, the left-wing slant of the mainstream media, and the question of Hillary Clinton's trustworthiness. (Hint: "She's lying! She's absolutely lying!," says the mother of one of the Benghazi victims in a teaser.) Not so infrequently, the right-of-center axis roams into Hannity territory, like a recurring bit on "Ahmed, the clock boy," who was mistakenly arrested after school officials thought he might be building a bomb--and then got invited to the White House. Not only was the clock really lame, The Kelly File told us, "just wait until you see what we found on his father's Facebook page." (Supposedly it called 9/11 an American hoax to encourage a war against Islam.) A go-to guest on the subject of race and law enforcement is Mark Fuhrman, the disgraced race-baiting policeman from the O. J. Simpson trial.
Even more alarming is the fact that prominent journalists not only praise Kelly, but also treat her as a credible reporter. Peretz noted praise for Kelly from "[v]eteran newswoman Katie Couric," former primetime host for CNN Campbell Brown, and former chief White House correspondent for CNN, Jessica Yellin, all applauding Kelly's "uncanny charm" and "dogged interviewing skills."
Extolling Kelly for her ability to "Unnerv[e] would-be leaders, blowhards, and didacts from both parties," Peretz pointed to a few of Kelly's famous deviations from the typical Fox rhetoric -- so-called "Megyn moments" that call out a bit of right-wing nonsense -- including her 2016 Republican presidential primary debate takedown of Donald Trump's sexism, her 2012 election night dismantling of Karl Rove as he sputtered objections to Fox News calling Ohio for President Obama, and most infamously, her rebukes of Erick Erickson and Lou Dobbs for their antiquated views of women in the workplace.
However, as Media Matters pointed out when her show was announced in 2013, for each of Kelly's "Megyn moments" there is an example of Kelly wielding her journalistic authority to prop up conservative misinformation as "news":
Megyn Kelly, is a much more pernicious purveyor of political propaganda. Kelly has the unique ability to pluck misinformation and imbue it with a veneer of legitimacy that Sean Hannity has long since lost, if he ever had it at all. She can have a great moment chiding Fox colleagues Erick Erickson and Lou Dobbs for sexism, only to turn around and push the New Black Panthers scandal as something serious. Megyn Kelly can cover gay rights in a way that is occasionally not abominable, and then push Benghazi falsehoods that have long been debunked. Megyn Kelly will rebuke Dick Morris and Karl Rove, but then hosts a climate change denier during the president's climate address. Kelly smacked down Mike Gallagher on family leave, but she also defended Newt Gingrich's bizarre suggestion that schools should use children as janitors. The examples go on and on -- but the key for Fox is that her positive moments always get more press than her more dishonest moments.
And thanks in part to Vanity Fair's latest profile, it appears they will continue to do so.
Conservative media figures and their right-wing political allies thought that this was the year they could finally achieve their decades-long goal of destroying Planned Parenthood's reputation and ability to provide health care to millions of Americans.
Since July, the previously-unknown anti-choice group Center for Medical Progress has released a series of dishonestly edited videos that falsely accuse Planned Parenthood of illegally selling "baby parts." Long-standing opponents of the organization's mission used those deceptive videos to generate congressional hearings, state and federal investigations, and endless media chatter smearing the group over its alleged "illegal" activity and qualifications for federal funding.
Worse, amid this toxic media environment for Planned Parenthood, threats and violence against reproductive health providers spiked -- culminating in the deadly November shooting attack on a Colorado Planned Parenthood by a man who called himself a "warrior for the babies" trying to ensure that there were "no more baby parts."
The latest campaign to damage Planned Parenthood has experienced setbacks, with multiple government investigations clearing the group of any wrongdoing and law enforcement agencies reacting to this uptick in anti-choice violence. But the saga is illustrative of the way dishonest activists with shady backers - in this case with ties to violent extremism -- can utilize the power of the conservative echo chamber to try to advance their destructive politics.
The Center for Medical Progress (CMP) began the year entirely unknown. But over the past five months, the anti-choice organization has become a prominent cog in the conservative machine thanks to its series of deceptively-edited smear videos that purported to show Planned Parenthood profiting from the illegal sale of fetal tissue. The videos prompted a Republican legislative attack on the group, drew criticism from major media figures, and inspired virulent anti-choice rhetoric that many have linked to recent violence against reproductive health care providers.
CMP bills itself as a non-profit "group of citizen journalists." But behind these supposed "citizen journalists" are a variety of disreputable anti-choice actors. CMP founder David Daleiden has a long history with discredited conservative groups, including anti-choice group Live Action, where Daleiden worked as the director of research. Fittingly, Live Action has also deceptively edited undercover footage of reproductive health care clinics in an attempt to smear Planned Parenthood.
As the face of CMP, Daleiden has made numerous media appearances in which he baselessly accused Planned Parenthood of "harvesting and selling aborted baby parts" and committing an illegal abortion procedure of "partial-birth abortion." The accusations are inflammatory and false, but have been repeated by various right-wing media figures. In the creation of CMP and its strategy, Daleiden took advice from the perpetrators of an earlier campaign against Planned Parenthood carried out by an older anti-choice group called "Life Dynamics," which in the late 1990s also made wild allegations of illegal profiteering on fetal tissue in order to whip up anti-choice media coverage. These claims of illegal activity collapsed under closer scrutiny.
Troy Newman, a CMP board member and adviser to Daleiden, is an established figure in the extremist wing of the anti-choice movement. Newman has infamously argued that the killer of an abortion doctor should have been allowed to argue that the murder was a "justifiable defensive action," and is the president of Operation Rescue - a group that consulted on CMP's videos and has a violent background of its own. The group's senior policy adviser, for example, was sentenced in 1988 for conspiring to bomb a San Diego abortion clinic, and was in communication with the murderer of abortion provider Dr. George Tiller, helping the murderer track Tiller's court dates.
CMP's videos used undercover footage of actors' conversations with Planned Parenthood officials and with staff members of private, for-profit biomedical procurement companies. The videos were heavily edited to cut out crucial parts of conversations to make it appear that Planned Parenthood officials were "sell[ing] the body parts of aborted fetuses," and agreeing to alter abortion procedures to profit from the illegal sale of fetal tissue. But the more extensive footage released on CMP's website routinely undermined the sensationalist claims of the edited versions, showing that Planned Parenthood officials were discussing routine and long-legal reimbursement for costs associated with tissue donation, not selling "baby parts." The longer footage also featured officials reiterating that everything done is "for the safety of the patient," and stating that they could not and would not modify or delay the procedure for the sake of fetal tissue donation, per Planned Parenthood and tissue donation guidelines. Some videos also relied on comments from third party sources that never worked for Planned Parenthood, and similarly did not implicate Planned Parenthood in any illegal activity.
In fact, while Planned Parenthood has been shown to have done nothing illegal, CMP currently finds itself in court unsuccessfully trying to hide its anonymous backers because it may have engaged in a criminal conspiracy to produce the videos in the first place.
Despite the flimsy nature of the allegations, right-wing media quickly seized on the videos, and Fox News led the charge. Fox host Bill O'Reilly called for an FBI investigation into Planned Parenthood, Megyn Kelly accused the organization of "celebrating its practice of harvesting the organs of aborted fetuses for money," and network correspondent Peter Doocy asserted that he searched the organization's website for "fetal baby part prices" but did not get results because the sale is a "well-kept secret."
Other conservative media figures used CMP's videos to compare Planned Parenthood to Nazis, likening abortion to genocide, and used the videos to call for completely defunding the women's health care provider - even going so far as to support a government shutdown to do so.
While CMP's smear campaign found a receptive audience among conservative figures, more responsible outlets condemned CMP after reviewing their claims, saying the videos took Planned Parenthood personnel's words "grossly out of context" and showed "nothing illegal." The New York Times editorial board called the videos a "campaign of deception" and said those who use the videos for political purposes care "nothing about the truth."
Fetal tissue donation and reimbursement for "reasonable expenses occasioned by the actual retrieval, storage, preparation, and transportation of the tissues" are both legal with informed consent, and were created in response to the advice of medical experts. Planned Parenthood has repeatedly explained that its clinics "help patients who want to donate tissue for scientific research" with "the highest ethical and legal standards," and receive "no financial benefit" from the arrangement aside from reimbursement of "actual costs, such as the cost to transport tissue" -- consistent with industry standards.
Legal fetal tissue donations support critical medical research and help cure diseases, and Planned Parenthood is only one of many groups that support this initiative (other groups that provide tissue donations include clinics associated with universities). Scientists have already noted the ramifications of CMP's smears, explaining that they've seen a dramatic drop in the availability of tissue donations, threatening the "life-saving research" the donations enable. Planned Parenthood announced in October that it would no longer accept any reimbursement for expenses associated with its fetal tissue donation program.
Despite the fact that CMP's fabrications have been thoroughly condemned and debunked, their false smears have nonetheless fueled Republican lawmakers' latest attempts to defund Planned Parenthood, fundraise off the outrage, and bolster their presidential campaigns by proving their "anti-abortion bona fides," as Salon's Heather Digby Parton wrote.
Following the release of CMP's first video, the National Republican Congressional Committee (NRCC) along with then-House Speaker John Boehner and Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy called for a congressional investigation into Planned Parenthood, which was launched by the House Energy and Commerce Committee. After the release of the second video, congressional Republicans introduced legislation to defund Planned Parenthood. Sen. Rand Paul introduced "an amendment to the tax code that would strip Planned Parenthood of the federal dollars it receives annually for a range of women's health services." Rep. Diane Black (R-TN) introduced the Defund Planned Parenthood Act of 2015, which called for "an immediate one-year moratorium on support" for the organization while it was being investigated by Congress. (The House Oversight Committee even used the heavily-edited footage to promote its hearing on Planned Parenthood.) Remarkably, after House Republicans voted to create a special committee solely to investigate Planned Parenthood, chair of the hearing, Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-UT), admitted the committee had not uncovered any evidence that Planned Parenthood broke the law.
But that did not stop Republican presidential candidates from adopting CMP's language into their own platforms. During the first Republican presidential primary debate, Carly Fiorina falsely claimed (and later repeated) that video taken inside a Planned Parenthood clinic showed a "fully formed fetus on the table, its heart beating, its legs kicking, while someone says we have to keep it alive to harvest its brain." Numerous media outlets quickly called Fiorina out for citing something that "does not exist."
Later, Mike Huckabee falsely claimed that Planned Parenthood collaborates in "the selling of body parts." Donald Trump said the videos showed "these people from Planned Parenthood talking about it like you're selling parts to a car." Ted Cruz asserted "Planned Parenthood officials [participate in] callously, heartlessly bartering and selling the body parts of human beings." Marco Rubio even suggested Planned Parenthood "pushe[s women] into abortions so that those [fetal] tissues can be harvested and sold for a profit." And Chris Christie suggested that Planned Parenthood supports ""the systematic murder of children in the womb to preserve their body parts in a way that maximizes their value for sale for profit."
Countless media outlets have lambasted the GOP presidential candidates for using "lurid, violent imagery and rhetoric" to smear Planned Parenthood over the videos, saying the language could "inspire 'troubled souls'" to commit violence against women's health clinics. The Washington Post's Dana Milbank wrote that the GOP candidates' calls for outrage against Planned Parenthood - and conservative media's comparisons of Planned Parenthood to Nazis - could allow unhinged individuals to use this rhetoric as "justification to contemplate the unspeakable."
Discussions about the link between CMP's myths, the candidates' rhetoric, and deadly violence became central to the national dialogue at the end of last month. On November 27, a gunman attacked a Planned Parenthood facility in Colorado, shooting and killing three people. The alleged gunman reportedly explained his actions by telling law enforcement "no more baby parts," and later declared during a court appearance, "I am guilty. There will be no trial. I am a warrior for the babies." The attack came at a time when law enforcement agencies have noted an uptick in violence against reproductive health care providers following the release of CMP's videos. Three months into the group's campaign of deception, an FBI Intelligence Assessment reportedly concluded, "it is likely criminal or suspicious incidents will continue to be directed against reproductive health care providers, their staff and facilities." As Vox's Emily Crockett pointed out, it is "clear that threats, vandalism, and violence against abortion providers and clinics have escalated since this summer, when anti-abortion activists released deceptively edited videos that accused Planned Parenthood of 'selling baby parts.'"
At least five Planned Parenthood facilities have been attacked since the release of CMP's first video in July (some reports indicate as many as nine criminal or suspicious activities targeting the group). Before Colorado, apparent terror attacks struck clinics in Thousand Oaks, CA; Pullman, WA; Aurora, IL; and New Orleans, LA.
There is no definitive evidence that the clinic attacks are the result of the vitriolic anti-Planned Parenthood fervor that has emerged following the release and conservative media hype of CMP's deceptively-edited smear videos. But it is crucial to note that the incidents have occurred in the midst of the smear campaign.
Planned Parenthood regional CEO Karl Eastlund said the arson attacks are "unfortunately a predictable ripple effect from the false and incendiary attacks that fuel violence from extremists." The Los Angeles Times pointed out that "as long as abortion has been legal in the U.S., abortion clinics throughout the country have been subject to arson and bombings" and "abortion providers have been murdered." And according to RH Reality Check, "A report released in February found that threats of harassment, intimidation, and violence against women's health clinics have doubled since 2010. Reproductive rights advocates have raised concerns that radical anti-choice activists have been emboldened by a wave of GOP legislative attacks on reproductive rights."
While violence seems to have escalated this year, clinics and doctors that provide abortion services have been subject to terror attacks for decades. The Anti-Defamation League called anti-abortion violence "America's forgotten terrorism," explaining, "Anti-abortion violence has actually remained a consistent, if secondary, source of domestic terrorism and violence, manifesting itself most often in assaults and vandalism, with occasional arsons, bombings, drive-by shootings, and assassination attempts." And according to the Feminist Majority Foundation's 2014 National Clinic Violence Survey, which polled 242 abortion providers throughout the country, "nearly 1 in 5" abortion clinics experience "severe violence."
Rhetoric that began with an unknown organization and fact-free smear videos, thanks to heavy promotion from conservative media and shady support from movement extremists, found its way into Republican legislative priorities and presidential platforms, and may have helped inspire acts of violence against reproductive health care providers. While not a traditional media outlet itself, CMP produced its own content that it used to infiltrate a fractured media environment and receptive conservative echo chamber, creating a feeding frenzy to broadcast their deceptive message loud and clear. For these reasons, Media Matters recognizes the Center for Medical Progress as the 2015 Misinformer of the Year.
Past recipients include George Will (2014), CBS News (2013), Rush Limbaugh (2012), Rupert Murdoch and News Corp. (2011), Sarah Palin (2010), Glenn Beck (2009), Sean Hannity (2008), ABC (2006), Chris Matthews (2005), and Bill O'Reilly (2004).
CMP's Founder, David Daleiden, Has A Long History With Discredited Conservative Groups. CMP's founder David Daleiden has a long history with discredited anti-choice groups. Daleiden was the director of research for the discredited anti-abortion group Live Action, which has also been criticized for deceptively editing undercover footage of abortion clinics in an attempt to smear Planned Parenthood. According to Daleiden's bio from the time on Live Action's website, he assumed his role in 2008 and was later banned from Pomona College's campus after "videotaping a Planned Parenthood of Los Angeles speaker denying Planned Parenthood's responsibility for the cover-up of statutory rape." Daleiden is also reportedly friendly with James O'Keefe, a conservative figure notorious for using "severely edited" videos to target liberal organizations. [Media Matters, 7/15/15]
Troy Newman, CMP Board Member And Adviser To Daleidan, Is "One Of The Nation's Most Controversial Antiabortion Activists." CMP board member Troy Newman has a history of violent rhetoric and harassment. The Washington Post reported that Newman "has long been one of the nation's most controversial antiabortion activists, in part because of remarks he has made apparently praising the killing of abortion doctors and calling women who have abortions 'murderers.'" In 2004, Rolling Stone reported that Newman tried to "shut down abortion clinics by systematically harassing their employees into quitting." [Media Matters, 11/20/15]
Newman Said Colorado Shooting Was "Exactly What" Planned Parenthood Had "Been Hoping For." During a radio interview, Newman was asked whether the shooting in Colorado may be "helpful to Planned Parenthood." He responded, "Planned Parenthood, you know, desperately needs something to save their bacon from being defunded and thrown in jail, the multiple investigations in Congress, etcetera. They need something to deflect and this is exactly what they've been hoping for. Something to deflect the attention away from them as being the victimizers and back on to being the victims, that's where they like to be, is to be the poor victim." [Media Matters, 12/2/15]
Operation Rescue, A Group Consulting On CMP's Videos, Has An Extreme And Violent Background. Operation Rescue - where Troy Newman works as president -- said CMP's campaign attacking Planned Parenthood was created "in consultation with" their group. The group's senior policy adviser, Cheryl Sullenger, was sentenced in 1988 for attempting to bomb a San Diego abortion clinic. Sullenger was also in communication with the murderer of abortion provider Dr. George Tiller, and reportedly helped the murderer to track Tiller's court dates. Sullenger's Operation Rescue bio states "she now regrets" her violent actions. [Media Matters, 7/21/15]
CMP's Founder Cited Claims By Life Dynamics That Have Been Debunked By Congress, As Inspiration For His Campaign Against Planned Parenthood. David Daleiden cited a discredited 2000 campaign by Life Dynamics and its leader, Mark Crutcher, as the inspiration behind his own group's smear campaign against Planned Parenthood, claiming he learned from the group about generating bad publicity for Planned Parenthood and paying "an employee of a fetal tissue-collection organization to provide evidence of illegal practices." Life Dynamic's 2000 claims that Planned Parenthood was selling fetal tissue for profit without consent were debunked by Congress, and the Kansas City FBI subsequently cleared the Planned Parenthood facility of accusations that they violated federal law. [Media Matters, 9/24/15]
Independent Analysis Found Evidence Of "Intentionally Deceptive" Manipulated Footage In CMP's Planned Parenthood Attack Videos. An independent analysis commissioned by Planned Parenthood and conducted by forensic experts found evidence that CMP "manipulat[ed]" footage in both the edited and supposedly full-length videos. The analysis found that the videos "contain intentionally deceptive edits, missing footage and inaccurately transcribed conversations," according to an August 27 article from Politico, which obtained a copy of the report:
Fusion GPS outlined 42 instances in which CMP edited out content from the short as well as so-called full versions of the tapes, several of which were secretly recorded. The company also identified instances in which context was eliminated, minutes of film were deleted and transcripts released by CMP did not match what was said on the tapes.
The report concludes that the degree of manipulation means the videos have no "evidentiary value" in a legal context, can't be used in "official inquiries" and lack credulity as journalism. Those findings are a direct response to CMP's arguments in court -- while fighting efforts to prevent it from releasing more video -- that it is protected by the First Amendment.
Fusion GPS found that at least two of the filmed interviews with Planned Parenthood officials are missing at least 30 minutes of content. It speculates that the cuts could include moments in which CMP activists, who were posing as representatives of a fictitious tissue procurement company, said things to lead the officials into damning statements. [Politico, 8/27/15]
First Video Deceptively Claimed To Have Caught Planned Parenthood Selling "The Body Parts Of Aborted Fetuses," But Full Footage Debunks That Claim. A video released July 14 by the Center for Medical Progress claimed to show Planned Parenthood Federation of America (PPFA) Senior Director of Medical Services Dr. Deborah Nucatola discussing how PPFA "sells the body parts of aborted fetuses." But the longer version of the video and the transcript released by CMP, which they claim is unedited and accurate, undermined their sensationalist claim, showing at least three crucial edits that revealed that Nucatola was actually discussing reimbursement costs for consensual, legal tissue donations. The CMP-released transcript includes remarks made by Nucatola not included in the shorter edited video explaining that "nobody should be selling tissue, that's just not the goal here." The shorter video cut nearly eight minutes out in the middle of a conversation about money where Nucatola made clear that PPFA only accepts payment to cover legal reimbursement costs for what she repeatedly characterized as "tissue donation" in the transcript. [Media Matters, 7/14/15]
Second Highly-Edited Video Falsely Claimed To Have Caught A Planned Parenthood Official "Haggling Over Payments" For "Baby Parts," But Full Footage Shows That Did Not Take Place. In a video released July 21, CMP claimed PPFA Medical Directors' Council President Mary Gatter was seen "haggling over" prices for fetal tissue donations and offering to change medical procedures "to get more intact body parts." However, the longer video released by CMP which is supposedly unedited, shows that Gatter's statements were cherry-picked to give the impression of illegal activity that was not taking place. The deceptively cut shorter video shows Gatter seeming to admit that Planned Parenthood receives payment for fetal tissue donation "in spite of incurring no costs," while the longer version of the video shows that Gatter was discussing the process of obtaining consent and sorting donations. In addition, CMP's press release said its edited video shows Gatter "suggest[ing] modifying abortion procedure to get more intact fetuses" while the longer video shows Gatter reiterating that she cannot modify procedure herself and that she would have to consult with a surgeon. [Media Matters, 7/21/15]
Third Video Falsely Alleged That Planned Parenthood Participates In "Black Market In Baby Parts," But Shows Witness Explaining PPFA Only Receives Legal Reimbursement For Donations. In a video released July 28 as part of their "Human Capital Project," CMP claimed that Planned Parenthood is engaging in a "black market in baby parts" and using an "illicit pricing structure" to profit from fetal tissue donations. The video, which features documentary-style interviews with former StemExpress lab technician Holly O'Donnell, failed to demonstrate illegal activity by Planned Parenthood. The highly-edited video, which is largely about a separate for-profit research tissue supply company, features the lab technician who admits PPFA only receives legal reimbursement for actual costs. The video also includes footage from the previously released videos that were also debunked as highly-edited and taken out of context. [Media Matters, 7/28/15]
Fourth Video Deceptively Implied Planned Parenthood Official Was "Negotiating A Fetal Body Parts Deal." A July 30 video claimed that Planned Parenthood of the Rocky Mountains Vice President and Medical Director Dr. Savita Ginde was "negotiating a fetal body parts deal, agreeing multiple times to illicit pricing per body part harvested." Like the other CMP videos, the fourth video was deceptively-edited and does not show any evidence of illegal activity on the part of Planned Parenthood. The longer version of the video released by CMP reveals staff at a Colorado Planned Parenthood affiliate simply discussing legal reimbursement fees for donations from women. Both CMP's "actor" and Dr. Ginde stated that compensation is based on reimbursement of "processing and time," as allowed under federal law. [Media Matters, 7/30/15]
Fifth Undercover Video Deceptively Made It Appear That A PPFA Official Agreed To Illegally Alter Procedure, But Full Footage Shows PPFA's Refusal To Do So. CMP's fifth video, released on August 4 claimed to have caught Planned Parenthood of the Gulf Coast Director of Research Melissa Farrell "advertising the Texas Planned Parenthood branch's track record of fetal tissue sales." However, the transcript released by CMP shows that the organization was discussing reimbursement for costs associated with the consensual procurement of fetal tissue, which federal law allows. Heavy edits in the video made it appear that Farrell agreed to alter the procedure purely for tissue procurement, which could put patients at risk and would be illegal. The longer version of the video released by CMP showed Farrell explaining that everything done "is there for the safety of the patient" and under "our standard process" and that the clinic would not alter or delay a procedure for the sake of fetal tissue donation, per Planned Parenthood and tissue donation guidelines. [Media Matters, 8/4/15]
Sixth CMP Video Falsely Alleged That Planned Parenthood "Sold Baby Parts Without Patient Consent." The sixth video, released on August 12, was the second installment of CMP's documentary-style "Human Capital Project." The video relied on the account of Holly O'Donnell, a third-party former blood and tissue procurement technician who never worked for Planned Parenthood. O'Donnell worked for StemExpress, a middleman company that sold fetal tissue donations to researchers. As with the other videos, the sixth video offered no evidence that Planned Parenthood broke any law. O'Donnell also admitted that procurement technicians "had a consent form we'd have to initial" with the donor stating, "I know I'm not going to be reimbursed or compensated." [Media Matters, 8/12/15]
Seventh Video Featured Undercover Footage Of For-Profit Biomedical Procurement Companies, Not Planned Parenthood Personnel. The seventh video released on August 19 was the third in CMP's documentary-style "Human Capital Project" and again featured interviews with former StemExpress employee Holly O'Donnell, whom CMP identified as a former staff member of the for-profit biomedical procurement company. Two of the undercover interviews featured throughout the seventh video were with personnel at for-profit tissue procurement companies Novogenix Laboratories LLC and Advanced BioScience Resources. No one at either company implicates Planned Parenthood in illegal activities. The video also includes snippets of the deceptively-edited, hidden camera conversations with Planned Parenthood officials from the first and second videos. [Media Matters, 8/19/15]
Eighth Video Featured StemExpress CEO, Not Planned Parenthood Officials. The eighth undercover video, released August 25, alleged to document "the sale of aborted baby parts" -- this time, documenting a private conversation with for-profit fetal tissue procurement company StemExpress' CEO, Cate Dyer. No Planned Parenthood officials are seen on camera in the video. [The Center for Medical Progress, 8/25/15]
Ninth Video Featured Advanced Bioscience Resources Staffer Describing Fetal Tissue Procurement, Not Planned Parenthood Personnel. CMP's ninth video was released September 1 and centered on a private conversation with fetal tissue procurement company Advanced BioScience Resources. CMP referred to the private company as a "Planned Parenthood baby parts vendor" that has "harvested and sold fetal body parts" for the health care provider "longer than any other entity." Planned Parenthood responded, saying "The video released today is not about Planned Parenthood. Staff from two independent health care firms that work with medical providers and research institutions appear to discuss their policies and practices [...] Multiple times in this video, staff from independent health care firms appear to say that Planned Parenthood is not interested in any financial gain and adheres to ethical standards." [The Center for Medical Progress, 9/1/15; Politico, 9/1/15]
Tenth Video: Featured PPFA Officials Discussing How Affiliates Navigate Contracts Involving Fetal Tissue. On September 15, CMP's tenth video, released September 15, claimed to have caught "Planned Parenthood executives discussing the organization's secretive practices around aborted fetal parts harvesting." CMP's press release said that one of the participants secretly caught on camera, Vanessa Cullins, vice president for external affairs for Planned Parenthood, "seems fully aware of the criminal exposure" of the donation of fetal tissue. However, the longer version of the same encounter released by CMP revealed the context of Cullins' remarks, proving they weren't about violations of the law, but the stigma surrounding abortion and stem cell research. [RH Reality Check, 9/15/15]
11th Video Deceptively Claimed To Show Texas Planned Parenthood Doctor Discussing Illegal Abortion Procedures For "Harvesting Intact Fetal Heads" And "Affirm[ing]" A Price. CMP's 11th video, released October 27 falsely claimed to show a Planned Parenthood clinic doctor discussing how she might conduct illegal abortion procedures for "harvesting intact fetal heads" and affirming a price for the specimens. But experts say the procedures she described are legal, the footage actually reveals that the doctor specifically said she does not do fetal tissue donations at her clinic, and the undercover actors are the only ones who discuss procedure costs. [Media Matters,10/28/15]
NY Times Editorial Board: CMP's "Campaign Of Deception" Against Planned Parenthood Is "Dishonest." In a July 22 editorial, The New York Times editorial board called out CMP's "campaign of deception" against Planned Parenthood, explaining that the anti-choice organization's first video "was edited to eliminate statements" explaining "that Planned Parenthood does not profit from tissue donation." The Times wrote that CMP's video campaign "is a dishonest attempt to make legal, voluntary and potentially lifesaving tissue donations appear nefarious and illegal":
The full video of the lunch meeting, over two hours long and released by the Center for Medical Progress after complaints by Planned Parenthood, shows something very different from what these critics claim. Clearly, the shorter version was edited to eliminate statements by Dr. Nucatola explaining that Planned Parenthood does not profit from tissue donation, which requires the clear consent of the patient. Planned Parenthood affiliates only accept money -- between $30 and $100 per specimen, according to Dr. Nucatola -- to cover costs associated with collecting and transporting the tissue. "This is not something with any revenue stream that affiliates are looking at," she said. Under federal law, facilities may be reimbursed for costs associated with fetal tissue donation, like transportation and storage.
Researchers use fetal tissue to study and develop treatments for diseases and conditions like H.I.V., hepatitis, congenital heart defects, retinal degeneration and Parkinson's. Last year, the National Institutes of Health gave $76 million in grants for fetal tissue research. Planned Parenthood is certainly not the only collector of fetal tissue -- clinics associated with universities also supply tissue for research.
The Center for Medical Progress video campaign is a dishonest attempt to make legal, voluntary and potentially lifesaving tissue donations appear nefarious and illegal. Lawmakers responding by promoting their own anti-choice agenda are rewarding deception and putting women's health and their constitutionally protected rights at risk. [The New York Times, 7/22/15]
The Guardian Concluded That CMP's First Video "Shows Nothing Illegal." In a piece published on July 15, The Guardian wrote that the video shows "nothing illegal":
The truth of the video, however - which was released by a previously unheard-of organization led by a man who has described himself as an "amateur varanid keeper" - is that it shows nothing illegal. [The Guardian, 7/15/15]
Huffington Post Noted That Planned Parenthood "Donat[es] The Fetal Tissue For Research At The Request Of Some Of Its Patients, Which Is Legal." The Huffington Post wrote that the first CMP video was "selectively edited" and that fetal tissue donation at the patient's request is legal:
An undercover video released Tuesday by the anti-abortion group Center for Medical Progress claims to show a physician at Planned Parenthood discussing the sale of fetal body parts after an abortion. The family planning provider says the video was selectively edited to mislead viewers about fetal tissue donations that are legal, not for profit, and for the purposes of medical research.
The sale of fetal parts is illegal. But Planned Parenthood says it is donating the fetal tissue for research at the request of some of its patients, which is legal. The family planning provider said it sometimes receives reimbursement from tissue donation entities for the additional expenses of donating, such as transportation costs, but never profits off of the donations. [Huffington Post, 7/14/15]
The Daily Beast Published "The Real Story Behind That Shady Video." In a July 14 article headlined "Planned Parenthood Doesn't Sell Fetuses: The Real Story Behind That Shady Video," The Daily Beast noted that the practice of donating fetal tissue is a "longstanding one" and legal in the United States:
But although Nucatola's comments raise questions about the acquisition of fetal tissue and the ethical issues surrounding its collection, the transfer of human fetal tissue is not illegal in the United States. Women undergoing abortions sometimes choose to donate fetal tissue for scientific research and abortion providers do not facilitate these donations without their explicit consent.
The law cited by the Center for Medical Progress--42 U.S. Code § 289g--2--prohibits the acquisition and transferring of human fetal tissue "for valuable consideration if the transfer affects interstate commerce." A definition within the code notes that "'valuable consideration' does not include reasonable payments associated with the transportation, implantation, processing, preservation, quality control, or storage of human fetal tissue."
In other words, transferring human fetal tissue is legal in the United States provided that payments are for processing and transportation costs. [The Daily Beast, 7/14/15]
Gawker Declared That "This Is A Case Of Words Being Taken Grossly Out Of Context." Gawker called out CMP for "going to great lengths to try to paint Planned Parenthood as operating outside the law" and concluded that "this is a case of words being taken grossly out of context":
In reality, the donation of fetal tissue is no different than any other situation in which a patient might donate tissue to scientific research. No money changes hands, and the donation could help pave the way to any number of medical breakthroughs.
Of course, that doesn't stop the people behind the video's release from going to great lengths to try to paint Planned Parenthood as operating outside the law. According to The Center for Medical Progress's accompanying release, "The video is the first by The Center for Medical Progress in its 'Human Capital' series, a nearly 3-year-long investigative journalism study of Planned Parenthood's illegal trafficking of aborted fetal parts."
In other words, this is a case of words being taken grossly out of context. Planned Parenthood is doing nothing even remotely shady here, nor are they doing something they haven't publicly discussed before on multiple occasions. The real question now, though, is who's behind this whole campaign in the first place. [Gawker, 7/14/15]
IB Times Said "Unedited Video" Shows Cost Of Fetal Tissue Was Not "What She Was Really Talking About." The International Business Times noted that the "unedited video" showed Nucatola was not talking about the cost of fetal tissue:
In the video, Nucatola appears to say it cost $30 to $100 for baby organs. But that might not have been what she was really talking about. In the unedited version of the video, Nucatola was discussing the cost of "space issues" and shipping, notes Snopes, a website that debunks Internet rumors and hoaxes. However, the viral video makes it seem as if she is telling the actors -- who were hired by the activist group -- about the cost of fetal tissue. [International Business Times, 7/14/15]
FactCheck.org Debunked First Deceptively Edited Video Smearing Planned Parenthood. FactCheck.org debunked the debut video in CMP's campaign in a July 21 post, explaining that contrary to CMP's false claim that the organization has been "selling" fetal tissue donations, the full, unedited video shows the clinics just "want to cover their costs, not make money" when making donations. The fact-check also quotes "biorepository" experts explaining that the fees discussed in the video would not generate "a profit at that price" -- it'd just offset some of the costs associated with the process. [FactCheck.org, 7/21/15]
Politico: CMP's Seventh Video Includes No Evidence To Support Claims. Politico debunked CMP's seventh video on August 19, noting that the "There is nothing in the video -- which includes footage from older tapes -- to support O'Donnell's claims":
The seventh in the string of videos from the Center for Medical Progress released Wednesday again features a tissue procurement technician, this time explaining how she obtained a brain from an aborted fetus.
There is nothing in the video -- which includes footage from older tapes -- to support O'Donnell's claims.
StemExpress and Planned Parenthood have denied any wrongdoing in its handling of fetal tissue and organs and say that the videos are misleadingly edited. StemExpress, a biomedical tissue procurement company, has explicitly denied ever receiving an intact fetus, and both organizations say they handled fetal tissue donations only with patients' permission. [Politico, 8/19/15]
At Least 11 States Launched Investigations Into Planned Parenthood. While there are "only three states in which Planned Parenthood affiliate clinics can participate in fetal tissue donation programs," Yahoo News pointed out, 11 states launched investigations into the organization:
There are only three states in which Planned Parenthood affiliate clinics participate in fetal tissue donation programs: California, Colorado, and Texas.
And yet, to date, there have been 11 state-led investigations into Planned Parenthood following the release of the "sting" videos by the Center for Medical Progress: Texas, Ohio, Missouri (where there are hearings in the legislature only), Louisiana, Kansas, Georgia, Florida, Arizona (where it is qualified as inspections of clinics only, in compliance with current state law and procedure), Indiana, and Massachusetts. [Yahoo News, 8/19/15]
Rep. Jason Chaffetz On Congressional Investigation Into Planned Parenthood: "Did We Find Any Wrongdoing? The Answer Is No." Speaking at an October 8 House Judiciary Committee Meeting, Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-UT) admitted that congressional investigations have found no evidence that Planned Parenthood had broken the law, saying "Did we find any wrongdoing? The answer was no":
House Republicans have held four hearings since September investigating Planned Parenthood. They claim that deceptively edited videos released by an anti-choice front group, the Center for Medical Progress (CMP), raise serious questions about whether Planned Parenthood broke the law.
They've said these questions justify creating a new select committee looking into the issue indefinitely.
Yet several Republican members of Congress admitted at Thursday's House Judiciary Committee Hearing that there's either no evidence Planned Parenthood broke the law, or that the point of the congressional investigation is really to debate the morality of abortion.
"Did we find any wrongdoing? The answer was no," said Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-UT) in reference to a recent hearing he chaired in the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee.
Chaffetz was trying to clarify recent comments he made to the media that he "wasn't suggesting [Planned Parenthood] broke the law." Democrats have repeatedly cited this quote as evidence that the "investigation" into Planned Parenthood is a politically motivated witch hunt.
Chaffetz argued that his comments shouldn't have been taken as "some grand conclusion" about every facet of the Planned Parenthood investigation, since his particular committee hearing was "narrowly focused" on Planned Parenthood's finances, not other issues like fetal tissue research.
"Did I look at the finances and have a hearing specifically as to the revenue portion and how they spend? Yes. Was there any wrongdoing? I didn't find any," Chaffetz said.
Asked whether he knows of any evidence that Planned Parenthood broke the law in any way, Chaffetz cited none. [RH Reality Check, 10/9/15]
U.S. Dept. Of Health And Human Services: There Are "No Known Violations Of The Country's Fetal Tissue Laws." In response to an inquiry by Sens. Joni Ernst (R-IA) and Roy Blunt (R-MO), the Department of Health and Human Services told Congress that they "know of no violation of [tissue] laws in connection with the research done at our agencies":
The Obama administration says there are no known violations of the country's fetal tissue laws among government researchers or the companies that supply the tissue.
"Currently, we know of no violation of these laws in connection with the research done at our agencies," Jim Esquea, assistant secretary for legislation at HHS, wrote in a letter to Sens. Joni Ernst and Roy Blunt, obtained by POLITICO. "Furthermore ... we have confirmed that HHS researchers working with fetal tissue obtained the tissue from non-profit organizations that provided assurances to us that they are in compliance with all applicable legal requirements.
HHS has gotten re-affirmations from government researchers and government-funded researchers that their tissue procurement is done in accordance with the tissue laws. And it got assurances from the companies that provide that fetal tissue to researchers at NIH and FDA that they are obtaining the fetal tissue and organs in compliance with federal laws, the letter says. [Politico, 8/16/15]
Massachusetts: Investigation Reveals Planned Parenthood Is "Fully Compliant With State And Federal Laws." Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey announced on July 29 that her office found "no evidence" of wrongdoing by Planned Parenthood after an investigation was concluded:
Attorney General Maura Healey says her office has found no evidence that the Planned Parenthood League of Massachusetts is operating the sort of fetal tissue donation program highlighted in a series of undercover videos released by a national anti-abortion group in recent weeks.
Healey's office conducted the review at the request of state Representative James J. Lyons Jr., an Andover Republican who cited a Center for Medical Progress video that showed a Planned Parenthood official discussing how the group provides fetal parts to medical researchers over lunch at a Los Angeles restaurant.
"Over the past week, my office has conducted a thorough review and found that Planned Parenthood League of Massachusetts' health care centers are fully compliant with state and federal laws regarding the disposition of fetal tissue," Healey said in a statement. "Although donation of fetal tissue is permissible under state and federal law, PPLM does not have a tissue donation program. There is no evidence that PPLM is involved in any way in the buying or selling of tissue. As such, our review is complete." [The Boston Globe, 7/29/15]
Indiana: Planned Parenthood Cleared Of Any Wrongdoing In The Handling Of Fetal Tissue. On July 30, the Indiana Department of Health cleared Planned Parenthood clinics in the state of any wrongdoing after they were "unable to find any non-compliance with state regulation":
Gov. Mike Pence, a Republican, on July 16 ordered an investigation of Planned Parenthood facilities in Indianapolis, Bloomington and Merrillville to see if organs from aborted fetuses were being sold. He was among a number of conservative lawmakers around the country who have called for investigations after an anti-abortion group circulated a video it made secretly showing some of its national officials discussing how they obtain organs from aborted fetuses for research. Planned Parenthood, the nation's largest provider of abortions, has said its donations of fetal tissue for research are legal.
The Indiana Department of Health said in a statement Thursday that an investigation found no evidence of any laws being broken. Health department inspectors investigated the Indiana facilities on July 21.
Letters from the health department to the three Indiana facilities dated Tuesday and released to the media by Planned Parenthood said the agency had completed its investigation into the Planned Parenthood facilities that perform abortions in Indiana. The letters said the agency was "unable to find any non-compliance with state regulations. Therefore, no deficiencies were cited." The letters say the complaint is closed. [Associated Press, 7/30/15]
South Dakota: No "Evidence Of Illegal Activity" In South Dakota At Planned Parenthood Clinic. South Dakota Attorney General Marty Jackley determined that there was "no evidence of illegal activity" at the one Planned Parenthood clinic in the state:
The state Health Department says it hasn't received any reports or evidence that the sale of fetal tissue has occurred in South Dakota since the department started regulating abortion facilities in 2006.
Spokeswoman Jennifer Aulwes says the organization doesn't have a program in the state for the legal donation of fetal tissue from terminated pregnancies and says it follows state and federal laws.
Attorney General Marty Jackley says he contacted the Health Department in mid-July about the issue. Jackley says there's no evidence of illegal activity. [KDLT News, 8/12/15]
Georgia: Department Of Public Health Finds Planned Parenthood "Complied With The Law." After a review into the state's abortion providers, the Georgia Department of Public Health "concluded an investigation" and found that Planned Parenthood and other clinics "are all complying with the law":
State public health investigators have concluded that Planned Parenthood Southeast and four other abortion providers are properly disposing of fetal tissues after abortions.
The commissioner of the Department Public Health, Dr. Brenda Fitzgerald, told Gov. Nathan Deal in a letter Wednesday that her agency had completed the inquiry that Deal ordered last month after videotapes surfaced of national Planned Parenthood officials talking about harvesting fetal remains.
Fitzgerald wrote: "As you know, Georgia law requires that licensed abortion clinics (or a medical disposal service provider with whom they have contracted) to bury or cremate fetal remains following the termination of a pregnancy. DNA or genetic testing can and does take place in certain cases, such as if a rape has occurred or there was an abnormality in the pregnancy."
She said the abortion providers reviewed by her investigators are all complying with the law. [The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, 8/12/15]
Pennsylvania: "No Evidence" Of Wrongdoing By "Any Planned Parenthood" In Pennsylvania. As The Hill noted, Pennsylvania became the fifth state to find no wrongdoing by Planned Parenthood. Pennsylvania Secretary of Health Karen Murphy noted that the Pennsylvania state health department "has never found a violation of the Abortion Control Act provisions regarding the procurement or use of fetal tissue":
Pennsylvania has found no wrongdoing by Planned Parenthood in the state after a review, according to a letter from the state health department.
"Although donation of fetal tissue is lawful under the Abortion Control Act and federal law, our review has found that Planned Parenthood facilities in Pennsylvania do not participate in this practice," Pennsylvania Secretary of Health Karen Murphy wrote in a letter to a state legislator. "Moreover, there is no evidence that any Planned Parenthood site in this Commonwealth is involved in the buying or selling of fetal tissue."
Murphy said Planned Parenthood has contracted with "appropriate vendors to properly dispose of tissue."
"Since 2011 when the Department instituted annual and random unannounced surveys of Planned Parenthood facilities in Pennsylvania, the Department has never found a violation of the Abortion Control Act provisions regarding the procurement or use of fetal tissue," Murphy adds. [The Hill, 8/21/15]
Florida: Planned Parenthood Cleared Of Mishandling Fetal Remains By Florida's Agency For Health Care Administration. Florida's Agency for Health Care Administration (AHCA) was ordered by Republican Gov. Rick Scott to investigate whether Florida Planned Parenthood locations illegally sold fetal tissue. The AHCA concluded its investigation on August 5 finding there was "no evidence of the mishandling of fetal remains at any of the 16 clinics we investigated across the state," however it was later revealed Scott's staff rewrote press releases about the investigation to remove sentences the AHCA staff wished to include that emphasized this finding. [Media Matters, 9/14/15; Politico Florida, 9/2/15]
Missouri: "No Evidence That Planned Parenthood's St. Louis Clinic ... Engaged In Unlawful Activity." Missouri Attorney General Chris Koster announced September 28 that the state's investigation "found no evidence that Planned Parenthood's St. Louis clinic mishandled fetal tissue or engaged in unlawful activity," as Reuters reported:
An investigation in Missouri found no evidence that Planned Parenthood's St. Louis clinic mishandled fetal tissue or engaged in unlawful activity, Attorney General Chris Koster's office said on Monday.
Koster's office had launched an investigation after an anti-abortion group released videos over the summer alleging that Planned Parenthood in other states illegally sold fetal tissue.
"The evidence reviewed by my investigators supports Planned Parenthood's representation that fetal tissue is handled in accordance with Missouri law," Koster said in a news release. "We have discovered no evidence whatsoever to suggest that Planned Parenthood's St. Louis facility is selling fetal tissue." [Reuters, 9/28/15]
Washington State: "No Evidence To Support Claims That The Organization Sells Fetal Tissue Or Performs Illegal Partial-Birth Abortions." Washington State Attorney General Bob Ferguson released a 48-page memo detailing the results of his office's investigation into whether Washington Planned Parenthood affiliates were performing partial-birth abortions or selling fetal tissue for profit. As The Spokesman-Review reported, the investigation "found no evidence to support" the allegations:
Planned Parenthood clinics in Washington do not sell fetal tissue and do not perform partial-birth abortions, conservative lawmakers were told Monday.
Responding to requests from 38 state representatives and 13 state senators, Washington Attorney General Bob Ferguson said he assigned two of his attorneys to investigate their concerns about the organization after national reports of "trafficking in human body parts." That review found no evidence to support claims that the organization sells fetal tissue or performs illegal partial-birth abortions, and Ferguson called such unfounded allegations troubling. [The Spokesman-Review, 11/16/15]
Planned Parenthood Has Been Cleared, But CMP'S Legal Problems Are Growing. The National Abortion Federation (NAF) is currently engaged in a lawsuit with CMP because Daleiden and his accomplices appear to have violated confidentiality agreements put in place at NAF events. As reported by RH Reality Check, NAF is currently succeeding in its efforts to convince a court that CMP must disclose its shadowy backers in order to determine if the anti-choice group engaged in a larger criminal conspiracy. [Media Matters, 12/9/15]
Fox News Devoted Ten Segments In One Day To Hyping CMP Video's False Claims About Planned Parenthood. Fox News devoted 10 segments on seven separate programs in one day to hyping one of the deceptively-edited videos from CMP, which purported to show Planned Parenthood "haggling" over the price of "baby parts." [Media Matters, 7/22/15]
Right-Wing Media Figures Used Doctored Video To Liken Planned Parenthood To Nazis. Right-wing media figures used the deceptive CMP videos to compare Planned Parenthood to Nazis. Rush Limbaugh and Erick Erickson both invoked notorious Nazi Dr. Josef Mengele, who performed deadly human experiments on prisoners in concentration camps, while Sean Hannity claimed Planned Parenthood officials sounded like "high ranking official[s] in the Nazi regime." [Media Matters, 7/22/15]
Fox Correspondent Peter Doocy "Searched The Planned Parenthood Website For Fetal Baby Part Prices," Parroting CMP's Bogus Talking Points. On Fox News' Special Report, correspondent Peter Doocy echoed debunked allegations from the deceptively-edited videos to claim he searched Planned Parenthood's website for "fetal baby part prices," but didn't get any results because the sale is a "well-kept secret." [Fox News, Special Report, 7/21/15]
Fox's O'Reilly And Tantaros Jumped Off CMP Videos To Claim "We Don't Really Need Planned Parenthood." Fox hosts Bill O'Reilly and Andrea Tantaros advocated for entirely eliminating Planned Parenthood's federal funding, which helps provide critical women's health services across the U.S., by wildly misrepresenting what the organization spends on abortion and the services they provide. O'Reilly stated unequivocally on his show that "Planned Parenthood should be defunded, period. I don't want my tax dollars going to them," while Tantaros falsely claimed "those services are provided under Obamacare. So, we don't really need Planned Parenthood." [Fox News, The O'Reilly Factor, 7/22/15]
Fox's Neil Cavuto: Fox Has Exposed "The Details" On Planned Parenthood Others Haven't Seen. On his Fox show Your World, Neil Cavuto noted that Fox had pushed out "details" about Planned Parenthood that other outlets had not, including "stuff that might be criminal." His guest agreed, and called for Congress to "investigate Planned Parenthood to find out if they are indeed dismembering this fetuses":
CAVUTO: Adriana, you could turn it around and say, very few people will be exposed to the details of what we've seen and know and passed along to you here on Fox, so they will liken this to sort of a Fox, or right-wing, cabal against Planned Parenthood, when in fact, even among pro-choicers, this isn't the issue, the issue is how an agency has gone far, far, far beyond its purview and power, even into the touch of stuff that might be criminal. What do you think?
ADRIANA COHEN (Boston Herald columnist): That's right. I mean, Planned Parenthood absolutely needs to be investigated. For one, they're a nonprofit, so they should not be profiting period. So the IRS and/or Congress needs to audit their books to find out if they're in violation and if they're selling baby parts, number one. Number two, they also need to investigate Planned Parenthood to find out if they are indeed dismembering this fetuses, which we know that they are, and selling them. You know, trafficking human remains is a felony. And if that is what's going on, then absolutely our government needs to pull funding immediately. [Fox News, Your World, 8/4/15]
Fox's Bill O'Reilly: "Congress Must Now Get Involved And At Least Suspend Tax Payments To Planned Parenthood Until A Federal Investigation Is Completed." Fox host O'Reilly called for a federal investigation into Planned Parenthood based on the misleading CMP videos:
O'REILLY: Talking Points is appalled about the lack of leadership in America and also about the apathy on the part of many individual Americans who could not care less what happens to the unborn. Congress must now get involved and at least suspend tax payments to Planned Parenthood until a federal investigation is completed.
If Congress does not do that, we can then rightly be criticized by countries Iran and Russia as being a barbaric nation. We will lose all moral authority in the world. [Fox News, The O'Reilly Factor, 7/28/15, via Nexis]
Fox's Shannon Bream: "Congress Is Sure To Look Into" "Whether The Actions Of Planned Parenthood And Their Partners Have Violated Federal Law." Fox News correspondent Shannon Bream suggested Congress was "sure to look into" supposed lawbreaking at Planned Parenthood, despite the lack of any evidence of wrongdoing:
BREAM: One of the things Congress is sure to look into is whether the actions of Planned Parenthood and their partners have violated federal law. In this video a Planned Parenthood official discusses abortion techniques that produce better tissue samples. [Fox News, Special Report, 9/7/15, via Nexis]
GOP Lawmakers Respond To Video With Calls For Investigation, Despite Having Seen The Video Weeks Earlier. The House Judiciary and Energy and Commerce committees announced congressional hearings to investigate Planned Parenthood after the first video was released, despite the fact that Rep. Tim Murphy (R-PA), the chairman of the Energy and Commerce committee, and Rep. Trent Franks (R-AZ), a member of the Judiciary committee, viewed the video weeks earlier. [CQ Roll Call, 7/16/15; Media Matters, 7/23/15]
GOP Presidential Candidates Fundraise Off Of Right-Wing Media's Phony Outrage Over The Manufactured Scandal. GOP presidential candidates capitalized on right-wing media's phony outrage with calls to defund Planned Parenthood and attempts to fundraise off of the right-wing media frenzy. In fundraising emails, Mike Huckabee and Sen Rand Paul (R-KY) urged voters to "chip in a contribution" to defund the organization. [Media Matters, 7/16/15]
Congressional Republicans Introduce Legislation To Defund Planned Parenthood. After the release of the second video, congressional Republicans introduced legislation to defund Planned Parenthood. Rand Paul introduced "an amendment to the tax code that would strip Planned Parenthood of the federal dollars it receives annually for a range of women's health services." Rep. Diane Black (R-TN) introduced the Defund Planned Parenthood Act of 2015, that would "place an immediate one-year moratorium on support" for the organization while it was being investigated by Congress. (Investigations that stem from the deceptive video.) Republican leadership is additionally weighing a variety of maneuvers to strip federal funding to Planned Parenthood:
Sen. Rand Paul, a GOP presidential contender, introduced an amendment to the tax code that would strip Planned Parenthood of the federal dollars it receives annually for a range of women's health services.
And in the House, Rep. Diane Black (R-Tenn.) introduced the Defund Planned Parenthood Act of 2015, which would place an immediate one-year moratorium on support for Planned Parenthood while Congress investigates the organization's practices.
These are the legislative efforts to defund the organization since two videos, showing Planned Parenthood officials allegedly discussing the sale of fetal organs and tissue, were released starting last week by the California-based Center for Medical Progress.
A group of House Democrats sent a letter requesting that Lynch and California Attorney General Kamala Harris launch an investigation into whether the Center for Medical Progress violated any state or federal laws when it recorded the Planned Parenthood executives while posing as representatives from a fake company.
Reps. Jan Schakowsky of Illinois, Zoe Lofgren of California, and Jerry Nadler and Yvette Clarke of New York also raised questions over whether the group coordinated its efforts with any Republican lawmakers in Congress.
Republican leadership is weighing a handful of maneuvers to strip the federal dollars that Planned Parenthood receives. Some are considering attaching an amendment to the highway transportation bill, which could come up for a vote in the Senate as early as this week. House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy also signaled that a defunding measure could become part of the debate over a government spending bill this fall. [Politico, 7/22/15]
Republicans Derailed Veteran's Health Bill To Attack Planned Parenthood. Republicans derailed a bipartisan veteran's bill that would "help wounded veterans have children" in order to target Planned Parenthood. According to The Washington Post, Sen. Patty Murray (D-WA) pulled the Women Veterans and Families Health Services Act after Sen. Thom Tillis (R-NC) attached an amendment that would ban Veterans Affairs from working with organizations that "take human aborted babies' organs and sell them," a clear reference to the smear campaign against Planned Parenthood:
The burgeoning controversy over Planned Parenthood's fetal-tissue practices may have claimed its first victim: a bipartisan bill to help wounded veterans have children.
The Women Veterans and Families Health Services Act, a bill authored by Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.) that would require fertility treatment and counseling for "severely wounded, ill, or injured" military members or veterans, had been expected to proceed through the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee on Wednesday. But Murray said she has asked that the bill be pulled thanks to proposed amendments from Sen. Thom Tillis (R-N.C.) -- including one that would have, in Tillis's words, prevented the Department of Veterans Affairs from working with "organizations that take human aborted babies' organs and sell them."
That was an unmistakable reference to recent criticism of Planned Parenthood's efforts to harvest fetal tissue for research purposes, a practice that has come under close scrutiny from conservatives after antiabortion activists published undercover videos that they say shows evidence of unethical and potentially illegal activities by Planned Parenthood executives. [The Washington Post, 7/22/15]
Texas Lawmakers Cited CMP's False Claims To Remove Planned Parenthood From State's Medicaid Program. On October 19, Texas' Office of Inspector General notified Planned Parenthood affiliates in Texas of its plan to revoke their eligibility to participate in the state's Medicaid program, which serves low-income patients. Officials cited alleged "violations" found in the videos released by CMP for their decision. From the Dallas Morning News (emphasis added):
The Texas Office of the Inspector General announced Monday that it has taken steps to exclude Planned Parenthood affiliates from the state's Medicaid program, citing violations observed in recently released undercover videos.
An anti-abortion group began releasing videos in July that show undercover activists impersonating representatives of a tissue procurement company in order to meet with Planned Parenthood officials. The group alleges that Planned Parenthood is profiting from tissue donation reimbursements.
A video from inside a Houston abortion clinic was released in August.
The "violations" cited by the Inspector General include a suggestion in the video that doctors could use a different method to perform an abortion in order to preserve intact fetal tissue, and that Planned Parenthood created an unsanitary work environment for allowing access to the undercover group.
Planned Parenthood officials on both a state and national level have denied claims that they have broken the law or turned a profit from fetal tissue donation. The videos, they say, are heavily edited.
House Oversight Committee Used CMP's Footage To Promote Its Hearing On Taxpayer Funding For Planned Parenthood. The congressional House Oversight Committee used portions of CMP's deceptively-edited footage to promote its September 29 hearing about Planned Parenthood. [Media Matters, 9/29/15]
During GOP Debate, Carly Fiorina Falsely Claimed Anti-Planned Parenthood Video Shows "A Fully Formed Fetus On The Table ... While Someone Says We Have To Keep It Alive To Harvest Its Brain." Republican presidential candidate Carly Fiorina claimed during the September 16 Republican presidential primary debate that video taken inside a Planned Parenthood clinic shows a "fully formed fetus on the table, its heart beating, its legs kicking, while someone says we have to keep it alive to harvest its brain." [USA Today, 9/16/15]
Mike Huckabee On State Of The Union: Planned Parenthood Is "Dismembering" And "Selling" Baby Body Parts. During the November 29 edition of CNN's State of The Union, Republican presidential candidate Mike Huckabee falsely claimed that Planned Parenthood collaborates in "the dismembering of human babies and with the selling of body parts":
BRIANNA KEILAR (HOST): Planned Parenthood seems to be -- well, it is blaming the rhetoric that popped up following the videos that came out that were taped, various videos of Planned Parenthood. And they say the rhetoric really has created this environment where this happened. Do you agree with that?
MIKE HUCKABEE: Brianna, I don't know of any pro-life leader, any -- if you can tell me one, please correct me, but I don't know of anybody who has suggested violence toward Planned Parenthood personnel or some act of violence toward their clinics. I have not heard that, not from one single pro-life person. I have heard universal condemnation, whether it's from the Centers for Medical Progress that put out the videos, whether it's from pro-life advocates. And I consider myself one of them. I know of nobody who has ever suggested that Planned Parenthood be the target of some type of violent attack. So, I think that's a little bit disingenuous on the part of Planned Parenthood to blame people who have a strong philosophical disagreement with the dismembering of human babies and with the selling of body parts to say that we would like to retaliate by sending some madman into a clinic to kill people. God knows that's not what anybody would want. And this person, apparently, from everything we know, very unstable person, and just a terrible tragedy, especially for that police officer and his family.
KEILAR: This shooting has certainly revived the debate over abortion. You support banning abortion by declaring that a fetus is a person that has rights under the Constitution. [CNN, State Of The Union, 11/29/15, via Nexis]
Donald Trump on Meet The Press: Planned Parenthood Talks Like They're "Selling Parts To A Car." During the November 29 edition of NBC's Meet The Press, Republican presidential frontrunner Donald Trump asserted that "these people from Planned Parenthood talking about it like you`re selling parts to a car" and "talking about parts to some machine," alluding to CMP's claim that the women's health provider profits from the illegal sale of fetal tissue:
CHUCK TODD (HOST): We have reporting that he was talking about baby parts and things like that from law enforcement officials during his interview.
DONALD TRUMP: Well, I will tell you, there is a tremendous group of people that think it`s terrible all of the videos that they`ve seen with some of these people from Planned Parenthood talking about it like you`re selling parts to a car. I mean, there are a lot of people that are very unhappy about that. Now, I know some of the tapes were perhaps not pertinent. I know that a couple people running for office or are running for office on the Republican side were commenting on tapes that weren`t appropriate. But there were many tapes that are appropriate and in terms of commenting on and there are people that are extremely upset about it. It looks like you`re talking about parts to some machine or something and they`re not happy about it.
TODD: So that means you`re not surprised that someone might take an extreme reaction to this?
TRUMP: Well, this was an extremist and this was a man who obviously -- and they said prior to this that he was mentally disturbed so he`s a mentally disturbed person -- there`s no question about that. [NBC, Meet The Press, 11/29/15, via Nexis]
Carly Fiorina On Fox News Sunday: Planned Parenthood "Sounds Like" They Admitted They Sold Baby Parts. During the November 29 edition of Fox News Sunday, host Chris Wallace brought up the "alleged harvesting of body parts" by Planned Parenthood and Republican presidential candidate Carly Fiorina falsely claimed that Planned Parenthood's decision to no longer accept compensation for tissue samples amounts to an admission by the organization that it sold body parts:
CHRIS WALLACE (HOST): You have been one of the toughest critics, as we've said, of Planned Parenthood's alleged harvesting of body parts, selling for fetal research. Some of the pro-choice advocates are saying language like yours, not specifically singling you out, but language like yours, has incited violence. I'd like to get your reaction to that. But also, what would you say to protesters, people outside these clinics, about the limits of their opposition?
CARLY FIORINA: Well, first, it is not alleged. Planned Parenthood acknowledged several weeks ago they would no longer take compensation for body parts, which sounds like an admission that they were doing so. Secondly, this is so typical of the left to immediately begin demonizing the messenger, because they don't agree with the message. The vast majority of Americans agree, what Planned Parenthood is doing is wrong. That's why the vast majority of Americans are prepared not only to defund Planned Parenthood, but also to stop abortion for any reason at all after five months. So, what I would say to anyone who tries to link this terrible tragedy to anyone who opposes abortion or opposes the sale of body parts is, this is typical left-wing tactics.
WALLACE: And what would you say to the protesters, the people that are outside the clinics and oppose it?
FIORINA: Well, any protesters should always be peaceful, whether it's Black Lives Matter or pro-life protesters, protesters should always be peaceful and respectful. [Fox Broadcasting, Fox News Sunday, 11/29/15, via Nexis]
Multiple Media Outlets Debunked Carly Fiorina's "Wrong" Debate Claim About The CMP Videos: The Scene She Described "Does Not Exist." Multiple media outlets reported that Fiorina's claim made during the Republican presidential debate was "wrong," "mostly false," and explained that the scene she described "does not exist in any of the videos" released by CMP. Vox reporter Sarah Kliff explained that one of the CMP videos "has stock footage of a fetus kicking on a table -- though that footage isn't from inside a Planned Parenthood." PolitiFact also noted (emphasis added):
[T]he video cuts to a fetus outside the womb, placed on what appears to be some sort of examination surface, and the fetus' legs are moving. The Center for Medical Progress says the source of the footage is the Grantham Collection, an organization that hopes to stem abortion by promoting graphic images of the procedure. We don't know the circumstances behind this video: where it came from, under what conditions it was obtained, or even if this fetus was actually aborted (as opposed to a premature birth or miscarriage). [Media Matters, 9/17/15]
Salon's Digby Slammed GOP Candidates' "Lurid, Violent" Anti-Choice Rhetoric Based On CMP's "Reprehensible Lie." Salon's Heather Digby Parton called out Republican presidential candidates for hyping claims that Planned Parenthood participated in the "selling of 'baby parts.'" Parton wrote that while none of the claims about the women's health care provider are true, GOP presidential candidates continue "flogging this reprehensible lie in a race to see who can most graphically prove his or her anti-abortion bona fides":
[T]here are a lot of "troubled souls" in this country who are not Muslim and do not look for meaning from the likes of ISIS terrorists in the Middle East. They look a little closer to home for permission to carry out their violent desires. And there is plenty of inspiration. They don't have to search in the dark corners of the internet or use encryption or travel to a foreign land to meet people who will stoke their violent urges and give them a moral purpose. They can just tune in to a Republican presidential debate[.]
A few Planned Parenthood facilities provide scientists with fetal tissue for vital and important medical research, with the permission of the woman from whom it's obtained, and the only money that was ever exchanged was for reimbursement of costs. There was no selling of "baby parts." There were no live infants being killed on the table to "harvest their brains." The tissue that was donated to medical research has resulted in important breakthroughs in the hunt for a cure for many life threatening diseases. But that hasn't stopped irresponsible political leaders and anti-abortion zealots from flogging this reprehensible lie in a race to see who can most graphically prove his or her anti-abortion bona fides.
At the time of this writing we don't know for sure that a man who shot a dozen people, killing three, in the Colorado Springs Planned Parenthood clinic this past weekend did what he did as a form of terrorism against abortion providers. Members of the right wing, who are obsessively vigilant in their warnings about radical Islamic terrorism, have been twisting themselves into pretzels for days trying to excuse this event as the simple act of a madman or finding some inane way to suggest that he was actually a bank-robber or a leftwing activist. But let's just say that it's unlikely he hit the Planned Parenthood clinic by coincidence and started babbling about "baby parts" out of the blue. [Salon, 11/30/15]
Wash. Post's Dana Milbank Called Out Republican Presidential Candidates' Violent Rhetoric Against Abortion Providers Echoing CMP's Videos. The Washington Post's Dana Milbank criticized Republicans - including several presidential candidates - who, prompted by CMP's deceptively-edited videos, have repeatedly claimed Planned Parenthood is "selling 'baby parts.'" Pointing to Republican candidates' calls for "outrage" and conservative media figures comparing Planned Parenthood to Nazis following CMP's videos, Milbank warned that unhinged individuals may use this violent rhetoric as "justification to contemplate the unspeakable":
In one sense, I agree with Cruz. The antiabortion movement did not kill those three people in Colorado Springs. The one responsible is the deranged gunman himself. But it's a different matter to ask whether the often-violent imagery used by conservative leaders on abortion is unwittingly giving the unhinged some perverse sense of justification to contemplate the unspeakable.
There will always be the irrational and the unstable. But when political leaders turn disagreements into all-out war, demonize opponents as enemies and accuse those on the other side of being subhuman killers, the unbalanced can hear messages that were never intended.
Republican presidential candidate Mike Huckabee, who has flirted with the idea of using federal troops to block access to abortion, dismissed the Supreme Court's authority and said that we should "protect children instead of rip up their body parts and sell them like they're parts to a Buick."
Rival Carly Fiorina said, incorrectly, that the Planned Parenthood videos showed "a fully formed fetus on the table, its heart beating, its legs kicking, while someone says, 'We have to keep it alive to harvest its brain.' "
Chris Christie talked of "the systematic murder of children in the womb to preserve their body parts," while Marco Rubio asked on Twitter: "Where is all the outrage over the planned parenthood dead babies?" [The Washington Post, 12/1/15]
FBI: "Likely" Violence Will Be Directed Against Planned Parenthood. An FBI Intelligence Assessment reported by CBS News in September noted that following the release of CMP's videos, "it is likely criminal or suspicious incidents will continue to be directed against reproductive health care providers, their staff and facilities." The report also noted that "law enforcement authorities are seeing an uptick in attacks on reproductive health care facilities." [CBS News, 9/19/15]
Reproductive Health Care Providers Face Threats Of Violence And Intimidation Tactics. In an October 29 Washington Post opinion piece, an obstetrician-gynecologist explained how the demonization of reproductive health care providers - including threats of violence and intimidation tactics -- heightens their fear of attack and compromises their ability to do their jobs:
I am an obstetrician-gynecologist. Among the many medical services I provide my patients, I also perform abortions for women who need them. That's made me a target for harassment online and in person over the course of my career.
Numerous colleagues have similar stories. On social media, I've witnessed friends and mentors called murderers, Nazis, racists and whores. The threats can be vague ("I hope someone does to you what you do to babies") or terrifyingly specific ("I know where you live, and someday I might show up at your doorstep").
Too often, these threats are not all talk: In the past two decades, 13 physicians or staff members at abortion-providing facilities have been killed or seriously injured.
As hard as it is for physicians and staff who work at these clinics, the impact isn't just on providers. When patients are confronted by threats and intimidation, some of them are too frightened to enter the clinic to get the care they need. These women deserve empathetic, respectful care -- which is what my colleagues and I have studied and practiced for years to give them -- not judgement, and not violence. Targeting clinics also prevents women from getting other essential medical services, from cancer screenings to ultrasounds to sexually transmitted-infection testing and treatment. [The Washington Post, 10/29/15]
Vox: Attacks On Abortion Providers Have Increased Since CMP Released Its Videos. Vox's Emily Crockett reported November 28 that "threats, vandalism, and violence against abortion providers and clinics have escalated since this summer, when anti-abortion activists released deceptively edited videos that accused Planned Parenthood of 'selling baby parts.'" Crockett noted that there have been at least five attacks on Planned Parenthood facilities, and threats against them "increased ninefold" since CMP released its first video:
It's also clear that threats, vandalism, and violence against abortion providers and clinics have escalated since this summer, when anti-abortion activists released deceptively edited videos that accused Planned Parenthood of "selling baby parts."
Back in September, CBS reported that the FBI had noticed an uptick in attacks on reproductive health care facilities since the first video was released by the anti-abortion group Center for Medical Progress (CMP). There were nine criminal or suspicious incidents (including cyber attacks, threats, and arsons) from July, when the videos first came out, through mid-September.
An FBI Intelligence Assessment at the time found these attacks were "consistent with the actions of lone offenders using tactics of arsons and threats all of which are typical of the pro-life extremist movement." Moreover, the report said it was "likely criminal or suspicious incidents will continue to be directed against reproductive health care providers, their staff and facilities."
Less than two weeks after CBS reported that, another abortion clinic was firebombed in California. It was the fourth arson at a Planned Parenthood location in as many months.
Abortion providers have seen "an unprecedented increase in hate speech and threats" since the CMP videos came out, Vicki Saporta, president and CEO of the National Abortion Federation, said in a statement Friday. Incidents of harassment at Planned Parenthood facilities increased ninefold in July, when the videos came out, over June, according to a motion for preliminary injunction that NAF filed this month against CMP and its founder David Daleiden. [Vox.com, 11/28/15]
Anti-Defamation League: Anti-Choice Violence Has "Remained A Consistent ... Source Of Domestic Terrorism And Violence." The Anti-Defamation League called anti-choice violence "America's forgotten terrorism," explaining, "Anti-abortion violence has actually remained a consistent, if secondary, source of domestic terrorism and violence, manifesting itself most often in assaults and vandalism, with occasional arsons, bombings, drive-by shootings, and assassination attempts." [The Anti-Defamation League, 9/4/12]
Threats Of Violence Against Women's Health Clinics Have Doubled Since 2010. RH Reality Check noted in September that "A report released in February found that threats of harassment, intimidation, and violence against women's health clinics have doubled since 2010," adding, "[r]eproductive rights advocates have raised concerns that radical anti-choice activists have been emboldened by a wave of GOP legislative attacks on reproductive rights." [RH Reality Check, 9/8/15]
Fox News supports the right to protest, unless, it seems, the protesters are students of color shining a spotlight on incidents of racial injustice.
Protests against racial discrimination on college campuses across the country are garnering national media attention with students criticizing administration responses to incidents at University of Missouri, Yale, U.C.L.A, University of Oklahoma and other institutions.
Fox News responded to the student protests with disdain and attempts to belittle the protesters' arguments. Primetime host Megyn Kelly called the protesters in Missouri "angry black students," while Bill O'Reilly likened the protests to fascism. When Juan Williams attempted to explain why students of color may feel marginalized on campuses, Fox host Eric Bolling diminished the students' complaints, suggesting they were solely upset "because of two incidences." On the November 12 edition of Fox & Friends, the hosts repeatedly called the country-wide university protests anarchy. In one instance, Fox displayed an on-screen graphic characterizing the protests as "anarchy in the making." Meanwhile, the student protesters at the University of Missouri have actually been threatened with violence, and two suspects have been arrested for threatening black students.
But Fox's coverage of protests has looked drastically different when those protesting have aligned with the network's conservative agenda.
Recall when Nevada rancher Cliven Bundy faced off with the federal Bureau of Land Management (BLM) over his refusal to pay grazing fees for his cattle's use of public lands in April 2014; he threatened violence and incited protests -- which included armed militia supporters -- to resist BLM efforts to collect on his debt. Fox News rocketed Bundy to conservative folk-hero status, lauding the rancher with the network's support even as numerous media reports described Bundy supporters pointing guns at federal law enforcement. BLM was even forced to suspend its operations when protesters -- some of them armed -- marched toward where BLM had impounded Bundy's cattle. Fox personalities praised Bundy supporters as "good, hardworking Americans," "law-abiding American citizens," and "patriotic Americans," and one Fox host, Clayton Morris, sanitized the interactions between Bundy supporters and law enforcement, claiming, "Suddenly people are there protesting peacefully, arguing against government intervention here ... and all of these police and folks roll in with guns and sniper rifles pointing at them."
And when hundreds of protesters gathered in Murrieta, California in July 2014 to oppose the planned housing of immigrant mothers and children at the federal Border Patrol station in the city, Fox championed the protests. These protests contained such vitriol that immigration officials were forced to reroute the buses transporting immigrants from overcrowded, unsanitary facilities in Texas for fear of the immigrants' and federal officers' safety. Despite the virulent nature of the protests, Kimberly Guilfoyle, co-host of The Five, applauded the protesters for being "able to get out there, [and] voice [their] opinion," saying "I love it, because you can do that in America." Her fellow co-host Eric Bolling commented that "finally, citizens are standing up and saying enough is enough." Host Greta Van Susteren emphasized that the protesters were just "exercising their First Amendment right," and Bill O'Reilly told Murrieta Mayor Alan Long "you should be very proud of your town," for keeping the protests safe.
Just this year Fox News celebrated when Duke University decided to cancel planned weekly broadcasts of Muslim calls to prayer from the campus chapel in response to "numerous verified instances of credible threats" against members of the university community. Host Steve Doocy applauded the outcome, attributing it to Fox viewers, saying "A lot of you made your opinion known, a lot of people contacted Duke, and they have done a 180." Martha MacCallum quipped, "Community outcry prompted this change ... They got some word from donors as well, from what I hear. That helped them expedite that decision."
Only on Fox News are armed militia members protesting federal law "patriotic," while university students and faculty speaking out against racism are labeled as anarchists.
Four Planned Parenthood clinics have been attacked in scarcely three months since the anti-choice group Center For Medical Progress (CMP) released the deceptively-edited videos smearing the women's health care provider. But the attacks -- which law enforcement authorities consider possible acts of domestic terrorism -- have garnered very little media attention, revealing the media's willingness to ignore the real and urgent danger women and abortion providers face at clinics, a problem that is far from new.
A clinic in Thousand Oaks, California, was firebombed on September 30, less than a month after a similar arson at a Pullman, Washington Planned Parenthood clinic on September 4. Terroristic attacks also occurred at clinics in Aurora, Illinois on July 19 and New Orleans on August 1.
Since July 14, CMP has released at least 10 videos containing undercover footage of discussions with Planned Parenthood personnel and staff members of private, for-profit biomedical procurement companies. The videos purport to show, and the accompanying press releases allege, that Planned Parenthood is illegally selling fetal tissue and altering abortion procedures in order to profit from the sale of fetal tissue. Scores of media outlets have reported -- and multiple investigations have verified -- that the combined footage shows no illegal behavior by, or on behalf of, Planned Parenthood, and that the words of Planned Parenthood personnel who were secretly filmed have been "grossly [taken] out of context."
Despite the fact that the videos have been widely discredited, right-wing media have repeatedly cited them, using violent language to promote misleading attacks against Planned Parenthood and call for the organization to be defunded by Congress. Fox News contributor Erick Erickson said Republicans who won't vote to defund the health provider "should be destroyed, " and conservative blog RedState called Planned Parenthood "our Auschwitz." Fox host Bill O'Reilly described Planned Parenthood's fetal tissue donation as "Nazi stuff," while many conservative media figures drew comparisons to the notorious Nazi doctor, Josef Mengele, who conducted painful and often fatal human experiments on concentration camp prisoners.
Fox hosts also misled viewers about the services Planned Parenthood offers to wrongly suggest the organization is obsolete, and used needlessly graphic language to imply that Planned Parenthood's practices are violent. Fox correspondent Peter Doocy claimed that he searched Planned Parenthood's website for "fetal baby part prices" but found no results because the sales are a "well-kept secret," and host Megyn Kelly accused the organization of "celebrating its practice of harvesting the organs of aborted fetuses for money."
While there is no definitive evidence the clinic attacks are the result of the vitriolic anti-Planned Parenthood fervor that has emerged following the release and conservative media hype of CMP's deceptively-edited smear videos, it's crucial to note that the incidents have occurred in the midst of the smear campaign. Planned Parenthood regional CEO Karl Eastlund said the arson attacks are "unfortunately a predictable ripple effect from the false and incendiary attacks that fuel violence from extremists."
The violent attacks on Planned Parenthood have garnered very little media attention -- and their relationship to right-wing media's promotion of the CMP smear videos has received even less -- shedding light on the media's willingness to dismiss the real and urgent danger women and abortion providers face at clinics.
The LA Times pointed out that "as long as abortion has been legal in the U.S., abortion clinics throughout the country have been subject to arson and bombings" and "abortion providers have been murdered." And according to RH Reality Check, "A report released in February found that threats of harassment, intimidation, and violence against women's health clinics have doubled since 2010. Reproductive rights advocates have raised concerns that radical anti-choice activists have been emboldened by a wave of GOP legislative attacks on reproductive rights."
The Anti-Defamation League called anti-abortion violence "America's forgotten terrorism," explaining, "Anti-abortion violence has actually remained a consistent, if secondary, source of domestic terrorism and violence, manifesting itself most often in assaults and vandalism, with occasional arsons, bombings, drive-by shootings, and assassination attempts." And according to the Feminist Majority Foundation's 2014 National Clinic Violence Survey, which polled 242 abortion provider throughout the country, "nearly 1 in 5" abortion clinics experience severe violence.
And CMP is no stranger to this type of violence -- board member Troy Newman, who is the president of Operation Rescue, once called the murder of an abortion clinic doctor a "justifiable defensive action."
A Media Matters review found that cable news shows and leading newspapers around the country remained largely silent on arson attacks that targeted Planned Parenthood clinics following the release of a series of deceptively-edited, anti-choice videos smearing the health care provider. Prime-time cable news shows and the nation's three highest-circulation newspapers dedicated minimal coverage to the arson attacks. The LA Times and Spokane's Spokesman Review provided the most coverage of the attacks.
Fox News' flagship morning show has emerged as Republican presidential candidate Ben Carson's most effusive protector in the wake of his controversial suggestions that mass shooting victims shared some of the blame for their deaths, and that a Muslim should not be president. Fox & Friends' defense of Carson should come as no surprise considering the network's history of promoting the candidate's presidential ambitions.
Ben Carson has been a longtime fixture on Fox News, which essentially turned him into a presidential candidate, but the network's job as a mouthpiece for the GOP has taken on a new meaning in the wake of the candidate's repeated controversial comments.
After Carson told Fox & Friends hosts on October 6 that if confronted by a gunman, he would "not just stand there and let him shoot me," in response to the October 1 mass shooting that killed 10 at Umpqua Community College, the hosts were quick to use their platform in the following days to shield him from criticism. When the comments garnered outrage for suggesting that the victims of the shooting did not do enough to protect themselves, Fox & Friends co-host Elisabeth Hasselbeck accused Carson's so-called "heartless" critics of irresponsibly "mischaracterize[ing]" the comments. Co-host Brian Kilmeade clarified for Carson that the comments were not intended as a judgment of the Oregon shooting victims, explaining that "he was just answering [a] question," and even featuring a guest to praise Carson's spirit.
This is not the first time that Fox & Friends has helped Carson spin his inflammatory rhetoric. Carson sparked widespread backlash -- even among fellow conservatives -- when he said he "absolutely would not agree with" a Muslim being elected president of the United States. Fox & Friends quickly tried to rehabilitate the statement, reasoning that a Muslim president would be synonymous with violent Islamists and the fundamentalist system of "Sharia law." Kilmeade framed the comments as part of an age-old debate, claiming that the Founding Fathers "were debating whether a Muslim should be a president back in the creation of our country," and co-host Steve Doocy suggested that Carson was actually talking about Muslims who adhere to Sharia law, not all Muslims. Fox & Friends also attempted to paint backlash against Carson as a "gotcha moment," and argued it was irrelevant to the current political debate: "it's a total non sequitur. There is no Muslim running for president."
Fox & Friends' public relations work for Carson follows reports that "Fox chairman Roger Ailes has been impressed by Carson, a former Fox pundit, ... is promoting his candidacy inside the network," and "has told producers to push Carson and put him on whenever he wants to go on." And notably, Rupert Murdoch, executive co-chairman of Fox News' parent company, apologized October 8 after praising Carson while calling for "a real black president" in response to a New York magazine column that posed the question, "Did Barack Obama do enough for his own community?"
A Media Matters analysis of The New York Times, The Washington Post, and The Wall Street Journal found that The Post dedicated extensive coverage to House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy's boast that the House Select Committee on Benghazi was part of a partisan strategy that damaged Hillary Clinton's presidential chances. The Post featured 17 online or print articles or blog posts that mentioned or covered McCarthy's comments. The Times mentioned or covered the comments in five online or print articles or blog posts, and The Journal neglected to offer any print coverage, but had five online articles and blog posts that mentioned or offered coverage.
A Chicago Sun-Times editorial board member made the inflammatory and false suggestion that sex workers cannot be victims of rape.
In a September 12 column, the Sun-Times' Mary Mitchell wrote about criminal charges against an Illinois man who is accused of raping a sex worker at gunpoint, claiming that the case "is making a mockery of rape victims" and arguing that "it's tough to see this unidentified prostitute as a victim."
Mitchell contended that the case is "actually more like theft of services" rather than sexual assault to push the false suggestion that sex workers cannot be raped.
Furthermore, sex workers have a dramatically higher-than-average chance (45 to 75 percent) of experiencing sexual violence at some point during their careers, and the homicide rate for female prostitutes "constitutes a higher occupational mortality rate than any other group of women ever studied," according to a 2012 report from anti-human trafficking group Fondation Scelles.
In her column, Mitchell also engaged in victim blaming, writing that "when you agree to meet a strange man in a strange place for the purpose of having strange sex for money, you are putting yourself at risk for harm." Mitchell even asserted that she is "grateful" that the man charged with aggravated criminal sexual assault in the case "isn't being accused of snatching an innocent woman off the street," absurdly implying the victim had a hand in bringing on her own assault. From Mitchell's column (emphasis added):
A recent case involving a prostitute and a john is making a mockery of rape victims.
Authorities say Roy Akins went to Backpage.com and agreed to pay a prostitute $180 for sex.
When the unidentified woman showed up at his Austin home for the transaction, Akins allegedly took her to the bedroom and, instead of handing over the cash, pulled a gun.
I don't have one iota of sympathy for Akins' plight. But I'm grateful he isn't being accused of snatching an innocent woman off the street.
But when you agree to meet a strange man in a strange place for the purpose of having strange sex for money, you are putting yourself at risk for harm.
It's tough to see this unidentified prostitute as a victim. And because this incident is being charged as a criminal sexual assault -- when it's actually more like theft of services -- it minimizes the act of rape.
Earlier this month, we saw what a rape victim looks like. Melissa Schuster, 26, of Willowbrook, was stabbed 17 times and suffered a fractured nose, broken bones and eye injuries when she was raped by a man who broke into her home after demanding cash.
As Jezebel's Stassa Edwards accurately noted, Mitchell's assertion that "real rape victims ... are women who have been beaten, bruised and assaulted despite doing 'nothing to bring about this terrible, terrible ordeal'" implies that sex workers are less than human, and consequently suggests -- incomprehensibly -- that "being raped at gunpoint is hardly a crime."