The Huffington Post reported on April 23 that Planned Parenthood has "reason to believe that anti-abortion activists are targeting it in a new organized sting operation" after a "string of suspicious incidents" at clinics across the country. According to the report, local clinics received "hoax visits" from women seeking "sex-selective abortions," putting Planned Parenthood officials on alert, especially after being the target of a deceptive smear campaign last year by anti-abortion activist group Live Action and its leader, Lila Rose.
While Live Action has not been connected to these recent incidents, in early 2011, Live Action released a video attempting to expose what the group described as "Planned Parenthood's cover-up of child sex trafficking." But that claim was quickly discredited after it was revealed that Planned Parenthood employees had already reported the "potential sex trafficking" incidents to law enforcement officials.
But despite Live Action's damaged reputation, conservative blog Big Government greeted the news of a possible new Live Action smear campaign by promoting the group's year-old, discredited charges, claiming the group "exposed victims" of "sex-trafficking."
From the April 24 Big Government post:
Planned Parenthood is worried that they may be targeted and outed again, this time for performing sex-selection abortions. They are accusing Lila Rose, the head of Live Action, the pro-life group that exposed victims of rape and sex-trafficking hiding their pregnancies by abortions through Planned Parenthood, of sending volunteers to various Planned parenthood clinics to ask about aborting a fetus because it's a girl.
Big Government's effort to promote a possible new Live Action smear campaign while hiding the group's past failures should come as no surprise. The blog heavily promoted similarly deceptive hidden-video campaigns by Rose's mentor, James O'Keefe, even after O'Keefe's accusations were debunked.
Lila Rose is back, accusing Planned Parenthood of lying about the effects a recent Indiana law would have on health-care access, without actually demonstrating anything of the sort.
Instead, Rose has demonstrated that Planned Parenthood's concerns - that women on Medicaid who rely on Planned Parenthood for preventive health care would lose that access under the Indiana law denying funds to Planned Parenthood - were accurate.
The video features Cecile Richards, CEO of Planned Parenthood, discussing Indiana's controversial law to withhold Medicaid funding from Planned Parenthood during a June CNN interview. Richards explained that she has received letters from women saying, "I can't believe that the state legislature, or the U.S. Congress is going to tell me I can't get - where I've been going to Planned Parenthood for years for my preventive care, for my birth control - and they are telling me now that I can't go to the health provider that I trust for my health."
Immediately after airing those comments, Rose played what she says is a recorded phone call to a Planned Parenthood clinic in Terre Haute, Indiana, where a woman who claimed to be a Medicaid recipient tried to schedule a preventive health-care examination. A voice, identified as belonging to a Planned Parenthood clinic worker, responded:
Right now we can't see new Medicaid people, just with the new law that's going on right now.
She then directed the caller to contact a primary care physician.
To recap: Planned Parenthood's Cecile Richards warned that women would not be able to go to Planned Parenthood for preventive care if they lost their funding. Rose claimed that she has "caught on tape" a Planned Parenthood worker in Indiana saying that because of the "new law," a Medicaid recipient cannot get preventive care at Planned Parenthood. She then presented this as evidence that Planned Parenthood has been lying.
This type of deception is par for the course with anti-abortion hoaxster Lila Rose. Of course, the usual cast of right-wing media characters are once again promoting Lila Rose's false smears of Planned Parenthood.
Why isn't Eric Holder's Justice Department investigating Planned Parenthood? Maybe because there's nothing to investigate.
A couple of weeks ago, Lila Rose penned a strange, thoroughly misleading letter to Attorney General Eric Holder asking him to investigate Planned Parenthood's alleged complicity in the sex trafficking of minors. Of course, Rose's letter could cite only two pieces of "evidence." Exhibit A: A series of videos that do absolutely nothing to support her outlandish and irresponsible claims. Exhibit B: A letter from Planned Parenthood alerting law enforcement authorities of suspected sex trafficking. Whereas Exhibit A is completely irrelevant, Exhibit B completely undermines Rose's case. If Planned Parenthood were aiding and abetting sex trafficking, why would they report suspected sex trafficking to the FBI? Rose's response to that simple question was completely incoherent, and only underscored just how ludicrous her accusations her.
So in a development shocking to no sentient being, the Justice Department will not be prosecuting anyone based on Rose's little conspiracy theory. And Rose, rather than just letting it go, has decided to accuse the DoJ of "looking the other way."
But Rose isn't the only person who's mad that the DoJ for deciding to spend their time on actual law enforcement instead of right-wing witch hunts. Glenn Beck, who previously gave Rose a massive platform on which to lob hysterical falsehoods at Planned Parenthood, had this to say:
BECK: Let's take a look here at Lila Rose. Here she is exposing Planned Parenthood. And when she did this, US Attorney General Eric Holder -- who said he's not pursuing the voter intimidation case down in Philadelphia or the Defense of Marriage act, which is the law of the land -- also says the DOJ is not gonna pursue this one either. No, he's not going to.
If you want one last example of just how untethered from reality the right's Planned Parenthood smears have become, here's a doozy: Beck also said Planned Parenthood "doesn't mind helping a pimp impregnating a 13 year-old with taxpayer dollars." Good luck figuring out what that means -- not even Lila Rose has made any accusations like that.
Beck is furious with Eric Holder for opting to not play along with two fake scandals dreamed up by the conservative fringe: Live Action's attempted smear of Planned Parenthood and the manufactured New Black Panther case. He's even angrier because Holder won't enforce the Defense of Marriage Act, despite the fact that Holder actually will. But the actual facts in these cases are irrelevant. All that matters is that the Attorney General refuses to turn the Justice Department into the enforcement arm of the conservative movement.
Eric Bolling helped Lila Rose promote the falsehood that Live Action exposed Planned Parenthood covering up the sex trafficking of underage girls. Bolling ignored the fact that that Planned Parenthood had contacted the FBI to report the possibility that sex trafficking was occurring, which completely undermines Rose's claim that they are covering up sex abuse.
Glenn Beck devoted the February 18 edition of his Fox News show to promoting the false claim that Live Action's undercover videos showed Planned Parenthood abetting the sex trafficking of underage girls. Beck did not mention once during his hour-long show that, before any of the hoax videos were released, Planned Parenthood contacted the FBI to report the possibility that sex trafficking was occurring.
From the February 18 edition of Fox News' Glenn Beck:
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Lila Rose, having failed to produce results through her strategy of releasing innocuous videos and making stuff up about their contents, is now playing a different angle: she's dropped the whole pretense of "evidence" and is now just straight-up begging the Justice Department to investigate Planned Parenthood for reasons that make absolutely no sense.
In a letter to Attorney General Eric Holder, Rose finally responds directly to the facts laid out by Planned Parenthood CEO Cecil Richards almost a month ago. In a January letter to Holder, Richards wrote that Planned Parenthood health centers had been visited by either suspected sex traffickers or undercover anti-abortion hoaxsters in "Arizona, Indiana, New Jersey, Virginia, and Washington, D.C." Richards asked the Justice Department to investigate potential sex trafficking based on those visits.
Rose replied (emphasis in the original), "Live Action did not visit any Planned Parenthood facility in Indiana. ... Since Ms. Richards' letter suggests that Planned Parenthood may have hosted actual sex traffickers at one or more of its Indiana facilities, and given that we have video and audio proof of its institutionalized willingness to aid and abet such sex traffickers, Live Action requests that your office begin an immediate and thorough investigation in Planned Parenthood of Indiana -- and elsewhere."
A few problems with Rose's letter. The most obvious one is this: Despite Rose's repeated claims to the contrary, she has never once provided "video and audio proof" of Planned Parenthood's "institutionalized willingness to aid and abet such sex traffickers." None of the videos she's released have even hinted that this is the case. In fact, the letter which Rose today finally responded to directly is the very same letter in which Richards reported suspected sex trafficking to the FBI. No matter how much Rose tries to confuse the issue, the fact of the matter is that reporting evidence of crimes to the authorities is pretty much the opposite of aiding and abetting.
But let's put Rose's prior crimes against logic aside and focus on the new information Rose presents in this letter. She claims that Live Action never visited any Planned Parenthood clinics in Indiana. All we know about those visits is that Planned Parenthood says they happened -- and that Planned Parenthood reported them to the FBI.
So Rose's case amounts to this: an organization discovered evidence of a possible crime and reported it to the authorities; therefore, that organization should be investigated for possibly aiding and abetting. On what planet does that make any sense at all?
Live Action's Lila Rose continues to misrepresent data in a desperate attempt to smear Planned Parenthood as a "friend" to sex traffickers.
Her latest "evidence" is an audio file of a short conversation that Live Action claims is between a woman who describes herself as a "sex worker" and a Planned Parenthood employee in Washington, D.C.
In a statement accompanying the release, Rose claims:
An institutional crisis has consumed Planned Parenthood at the highest levels. The reason their story has changed five times in reaction to our investigation is because they know they're guilty.
Sex trafficking in the U.S. has increased dramatically in recent years, and the pattern revealed by our investigation shows sex traffickers have no better friend than Planned Parenthood. Untold damage has already been done to countless girls and young women, whose safety and health are clearly at risk because organizations like Planned Parenthood provide confidentiality and safe haven for sex traffickers.
Yet again, she has utterly failed to show anything close to an "institutional crisis" in which Planned Parenthood is a "friend" to sex traffickers.
What this audio -- like all of the videos before it -- can't provide is anything to contradict the fact that Planned Parenthood contacted law enforcement and asked them to investigate potential sex trafficking before Lila Rose released any of her videos. Rose herself has even acknowledged this.
Yesterday, CBS Evening News lent its credibility to the thoroughly discredited hoax that Live Action exposed Planned Parenthood helping to cover up sex trafficking.
CBS reported that "in the past week" Live Action "released undercover videos showing Planned Parenthood staffers all too eager to help reported teenage sex workers get abortions and contraception" that are "troubling."
But as CBS's Jan Craword herself reported, Planned Parenthood "reported the incidents to Attorney General Eric Holder." Crawford did not make clear, however, that Planned Parenthood actually contacted law enforcement and asked them to investigate potential sex trafficking before Lila Rose released any of her video accusing them of covering up sexual abuse of minors.
This fact completely undermines Live Action's accusation that Planned Parenthood is helping to cover up sex trafficking.
What's actually troubling is that CBS is all too willing to promote Live Action's discredited videos.
The right-wing's undercover sting campaign targeting Planned Parenthood failed in its attempt to unearth some sort of elaborate sex trafficking ring supported by the venerable health care organization. And the parade of hidden camera, pimp-n-hoe videos released by Lila Rose and Live Action failed to create any sort of large scale furor over the issue.
But what the heavily orchestrated campaign did accomplish was highlight the ways in which Fox News-friendly politicians often make use of the right wing's steady diet of undercover sting operations, and how once politicians take interest in the resultsthey help, in fleeting ways, to lend some much-needed credibility to the gotcha endeavors, thereby creating a self-sustaining loop.
In terms of Live Action, the first two undercover video were filmed in New Jersey and Virginia. After looking at the evidence, NJ's Star-Ledger called Lila Rose's accusations against Planned Parenthood "silly," while the Roanoke Times condemned Rose's gotcha work as "a lie." In other words, there's no there, there.
Faced with a gotcha campaign that didn't deliver much gotcha, the challenge is how to boost and extend the story. Enter Republican politicians who have a history of hyping Republican Noise Machine offerings. Politicians like Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli who immediately jumped into the Planned Parenthood fray and helped juice the story.
Live Action's latest undercover video of a Planned Parenthood health center is notable for one thing and one thing only: Lila Rose still cannot do away with the simple fact that Planned Parenthood reported potential sex trafficking to law enforcement officials.
Of course, that doesn't mean that Rose and her cohorts have backed down from their ludicrous accusations. Indeed, in a press release accompanying the new video, Rose insists that her organization's efforts have unveiled an "institutional crisis" within Planned Parenthood, an organization she claims is "willing to aid and abet the sexual exploitation of minors and young girls."
It's worth noting here that in at least one of the Live Action videos exposing this so-called "institutional crisis," a Planned Parenthood employee actively tells people who claim to be sex workers that clinics are required to report statutory rape. Planned Parenthood officials have fired the office manager in one of its New Jersey clinics who was featured in Rose's first video, and that the organization is reportedly launching a retraining initiative focusing on "rules for reporting possible danger to minors."
But more important, the new video doesn't show that Planned Parenthood is "willing to aid and abet" sexual exploitation, just like the old videos didn't. As usual, it has nothing to say about the crucial context.
In January - before Rose released a single video - AP reported that Planned Parenthood had asked federal law enforcement officials to investigate claims of sex trafficking that were made at health centers in several states:
The visits were made between Jan. 11 and Jan. 15 to health centers in Virginia, Indiana, New York, New Jersey, Washington, D.C., and Arizona.
This is just becoming sad for Lila Rose and Live Action. While there was never any real reason to pay attention to Live Action's hyperbolic accusations, now even their novelty has worn off. They tried to burn Planned Parenthood, and they failed. Time to let it go, guys.
On Tuesday, James O'Keefe protégé Lila Rose released a video taken at a New Jersey Planned Parenthood clinic which she claimed "proves beyond a shadow of a doubt that Planned Parenthood intentionally breaks state and federal laws, and covers up the abuse of young girls it claims to serve." On Friday, New Jersey's Star-Ledger called this accusation is "silly," writing that all "the video proves" is that "one Planned Parenthood employee, immediately fired, is a dope." Indeed, Planned Parenthood had already informed law enforcement of the incident, and the (now former) employee made it clear in the video that "questionable" information would have to be hidden from other Planned Parenthood employees.
From the February 4 Star-Ledger editorial (emphasis added):
Lila Rose, president of Live Action -- a Los Angeles-based group that sent the actors and shot the hidden video -- said the video "proves beyond a shadow of a doubt that Planned Parenthood intentionally breaks state and federal laws, and covers up the abuse of young girls it claims to serve."
That's silly. Here's what the video proves: One Planned Parenthood employee, immediately fired, is a dope. She fell for the ol' pimp-and-prostitute gotcha-video sting, inappropriately coached Willie Dynamite and his woman on how to lie to obtain services and, by the end of the video, appears to be looking for a bribe.
Phyllis Kinsler, chief of Planned Parenthood of New Jersey, called the behavior "repugnant." She was being kind.
Planned Parenthood officials say Live Action has tried unsuccessfully for years to catch employees with sting operations. They say on Jan. 13, Live Action also visited the Shrewsbury clinic, and the managers at Perth Amboy and Shrewsbury contacted the national office immediately about concerns over illegal activity.
At least a dozen clinics in six states were visited in January by men claiming to be involved in sex trafficking, Planned Parenthood officials said. Each time, employees notified authorities. Planned Parenthood also said it sent a letter to U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder on Jan. 18 with concerns about sex trafficking and a possible hoax.
Subsequently released videos have revealed no wrongdoing, featured an employee who repeatedly informs the actors that she is mandated to report statutory rape and that minors must receive parental consent in order to get an abortion in Virginia, and employed doctored audio.
From the February 3 article, "The Right-Wing Dough Supporting the Sicko 'Stings' at Planned Parenthood" on AlterNet.org:
In response to my question about Live Action's funding, Schear said that, Lila Rose's anti-choice activism began with a grant from Morton Blackwell's Leadership Institute, which has been training young right-wingers for leadership roles for more than 30 years. The grant funded Rose's newspaper, The Advocate, which she still publishes. I recently attended one of the Institute's breakfast meetings with news-makers; the speaker was Tim Phillips, president of the Americans for Prosperity Foundation, the astroturf group founded and chaired by David Koch. Phillips, you see, is a graduate of the Institute, as are many right-wing luminaries.
More recently, Rose has gained the support of the Gerard Health Foundation, which supports anti-choice groups, many of them Catholic. In 2008, Rose won one of the foundation's coveted "Life Prizes". That year, a total of $600,000 was divided between seven recipients. The foundation is funded by the trust of Raymond Ruddy, a former executive with Touche Ross and Maximus, on whose board of Maximus he still sits. Maximus describes itself as providing operational services to the U.S. government, and foreign governments. (Isn't government bad, bad, bad? Aren't foreigners bad, bad, bad? Guess not when you're making big bucks off of them.)
Schear also said that Rose receives in-kind contributions -- basically, free services -- from CRC Public Relations, the firm behind the media sensation known as the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth. You know -- the guys who sought to impugn the war-time record of Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass., when he ran for president. CRC is led by Greg Mueller, who worked on the presidential campaigns of Pat Buchanan and Steve Forbes. SourceWatch also lists among CRC's clients the Republican National Committee, the Republican Congressional Campaign Committee and the National Republican Senatorial Committee. Oh, and then there's the 2009 anti-health-care-reform effort by Rick Scott -- now the governor of Florida -- known as Conservatives for Patients' Rights.
When Live Action released a video yesterday showing a Planned Parenthood employee speaking with two people who identified themselves to her as a pimp and prostitute, I called it "seven minutes of nothing." Today's info dump on the Live Action website offers up something similar: a melange of more nothing, some repetition, and a couple minutes of conclusive self-refutation.
In the title of the post unveiling these most recent videos, Live Action blogger David Daleidan says that a "pattern emerges." But the pattern that actually emerges probably isn't the one he had in mind. The real one goes like this: Live Action unloads some innocuous footage, presents it as sinister, and hopes that no one bothers to check whether it reveals what they claim it does. (Guess what? It doesn't.)
But just because it's a pattern, doesn't mean it's not evolving. Now that Live Action has absolutely nothing to do but repeat themselves, they're just putting out as much content as they can in the hopes that no one will have time to actually check it all. Now that it's obvious they don't have anything remotely approaching quality, their only option is quantity.
When the anti-abortion rights propagandists at Live Action began releasing their Planned Parenthood smear videos earlier this week, we explained that their claim that Planned Parenthood was covering-up "child sex trafficking" was clearly a lie.
That's because way back on January 18, Planned Parenthood's president wrote to Attorney General Eric Holder about the incidents and requested an FBI investigation into the possibility that "an individual or individuals are engaged in activities that violate several federal criminal statutes relating to sex trafficking involving minors."
So Planned Parenthood obviously wasn't covering up anything; they were fulfilling their obligation to keep children safe.
We also warned that media should be skeptical about the heavily edited video footage released by Live Action.
As it turns out, we were right to raise concerns.
Yesterday, Live Action released a video that it claimed showed a Richmond, Virginia, Planned Parenthood's supposed "willingness to aid and abet sexual exploitation of minors."
In reality, it showed nothing of the sort. ABC News reported that the Planned Parenthood employee "appears to act professionally and appropriately" and that "[l]egal experts ... said the clinic worker's advice on how a minor could obtain an abortion without her parents' consent is consistent with state law." According to Planned Parenthood, the employee "immediately notified her supervisor, who subsequently notified members of Planned Parenthood's national security team, who are working with the FBI, which is investigating these visits."
But Live Action also appears to have doctored the audio of its Richmond "sting," moving audio from one portion of their video to a different portion.