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Select Panel Uses Anniversary Of Anti-Choice Smear Videos To Preview The Next Act In The “Benghazi Treatment” of Planned Parenthood
Today, the Republican members of Congress’ Select Investigative Panel on Infant Lives released an interim update to House leadership and held a press conference to update the media on its investigation of abortion providers and medical researchers across the country.
In the interim update, the select panel alleged that its investigation had revealed potential violations of federal law by abortion providers and tissue procurement companies. At the press briefing, select panel Chairman Rep. Marsha Blackburn (R-TN) said the mid-year report’s findings included “documentation that shows abortion clinics and middlemen who are exploiting women and selling baby body parts as part of business plan to make more money.”
In reality, these allegations are actually recycled misinformation from anti-choice groups that right-wing media have spent the better part of the past year attempting to misrepresent as truth. With this latest release, the select panel Republicans have confirmed the long-held suspicion that they are also merely carrying water for the unfounded allegations of anti-choice extremists.
Since the select panel’s inception, the media have criticized its actions as a politically motivated “witch hunt” -- a “Benghazi treatment” of Planned Parenthood. In its 10 months of operation, the select panel has found no substantiated evidence of wrongdoing, prompting one publication to call its efforts “a wild goose chase” and numerous lawmakers to call for its disbandment. Instead, the select panel has continued to function merely as a conduit through which anti-choice groups have consistently funneled information in order to give their otherwise baseless attacks a thin veneer of legitimacy.
As the panel’s ranking Democrat, Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-IL), explained, Blackburn and her colleagues have long been suspected of “relying on information from anti-abortion extremists” in order to substantiate their otherwise unfounded attacks. Media Matters has previously reported that numerous documents from the select panel’s submitted evidence could be sourced to the website of the anti-choice group Center for Medical Progress (CMP.) The panel’s interim update confirms this pattern -- including citations from numerous anti-choice groups such as CMP, Life News, the Charlotte Lozier Institute, and the Radiance Foundation.
The select panel was formed in October 2015, several months after CMP began releasing deceptively edited videos in an attempt to smear Planned Parenthood. Although these videos purported to show Planned Parenthood officials discussing the illicit sale of donated fetal tissue, they have been repeatedly discredited and multiple states investigations have cleared Planned Parenthood of wrongdoing.
Today marks exactly one year since CMP began its smear campaign against Planned Parenthood.
Since then, CMP has earned the title of Media Matters’ 2015 Misinformer of the Year, been indicted for fraud by a grand jury in Houston, TX, been subject to lawsuits, and had its work soundly rejected by multiple judges and journalists alike. Undeterred, CMP founder David Daleiden has openly voiced his lack of concern about the severity of these charges:
— David Daleiden (@daviddaleiden) July 6, 2016
In contrast, for the abortion providers and researchers targeted by CMP and the select panel, the past year has been marked by increased harassment, threats, and violence.
According to the National Abortion Federation, in 2015 there was a “dramatic increase in hate speech and internet harassment, death threats, attempted murder, and murder” of abortion providers -- likely inspired by CMP’s incendiary allegations and rhetoric. Since the release of CMP’s first video in July 2015, at least five Planned Parenthood facilities have been attacked. In September 2015, the FBI released an intelligence assessment that warned of an uptick in violence against abortion providers and clinics. This prediction was borne out tragically in November 2015 when suspected shooter Robert Dear killed three people and injured several more at a Colorado Planned Parenthood health care center.
Nevertheless, the select panel has recklessly issued countless subpoenas demanding the names not only of abortion providers, but also of the “researchers, graduate students, laboratory technicians and administrative personnel” who may have participated in fetal tissue research.
Right-wing media have also spent the past year giving CMP a platform and capitalizing on the opportunity to push misinformation about Planned Parenthood and agitate for the organization to be defunded. In a recent study, Media Matters found that during a 14-month period from January 1, 2015, through March 6, 2016, Fox News’ evening news programs routinely relied on extreme anti-choice figures and information to help propagate CMP’s false allegations against Planned Parenthood.
For example, in a single day Fox News devoted 10 segments to hyping CMP’s videos and false claims about Planned Parenthood. Similarly, Fox host Bill O'Reilly called for an FBI investigation into Planned Parenthood, while network correspondent Peter Doocy claimed that he “searched the Planned Parenthood website for fetal baby part prices” but didn’t get any results because the practice is a “well-kept secret.” Other conservative media figures used CMP's videos to compare Planned Parenthood to Nazis, and used the videos to call for completely defunding the women's health care provider -- even going so far as to demand a government shutdown to do so.
These calls have made their way to anti-choice legislators across the United States and prompted 10 states to attempt to defund Planned Parenthood -- despite the detrimental impact this move would have on health care access in many communities.
Since its creation, the select panel has cost taxpayers $790,000 -- with an additional $490,000 recently authorized by the House in order to sustain the investigation through the end of the year. The costs for abortion providers -- in terms of their loss of safety -- has already become incalculable. Ranking member Schakowsky has been resolute: “This has not been -- nor will it ever be -- a fact-based investigation.” In response to the Republicans’ July 14 report, Schakowsky reiterated the danger of allowing a congressional body to act as mouthpiece for anti-choice extremists:
Once again Republicans are making inflammatory claims that they cannot substantiate and relying on manufactured documents and fraudulent videos that have been thoroughly discredited. Never before have I witnessed such a disconnect between allegations and the facts.
If the Panel were just a waste of taxpayer money and congressional time, it would be bad enough. But this has serious and devastating effects on real people. If you rely on Planned Parenthood provided health care, they want to close women's clinics. If you think women should make their own health decisions, they want politicians to dictate your choices and limit your right to decide when and whether to have children based on your own situation. If you support medical research, their attacks on fetal tissue research are already stalling work on diseases like MS.
And if you believe that congressional Republicans care about individual privacy and safety, you would have learned otherwise today. Despite public promises to “act responsibly with each and every name” that they are collecting -- Republicans today publicly named names without regard to the consequences.
Their interim report, which Democrats learned about through a press advisory, proves that this Panel needs to be disbanded now, before more lives are put at risk.
Right-wing media figures are blaming MoveOn.org for violence that occurred following Republican presidential front-runner Donald Trump's canceled rally in Chicago on March 11, likening the group to the Ku Klux Klan and accusing them of "creating this havoc and ... putting innocent people's lives in jeopardy." In fact, several media figures have slammed Trump for condoning "violence in rally after rally," and at the Chicago event MoveOn.org only helped provide logistical support for the protests, including printing signs and recruiting attendees.
Fox News is parroting anti-abortion group Center for Medical Progress' (CMP) claim that Planned Parenthood's decision to stop accepting reimbursement for fetal tissue donations is an "admission of guilt," ignoring that state and federal investigations have already cleared the organization of wrongdoing.
After Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) dropped out of the race to be Speaker of the House, sending Republicans soul-searching, Fox News figures were quick to attribute the sudden turn-of-events to the powerful House Freedom Caucus and its Tea Party movement roots. What Fox News has chosen not to mention, however, is its own role in creating and fostering the movement that has caused such dysfunction in Washington.
House Republicans have voted to form a special committee to investigate Planned Parenthood, following a months-long campaign by right-wing media and anti-choice groups pushing deceptive attacks against the women's health organization. Multiple recent state investigations and a federal investigation have cleared Planned Parenthood of wrongdoing.
Conservative media have paved the way for a government shutdown by championing Republican efforts to defund Planned Parenthood and uncritically hyping deceptively-edited smear videos by the Center for Medical Progress -- even though state and federal investigations continue to find no wrongdoing by the health provider.
Media continue to use the news that two emails Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton turned over to the State Department from her time as secretary of state may be retroactively classified as "top secret" to push myths about Clinton's handling of government information and scandalize her email use.
Fox News suggested that Hillary Clinton must have known her emails were classified when she received them during her tenure as secretary of state because they contained satellite imagery and signal intelligence. But officials say that the emails don't include any form of "sensitive sourcing" and may not have been classified at the time she received them.
Fox News' Fox & Friends promoted conspiracy theorist Mark Dice to lampoon Hillary Clinton and her supporters, despite his long history of promoting outlandish conspiracy theories including claiming the federal government carried out the 9/11 terror attacks. Fox & Friends' own network has even previously called him out as a conspiracy theorist.
"How much for this body part?"
Fox News correspondent Peter Doocy says he sought the answer to that question on Planned Parenthood's website, parroting debunked allegations from deceptively edited videos claiming that Planned Parenthood sells "fetal baby parts." In reality, the videos show no wrong-doing, as Planned Parenthood only donates fetal tissue with consent to important scientific research, and the money exchanged for the donations is both legal and solely to cover costs.
This month The Center for Medical Progress (CMP) has released two deceptively cut videos purporting to show Planned Parenthood officials "haggling over" prices for the sale of fetal tissue. The latest video, released on July 21, claims to catch an official offering to change abortion procedure techniques "to get more intact fetuses" in exchange for more money. But both videos have been deceptively edited to leave out crucial context that debunks the notion that the reproductive health provider sells fetal tissue for profit.
Yet Fox News correspondent Peter Doocy parroted the bogus talking points to attack Planned Parenthood on the July 21 edition of Special Report. Doocy went so far as to claim that he searched the non-profit's website for "fetal baby part prices," but was unable to find them because the sale is a "well-kept secret":
DOOCY: The debate about abortion is usually 'when does life start.' But tonight the debate is 'how much for this body part.' With one Planned Parenthood executive hoping it's enough for a fancy new car.
DOOCY: I've searched the Planned Parenthood website for fetal baby part prices but can't find them. Because until these videos came out, these transactions had been Planned Parenthood's well-kept secret.
Doocy's allegations demonstrate that even Special Report, the network's flagship news program, is willing to hype dangerous and false rhetoric from an organization with ties to extremist and violent groups.
Media and factcheckers quickly denounced CMP's original edited video, as the full footage contradicts the allegation that Planned Parenthood sells fetal tissue, and even the edited portion "shows nothing illegal." Instead, the video "repeatedly [says Planned Parenthood's] clinics want to cover their costs, not make money when donating fetal tissue" for scientific research, as FactCheck.org pointed out, and quoting a "biorepository" expert, they write that "[t]here's no way there's a profit" made on the donations based on the prices discussed in the videos.
What's more, the research enabled by fetal tissue donation is a critical tool for fighting a number of diseases, as The New York Times explained in an editorial blasting the shady anti-choice organization and those championing their false claims:
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.
Fox & Friends highlighted the Department of Justice's finding of systematic racial bias in the Ferguson Police Department to blame Attorney General Eric Holder for the shooting of two police officers, after previously overlooking the racial bias findings when the report was first released in order to hype the lack of charges against Darren Wilson.
On March 4, the Department of Justice (DOJ) released the findings of their Ferguson investigation in two reports. One report stated that police officer Darren Wilson's "'actions do not constitute prosecutable violations' of federal civil rights law," while the second report found "systemic racial discrimination by the Ferguson Police."
On the March 12 edition of Fox News' Fox & Friends, reporter Peter Doocy described the DOJ's finding of racial bias, emphasizing that Attorney General Eric Holder "floated the possibility" of dissolving the Ferguson police department as a result, while co-host Steve Doocy linked the DOJ report and Holder's response to the shooting of two police officers in Ferguson. Doocy described the shooting, saying, "a new wave of violence comes one week after Attorney General Eric Holder vowed to dismantle that city's police department," and questioned whether it was "what he wanted."
Co-host Elisabeth Hasselbeck asked Fox senior judicial analyst Andrew Napolitano whether Holder "fuel[ed] the flame," and Napolitano asserted, "he probably did fuel the flame," emphasizing that "the political environment in which this happened, obviously, the flames were fanned by" Holder.
Originalmente publicado en inglés por Eric Hananoki y traducido al español por el staff de Media Matters.
Fox News está presentando a Libre Initiative, el grupo patrocinado por los multimillonarios hermanos Koch, como una organización comunitaria fundada para "empoderar Hispanos" y avanzar "las libertades y la prosperidad". En realidad, el grupo insta a los Hispanos a que apoyen políticas públicas que según expertos, "van contra sus propios intereses" y "privan de derechos a los votantes Hispanos".
La Libre Initiative fue fundada en 2011 y supone ser una "organización comunitaria, no partidista, y sin fines de lucro, que promueve los principios y valores de la libertad económica para empoderar a la comunidad hispana de EE.UU." El grupo tiene "presencia en ocho estados" y "planea expandirse hacia Wisconsin y North Carolina este año, además de incrementar su equipo en un 30 por ciento antes de 2016."
Fox ha pintado al grupo como el producto de "una coalición de organizaciones de liderazgo hispano." Pero el equipo de Libre está conformado por veteranos del partido republicano, y han recibido más de $10 millones en fondos de parte de los multimillonarios petroleros Charles y David Koch. Libre ha admitido que su mensaje "se alinea mejor con los Republicanos" y "con los principios e ideas de Charles y David Koch."
El grupo promueve la agenda de gente como los Koch a costa de los hispanos. Libre se opone al Affordable Care Act (ACA por sus siglas en inglés, también conocido como Obamacare), que le ayuda a los hispanos a conseguir seguro de salud. Se oponen a un incremento federal del salario mínimo, que le ayudaría a más de 6.7 millones de hispanos. Apoyan leyes de identificación electoral que sirven para "privar a votantes hispanos de su derecho al voto." Han acompañado a Fox News a empujar desinformación sobre los "ilegales" y la inmigración. Libre también ha hecho campaña en contra de políticos que apoyan una reforma migratoria, debido al apoyo que estos políticos han manifestado a favor de Obamacare.
En este reporte sobre la Libre Initiative y los medios:
Fox News is passing off the Koch-funded Libre Initiative as a grassroots organization founded "to empower Hispanics" and advance "liberty, freedom and prosperity." In reality, the group urges Hispanics to support policies that experts say go "against their own interests" and "disenfranchise Hispanic voters."
The Libre Initiative was founded in 2011 and claims to be a "non-partisan, non-profit grassroots organization that advances the principles and values of economic freedom to empower the U.S. Hispanic community." The group "has a presence in eight states" and "plans to expand to Wisconsin and North Carolina this year and increase its staff by about 30 percent ahead of 2016."
Fox has portrayed the group as the product of "a coalition of Hispanic leadership organizations." But Libre is staffed by veteran Republican operatives, and the group has received over $10 million in funding from oil billionaires Charles and David Koch. Libre has admitted its message "aligns more with Republicans" and "with the principles and ideas of Charles and David Koch."
The group promotes the agenda of people like the Kochs at the expense of Hispanics. Libre opposes the Affordable Care Act (ACA), which helps Hispanics get health insurance. They oppose a federal minimum wage increase, which would help more than 6.7 million Hispanics. They support voter ID laws that serve "to disenfranchise Hispanic voters." They've joined Fox News in pushing misinformation about "illegals" and immigration. Libre has also campaigned against politicians that support immigration reform due to those politicians' support of the Affordable Care Act.
In this report about the Libre Initiative and the media:
A Fox News Special Report segment attacked new rules approved by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to ensure net neutrality, claiming the rules were done in secret and would slow down the Internet. But the FCC received millions of public comments in favor of net neutrality, and experts say the rules will ensure Internet fairness.
Today, the FCC passed "net neutrality" rules, which allows the agency to regulate Internet service as a utility and prohibits "Internet service providers from granting faster access to companies that pay for the privilege."
On the February 26 edition of Fox News' Special Report, host Bret Baier reported that "the FCC approved sweeping new rules that no member of the public has even seen." Correspondent Peter Doocy called the new regulations a government "power grab" that will result in consumers having slower Internet.
In fact, the public overwhelmingly supports new net neutrality regulations. During the public comment period, the FCC received a record 3.7 million comments on the topic of net neutrality. According to a report by the Sunlight Foundation, fewer than one percent of the first 800,000 public comments were opposed to net neutrality enforcement.
Furthermore, tech experts have called net neutrality the guiding principle that has made the Internet successful. Google's director of communications explained that the new net neutrality rules would promote competition and help the economy. And the National Bureau of Economic Research reported that "there is unlikely to be any negative impact from such regulation on [Internet Service Provider] investment."