Rush Limbaugh and Breitbart.com both falsely suggested that Planned Parenthood knew Dr. Kermit Gosnell was committing murder in his clinic and failed to report his crimes to authorities.
Gosnell is currently on trial for murdering seven infants and a mother, accused of grotesque behavior committed under the guise of women's health services.
Following comments made by Dayle Steinberg, president and chief executive of Planned Parenthood Southeastern Pennsylvania, Breitbart.com claimed, linking to a LifeNews.com article, that Planned Parenthood "knew about the massacre of the innocents" at Gosnell's clinic but "didn't say a word to the authorities about it."
Similarly, on the April 23 broadcast of his radio show, Rush Limbaugh, also referencing the LifeNews.com post, claimed that Steinberg had admitted Planned Parenthood "knew of what Gosnell was doing at his abortion facility" and "didn't report it to the state health department or other state or local officials." He concluded:
LIMBAUGH: Folks, that is profound to me. We know what was going on in Gosnell's -- I don't even know what we could -- house of horrors doesn't describe what was going on in there. And now we find out that Pennsylvania Planned Parenthood knew all along.
But Steinberg never said that Planned Parenthood was aware of the full extent of Gosnell's crimes -- only that women complained to Planned Parenthood about the "conditions" at Gosnell's clinic. A Philadelphia Inquirer article noted that Steinberg said Planned Parenthood "would always encourage [women with complaints] to report it to the Department of Health."
UPDATE: In a letter to the editor published on Philly.com, Steinberg confirmed that complaints Planned Parenthood had received about Gosnell's clinic referred to "the uncleanliness of his facility." She added, "If we had heard anything remotely like the conditions that have since come to light about Gosnell's facility, of course we would have alerted the state and other authorities."
From Steinberg's letter to the editor:
When Gosnell was arrested, I asked our staff if anyone had ever heard of him, and clinic staff members reported that a few women over the years said they were concerned about the uncleanliness of his facility and came to Planned Parenthood instead.
Our staff told these women that issues of cleanliness should be reported to state officials. If we had heard anything remotely like the conditions that have since come to light about Gosnell's facility, of course we would have alerted the state and other authorities.
Nobody who believes in good health care, access to safe and legal abortion, and respect for women would ever look at Kermit Gosnell's facility and call it a health-care center. He preyed on women in their most vulnerable moments.
Fox News misrepresented how Planned Parenthood uses the federal funds it receives, falsely suggesting the organization spends hundreds of millions of federal dollars on abortions. In fact, Planned Parenthood's federal dollars go to other critical women's health services and the organization spends a small percentage of its overall budget on providing abortions.
Fox & Friends co-host Steve Doocy discussed Planned Parenthood's newly-released 2011-12 annual report and focused on the $542 million the organization received from the federal government during the twelve months covered by the report. Doocy asserted that the $542 million constituted "a lot of abortions."
In fact, Congress has barred Planned Parenthood from using federal funds for abortion service. The federal funds Planned Parenthood receives are strictly required by law to fund only family planning services, not abortion. Later during the segment, frequent Fox News guest host Laura Ingraham acknowledged that Planned Parenthood segregates its federal funds and does not use any of it on abortion, but she dismissed this fact, claiming that the money is fungible and Planned Parenthood makes about "400-something million off of the abortion procedure."
Ingraham's fungibility argument makes little sense, however, because abortion services make up a very small part of the services the organization provides. According to Planned Parenthood's latest annual report, abortion services made up a mere three percent of the services performed in 2011:
Furthermore, Ingraham's claim that Planned Parenthood makes $400 million from abortions is completely incorrect. According to its annual report, the organization actually received $311.5 million from non-governmental sources for the health care services it provided in 2011-12. According to Politifact, anti-abortion activists generally claim that Planned Parenthood receives far less than $400 million for abortion services, and even if their claims are correct, Planned Parenthood receives only 13 percent of its total revenue from abortion services.
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.
Fresh off her resignation as vice president for public policy at Susan G. Komen for the Cure, Karen Handel headed to (where else?) Fox News for her first TV interview to give her side of the story regarding the breast cancer charity's controversial decision to cut funding to Planned Parenthood for cancer screenings.
Echoing an argument that has become popular among conservatives in the media, Handel denounced Susan G. Komen's critics and said that the private foundation's decisions on how it disburses money should be free from outside pressures. Unfortunately for her, she also stomped all over that argument when she tried to justify Komen's initial decision to cut off Planned Parenthood.
Here's the key part of the interview.
For those who can't watch the video, Handel said: "The last time I checked, private non-profit organizations have a right and a responsibility to be able to set the highest standards and criteria on their own, without interference, let alone the level of vicious attacks and coercion that has occurred by Planned Parenthood." She returned to the argument a couple of minutes later, saying "all of us should be saddened that an outside organization will put this kind of pressure on another organization around their processes and granting and how they do it and to whom they are going to grant."
A minute later, however, Handel laid out Susan G. Komen's justifications for altering their policies to cut off Planned Parenthood, and she listed among them the fact that they had been "under pressure for some years" regarding the "controversies" surrounding Planned Parenthood:
HANDEL: I think the Congressional investigation, along with the various state investigations [of Planned Parenthood], those were a factor in the decision. But make no mistake about it, it was a bigger picture than that. There was the granting criteria as well as the controversies that were surrounding Planned Parenthood. And it's no secret, Megyn, that Komen and other organizations that were funding Planned Parenthood had been under pressure for some years, long before my time, that had been going on -- the pressure around the controversy.
And I'm not going to get into too much on the internal aspects of things, but this organization had a right to make what it felt was the best decision for the mission. For the mission. And I think everyone can agree that if you have a grantee where there's this type of controversy surrounding it, Komen was doing its level best to move to neutral ground.
Who was the "pressure" coming from? Outside anti-abortion rights groups that sought to influence how Susan G. Komen disbursed its grant money.
So to sum up Handel's argument: We cut off Planned Parenthood's funding because outside groups were pressuring us, and how dare outside groups pressure us because we cut off Planned Parenthood's funding.
Right-wing media have applauded Susan G. Komen for the Cure's decision to stop providing funds to Planned Parenthood. But Komen's decision could affect access to breast cancer screenings and other cancer-related services for thousands of women, as the Komen funds have allowed Planned Parenthood to provide 170,000 breast exams and 6,400 mammogram referrals in the past five years.
Bill O'Reilly and Fox News contributor Laura Ingraham falsely claimed that abortion is the "core business" of Planned Parenthood, when, in fact, abortion services made up 3 percent of the organization's medical activities in 2010. Ingraham also claimed that Planned Parenthood spends $56 million per year on "lobbying"; it actually spent $56 million in 2010 on "public policy," which includes a variety of activities.
In a Washington Times op-ed, Denise Burke of the anti-abortion group Americans United for Life called Planned Parenthood of Indiana an "abortion-saturated" organization and suggested "women's health care isn't [Planned Parenthood's] cause -- it's abortion." However, only about 3.5 percent of Planned Parenthood of Indiana's total services in FY 2010 were abortions.
Appearing on Fox News to push her most recent attack on Planned Parenthood, Lila Rose claimed that abortions are how Planned Parenthood of Indiana "makes money." In fact, abortions account for only an estimated 16 percent of its total annual revenue in 2010.
On the June 6 edition of Fox News' America's Newsroom, Wall Street Journal columnist John Fund spread falsehoods to defend a recent Indiana law that bans state Medicaid money from going to non-abortion services provided by Planned Parenthood. Fund falsely claimed that Indiana "has the right to decide" whether to contract with Planned Parenthood for Medicaid services and that Planned Parenthood "counselors advis[ed] underage teenage girls who were supposedly sex workers on how to have an abortion."
Yesterday, the Senate Finance Committee held a hearing with executives from the world's five largest private oil companies. One of the main topics of the hearings was how the oil companies could justify the billions of dollars it saves every year in tax breaks while simultaneously recording record profits. According to the Associated Press, "Democrats accused the oil companies of not paying their share to help the country emerge from economic hard times. Republicans derided the hearing as a dog-and-pony show staged to score political points." But Republicans were not the only ones going to bat for the oil companies. The right-wing partisans at Fox also bravely stood up to defend the tax breaks for oil companies.
The hearing culminated a weeks-long campaign by the right-wing media to defend the oil companies at all costs. First, they promoted the false claim that proposing and end to the subsidies is tantamount to "[coming] out in favor of even higher gas prices." They also attempted to deflect criticism by attacking subsidies on wind and solar energy, despite the fact that those subsidies are miniscule by comparison. But on this morning's Fox & Friends, co-host Brian Kilmeade took a new tactic and dismissed the proposal to end tax subsidies for oil companies as "a feel good move for people who think we're spending too much."
Right-wing media have used the ongoing budget standoff to falsely suggest that Republicans want to end funding to Planned Parenthood because the federal funding is used to "provide abortions." However, these reports have failed to note that Planned Parenthood does not and cannot use federal funds to pay for its clinics' abortion services.
From the April 6 edition of Fox News' The O'Reilly Factor:
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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.
Lila Rose and Live Action's accusations against Planned Parenthood are wholly without merit, but that hasn't stopped the right-wing media machine from giving these intrepid "journalists" the full Woodward and Bernstein treatment.
The latest stop in Rose's press junket: an interview with the Breitbart media empire's token liberal, Lee Stranahan. Things went swimmingly for the first half of the interview, with Stranahan lobbing softballs and Rose bunting them back with ease -- but then Stranahan had to ask about the letter Planned Parenthood wrote to AG Eric Holder alerting him to the existence of a possible sex trafficking ring.
Since Rose's whole case rests on the demonstrably false claim that Planned Parenthood tried to cover up sex trafficking instead of reporting it to the authorities, surely this letter means she has no case?
Here's Rose's utterly nonsensical response:
ROSE: What Planned Parenthood has done is try to spike Live Action's story, and try to cover up their cover up by confusing and muddling the matter and getting the FBI in this absurd letter to look into Live Action, or to kind of implicate Live Action as somehow, you know, needing-- Live Action needing to be investigated. So what they're doing is what they do classically, what they've been doing over the past four years, which is instead of addressing the institutional cover up in their clinic, instead of addressing that, instead of-- instead of resolving that, they turn to us as the investigative team, or they turn against the, you know, the people that are trying to spread this message and get people aware, and they attack us. So this is just-- This is just another example of how Planned Parenthood's sexual abuse cover up and aiding and abetting of human trafficking is top down.
Parse that word stew and you'll discover an argument that doesn't even hold together when expressed in coherent sentences. Rose's position is this: Planned Parenthood did wrong by not reporting suspected sex trafficking, and the fact that they did report suspected sex trafficking just proves it.
Stranahan's response? Letting it slide and jumping to the next topic. Journalism at its finest!