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As Planned Parenthood Celebrates 100 Years Of Providing Essential Health Care, A Look Back At Right-Wing Media’s Most Common Smears About The Organization
On October 16, Planned Parenthood celebrated 100 years of providing quality reproductive health care to millions of Americans. Despite the essential role Planned Parenthood has and continues to play in facilitating access to both primary and reproductive health care, right-wing media have frequently provided a platform for numerous smears and misinformation about the organization. Here are right-wing media’s favorite myths about Planned Parenthood.
On September 16, Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump released a letter announcing a new “pro-life coalition,” led by a known anti-choice extremist. As part of the announcement, Trump also pledged a commitment to four anti-choice policy priorities that have been long promoted by right-wing media, involving defunding Planned Parenthood, banning abortion, and entrenching the Hyde amendment as federal law.
Since the release of the Center for Medical Progress’ (CMP) deceptively edited videos in July 2015, right-wing media -- and, in particular, Fox News -- have consistently promoted the organization’s smear campaign against Planned Parenthood as both credible and an act of journalism. During a discussion of a proposed California law that would criminalize undercover recording stings on the September 1 edition of The Kelly File, Fox’s Shannon Bream and TheBlaze’s Dana Loesch again promoted CMP’s work as journalism, despite the number of media figures and judges who have rejected this premise.
Fox Business contributor Liz Claman misleadingly suggested a spurious connection between Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton and Mylan, the pharmaceutical company under fire for raising the price of the EpiPen. She based her claim on a picture taken of Bill Clinton and the former CEO Robert Coury and a donation Mylan gave to the Clinton Foundation to aid the fight against HIV in 2009. Using the guise of other Clinton Foundation stories that have equally little merit, Claman says that the 2009 photograph and donation "on a completely unrelated HIV issue" led "Fox and Fox Business" to look into "the Clinton Foundation issue" as an aspect of the EpiPen price change. However, the segment failed to note Hillary Clinton's statement denouncing the price hike as outrageous and calling on Mylan to immediately drop its prices. Both are evidence against the right-wing media smear that the Clintons shield Clinton Foundation donors from scrutiny or give them special treatment.
SHANNON BREAM (CO-HOST): Well and you mention the name Hillary Clinton but now there are questions about if this company has links to the Clinton Foundation as well?
LIZ CLAMAN: Well, it appears that back I think in about 2009 -- I could be incorrect on the exact date there, Robert Coury, who was the then-CEO, actually was heading the company, he appeared in a photograph with Bill Clinton. He had made about a $100,000 to $250,000 donation to the Clinton Foundation on a completely unrelated HIV issue that they felt was really important that the Clinton Foundation was doing good work on. Okay, fine. But what you have is a PR problem that has now turned into a PR tsunami disaster because they simply raised the drug price of the EpiPen so much for no apparent reason. So now everybody is looking into -- Fox and Fox Business -- the Clinton Foundation issue, the tax aversion where they dodged taxes. Because they have a sparkling headquarters that was just built in 2014 in Pittsburgh. Really? Because we thought you moved to the Netherlands. All these questions now surface. And then they don't return our phone calls.
Fox News is hyping an “on message,” less-fringy Donald Trump, claiming that “we haven’t had a pop-off” from the Republican presidential nominee “for a few days now.” But over the past few days,Trump has cited “misleading” statistics to make the point that “everything is bad” in black communities and has gone on a Twitter tirade against MSNBC hosts, while those close to his campaign have continued to push conspiracy theories about Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton’s health.
Fox News Sunday and MediaBuzz failed to cover new reporting that Fox News’ former chairman and CEO Roger Ailes has assumed an advisory role in Donald Trump’s presidential campaign. According to The New York Times, Ailes successfully urged Trump to change his campaign’s leadership and offered guidance on his first series of television campaign ads.
On August 19, the Times reported that an irate Trump “hastily convened” a group “of paid and unpaid advisers including the pollster Kellyanne Conway, Roger Ailes, the ousted Fox News Chairman, and Stephen K. Bannon, the chairman of Breitbart News” to address concerns the candidate had with then-campaign chairman Paul Manafort. The report, which detailed Manafort’s ouster from the “chaotic presidential campaign,” noted that during the August 14 meeting, Ailes “urged Mr. Trump to reconfigure the campaign’s leadership.” Bannon and Conway formally joined the campaign as its chief executive and manager, respectively, on August 17, and Manafort exited just two days later.
The Trump campaign had previously denied Ailes’ advisory role after reports that Ailes was assisting Trump with preparation for the upcoming presidential debates, and Conway told CNN’s Dana Bash this morning that Ailes “has no formal or informal role with the campaign,” but acknowledged that Trump “speaks to many different people.”
But while CNN’s State of the Union host asked Conway directly about Ailes’ role in the campaign, and CNN’s Reliable Sources also discussed Ailes’ burgeoning role, Fox News’ Sunday shows ignored this development concerning their departed chairman and CEO. A Fox News Sunday panel discussion, and two MediaBuzz segments, all discussing the shake-up in Trump’s campaign leadership team, failed to even mention Ailes. A SnapStream transcript search of Fox News for “Ailes” showed no results from any other shows on the network from today.
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Once Again, Fox’s Shannon Bream Pushed Dubious Polling To Argue That “Social Conservatives” Are “Turning The Tide” On American’s Abortion Beliefs
During the July 27 edition of Fox News’ Special Report, chief legal correspondent Shannon Bream reported that the Democratic Party’s positions on increasing abortion access and funding run contrary to the “personal convictions of average Americans.”
To support this argument, Bream cited a recent poll commissioned by the Knights of Columbus -- a self-identified “pro-life” group that has waged “a decades-long battle against abortion legislation.” Beyond failing to disclose the ideological affiliations of the group commissioning the poll, Bream also attempted to use the data to misleadingly suggest that Americans have a unified and consistently anti-choice position on abortion access.
According to Bream, the Knights of Columbus poll shows that “78 percent” of Americans “say they support substantial restrictions on abortion, including 62 percent of those who self-identify as pro-choice.” However, as previous research has shown, polling on individuals’ support for abortion is complicated and highly contextual.
For example, as Vox’s Sarah Kliff explained, 39 percent of Americans do not self-identify as either “pro-choice” or “pro-life,” and this determination is often influenced heavily by the wording of individual poll questions. She noted that although many people had “strongly held” feelings about abortion, much of the phrasing in polls fails to capture “the personal factors and situations that influence how each individual thinks about the issue.” Kliff continued that in poll questions, “a simple wording change can significantly alter whether Americans say they support legal abortion.”
When MSNBC’s Irin Carmon compared the questions asked in different polls she, too, found that a simple shift in phrasing or question style could substantially alter a poll’s findings:
You could ask Americans if they want Roe v. Wade overturned, as the Pew Research Center did in 2013, and learn that 63 percent want to see it stand. Or you could ask Americans to choose between two vague statements, like the recent poll the Marist Institute for Public Opinion conducted for the Knights of Columbus, a group that opposes abortion. Asked to pick between “it is possible to have laws which protect both the health and well-being of a woman and the life of the unborn; or two, it is necessary for laws to choose to protect one and not the other,” 77 percent said it was possible to do everything. The policy implications of the first statement are unclear.
Asking about what the law should be, whether generally or specifically, is when it gets really messy. According to one pollster, the most popular question of all – asking people if they think abortion should be legal in all, most or certain circumstances – is the most problematic.
“I don’t even want to ask this dumb question anymore, because it doesn’t work,” says Tresa Undem. “It’s a bad polling measurement.” She conducted the Vox poll as well as a recent one for the National Institute for Reproductive Health, which supports abortion rights, and has written about the problem with polling on abortion.
Why? When Undem looked only at the 34 percent of people who said they thought abortion should be legal only in cases of rape, incest and health risk, she found contradictory views.
But Undem says that internally conflicting views on abortion are par for the course. “On this topic, where people haven’t sorted through all their thoughts about it, you ask one question, the next you can get a reverse response.”
Americans across the ideological spectrum also tend to share a variety of fundamentally incorrect perceptions about the frequency and safety of abortion procedures. As Kliff wrote in a February 29 article, Americans often significantly “overestimate the safety risks for women who have abortions" and underestimate the prevalence of procedure itself. Despite the fact that abortion is both common and incredibly safe, these misconceptions can negatively skew an individual’s perception of the procedure.
The July 27 Special Report segment was far from the first time Bream has used selectively framed polling data to suggest Americans oppose abortion access and reproductive health care.
In January 2016, Bream cited another poll from the Knights of Columbus to allege that “81 percent of Americans think abortion should be limited to the first three months of pregnancy.” During the report, Bream did not note that the poll was commissioned by the anti-choice group.
Beyond pushing selectively framed polling, Bream also has a history of presenting misleading reporting on a number of reproductive rights topics. For example, long after the anti-choice group Center for Medical Progress (CMP) and its smear campaign against Planned Parenthood were discredited, Bream gave CMP founder David Daleiden an unchallenged platform to continuing pushing misinformation.
While Fox News and Bream used selectively framed polling to criticize the Democratic Party’s platform as “out of step with the majority of Americans,” they have ignored the fallacious positions on abortion and Planned Parenthood codified in the official Republican Party platform.
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The Select Investigative Panel On Infant Lives Again Tries To Use Documents From CMP To Attack Fetal Tissue Research
On June 1, Rep. Marsha Blackburn (R-TN), the chairman of the Congressional Select Investigative Panel on Infant Lives, released two letters and a press release calling for an investigation into “potential violations of federal law” by the tissue procurement company, StemExpress, and several abortion providers. Like previous claims made by Republicans on the select panel, the letters relied heavily on documents taken directly from the discredited work of the anti-choice group Center for Medical Progress (CMP).
Fox News and Fox Business have been promoting a debunked annual report from the fossil fuel front group Competitive Enterprise Institute (CEI), which claims that federal regulations cost the economy nearly $1.9 trillion each year. But the study has been roundly discredited and debunked, and it is being touted while CEI is under fire for its role in helping fossil fuel companies -- which would benefit from reduced federal regulations -- deceive the public on climate change.
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On March 29, the Supreme Court announced a split vote in the public sector union case Friedrichs v. California Teachers Association, upholding a decades-old practice that allows the union to collect a smaller "agency fee" from nonmembers who benefit from the union's collective bargaining efforts but don't pay full membership dues. Right-wing media reacted by mischaracterizing the fees and falsely claiming that the ruling forces employees to join unions and pay membership dues "whether [they] want to or not."