The Associated Press profiled the Center for Medical Progress (CMP), the anti-choice group responsible for releasing undercover footage as part of a smear campaign against Planned Parenthood, after the founder and an associate were indicted on felony charges. Yet, the AP report failed to note that the videos were deceptively edited or that CMP and its senior members have extremist ties.
Grand Jury Indicts Creator Of Planned Parenthood Smear Videos
Houston Public Media: Center For Medical Progress Founder And Associate Indicted. On January 25, David Daleiden, the founder of the anti-choice group the Center for Medical Progress, and an associate Sandra Meritt were indicted on felony charges of tampering with a government record. Daleiden was also indicted for “illegally offer[ing] to purchase human organs” in a video recording he used to falsely accuse Planned Parenthood of illegally selling fetal tissue for profit:
A Harris County grand jury today decided not to take any action against Planned Parenthood in Houston. But two people who used undercover videos accusing the group of selling fetal tissue have been indicted.
The sting videos recorded last April alleged that Planned Parenthood illegally profited from donations of fetal tissue. The Harris County District Attorney's Office investigated those allegations for more than two months, along with the Texas Rangers and the Houston Police Department.
In the end, a grand jury has cleared Planned Parenthood Gulf Coast of breaking the law.
Both David Daleiden and Sandra Merritt have been indicted for Tampering with a Governmental Record, which is a felony. Daleidan was also indicted for Prohibition of the Purchase and Sale of Human Organs, meaning he illegally offered to purchase human organs in the video recording. A violation of this section is a Class A misdemeanor.
“We were called upon to investigate allegations of criminal conduct by Planned Parenthood Gulf Coast,” said Harris County District Attorney Devon Anderson. “As I stated at the outset of this investigation, we must go where the evidence leads us. All the evidence uncovered in the course of this investigation was presented to the grand jury. I respect their decision on this difficult case.” [Houston Public Media, 1/25/16]
Associated Press Publishes Report On The Group Behind Deceptive Planned Parenthood Videos
Associated Press Profiles CMP After Two Video Creators Are Indicted. On January 26, the Associated Press published a report titled “A look at the group that made Planned Parenthood videos.” The article provides information about the Center for Medical Progress, its undercover videos, and details about some of the “other members” of the Center for Medical Progress. The report specifically mentions Troy Newman, who it notes also “is president of the Kansas-based anti-abortion group Operation Rescue” :
WHAT IS THE CENTER FOR MEDICAL PROGRESS?
The center is a nonprofit organization that described its mission in a 2013 application to the state of California as to “monitor and report on medical ethics and advances.” Public filings show a handful of people associated with the organization are longtime anti-abortion activists. The addresses for the group listed in public filings are postal drops in Sacramento and Irvine, California. Based on its submissions to the IRS, the center took in less than $50,000 in 2014 and thus did not have to disclose its donors. CEO David Daleiden is the only salaried member of the group, receiving $30,000 a year. He is the former director of research for the anti-abortion group Live Action, which is known for using undercover videos to target Planned Parenthood. Daleiden was indicted in Houston on Monday on a felony charge of tampering with a governmental record and a misdemeanor count related to purchasing human organs. Another anti-abortion activist, Sandra Merritt, was also indicted on a charge of tampering with a governmental record.
THE UNDERCOVER VIDEOS
The group released a series of graphic videos alleging that Planned Parenthood profited from the sale of fetal tissue -- something the abortion provider denies. One video shows officials associated with the Planned Parenthood Gulf Coast, which includes Texas. Footage from the clinic in Houston showed people pretending to be from a company called BioMax that procures fetal tissue for research touring the facility. Planned Parenthood has previously said that the fake company sent an agreement offering to pay the “astronomical amount” of $1,600 for organs from a fetus. The clinic said it never entered into the agreement and ceased contact with BioMax because it was “disturbed” by the overtures.
OTHER MEMBERS OF THE GROUP
Troy Newman, listed as the center's secretary, is president of the Kansas-based anti-abortion group Operation Rescue and has posed as a reporter to record conversations with abortion providers in the past. Albin Rhomberg, the center's chief financial officer, was arrested in 1991 for disrupting a church service during the inauguration of California Gov. Pete Wilson, an abortion-rights Republican. In 2005, he led an unsuccessful attempt to pass a California ballot measure requiring doctors to notify parents or guardians before performing abortions on minors. Nichole Surkala, who is listed as the center's contact if it is sued, was convicted in California in 2007 of willful cruelty to her 12-year-old son, according to court papers. Police found she kept a horse and seven dogs in a house in Modesto that was filled with animal feces and rotting produce. [Associated Press, 1/26/16]
Associated Press Story Leaves Out Important Details Of CMP's Anti-Choice Extremism
Associated Press Fails To Mention That The Center For Medical Progress Videos Were Deceptively Edited. Since July 14, 2015, the Center for Medical Progress has released multiple videos containing undercover footage of discussions with Planned Parenthood personnel and staff members of private, for-profit biomedical companies. The videos purported to show Planned Parenthood illegally selling fetal tissue and altering abortion procedures in order to profit from the sale of fetal tissue. Dozens of media outlets and state government investigations have reported that the videos have been extensively edited, show no illegal behavior by Planned Parenthood, and have been “grossly [taken] out of context,” a fact AP failed to mention. [Media Matters, 8/31/16]
Associated Press Fails To Note That Troy Newman Is An Anti-Choice Extremist With A History Of Violent Rhetoric. In its report, AP did not mention Troy Newman's record as one of the most notorious anti-choice activists in the United States. Newman has a long history of incendiary remarks, including “apparently praising the killing of abortion doctors and calling women who have abortions 'murderers,'” and has tried to “shut down abortion clinics by systematically harassing their employees into quitting.” In October 2015 was labeled by The Washington Post as “one of the nation's most controversial abortion activists.” Newman was a “driving force” behind the Center for Medical Progress' series of deceptively-edited videos attempting to smear Planned Parenthood:
Newman is president of Operation Rescue, a group devoted to shuttering abortion clinics. He also serves as one of three board members of the Center for Medical Progress, the little-known California group behind a video project targeting Planned Parenthood over its fetal tissue donation program.
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.”
Troy Newman's Current Status On CMP's Board Or Role As Secretary Is In Doubt. At the launch of CMP's campaign, Troy Newman, who serves as the president of the extremist anti-choice organization Operation Rescue, was identified as a board member for CMP and frequently hyped the organization's campaign. A CMP press release from July 14 said, “during this investigation, Newman advised Daleiden, providing consultation services and material support.” However, Newman was recently described as a “former board member” of Center for Medical Progress by conservative outlet The Blaze in an article discussing a lawsuit recently filed against Newman and the Center for Medical Progress. Newman's bio on Operation Rescue's website was also changed to say he “was a founding board member” of CMP. [Christian Newswire, 7/14/15, Media Matters, 1/20/16; Operation Rescue, Accessed 1/26/16]
This post has been updated to clarify the extent of Troy Newman's violent rhetoric and harassing acts.