On January 25, David Daleiden, the founder of the anti-choice group Center for Medical Progress (CMP), was indicted on a felony charge of tampering with a government record and a misdemeanor charge of violating the “prohibition of the purchase and sale of human organs” for the actions he took to manufacture smear videos of Planned Parenthood officials. Daleiden has a history of working with conservative groups on anti-choice campaigns.
David Daleiden And Associate Indicted by Texas Grand Jury
Texas Grand Jury Indicts Two Members Of Anti-Choice Group Center For Medical Progress. A Houston grand jury has indicted Center for Medical Progress (CMP) founder David Daleiden and his associate Sandra Merritt for tampering with a governmental record in creating fake California driver's licenses. Daleiden was also indicted on a misdemeanor charge related to his offers to Planned Parenthood officials in Texas to purchase human organs. The indictment came after CMP released a series of doctored videos claiming to show Planned Parenthood selling aborted fetal parts, according to The New York Times:
Prosecutors in Harris County said one of the leaders of the Center for Medical Progress -- an anti-abortion group that made secretly recorded videos purporting to show Planned Parenthood officials trying to illegally profit from the sale of fetal tissue -- had been indicted on a charge of tampering with a governmental record, a felony, and on a misdemeanor charge related to purchasing human organs.
That leader, David R. Daleiden, 27, the director of the center, had posed as a biotechnology representative to infiltrate Planned Parenthood affiliates and surreptitiously record his efforts to procure tissue for research. Another center employee, Sandra S. Merritt, 62, was indicted on a felony charge of tampering with a governmental record.
The record-tampering charges accused Mr. Daleiden and Ms. Merritt of making and presenting fake California driver's licenses, with the intent to defraud, for their April meeting at Planned Parenthood in Houston.
In making the videos, Mr. Daleiden and others have been accused of setting up a fake company called Biomax Procurement Services, creating fake identities and claiming to be part of a legitimate provider of fetal tissue to researchers.
The fake IDs used by Mr. Daleiden and Ms. Merritt, images of which were included as exhibits in court documents, resemble California-issued licenses. Mr. Daleiden went by Robert Sarkis on his license, and Ms. Merritt used the name Susan Sarah Tennenbaum. Warrants were issued for each defendant with a bond amount of $10,000.
“We know that they used fake IDs that had their real photographs but fake names and fake addresses purported to be issued by the State of California,” said Josh Schaffer, a Houston lawyer who represents Planned Parenthood Gulf Coast in the Harris County criminal investigation. Mr. Daleiden and Ms. Merritt presented those IDs to security at the Planned Parenthood office to gain entry to the building. “They never denied that they presented a fake ID,” Mr. Schaffer said.
Mr. Schaffer said he believed the misdemeanor charge stemmed from laws prohibiting offers to buy fetal tissue. He said that after the meeting with Planned Parenthood officials in Houston in April, Mr. Daleiden sent an email to them in June offering to buy fetal tissue for $1,600 per sample. Planned Parenthood never responded to the offer, Mr. Schaffer said. [The New York Times, 1/25/16]
David Daleiden Has A Long History With Discredited Conservative Groups And Activists
Daleiden Was Formerly Director Of Research At Anti-Abortion Organization Live Action, Which Also Published Deceptively Edited Videos Targeting Planned Parenthood. Daleiden previously worked as director of research for the discredited anti-abortion group Live Action, which deceptively-edited undercover footage of abortion clinics in an attempt to smear Planned Parenthood. [Live Action, 8/17/09; Media Matters for America, 2/4/11; Media Matters for America, 5/31/12]
Daleiden Consulted With And Used Playbook Of Anti-Choice Group Whose False Allegations Were Debunked By Congressional Investigation. Daleiden has cited the late-1990s work of Mark Crutcher's anti-choice organization, Life Dynamics, as the reason for his interest in fetal tissue used for medical research and has said he consulted Crutcher prior to starting his own campaign against Planned Parenthood. In the late '90s, Crutcher circulated unproven claims that a local Planned Parenthood clinic in Kansas was illegally selling fetal tissue donations. The allegations were investigated by Congress but fell apart when the key witness admitted to lying about having seen illegal activity. [Media Matters, 9/24/15]
Snopes: Daleiden Is Reportedly Friends With Conservative Activist James O'Keefe, Known For “Severely Edited” Videos. A Snopes.com takedown of one of the CMP videos noted that Daleiden is reportedly a friend of James O'Keefe -- another conservative figure notorious for using “severely edited” videos to target liberal organizations:
An individual named David Daleiden has been widely credited as the “leader” of the Center for Medical Progress. While Daleiden's online footprint is minimal, a 2009 Claremont University article (penned by fellow conservative activist Chuck Johnson) reported:
“James O'Keefe is a friend of David Daleiden's. O'Keefe and Hannah Giles have been going coast to coast documenting instances of ACORN employees willingly giving advice on how to avoid paying taxes and shielding a would be pimp (running for congress) and a [prostitute] from the watchful eye of the law. They've brought their investigation to New York City, Washington D.C., and Baltimore.”
O'Keefe came to prominence in 2009 after he produced “egregiously misleading” and “severely edited” videos targeting agencies such as ACORN. [Snopes.com, 7/14/15]
Daleiden Called For A Return To The Days Before Roe V. Wade, Claimed “Women Would Never Be Prosecuted”
Daleiden Said “Ideal Law” On Abortion Would Treat It As “Feticide.” During the January 22 edition of C-SPAN's Washington Journal, host Peter Sien asked Daleiden if he is in favor of outlawing abortion. Daleiden responded that he favored a return to the laws in the states “before Roe v. Wade,” which treated abortions as “feticide” and criminalized doctors who performed them. From Washington Journal:
PETER SIEN (HOST): David Daleiden, are you in favor of outlawing all abortions?
DAVID DALEIDEN: What I'm in favor of, and I have to be a little careful because CMP is a 501c(3) and we don't do model legislation or specific legislation advocacy. But I think that the ideal law would be similar to the laws that were on the books before Roe v. Wade.
SIEN: Final question -- I got to follow up on that. What were those laws?
DALEIDEN: Sure, so the laws in most states before Roe v. Wade criminalized doctors who would perform abortions. By which they meant feticide, anything that would intentionally kill a fetus. There were always exceptions for the life and health of the mother. And you know it's interesting -- those laws in fact made exceptions for, or made clear that women would never be prosecuted in those situations. It was specifically criminalizing the conduct of unethical medical providers who would do abortions. [C-SPAN, Washington Journal, 1/22/16]
Independent Analysis Found CMP Videos Were “Intentionally Deceptive,” And Numerous Governmental Investigations Have Cleared Planned Parenthood Of Any Illegal Activity
Independent Analysis Found Evidence Of “Intentionally Deceptive” Manipulated Footage In CMP's Planned Parenthood Attack Videos. An independent analysis commissioned by Planned Parenthood and conducted by forensic experts found evidence that CMP “manipulat[ed]” footage in both the edited and supposedly full-length videos. The analysis found that the videos “contain intentionally deceptive edits, missing footage and inaccurately transcribed conversations,” according to an August 27 article from Politico, which obtained a copy of the report:
Fusion GPS outlined 42 instances in which CMP edited out content from the short as well as so-called full versions of the tapes, several of which were secretly recorded. The company also identified instances in which context was eliminated, minutes of film were deleted and transcripts released by CMP did not match what was said on the tapes.
The report concludes that the degree of manipulation means the videos have no “evidentiary value” in a legal context, can't be used in “official inquiries” and lack credulity as journalism. Those findings are a direct response to CMP's arguments in court -- while fighting efforts to prevent it from releasing more video -- that it is protected by the First Amendment.
Fusion GPS found that at least two of the filmed interviews with Planned Parenthood officials are missing at least 30 minutes of content. It speculates that the cuts could include moments in which CMP activists, who were posing as representatives of a fictitious tissue procurement company, said things to lead the officials into damning statements. [Politico, 8/27/15]
Rep. Jason Chaffetz On Congressional Investigation Into Planned Parenthood: “Did We Find Any Wrongdoing? The Answer Is No.” Speaking at an October 8 House Judiciary Committee Meeting, Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-UT) admitted that congressional investigations have found no evidence that Planned Parenthood had broken the law, saying “Did we find any wrongdoing? The answer was no”:
House Republicans have held four hearings since September investigating Planned Parenthood. They claim that deceptively edited videos released by an anti-choice front group, the Center for Medical Progress (CMP), raise serious questions about whether Planned Parenthood broke the law.
They've said these questions justify creating a new select committee looking into the issue indefinitely.
Yet several Republican members of Congress admitted at Thursday's House Judiciary Committee Hearing that there's either no evidence Planned Parenthood broke the law, or that the point of the congressional investigation is really to debate the morality of abortion.
“Did we find any wrongdoing? The answer was no,” said Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-UT) in reference to a recent hearing he chaired in the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee.
Chaffetz was trying to clarify recent comments he made to the media that he “wasn't suggesting [Planned Parenthood] broke the law.” Democrats have repeatedly cited this quote as evidence that the “investigation” into Planned Parenthood is a politically motivated witch hunt.
Chaffetz argued that his comments shouldn't have been taken as “some grand conclusion” about every facet of the Planned Parenthood investigation, since his particular committee hearing was “narrowly focused” on Planned Parenthood's finances, not other issues like fetal tissue research.
“Did I look at the finances and have a hearing specifically as to the revenue portion and how they spend? Yes. Was there any wrongdoing? I didn't find any,” Chaffetz said.
Asked whether he knows of any evidence that Planned Parenthood broke the law in any way, Chaffetz cited none. [RH Reality Check, 10/9/15]
U.S. Dept. Of Health And Human Services: There Are “No Known Violations Of The Country's Fetal Tissue Laws.” In response to an inquiry by Sens. Joni Ernst (R-IA) and Roy Blunt (R-MO), the Department of Health and Human Services told Congress that they “know of no violation of [tissue] laws in connection with the research done at our agencies”:
The Obama administration says there are no known violations of the country's fetal tissue laws among government researchers or the companies that supply the tissue.
“Currently, we know of no violation of these laws in connection with the research done at our agencies,” Jim Esquea, assistant secretary for legislation at HHS, wrote in a letter to Sens. Joni Ernst and Roy Blunt, obtained by POLITICO. "Furthermore ... we have confirmed that HHS researchers working with fetal tissue obtained the tissue from non-profit organizations that provided assurances to us that they are in compliance with all applicable legal requirements.
HHS has gotten re-affirmations from government researchers and government-funded researchers that their tissue procurement is done in accordance with the tissue laws. And it got assurances from the companies that provide that fetal tissue to researchers at NIH and FDA that they are obtaining the fetal tissue and organs in compliance with federal laws, the letter says. [Politico, 8/16/15]
Numerous State Investigations Have Debunked Allegations Of Illegal Activity Against Planned Parenthood. Attorneys general and public health officials in at least eight states found after investigations stemming from CMP's deceptively edited videos that no laws were broken by Planned Parenthood. These states where Planned Parenthood has been cleared of CMP's accusations are Massachusetts, South Dakota, Indiana, Georgia, Pennsylvania, Florida, Missouri, and Washington. [Media Matters, 12/17/15]
The Center For Medical Progress Originally Did Not Describe Itself As “A Group Of Citizen Journalists”
New York Times: “The Description Of [CMP] On Its Website Has Changed.” The New York Times noted on July 21 that CMP's “About Us” section had changed “recently,” and the original description did not refer to the organization as being “a group of citizen journalists.” From The New York Times:
But the description of the center on its website has changed. Originally it was a nonprofit “dedicated to informing and educating both the lay public and the scientific community about the latest advances in regenerative medicine, cell-based therapies, and related disciplines.” Recently it became “a group of citizen journalists dedicated to monitoring and reporting on medical ethics and advances.”
The Internet Archive from February 4, 2015 captured the older language from CMP's website included in the “About Us” section of their website: