Akron Beacon Journal

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  • Fox News Hyped Ohio AG’s False Claims About Planned Parenthood But Didn’t Report That They Cost The State Over $45,000

    Blog ››› ››› RACHEL LARRIS

    In December 2015, when Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine argued that fetuses from Planned Parenthood were “steam-cooked and taken to a Kentucky landfill,” Fox News covered his baseless allegations. In contrast, no Fox News show followed up to note that Ohio taxpayers would cover $45,447 in legal fees Planned Parenthood incurred while fighting the attorney general’s misleading claims about its practices.

    On December 11, DeWine held a press conference in which he alleged that fetuses from Planned Parenthood were illegally “steam-cooked and taken to a Kentucky landfill.” DeWine issued his claims after the state conducted a five-month investigation into Planned Parenthood, spurred by allegations made by the now-discredited anti-choice group Center for Medical Progress (CMP) that abortion providers were illegally selling fetal tissue. While DeWine concluded that fetal tissue was not being sold, he said his office discovered that Planned Parenthood’s means of fetal tissue disposal violated state law requiring that fetal remains be “disposed of in a humane manner.”

    State media called into question DeWine’s so-called “investigation” findings. The Akron Beacon Journal wrote that “it is hard to overlook the political theater at work” in DeWine’s allegations. The Columbus Dispatch noted that no Ohio abortion clinic had ever been cited for improper handling of fetal remains. WBNS-10TV in Columbus, OH, also reported that the Kentucky Department of Environmental Protection said that no intact fetuses were buried there, that the disposal company and landfill have not been cited for any legal violations, and that nobody from the attorney general's office had contacted the Kentucky facilities to investigate.

    But while Ohio state media dug into the substance of DeWine’s remarks about Planned Parenthood, Fox News instead provided a platform for DeWine to further his baseless allegations. Fox News co-host Martha MacCallum interviewed DeWine during the December 15 edition of America’s Newsroom, where he reiterated his claims that fetal remains were “taken to a landfill in Kentucky and dumped in that landfill.” He went on to say that his office “think[s] [Planned Parenthood clinics] are in violation of the law.” MacCallum told DeWine: “It strikes me that what this story and what the investigation that you’ve done, it sheds more light on the realities of this process, which a lot of people just really, frankly, don’t want to know more about because it’s very difficult to even think about.”

    In addition to Fox News, other right-wing media sites piled on with headlines about “steam-cooked” fetuses being “illegally dump[ed]” into landfills. (And neither of those outlets reported on the resulting cost to taxpayers either.)

    Shortly after DeWine made his remarks, Planned Parenthood filed a federal lawsuit seeking to block any attempts by DeWine to impede access to abortion services. After a federal judge issued a temporary restraining order, DeWine ended the state’s legal actions with those claims. However, the process DeWine launched ended up costing Planned Parenthood $45,447 in legal fees, which Ohio state officials agreed to pay in a settlement -- meaning Ohio taxpayers ended up footing the bill for the attorney general’s unfounded claims, a consequence Fox News hasn’t covered. While Fox News has called for investigations based solely on CMP videos, the network doesn’t provide equal time when those investigations find no wrongdoing while costing taxpayers thousands of dollars.

    By amplifying the false allegations while not reporting on the consequences, right-wing media are spreading lies and distortions.

  • Armed With Right-Wing Media's Misinformation About Planned Parenthood, Ohio Legislature Passes Defunding Bill

    Blog ››› ››› SHARON KANN

    Following a second-place finish in the New Hampshire primary, Ohio Gov. John Kasich is poised to sign a bill that would defund Planned Parenthood. The bill not only strips Planned Parenthood of state funding, but it would additionally threaten funding for any group contracting with or referring patients to an abortion provider. While the bill does not affect Medicaid reimbursements, it could impact funding for other state health care programs that are currently served by Planned Parenthood affiliates.

    NARAL Pro-Choice Ohio issued a statement as the bill was debated by the state senate saying its passage could stop city and county health departments that have contracts with Planned Parenthood -- or an independent abortion provider -- from receiving state funding for breast and cervical cancer prevention, infertility, infant mortality, and HIV/AIDS programs, as well as sex education and other initiatives.

    Since the release of deceptively edited videos from the Center for Medical Progress (CMP) -- Media Matters' 2015 Misinformer of the Year -- anti-choice legislators have repeated right-wing media misinformation about Planned Parenthood in an ongoing attempt to defund the organization. They have simultaneously claimed that community health clinics can effectively fill in the gap left by barring Planned Parenthood from state health care programs, a claim echoed in Ohio by the bill's supporters.

    Despite claims made by right-wing media that community clinics can completely fulfill the needs served by state health care programs, there is evidence that removing Planned Parenthood from such programs has a detrimental impact. According to the Guttmacher Institute, in 103 U.S. counties, Planned Parenthood is the only "safety-net health center" accessible for women seeking contraceptive services. They noted that Planned Parenthood is the only provider of publicly subsidized contraceptive services and typically can see more patients annually for these services than "other types of safety-net providers."

    A study published by the New England Journal of Medicine that examined the impact in Texas of removing Planned Parenthood from state-funded programs found a decrease in the use of long-acting contraceptives that corresponded with an increase in child births by Medicaid-funded patients.

    Research from the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) has shown that defunding Planned Parenthood would lead to a net increase in government spending of $130 million over a 10-year period. Beyond the fiscal impact, research from the Texas Policy Evaluation Project (TxPEP)  on the impact of Planned Parenthood cuts in Texas suggests that loss of access to such clinics poses dire health risks as well.

    Community health clinics are also ill-positioned to meet many Americans' health care needs, particularly when Planned Parenthood is taken out of the equation. Sara Rosenbaum, a professor at the George Washington University Milken Institute School of Public Health, wrote in an article for the Health Affairs Blog that the "claim that community health centers readily can absorb the loss of Planned Parenthood clinics amounts to a gross misrepresentation of what even the best community health centers in the country would be able to do."

    And contraception is not patients' only loss; removing Planned Parenthood from state health care programs can have other harmful consequences. For example, in 2011 Indiana cut funding to Planned Parenthood, which left one rural county without an HIV testing center as it experienced a growth in HIV infections.  

    The editorial boards of the Akron Beacon Journal and the Toledo Blade have both warned of similar threats to Ohio women's health if Gov. Kasich fails to veto the bill. According to the Akron Beacon Journal's editorial board, the health impact of Ohio's bill would be widespread as the "loose language in the bill may lead to funding complications for local hospitals and public health departments." In response to claims that other clinics can fill in for Planned Parenthood, the Toledo Blade's editorial board noted that community clinics in Ohio "do not serve poor and minority women nearly to the extent that Planned parenthood does."

  • Akron Beacon Journal: Ohio Attorney General Is "Seizing His Opportunity" To "Bash" Planned Parenthood

    Blog ››› ››› MEDIA MATTERS STAFF

    An editorial in the Akron Beacon Journal criticized recent maneuvers made by Ohio's attorney general Mike DeWine who has "join[ed] the bashing" of Planned Parenthood following release of deceptively-edited videos produced by the anti-choice Center for Medical Progress.

    A December 16 editorial by the Akron Beacon Journal discussed the attorney general's investigation into Planned Parenthood based on the "heavily edited and thus misleading" videos which alleged the organization was illegally selling fetal tissue. The videos that prompted the investigation have been thoroughly debunked despite being continuously touted by right-wing media. As the editorial notes, the attorney general's investigation "found no indication that fetal tissue is sold by the Planned Parenthood organizations in Ohio" which "mirrored results elsewhere." However, the attorney general has recently claimed Planned Parenthood was violating state law in its disposal of fetal tissue, which the editorial explained, "fits the pattern" of Republican lawmakers "seizing [the] opportunity" to take "a range of steps to curb abortion rights in the state." The editorial said "nothing indicates that Planned Parenthood has been out of compliance in the past, let alone some dark, rogue operation":

    Mike DeWine launched his investigation last summer to determine whether Planned Parenthood in Ohio sold fetal tissue for profit. That was the accusation Planned Parenthood faced in the wake of videos put together by anti-abortion activists. The videos proved heavily edited and thus misleading, to say the least. The state attorney general pushed ahead, anyway, as did officials in other states, encouraged by Republican presidential candidates.

    What did DeWine discover? On Friday, he told the director of the state Department of Health, that "a thorough investigation ... found no indication that fetal tissue is sold by the Planned Parenthood organizations in Ohio." That outcome mirrored results elsewhere.

    The attorney general didn't stop there. He argued that his investigation turned up information showing that Planned Parenthood violated state law in disposing of fetal tissue. State regulations require disposal in a "humane manner." The attorney general described Planned Parenthood contracting with a waste firm, the "steam cooking" of tissue and sending it to "a landfill ... in Kentucky," suggesting the tissue received treatment in line with trash left at the curb.

    No surprise that many lawmakers in the Republican majorities at the Statehouse voiced their outrage. They already have approved denying funding to Planned Parenthood, not to mention taken a range of steps to curb abortion rights in the state. They now have proposed legislation that would define "humane" as either burial or cremation. One bill would require the woman to select one of the two as part of receiving an abortion.

    The attorney general plainly is sincere and passionate about his opposition to abortion, as are many Ohioans. At the same time, it is hard to overlook the political theater at work, before the cameras, springing his revelation.


    If Planned Parenthood weren't portrayed as such a villain by Republicans in the legislature, this episode might not appear so calculated. As things are, it fits the pattern, the attorney general seizing his opportunity to join the bashing, just as he eagerly enters controversial lawsuits across the country to trumpet his views.

    And yet, Planned Parenthood makes a valuable contribution in communities, providing access to health care for many who are disadvantaged, earning a reputation for trust and quality. Its family planning services help to curb abortions. Still, when a woman chooses to end a pregnancy, difficult as that decision is, Planned Parenthood is there to see that it is done safely, without shaming and demonizing.

  • Unnoticed Fossil Fuel Influence Could Soon Dismantle Ohio's Clean Energy Policies

    STUDY: Local Papers Continue To Miss ALEC Influence In Clean Energy Debate

    ››› ››› DENISE ROBBINS

    Ohio may soon become the first state to freeze its clean energy mandates after a relentless effort from utilities. But the state's major newspapers continue to overlook that the legislators behind the bill are members of the American Legislative Exchange Council -- an organization that connects corporations, including fossil fuel interests, to legislators -- despite repeatedly quoting the organization's members.

  • Most Major Ohio Newspapers Missed Poll Showing Support For Immigration Reform


    Almost all of Ohio's leading newspapers ignored a new poll showing that Ohioans overwhelmingly support action on immigration reform, even as House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) announced a decision on November 13 that effectively reduced any chances at reform this year.

    A poll conducted by Harper Polling on behalf of three pro-reform organizations -- including one that counts News Corp (Fox News' parent company) president Rupert Murdoch as a co-chairman, and another that exclusively supports GOP candidates -- found that 74 percent of Ohio residents surveyed feel the immigration system is broken and that another 72 percent support an immigration proposal with a path to citizenship. The poll also found that 68 percent of respondents support a plan that would grant legal status to undocumented immigrants and citizenship to those who were brought to the country illegally as children.

    On November 13, the Cleveland Plain Dealer was the only major daily Ohio newspaper to report these findings, despite Boehner's pronouncement that day that he would refuse to allow negotiations between the House and the Senate on an immigration reform bill. As the Washington Post noted, the decision dealt "a significant blow to the prospects of comprehensive immigration reform by this Congress."

  • Major GOP Donor Gaining Monopoly Control Over Crucial Media Market

    Blog ››› ››› JOE STRUPP

    The conservative Columbus Dispatch has long been a force in local and state politics in Ohio. But in recent years, the newspaper's parent company has become a virtual media monopoly in Ohio's largest city and state capital, controlling not only the daily newspaper, but two radio stations, a television outlet and a long list of other weekly, monthly, and regional news sources.

    "It's a one-newspaper town," said Dominick Cappa, editor of Columbus Business First, one of the few local publications not owned by the Dispatch"They have the TV station, a radio station. Are they powerful? Hell yeah they're powerful because they have those outlets."

    And the Dispatch's owners have used that media muscle to promote conservative causes and candidates, in particular the state's Republican governor, John Kasich. Publisher John F. Wolfe, CEO of parent company Dispatch Printing, and his wife, Ann, have spent more than $100,000 seeking to elect Republicans in state and out, with three dollars out of every ten going to Kasich's coffers.

    The Dispatch's news reporting is the pride of Ohio; in recent years the paper has repeatedly been named the best newspaper of its size by the Associated Press Society, and its reporters typically clean up at that organization's annual awards presentation. In 2012, John Wolfe himself was given a special recognition award for "exemplary service to print journalism."

    But critics say that the recent expansion of Dispatch Printing has created a near-monopoly in central Ohio, and point to the way the paper's editorial board has shielded Kasich to sound a note of alarm. 

    The increasing influence of the Wolfes comes during a period in which several right-wing moguls have been seeking to use mainstream media outlets to influence the political debate.

    In December Media Matters profiled financier Douglas Manchester, a major Republican Party contributor who purchased the San Diego Union-Tribune and used it to cheerlead for right-wing politics and his own business interests. More recently, David and Charles Koch, major funders of the conservative movement, have reportedly considered buying the Tribune Company's eight regional newspapers -- which include the Los Angeles Times and Chicago Tribune -- as part of their plan to shift the country to the right by investing in the media. Manchester has also considered buying the Tribune Company.

    The Kochs also financially support the Franklin Center for Government and Public Integrity, a non-profit organization whose websites and affiliates provide free statehouse reporting from a conservative perspective to local newspapers and other media across the country.

    The Wolfes' stranglehold on central Ohio's media grew substantially last September when the Dispatch Printing Company took over Columbus Media Enterprises from American Community Newspapers. That purchase added 12 specialty magazines to its arsenal, including Columbus Monthly and Columbus CEO, and Columbus Bride; Suburban News Publications, a string of 22 community weeklies that were subsequently merged with the company's 22-paper ThisWeek Community News group of weeklies; and The Other Paper, a feisty alternative weekly that had been known as a Dispatch watchdog.

    Dispatch Printing already owned a variety of specialty publications including Columbus AliveColumbus CraveColumbus Parent, and Capital Style, along with two radio stations, the local CBS television affiliate (WBNS-TV), Ohio News Network Radio, which provides regular newscasts and sportscasts to 73 radio stations statewide, and Consumer News Services, a marketing company that distributes insert fliers via direct delivery bags.

    Columbus has three other network television affiliates: WCMH, the NBC affiliate owned by Media General; WSYX, the ABC affiliate, and WTTE, the Fox affiliate, both owned by Sinclair Broadcasting.

    But critics say that those outlets amount to little more than window dressing. "There is no competition," said Gerald Kosicki, a 26-year professor of communications at nearby Ohio State University. "You do only now have one voice. That is a concern to people."

  • Ohio Media Ignore Financial Link Between Failing Charter School Operators And New Charter-Friendly Education Plan

    Blog ››› ››› BRIAN POWELL

    Ohio media reporting on Gov. John Kasich's (R) new education funding plan neglected to inform readers that the plan funnels millions of dollars in increased spending to private schools and charter schools whose operators have donated millions in campaign contributions to Kasich and Republicans in the state legislature. 

    The Akron Beacon Journal reported on the Kasich plan's significant enrichment of private school operators and the charter school management industry (emphasis added):

    The $8.5 million expansion in the first year represents a 7 percent increase in allocations for vouchers. Based on the average voucher cost of $5,997, the additional funding could afford scholarships for more than 2,800 children by the end of the budget cycle in 2015.

    The budget also expands funding for charter schools, adding an additional $100 per pupil for facility improvements at the privately operated alternative schools. That's an additional $11.9 million for charter schools based on the Beacon Journal's projection of 2011-2012 student enrollment figures.

    The Beacon Journal didn't mention that the additional $11.9 million for charter schools represents a significant return on the investments of for-profit charter school operators who have helped fund Republican campaigns in Ohio for years. One such operator is David Brennan, whose White Hat Management is among the largest for-profit charter school operators in the state. Brennan and his immediate family contributed over $430,000 to Ohio Republicans in 2010, including $46,000 to Kasich's gubernatorial campaign, according to a Plunderbund.com review of state campaign disclosures. Brennan and another for-profit charter school operator, William Lager, have reportedly funneled over $4 million to Ohio Republicans since 2001.

    Ohio's largest print news outlets -- including the Columbus DispatchCincinnati EnquirerCleveland Plain DealerDayton Daily NewsToledo Blade, and the Beacon Journal -- not only ignored the financial connections between Kasich's charter-friendly plan and his campaign donors, they also failed to note that the charter school industry is receiving this boon despite consistently performing well below Ohio's traditional public school districts. Recently released report cards for the 2011-12 school year indicated that "while 92 percent of the state's public school districts scored effective or higher...only 26 percent of charter schools did."

    Brennan's White Hat Management has a particularly poor record of academic success, according to reporting by NPR.org. NPR's examination found that for the 2010-11 school year, no White Hat school in Ohio earned higher than a "C" on the state report card, and most received a rating of "D" or "F." White Hat was also sued by the schools it manages for pocketing "at least 95 percent of the schools' tax funding."

    Nevertheless, White Hat stands to benefit from Kasich's new plan. Unfortunately, Ohio's parents and students are not benefitting from adequate media focus on Kasich's continued financial conflicts of interest.