Right-wing media's tantrum over a 2015 ad is stoking extreme anti-abortion rhetoric and harassment

Right-wing media and anti-abortion figures recently raised objections to a "horrible new ad” attributed to Planned Parenthood -- despite the so-called ad actually being a 2015 video from a political action committee, not Planned Parenthood. However, as conservative figures continued to express shock and disgust, people on social media started to make threats of violence against the health care organization citing shares of the 2015 video online. This isn’t the first time that right-wing media have manufactured outrage that resulted in harassment and threats toward abortion providers, patients, and clinics.

Melissa Joskow / Media Matters

The leader of a Canadian anti-abortion group recently promoted a 2015 video from the political action committee Agenda Project Action Fund

The founder of a Canadian anti-abortion group posted the 2015 Agenda Project Action Fund spot on Facebook, calling it a “pro-abortion ad.” On November 8, Laura Klassen, the founder and director of a Canadian anti-abortion group called CHOICE42, posted a video of the old Agenda Project Action Fund spot to her Facebook page, calling it a “pro-abortion ad” that “features a baby and says she’s a ‘choice.’” The video shared by Klassen shows a baby with the words “she deserves to be loved. She deserves to be wanted. She deserves to be a choice.” The video ends with “#StandWithPP” and a logo for the Agenda Project Action Fund. [CHOICE42, accessed 11/14/18; Facebook, 11/8/18]

Agenda Project Action Fund uploaded this video in 2015 and Planned Parenthood has no affiliation with it. Klassen shared the video with no information about its origin, only commentary that she was “speechless.” However, the Agenda Project Action Fund uploaded this video to its YouTube page on September 22, 2015. The group is the political action committee (PAC) of the nonprofit organization the Agenda Project. A representative for Planned Parenthood confirmed to Media Matters that the organization had no involvement in or affiliation with the video. [YouTube, 9/22/15; Agenda Project Access Fund, accessed 11/14/18; accessed 11/14/18; Facebook, accessed 11/14/18; Twitter, accessed 11/14/18, YouTube, accessed 11/14/18]

As the video spread on social media, some right-wing and anti-abortion circles started spreading the lie that it was a recent Planned Parenthood ad

  • As the video spread from Facebook to other social media platforms, conservative and anti-abortion figures began sharing and incorrectly characterizing it as a Planned Parenthood ad. Fox News strategist and former White House adviser Sebastian Gorka tweeted:

  • Kaya Jones, a former member of the Pussycat Dolls turned right-wing media figure, confusingly branded the video on Twitter as a “new Planned Parenthood ad AP Action Fund," calling it “demonic” and “pure evil.” Her post was retweeted nearly 7,000 times.
  • Fox News contributor and former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin tweeted a link to an article from conservative website Chicks on the Right titled “This Planned Parenthood Ad Might Be The Most DISTURBING Thing I’ve EVER Seen.”
  • Actor Patricia Heaton, beloved in right-wing circles for her anti-abortion views, tweeted about the video using Planned Parenthood Federation of America (PPFA)’s Twitter handle:

  • Washington Post columnist and Fox News contributor Marc Thiessen also tweeted at PPFA and referred to the baby in the video, saying, “Hey @PPFA She deserves ... TO LIVE."
  • Anti-abortion news site LifeNews.com tweeted, “SICK! This is the creepiest pro-abortion ad we've ever seen. Shame on you Planned Parenthood” and, in a follow-up tweet, incorrectly said the ad was created by the Agenda Project “for Planned Parenthood."
  • Rev. Frank Pavone of anti-abortion group Priests for Life tweeted, “At First I thought this was a Prolife Ad. I was wrong... This is a Planned Parenthood AD. Just EVIL! #DefundPlannedParenthood.”
  • Anti-abortion organization March for Life tweeted that it was a “Creepy and shameful ad from our nation's largest abortion provider. #defundPP.”
  • On Facebook, Mark Harrington, the president and founder of the anti-abortion group Created Equal -- an organization known for displaying graphic images outside abortion clinics and schools -- posted a story about the video from LifeSiteNews and wrote, “Hey, Planned Parenthood! You need a new marketing director!” -- seemingly implying that Planned Parenthood had produced or overseen the video’s creation.
  • Anti-abortion blogger The Activist Mommy created her own video with the images from the 2015 Agenda Project Action Fund video, cut with her own on-screen captions claiming that “Planned Parenthood has run many disturbing Marketing campaigns and ads, but few as disturbing as this one…” In her video’s description, The Activist Mommy wrote: “Planned Parenthood is VILE beyond words!”
  • Rep. Steve King (R-IA) -- who has been pushing for a federal “heartbeat” bill that would ban abortions around six weeks of pregnancy -- tweeted:

Right-wing and anti-abortion media ran with the lie that the 2015 video was a recent Planned Parenthood ad

  • Anti-abortion news site LifeZette erroneously reported that the 2015 video was released just this year by pro-choice supporters as a defense of abortion rights after Justice Brett Kavanaugh was confirmed to the Supreme Court:

  • The Daily Wire’s Matt Walsh claimed that the video was “just put out,” but linked to an article from the anti-abortion outlet LifeSiteNews that correctly noted that it was actually released in 2015. While Walsh identified the video’s creator as the Agenda Project (close -- it was their PAC), he repeatedly linked it to Planned Parenthood and called the video “the most barbaric and deranged pro-abortion ad you will ever see.”
  • Elsewhere at the Daily Wire, Andrew Klavan published a video, “Most Evil Planned Parenthood Ad,” in which he described the 2015 video as “a truly satanic ad” that is “being put out by Planned Parenthood.”
  • Anti-abortion site LifeNews.com falsely claimed that the “horrible new ad” was “created for the abortion giant Planned Parenthood … to advocate for abortion on demand.”
  • Spectator USA, a web-based American offshoot of conservative British magazine The Spectator, published an article saying the video was a “new Planned Parenthood pro-abortion ad” and calling the health care organization “a revolting, mendacious organization”:

  • Conservative site American Thinker posted two articles about the video; one called it a “Stunning Planned Parenthood ad.” The other was an extreme attack on Planned Parenthood -- saying that the health care organization had put “out a creepy pro-infanticide video” and accused the group of being racist:

Here's the other thing, the big elephant in the room. Notice that the video features a happy, well-fed, very pretty, white baby girl. Smell the racism?

What happens if the baby is not happy, not well-fed, and not white? What happens if the baby is not pretty? The white baby may deserve to be “loved” and “wanted,” as Planned Parenthood argues, probably trying to appeal to white suburban women, but what about the kid off camera, the black baby?

Planned Parenthood is effectively saying to go ahead and dispose of those.

  • Infowars’ Owen Shroyer posted a video about “a bizarre Planned Parenthood advertisement” that he called “the most disgusting abortion ad that you’ve ever seen.” In the video, Shroyer said, “These are demons coming out” and that Planned Parenthood was engaged in “human sacrifice.”
  • One America News Network host Graham Ledger said the video was “produced by Planned Parenthood.”

Manufactured outrage over the 2015 video by right-wing media prompted threats against and harassment of Planned Parenthood on social media

Across social media platforms, these false claims prompted explicit threats against Planned Parenthood and other abortion providers. The false claims that the 2015 video was a recent ad from Planned Parenthood was widely circulated in the conservative echo chamber. As a result of this manufactured outrage, social media users leveraged the extreme rhetoric to threaten Planned Parenthood and other abortion providers.

  • In response to Kaya Jones’ tweet on the video, one Twitter user wrote, “Bomb every planned parenthood in the country.”

  • Users on Reddit’s “r/The_Donald” and “r/Right_Wing_Politics” message boards responded to posts falsely identifying the video as a Planned Parenthood ad with threats that “we’re gonna need a lot of piano wire for these bastards,” “they are trying to provoke us to bomb a clinic, and assassinate abortion doctors,” and that “whomever made that video should be literally crucified and burned.”

  • A user claimed on The Politics Forum's message board that the video was “gonna succeed in producing another Eric Rudolph,”an anti-abortion extremist known for bombing a clinic. “Mark my words,” the user continued, “they are gonna succeed in provoking an extreme response due specifically to the outrageous evil the (sic) promote.”

There have been actual acts of violence against abortion providers incited by lies that right-wing and anti-abortion media have pushed. In the past, extreme language and falsehoods by figures in right-wing and anti-abortion media have led to harassment, threats, and actual violence against abortion providers -- most recently in 2015, when Robert Dear allegedly opened fire in a Colorado Springs Planned Parenthood clinic, killing three and injuring nine more. After the attack, Dear reportedly said the phrase “no more baby parts” as an explanation for his actions, seemingly referring to an oft-repeated right-wing media talking point based on discredited undercover videos from the anti-abortion group Center for Medical Progress. In 2009, after Dr. George Tiller was assassinated by an anti-abortion extremist following repeated attacks from then-Fox News host Bill O’Reilly, Rolling Stone wrote, “O’Reilly had waged an unflagging war against Tiller that did just about everything short of urging his followers to murder him.” Outside of these high-profile examples of violence, right-wing media have often targeted abortion providers and pro-choice advocates, resulting in threats and harassment against those individuals. [Media Matters, 12/2/15, 6/4/09, 12/1/15, 9/20/17; New Republic, 12/15/16; Rolling Stone, 4/19/17]