Media Matters’ OLIVIA KITTEL compiled a boat-load of data for this extensive report. I’ve only published a fraction of what the article contains.
However, as the comments suggest at the end of her extensive research, “Right-wing trolls” will not read the article in it’s entirety but will call it disinformation and lies when, according to MMA the right-wing Center for Medical Progress is the one who is not reporting accurate facts. ~ks
Conservative media figures and their right-wing political allies thought that this was the year they could finally achieve their decades-long goal of destroying Planned Parenthood’s reputation and ability to provide health care to millions of Americans.
Since July, the previously-unknown anti-choice group Center for Medical Progress has released a series of dishonestly edited videos that falsely accuse Planned Parenthood of illegally selling “baby parts.” Long-standing opponents of the organization’s mission used those deceptive videos to generate congressional hearings, state and federal investigations, and endless media chatter smearing the group over its alleged “illegal” activity and qualifications for federal funding.
Worse, amid this toxic media environment for Planned Parenthood, threats and violence against reproductive health providers spiked — culminating in the deadly November shooting attack on a Colorado Planned Parenthood by a man who called himself a “warrior for the babies” trying to ensure that there were “no more baby parts.”
The latest campaign to damage Planned Parenthood has experienced setbacks, with multiple government investigations clearing the group of any wrongdoing and law enforcement agencies reacting to this uptick in anti-choice violence. But the saga is illustrative of the way dishonest activists with shady backers – in this case with ties to violent extremism — can utilize the power of the conservative echo chamber to try to advance their destructive politics.
Center For Medical Progress May Be New, But Its Backers Are Well-Known Anti-Choice Extremists
The Center for Medical Progress (CMP) began the year entirely unknown. But over the past five months, the anti-choice organization has become a prominent cog in the conservative machine thanks to its series of deceptively-edited smear videos that purported to show Planned Parenthood profiting from the illegal sale of fetal tissue. The videos prompted a Republican legislative attack on the group, drew criticism from major media figures, and inspired virulent anti-choice rhetoric that many have linked to recent violence against reproductive health care providers.
CMP bills itself as a non-profit “group of citizen journalists.” But behind these supposed “citizen journalists” are a variety of disreputable anti-choice actors. CMP founder David Daleiden has a long history with discredited conservative groups, including anti-choice group Live Action, where Daleiden worked as the director of research. Fittingly, Live Action has also deceptively edited undercover footage of reproductive health care clinics in an attempt to smear Planned Parenthood.
As the face of CMP, Daleiden has made numerous media appearances in which he baselessly accusedPlanned Parenthood of “harvesting and selling aborted baby parts” and committing an illegal abortion procedure of “partial-birth abortion.” The accusations are inflammatory and false, but have been repeated by various right-wing media figures. In the creation of CMP and its strategy, Daleiden took advice from the perpetrators of an earlier campaign against Planned Parenthood carried out by an older anti-choice group called “Life Dynamics,” which in the late 1990s also made wild allegations of illegal profiteering on fetal tissue in order to whip up anti-choice media coverage. These claims of illegal activity collapsed under closer scrutiny.
Troy Newman, a CMP board member and adviser to Daleiden, is an established figure in the extremist wing of the anti-choice movement. Newman has infamously argued that the killer of an abortion doctor should have been allowed to argue that the murder was a “justifiable defensive action,” and is the president of Operation Rescue – a group that consulted on CMP’s videos and has a violent background of its own. The group’s senior policy adviser, for example, was sentenced in 1988 for conspiring to bomb a San Diego abortion clinic, and was in communication with the murderer of abortion provider Dr. George Tiller, helping the murderer track Tiller’s court dates.
Right-Wing Media Catnip: CMP’s “Investigative Journalism” Consists Of Deceptively Edited Videos
CMP’s videos used undercover footage of actors’ conversations with Planned Parenthood officials and with staff members of private, for-profit biomedical procurement companies. The videos were heavily edited to cut out crucial parts of conversations to make it appear that Planned Parenthood officials were “sell[ing] the body parts of aborted fetuses,” and agreeing to alter abortion procedures to profit from the illegal sale of fetal tissue. But the more extensive footage released on CMP’s website routinely undermined the sensationalist claims of the edited versions, showing that Planned Parenthood officials were discussing routine and long-legal reimbursement for costs associated with tissue donation, not selling “baby parts.” The longer footage also featured officials reiterating that everything done is “for the safety of the patient,” and stating that they could not and would not modify or delay the procedure for the sake of fetal tissue donation, per Planned Parenthood and tissue donation guidelines. Some videos also relied on comments from third party sources that never worked for Planned Parenthood, and similarly did not implicate Planned Parenthood in any illegal activity.
In fact, while Planned Parenthood has been shown to have done nothing illegal, CMP currently finds itself in court unsuccessfully trying to hide its anonymous backers because it may have engaged in a criminal conspiracy to produce the videos in the first place.
Despite the flimsy nature of the allegations, right-wing media quickly seized on the videos, and Fox News led the charge. Fox host Bill O’Reilly called for an FBI investigation into Planned Parenthood, Megyn Kelly accused the organization of “celebrating its practice of harvesting the organs of aborted fetuses for money,” and network correspondent Peter Doocy asserted that he searched the organization’s website for “fetal baby part prices” but did not get results because the sale is a “well-kept secret.”
Other conservative media figures used CMP’s videos to compare Planned Parenthood to Nazis, likening abortion to genocide, and used the videos to call for completely defunding the women’s health care provider – even going so far as to support a government shutdown to do so.
While CMP’s smear campaign found a receptive audience among conservative figures, more responsible outlets condemned CMP after reviewing their claims, saying the videos took Planned Parenthood personnel’s words “grossly out of context” and showed “nothing illegal.” The New York Times editorial board called the videos a “campaign of deception” and said those who use the videos for political purposes care “nothing about the truth.”
Fetal Tissue Donation Was A Bipartisan Initiative That Is Now A Political Weapon Against Planned Parenthood
Fetal tissue donation and reimbursement for “reasonable expenses occasioned by the actual retrieval, storage, preparation, and transportation of the tissues” are both legal with informed consent, and were created in response to the advice of medical experts. Planned Parenthood has repeatedly explained that its clinics “help patients who want to donate tissue for scientific research” with “the highest ethical and legal standards,” and receive “no financial benefit” from the arrangement aside from reimbursement of “actual costs, such as the cost to transport tissue” — consistent with industry standards.
Legal fetal tissue donations support critical medical research and help cure diseases, and Planned Parenthood is only one of many groups that support this initiative (other groups that provide tissue donations include clinics associated with universities). Scientists have already noted the ramifications of CMP’s smears, explaining that they’ve seen a dramatic drop in the availability of tissue donations, threatening the “life-saving research” the donations enable. Planned Parenthood announced in October that it would no longer accept any reimbursement for expenses associated with its fetal tissue donation program.
Despite the fact that CMP’s fabrications have been thoroughly condemned and debunked, their false smears have nonetheless fueled Republican lawmakers’ latest attempts to defund Planned Parenthood, fundraise off the outrage, and bolster their presidential campaigns by proving their “anti-abortion bona fides,” as Salon’s Heather Digby Parton wrote.
Following the release of CMP’s first video, the National Republican Congressional Committee (NRCC) along with then-House Speaker John Boehner and Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy called for a congressional investigation into Planned Parenthood, which was launched by the House Energy and Commerce Committee. After the release of the second video, congressional Republicans introduced legislation to defund Planned Parenthood. Sen. Rand Paul introduced “an amendment to the tax code that would strip Planned Parenthood of the federal dollars it receives annually for a range of women’s health services.” Rep. Diane Black (R-TN) introduced the Defund Planned Parenthood Act of 2015, which called for “an immediate one-year moratorium on support” for the organization while it was being investigated by Congress. (The House Oversight Committee even used the heavily-edited footage to promote its hearing on Planned Parenthood.) Remarkably, after House Republicans voted to create a special committee solely to investigate Planned Parenthood, chair of the hearing, Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-UT), admitted the committee had not uncovered any evidence that Planned Parenthood broke the law.
But that did not stop Republican presidential candidates from adopting CMP’s language into their own platforms. During the first Republican presidential primary debate, Carly Fiorina falsely claimed (and later repeated) that video taken inside a Planned Parenthood clinic showed a “fully formed fetus on the table, its heart beating, its legs kicking, while someone says we have to keep it alive to harvest its brain.” Numerous media outlets quickly called Fiorina out for citing something that “does not exist.”
Later, Mike Huckabee falsely claimed that Planned Parenthood collaborates in “the selling of body parts.” Donald Trump said the videos showed “these people from Planned Parenthood talking about it like you’re selling parts to a car.” Ted Cruz asserted “Planned Parenthood officials [participate in] callously, heartlessly bartering and selling the body parts of human beings.” Marco Rubio even suggested Planned Parenthood “pushe[s women] into abortions so that those [fetal] tissues can be harvested and sold for a profit.” And Chris Christie suggested that Planned Parenthood supports “”the systematic murder of children in the womb to preserve their body parts in a way that maximizes their value for sale for profit.”