We’re two weeks into the release of videos showing Planned Parenthood officials discussing the sale of organs harvested from the unborn children they abort. The first video, featuring Dr. Deborah Nucatola, included the graphic discussion — over lunch — of where to crush the aborted baby to preserve her heart, liver, lungs and brain to ensure their usefulness to the buyer. The second video, featuring Dr. Mary Gatter, included discussions of “less crunchy” abortion techniques that can be used to preserve valuable human organs and the haggling over the price of those body parts, even though Planned Parenthood claims that they are only reimbursed for costs (costs which, if such a claim were true, should not vary one cent in the face of eager buyers willing to bump up the price). That video ended with Gatter saying she’d bump the price up if other affiliates were earning more for the organs. Then she joked about how she’d like to get a Lamborghini.
Planned Parenthood president Cecile Richards gave her first interview this weekend, to George Stephanopoulos of ABC News. Considering Stephanopoulos is a longtime buddy of the Clintons, who are devoted to Planned Parenthood, the interview wasn’t as servile as you might expect. Richards was unrelenting in her robotic repeating of a few talking points, but Stephanopoulos tried in his own way to push back a bit.
Here are four of the worst things we heard from Cecile “Talking Points” Richards in her interview with George Stephanopoulos.
1) How many times can I say “edited”?
Amidst a flurry of words, the main point Richards said over and over and over and over again was that Planned Parenthood’s top doctors only appear monstrous because of entrapment and the magic of video editing. “Yeah, that’s the ticket!” she should have added.
Let’s give Richards credit, here. She is literally having to defend her organization in the midst of a series of undercover videos showing her top officials joking and getting chatty about the harvesting for sale of organs from unborn children. You try to come up with a talking point that makes your group seem less evil! It’s hard. And this is clearly the best talking point they have. As much as their public relations campaign has flailed about (seriously, check out the comments in response to this trainwreck of a tweet — It appears Planned Parenthood removed the tweet, but here’s a description of it), this is the one talking point that has been used consistently over the past few weeks.
There are a few problems with this talking point, however. First and foremost is that the journalists who taped the undercover videos took the additional step of releasing the lengthy full footage of the interviews at the same time they released shortened versions. Here’s the full footage of Dr. Nucatola, running 2 hours and 42 minutes. Here’s the 9-minute cut of the full footage. Here’s the full transcript. Here’s the full footage of Mary Gatter, running 1 hour and 14 minutes. Here’s the 8-minute cut of the full footage. Here’s the full transcript. Both the full footage and the edited cuts were released at the same time and all the videos are publicly accessible. Interested parties can and should watch both videos.
Another problem with the editing charge is that it’s basically meaningless. I mean, everything is edited. The “news” clip setting up the interview with Richards was edited. All news, whether broadcast or print, is “highly” and “selectively” edited.
No one, and I mean no one, actually fits this description of “deceptive” editor better than Jon Stewart, beloved liberal media figure. Oh look here. Here are 10 times Planned Parenthood praised Jon Stewart.
One major difference between Jon Stewart, who actually doctors videos, splicing answers from one question to a completely separate question, and the undercover journalists hitting Planned Parenthood hard is that only one releases full footage for all to see.
Precisely because Planned Parenthood is running so hard with this talking point, objective journalists need to make sure people know that unlike most all the things that are edited in the world, full footage is public and ready for anyone to see. On that note, the New York Times’ Jackie Calmes falsely claimed last week that the full footage was only released after Planned Parenthood complained about the edited version. That’s incorrect. Both videos were released at the same time. I contacted the New York Times corrections desk about this factual error at 2:15 PM on Tuesday, July 21. That was a full day before the editorial page repeated the error. It remains uncorrected.
Journalists also need to sit down and watch the full videos, which many of them rather obviously haven’t done. I would actually quibble with the editing of the videos in part because they left some of the most salacious details out. For instance, by watching the full second video, I saw that Gatter flat out said that some Planned Parenthood officials wondered whether it was legal to accept so much money for the body parts given how “we didn’t have to do anything” to get them. I might have put that in the shortened video if I were one of the journalists running this project.
2) The people who caught us are the real monsters, also murderers and terrorists, but don’t ask us for evidence.
Of the many hundreds of angles that could be analyzed to report on this story about the sale of organs from aborted children, many in the media focused on just one: Who are the people who made this video? The very first set of talking points and journalistic marching orders sent around by Planned Parenthood asked reporters to focus on the makers of the video rather than the content of the videos.
Unfortunately for them, the guy behind the videos appears to be a very nice and pious pro-life activist named David Daleiden.
I have no idea what possessed Richards to try this line of attack but she — on live national television — tried to claim that Daleiden is “part of the most militant wing of the anti-abortion movement that has been behind the bombing of clinics, the murder of doctors in their homes, and in their churches.” Even more shockingly, perhaps, Stephanopoulos didn’t ask her to substantiate this insane charge. I get that it’s not fun to be in the group harvesting organs from babies killed via abortion, but that doesn’t give one license to make up such a fraudulent charge.
Planned Parenthood: The people who made the videos are the real monsters. Our people chopping up babies… what people chopping up babies?
Josh Jordan (@NumbersMuncher) July 27, 2015
You can watch Richards squirm her way through her talking points here:
3) Stand back and watch me dig this hole deeper.
One of the most interesting things about the campaign against Planned Parenthood is that the undercover journalists are practicing the drip-drip-drip method of releasing information. The first video, which featured the discussions of where to crush the baby to preserve her organs for sale, was met with a defiant response from Cecile Richards about how Planned Parenthood doesn’t do this for money.
So, of course, the next video featured Richards saying that (via the magic of film editing, yes) right before Gatter broke into her haggling about getting the best price possible for the organs.
Richards probably gave the journalists much to work with in this Sunday’s interview. For one rather obvious thing, she said that fewer than five Planned Parenthood clinics are engaged in fetal organ harvesting.* But already from the transcripts of the calls released thus far, the Planned Parenthood officials seem to suggest that all but one affiliate in California alone are engaged in the trafficking of these parts. Planned Parenthood operates like something of a franchise operation, with several dozen affiliates and hundreds of clinics. Eight of the affiliates are in California alone.
4) If we say we’re a non-profit a lot, will you think that means we can’t make money off of fetal parts?
Planned Parenthood is designated a non-profit by the Internal Revenue Service. Its president makes more than half a million dollars a year, its budget is more than $1 billion, and it gets more than half a billion dollars in taxpayer funding annually, but it’s a non-profit. What that means is not that every service is provided at cost or that all operations are managed via donation, but simply that any money it brings in is put back into the organization.
Federal law technically prohibits the “sale” of fetal body parts, while it does permit their trade for money so long as the money is understood to be for costs such as shipping, storage, transportation, etc. The first video showed Nucatola saying the non-profit clinics would like to do better than break even. The second video straight up features haggling over compensation for the body parts. Costs by definition aren’t a variable dependent on the willingness of the buyer to pay more. Given how much money for-profit companies make off of the transfer of body parts, what Planned Parenthood brings in as the primary distributor of freshly dead young humans could be seen as meager.
In any case, Richards was defiant with Stephanopoulos. She claimed, completely implausibly, given the evidence, that “less than five” clinics harvest the tissue but she was unable or unwilling to answer whether she knew how much money they receive.
Stephanopoulos pointed out that StemExpress, one of the companies purchasing aborted baby parts from Planned Parenthood, has a flyer claiming that “financial benefits” of their partnership accrue to the clinics. Despite the fact that a StemExpress ad features a Planned Parenthood official’s endorsement and a statement that partnering with them will lead to the “financial growth” of one’s clinic, Richards held firm.
Do such partnership improve the finances of the clinic, asked Stephanopoulos? “Absolutely not,” Richards replied. Twice. Given the conflict between Richards’ statement and the claims of the companies seeking aborted baby parts from Planned Parenthood, further investigation is required.
Richards also refuted the claims of the taped Planned Parenthood officials, both of whom discussed modifications to the abortion procedure to secure intact organs. She denied that any such modifications exist. Again, further investigation is in order.
Richards has a tough job
Even with the help of a pliant media, Richards is in a tough situation. On the one hand, she seemed like Cruella de Vil reading off a short list of morally odious talking points. On the other hand, she attempted to stay strong and was amazingly accomplished in the way she stuck to and repeated her few talking points.
However, her main talking point — that the footage was edited — is completely refuted by the full release of the footage in question. Her subsequent talking point of straight up character assassination has no substantiating evidence. She may have been caught in a rather obvious false statement about how many clinics are engaged in fetal organ harvesting. And, finally, just because Planned Parenthood is structured as a non-profit does not mean their organ harvesting programs are legal or ethical.
*UPDATE: A few readers have suggested Richards meant to say fewer than five states have clinics engaged in fetal organ harvesting. That actually may be what she meant to suggest. However, Stephanopoulos’ question was about how many clinics were involved and how much money they receive. She ignored the question about money and responded “very few.” Then she went on a hand-waving exercise about states and about the activists. He circled back, asking her how many she meant by “very few.” She said, “fewer than five.”
Here’s the relevant portion of the transcript provided by ABC News (with some typos):
STEPHANOPOULOS: But do you know how many clinics harvest this tissue and how much money they receive?
RICHARDS: Very few. I mean it’s only a handful of states and what — where fetal tissue donation is — is happening.
But let’s — let’s put this in the bigger context, George. This is actually not about women’s health care. These activists don’t care about that.
STEPHANOPOULOS: When you [say] very few, what are we talking about?
RICHARDS: Less than five. Less than five.