Since the moment the Center for Medical Progress began dropping its series of videos exposing Planned Parenthood’s involvement in human organ trafficking—organs harvested from the bodies obtained by abortion—the media response has been anything but journalistically defensible.
Despite the shocking footage in the very first video, the same media that took mere minutes to publicize far less shocking undercover revelations had to be shamed into even mentioning it. Sadly, that first day’s journalism might have been the best coverage to date. Since then, most of the media coverage can be categorized into straight-up ignoring the claims in the video or making excuses for Planned Parenthood, an organization journalists have an enduring loyalty to.
The media corruption on this topic is so deep and so vast that fighting it can seem like trying to stop a high-powered locomotive by standing in front of it. But in the hope that any portion of the populace—regardless of their views on abortion or affiliated practices—cares about the media having any healthy relationship to truth, media critics should record what’s happened since mid-July, when this story broke.
This is just a small example of how the media manipulation on this story has operated, but it’s illustrative nonetheless.
Within hours of the first video coming out, Planned Parenthood started issuing talking points in response. They knew it would be a public-relations nightmare, and they had to say something. They went with a tried-and-true tactic when they’d been busted undercover for seeming to approve of racism or underage sex trafficking. They said the videos were “edited.” They also said, “highly edited,” “deceptively edited,” and the like. Perhaps you have heard this claim uttered roughly eleventy billion times by Planned Parenthood and its media defenders.
Now, on the one hand, literally every journalistic product is edited in one sense or another. Earlier this week, Planned Parenthood CEO Cecile Richards testified before Congress. The five-hour hearing was edited down to just one-minute clips for stories that were broadcast on the networks. Editing is what journalism is. But what about the “deceptive” slur? It was uttered with such repetition that it became something of a blood-soaked mantra.
Into this media narrative Planned Parenthood savvily introduced “evidence,” in the form of a study they commissioned and paid for from a left-wing Democratic opposition research firm called Fusion. This is a group whose practices are fully in the sketchy side of political operations, but they did what they were asked and produced a report that claimed to show deceptive edits, though they couldn’t quite explain how these edits were deceptive.
Never mind. The media immediately—and I do mean immediately—ran with it. A sample of the headlines that came out within moments of Planned Parenthood’s release of Planned Parenthood’s report on how Planned Parenthood’s talking point was right (specifics to come
Politico, Jennifer Haberkorn: “Report for Planned Parenthood finds sting videos manipulated”
The New York Times, Jackie Calmes: “Planned Parenthood Videos Were Altered, Analysis Finds”
NPR, Amita Kelly: “Planned Parenthood Fights Back”
The Hill, Sarah Ferris: “Planned Parenthood to House, Senate leaders: Videos manipulated”
I could go on and on and on. A cursory Nexis search shows that Fusion’s Planned Parenthood report was mentioned in 207 newspapers, 44 aggregate news sources, 30 magazines & journals, 28 news transcripts, 16 web-based publications, and various other sources for a total of 424 results.
A few notes, first. Neither Politico nor The New York Times (not to mention countless other outlets) mentioned the partisan nature of the research firm. Calmes’ first story on the Planned Parenthood videos, back in July, had an error I pointed out to her immediately. It took her more than two weeks to correct the error, and by then it had spread to other parts of the newspaper. That error related to the question of edited footage, I should note.
Amita Kelly’s bold defense of Planned Parenthood has been sustained and passionate, to the point of even defending the practice of eugenics as totes awesome, y’all. This piece, which aired broadly on August 27, was scandalously biased. I noted at the time that if she doesn’t win a Maggie Award from Planned Parenthood, I’m going to pull a Kanye on her behalf. Having said that, it’s going to be a tough year to pick out one water carrier over the many others.
Okay, so the Alliance Defending Freedom commissioned a forensic analysis of the footage. The report came out this week. Unlike the Planned Parenthood study, this report was done not by a partisan opposition research firm but by Coalfire, a third-party digital security and forensics firm with experience providing evidence for civil and criminal investigations. Unlike for the Planned Parenthood-commissioned audit, Coalfire had access to every second of released audio and video investigative footage. The Fusion report only had access to four full-length videos released on YouTube through August 4, and none of the source material.
The report utterly destroyed the talking point pushed by Planned Parenthood for months:
Coalfire, one of the country’s most trusted digital forensic analysis companies, released a report indicating the undercover videos recorded by the Center for Medical Progress are ‘authentic and show no evidence of manipulation.’
Forensic analysts were granted access to all of the raw investigated footage recorded by the Center for Medical Progress and checked it against the full length videos posted on the CMP YouTube account. They found the only events not depicted in the publicly available videos fell into five common categories: commuting, waiting, adjusting recording equipment, meals, and restroom breaks. All of the edited content was ‘non-pertinent’ to the actual investigation.
I wrote a quick post making light of this report’s findings, headlined, “5 Shocking Scenes The Planned Parenthood Video Creator Doesn’t Want You To See: A forensic audit reveals what was left on the cutting room floor.”
Now let me show you how the reporters who tripped over themselves to publicize the Democratic opposition firm’s report talked about this one.
Every mainstream reporter in the world:
Those aren’t typos. There’s nothing after the colon because it’s not even that they did a bad job of reporting on the forensic analysis. They simply ignored it, according to a Nexis search of “Planned Parenthood” and “Coalfire.” Not just the
abortion activists totes objective reporters such as Kelly and Calmes, but everyone!
That is, once again, very helpful to Planned Parenthood. What a coinkydink, eh? There is no journalistic defense for the censorship of this report, particularly in light of the widespread and credulous coverage given Planned Parenthood’s report.
1) Ever-so-brief mention of the existence of the Coalfire report deep in this Wall Street Journal story.
2) Greg Scott, Vice President of Media Communications for Alliance Defending Freedom confirms that the report was sent to reporters at every major media organization in the country. Some, such as Jackie Calmes, were personally reached out to.
As he wrote elsewhere, none of the major Planned Parenthood supporters in the media “so much as responded with a ‘thanks, got it’ when the contra-narrative arrived in their inboxes (and it arrived in all of their inboxes and even some Twitter feeds).”
Scott says, “It’s no wonder that the elite media is one of the least trusted institutions in America. You’d think the utter vaporization of one side’s primary talking point in an ongoing PR war would be a no-brainer for every journalist covering the story. That’s particularly true when the forensics report debunking Planned Parenthood’s false claim that the Center for Medical Progress videos were ‘deceptively edited’ was mentioned at least twice during Tuesday’s Congressional hearing. This thorough forensics analysis of the videos by an independent expert was relevant to every story on the topic of Planned Parenthood’s baby parts selling scandal, so suppressing the report is nothing short of willful participation in an ongoing propaganda campaign.”