The MRC's War Against the Truth
The Media Research Center is unhappy that the media is accurately reporting on the dishonestly edited anti-Planned Parenthood videos -- and it won't even admit that the dishonesty exists.
By Terry Krepel
What has the Media Research Center's "media research" been reduced to these days? Complaining that a story is accurately reported in the media.
As one might expect, the MRC has joined the ConWeb in being all over the story of a video secretly recorded by anti-abortion activists of a Planned Parenthood official allegedly talking about how it disposes of some of the fetal remains following an abortion, including selling them for research with the permission of the woman -- even though they are so far highlighting the deceptively edited, out-of-context claims and ignoring the full story.
FactCheck.org compared the edited video to the unedited version also released by the activists and documented how the edited video "shows a Planned Parenthood executive repeatedly saying its clinics want to cover their costs, not make money, when donating fetal tissue from abortions for scientific research" and that it "leaves the impression that [Planned Parenthood official Deborah] Nucatola is talking about Planned Parenthood affiliates making money from fetal tissue. But the edited video ignores other things Nucatola said that contradict that idea." Despite right-wing claims that Planned Parenthood was acting illegally, FactCheck stated, "it remains legal to donate tissue from a legally aborted fetus, and for that tissue to be used for research purposes."
In the face of these facts, the MRC has been doing a terrible job of playing media cop, since it has to ignore a major part of the story -- that the videos are so deceptively edited they can't be taken seriously and, thus, are ignored by legitimate media outlets.
Ken Shepherd ignored the deceptive, sensational reporting of his ConWeb peers and his own organization and instead devoted a July 15 NewsBusters post to bashing the Associated Press for reporting the story accurately:
We've long known that the Associated Press is loathe to refer to unborn children as unborn children, preferring the clinical term "fetus." But in covering a shocking new story about how Planned Parenthood sells fetal tissue from aborted babies for profit, the AP bent over backwards to use clinical euphemisms to soften the blow of the ghoulish practice.
Yes, Shepherd is attacking the AP for using a medically accurate term instead of the imprecise, emotionally charged one he would prefer. He can't claim his preferred term is an accurate one, medically or otherwise; if you have to qualify the word "children," that means it's inaccurate to use "children" in this context.
Strangely, Shepherd is mad about accurate reporting but not about the deceptively edited video first released by the anti-abortion activists who secretly taped the Planned Parenthood official, or the ConWeb outlets who ignore that fact in their reporting of the story.
Shepherd might want to look a little closer to home to vent his outrage over accurate reporting -- say, across the hall at MRC headquarters. At MRC "news" division CNSNews.com, its lead article when the story broke was an AP article that references "fetuses" -- in other words, a version of the one that Shepherd despised. But as in CNS tradition of putting biased headlines on AP articles, it rewrote the headline to refer to "baby body parts," which is just as inaccurate as Shepherd's insistence that the AP refer to "unborn children."
A July 15 NewsBusters item by Curtis Houck complained that TV newscasts accurately identified the Center for Medical Progress, which released the dishonestly edited video, as “anti-abortion activists," whining about "the media’s long-standing refusal to use the 'pro-life' label for conservatives." But the CMP is unquestionably anti-abortion and they're unquestionably activists -- the organization and its board is stuffed with them, so it's absolutely accurate to describe them as "anti-abortion activists."
Houck even seemed a touch annoyed that the media is reporting Planned Parenthood's side of the story at all, huffing that one newscast included "more points from Planned Parenthood about how they are 'only trying to help women who want to donate fetal tissue after abortions.'" Funny, we thought the MRC wanted the news fairly reported, not censored.
Houck didn't mention the fact that the original video the CMP released was dishonestly edited and did not portray the full context of what actually happened.
Extremist identified as an extremist
Shepherd followed up with more clueless anti-media ranting in the form of a July 16 post complaining that the Daily Beast accurately identified CMP leader David Daleiden as an "extremist":
If you can't counter the message, character-assassinate the messenger. That, apparently, is Daily Beast writer Samantha Allen's tack regarding the sting video wherein a Planned Parenthood official discusses selling aborted-baby body parts above break-even rates to medical researchers.
At no point does Shepherd dispute the accuracy of anything the Daily Beast reported about Daleiden, including the "extremist" descriptor, nor does he explain how reporting indisputably accurate information about Daleiden equates to "trashing" or character assassination. One could say the real character assassin here is Daleiden himself with his deceptive video dishonestly attacking Planned Parenthood -- a deception Shepherd, like fellow MRC employee Houck, does not acknowledge.
Needless to say, Shepherd doesn't mention that one of the anti-abortion groups behind Daleiden is Operation Rescue. As ConWebWatch documented last year when WorldNetDaily published a book by Operation Rescue leaders Troy Newman and Cheryl Sullenger, a phone number for Sullenger was found in the car of Scott Roeder upon his arrest for killing abortion doctor George Tiller in 2009. Roeder has also claimed he ate lunch with Newman and Sullenger several years before he murdered Tiller, where he claims Newman said that Tiller being murdered wouldn't upset him. Sullenger, meanwhile, was sentenced to three years in prison in 1988 for conspiring to bomb a California abortion clinic.
Yet Shepherd apparently believes these people aren't "extremists." (Sullenger now claims she "regrets" plotting to "damage" the abortion clinic, and Newman denied any connection between Roeder and Operation Rescue after Roeder's arrest.)
A July 15 NewsBusters post by Katie Yoder continued the anti-media complaining, huffing that "ABC and CBS turned a blind eye to the Planned Parenthood exposé" and grumbling that one outlet reported "Planned Parenthood’s official line" while refusing to acknowledge the fact that CMP issued a dishonestly edited video that made allegations the unedited video disproved.
A July 16 post by Connor Williams fleetingly quoted a "liberal talking head" on Fox News pointing out that there was “fraud behind this video,” but he was much more interested in attacking the guest's claim that the video was "right wing pornography" -- a crass but spot-on description of the MRC's determination to flog the video and ignore its problems.
A July 19 post by Jeffrey Meyer whined that all Sunday talk shows except for "Fox News Sunday" ignored the "damning undercover video." Meyer, meanwhile, ignored the video's dishonest editing that effectively made it a non-story outside the right-wing media, which puts its political agenda before the facts -- as Meyer ably demonstrates in his post.
Even the watch-chihuahuas at MRC Latino have gotten in on the action. A July 20 post by Yuri Perez claims that "top Spanish-language television networks have almost entirely ignored the undercover video" -- but he too refuses to acknowledge that the video was dishonestly edited.
It wouldn't be a full MRC party if the bigwigs didn't weigh in, and Brent Bozell and Tim Graham do just that in a July 17 column full of accusatory bluster ("The video will chill you to the bone. It cannot be described as anything but what it is: evil") and utterly devoid of any mention of the video's dishonest editing to tell a story that isn't true.
River of denial
That river of denial continued to flow as news of a second secretly recorded video -- also found to be dishonestly edited when compared to the contents of the unedited version right-wing outlets tend to ignore -- was also released. Bozell ran to Fox Business, a place he knows he'll be allowed to rant all he wants and never face any tough questions (because we know what happens when he does), to rave about the "public horror" of the video, how Planned Parenthood purportedly committed a "felony" (despite the fact that no fact-checkers who have examined the full, unedited video agree) and that "Congress has a moral obligation to stop (federal) funding immediately" to the group (again, despite the fact that no evidence of a crime exists).
Another MRC employee in serious denial is Alan Moore, who took to the MRCTV blog to complain about a New York Times editorial pointing out how the video was dishonestly edited and that "The politicians howling to defund Planned Parenthood care nothing about the truth here," adding that "The Center for Medical Progress video campaign is a dishonest attempt to make legal, voluntary and potentially lifesaving tissue donations appear nefarious and illegal."
A July 22 NewsBusters post by Spencer Raley also attacking the Times editorial took exactly the same tack, raging over "the openly left-wing editors from the Times" and falsely claimed that the Times "failed to provide proof that the allegations made in the video are false" -- which he followed by quoting from the Times providing that proof. The Times noted that "the shorter version was edited to eliminate statements by Dr. Nucatola explaining that Planned Parenthood does not profit from tissue donation."
The Times editorial is so problematic for the MRC, it seems, that a third MRC writer was sent to denounce it. Like her co-workers, Katie Yoder's July 23 NewsBusters post won't concede that the CMP videos are dishonestly edited. Instead, she attacked the Times for pointing the dishonesty out, adding (italics in original): "Instead of addressing The Center for Medical Progress’ horrific claims that a taxpayer-funded organization is harvesting aborted baby parts, the board focused on ripping apart The Center for Medical Progress’ legitimacy." Yoder apparently can't even fathom the idea that the dishonest videos pose unavoidable questions about CMP's legitimacy.
Yoder then tried to distract from the issue by changing the subject, asserting that "In the past, the Times has supported undercover work, including that of former New York city police officer Adrian Schoolcraft in a piece arguing, 'For Detained Whistle-Blower, a Hospital Bill, Not an Apology.' Schoolcraft secretly recorded police conversations to expose manipulation of crime stats." But Yoder provided no evidence that Schoolcraft has a track record of dishonest claims akin to the CMP's attacks on Planned Parenthood, nor did Yoder mention that Schoolcraft is not trying to destroy the existence of the entire New York Police Department, while the CMP's ultimate goal is to destroy Planned Parenthood's existence.
Just as the CMP's dishonesty has undermined its by-any-means-necessary campaign to destroy Planned Parenthood, the MRC's refusal to admit that dishonesty is undermining its argument that the "liberal media" is ignoring the story. The MRC is demanding that lies be presented as truth and that the truth must be buried -- the exact opposite of how journalism is supposed to work.
At the end of Yoder's post is a link to an MRC petition asking that readers "demand the media tell the truth about Planned Parenthood!" Actually the media is telling the truth; it's the MRC that won't follow its own advice.