MRC vs. A Dead Woman
The Media Research Center is spreading lie after lie about Margaret Sanger as part of the right-wing media's campaign against Planned Parenthood.
By Terry Krepel
Margaret Sanger died nearly 50 years ago. That must be why the Media Research Center feels so emboldened in telling lies about her -- after all, you can't libel the dead.
The right-wing media's current crusade of dishonestly edited, secretly recorded videos attacking Planned Parenthood, the organization Sanger founded has launched the MRC -- which has been laboring to suppress the truth that those videos show no illegal behavior -- into an aggressive campaign of lies against her. That's rather ironic given the MRC's constant complaint that the "liberal media" never reports "the truth."
For instance, Dylan Gwinn devoted an Aug. 17 NewsBusters post to whining about a now-deleted Twitter post by "billionaire lib" Mark Cuban defending Planned Parenthood over factually dubious attacks by Republican Ben Carson. Gwinn noted that an NPR fact-check of Carson's attack cited an article Sanger wrote in 1946 about "giving ‘Negro’ parents a choice in how many children they would have" and how "“Negro parents, like all parents, must create the next generation from strength, not from weakness; from health, not from despair.” Gwinn added: "Hmm, if it’s important for 'all parents' to only reproduce only from strength and never from weakness, then why did Sanger feel it necessary to pen a letter specifically referencing black people?"
If Gwinn had bothered to closely read the NPR fact-check he cites in his mindless bashing of Cuban, he would have noticed that the 1946 Sanger piece on Negroes appeared in a publication called the Negro Digest. If Wikipedia is to be believed, the Negro Digest "was similar to the Reader's Digest but aimed to cover positive stories about the African-American community."
In other words, Sanger was "specifically referencing black people" because she was writing the article for a publication targeted at black people. So much for Gwinn's sinister racist conspiracy theory.
Gwinn then added, "And NPR failed to mention Sanger’s characterization of blacks as 'human weeds.'" Of course, that's more than likely because there's no evidence Sanger ever actually said such a thing.
Gwinn linked to an anti-abortion website that claims this statement came from Sanger's "Pivot of Civilization." In fact, the term "human weeds" appears nowhere in the book.
In a desperate attempt to indict Sanger and Planned Parenthood as racist, he rants, "Abortion is phasing black people out in cities and states all over the country." In fact, the black fertility rate is currently hovering around 2.0, which is effectively the replacement rate, meaning that the black population in the U.S. is steady, not that "abortion is phasing black people out."
If Gwinn really thinks black lives matter, he might want to try and do something about the black infant mortality rate, which is more than double that of whites and Hispanics and has nothing to do with abortion. Those black lives probably don't matter to Gwinn since he can't reduce them to a sound bite-friendly right-wing talking point.
But Gwinn's litany of false and out-of-context Sanger quotes is nothing compared to how the MRC latched onto a campaign by a group of right-wing black ministers -- led by the notoriously homophobic E.W. Jackson -- to demand censorship by demanding that the Smithsonian remove a bust of Sanger from an exhibit. Various MRC divisions peddled distortions, out-of-context quotes and outright lies in order to smear Sanger and Planned Parenthood, and the MRC's "news" division, CNSNews.com, covered the campaign -- including an MRC-produced rally -- as if it was a legitimate news event while hiding the full extent of its parent organization's involvement in promoting the scheme.
CNS reporter adds her own lies to campaign
In an Aug. 7 CNS article, Starr touted how the "group of black pastors sent a letter to the director of the Smithsonian Institution’s National Portrait Gallery asking that the bust of Planned Parenthood Founder Margaret Sanger be removed from the museum’s 'Struggle for Justice' exhibit, citing her support for eugenics and the targeting of minorities by the nation’s largest abortion provider."
Despite CNS' mission statement to "fairly present all legitimate sides of a story," Starr couldn't be bothered to do so here, failing to mention Jackson's history of hate. The irony of a hater like Jackson lecturing us about someone else's purported hate is quite thick, but Starr can't or won't see it.
Starr also makes this claim that she attributes to the pastors: "The letter also states that 70 percent of Planned Parenthood abortion clinics are in minority neighborhoods and provides a link to a map documenting this fact."
Actually, that isn't a "fact" at all -- it's a lie. The Guttmacher Institute conducted a census of all known abortion providers in the U.S. in 2011, and found that 60 percent of them were in majority white neighborhoods, and that fewer than one in ten are located in neighborhoods where more than half of the residents are black.
On top of that, what Starr claimed the pastors said about that isn't what they actually said. The pastors' letter attached to Starr's article claims that Planned Parenthood is "locating 70% of its abortion facilities within in [sic] or near black and Latino communities."
We added the italics on "or near" to highlight the fudge factor in this statement. According to the website the pastors use to support this claim, "near" (or "within walking distance" in the website's terminology) is defined as a two-mile radius of the facility, and it seems that more often than not, those black and Latino neighborhoods are on the fringe of that two-mile radius.
Starr can't even get her own propaganda straight.
Speaking of propaganda, Starr uncritically repeats the pastors' claim that "the notorious ‘Negro Project,’ which sought to limit, if not eliminate black births, was [Sanger's] brainchild." Starr goes on to repeat a notoriously out-of-context claim by Sanger about the Negro Project, that “We do not want word to get out that we want to exterminate the Negro population and the minister is the man who can straighten out the idea if it ever occurs to any of their more rebellious members.”
A Washington Post fact check notes that this passage "is frequently taken out of context to suggest Sanger was seeking to exterminate blacks," and that in fact the project -- which was about birth control, not the attempt to "eliminate black births" the pastors dishonestly claim it is -- sought to recruit black leaders for the effort to allay suspicions blacks might have had about whites like Sanger being involved.
Despite these claims being exaggerated or completely false, Starr repeated them in an Aug. 13 article. And an Aug. 20 article by Starr repeated the out-of-context attack on the "Negro Project" again, though not the completely false "70 percent" claim.
Not only is Starr peddling her own false claims, she gives Jackson and the other pastors a pass on the dishonest claims they make; she makes no effort whatsoever to do even the most basic fact-check (or, it seems, checking her own work against the stuff she's cribbing it from).
One more thing Starr refused to report in her articles: Behind the scenes, her employer was working with the pastors to promote the campaign.
Manufacturing an anti-Sanger censorship crusade
CNS covered the bejeezus out of a tiny Aug. 27 rally of "almost two dozen black pastors and leaders of the pro-life movement" demanding that a bust of Planned Parenthood founder Margaret Sanger be removed from a Smithsonian exhibit. There was a main article by Penny Starr and Lauretta Brown and five more articles isolating comments by rally speakers.
What's missing from those articles: full disclosure of how much CNS' parent organization and its president contributed to the rally.
The main article identified rally speaker Brent Bozell only as "chairman of For America." But Starr and Brown ignored the significant fact that Bozell is also president of CNS' parent, the Media Research Center and is, in fact, at the top of CNS' masthead. (The two articles focused on Bozell's comments do disclose Bozell's link to CNS, but not until the end of the article.)
Further, none of the six CNS articles mention the fact its parent organization is leading a campaign to get the bust removed, and that a separate but related organization headed by Bozell helped set up the tiny rally.
An Aug. 26 email by the "MRC Action Team" cherry-picked "controversial statements" by Sanger that are ripped out of context, adding:
[A] coalition of black pastors has petitioned the Smithsonian Institute to remove a prominent bust of Sanger from the Congressionally-funded National Portrait Gallery in Washington D.C. The bust of Sanger appears as part of their “Struggle for Justice” exhibit along with baseball player Jackie Robinson and Martin Luther King, Jr.
This was followed by a phone number for the Smithsonian where people can "be sure to let them know that our taxpayer dollars should not be used to honor a woman who wanted to exterminate everyone that she deemed 'unfit'."
The next day, the MRC sent out another email describing how "MRC Action launched a campaign" to remove Sanger's bust, proudly proclaiming that "Over 700 calls poured into the office of the head of The Smithsonian yesterday, prompting them to call and ask that we stop."
That was followed on Aug. 28 by a third email touting more alleged phone calls to the Smithsonian (it's never explained how the MRC knows how many people called) and stating, "We cannot stop these calls until the taxpayer-funded bust of Margaret Sanger is removed!" (The MRC offered no evidence that the existence of the Sanger bust at the Smithsonian is "taxpayer-funded.")
It seems that the MRC and ForAmerica, which shares a leader with the MRC, collaborated with the small group of black pastors -- who, as already noted, appear to already be collaborating with CNS and Starr by uncritically promoting their lie-filled attacks on Sanger -- to manufacture a small event for the main, if not sole, purpose of giving CNS something to cover as "news," which it proceeded to do well beyond its importance.
If true -- and it sure looks that way; the MRC is free to speak up and untangle the behind-the-scenes self-dealing that appears to be going on -- CNS is engaging in a serious breach of journalistic ethics, and its failure to fully and honestly disclose its relationship to the rally's organizers makes the situation worse.
As a result, it's painfully clear that CNS is not an independent news organization, it's not a news organization at all -- it's just another cog in the MRC's right-wing propaganda machines. There's simply no reason to any sane person to treat it as legitimate.
The MRC's campaign of lies about Sanger
Check out the contents of that Aug. 26 MRC email to see how deceptive it's being about Sanger:
Margaret Sanger was arguably the largest advocate of eugenics in United States history, and her influence lives on in the 700 Planned Parenthood abortion clinics throughout the country -- 79 percent of which are located in predominantly black and Hispanic communities.
As noted above, the first quote is a favorite for Sanger-haters to take out of context. FactCheck.org states that that quote belongs in the context of Sanger saying that a minister could debunk the notion, if it arose, that the clinics that were a part of her "Negro Project" bringing birth control to black women in the South aimed to “exterminate the Negro population.”
The MRC included this graphic -- which features an out-of-context quote from Margaret Sanger -- in a recent email to promote a campaign to censor a bust of Sanger at the Smithsonian.
The final quote is ludicrously out of context. It's taken from a 1947 interview in which Sanger was asked about an earlier statement that European women should refrain from having babies for 10 years (this being after a world war that devastated
much of Europe). She clarified her answer by saying (the MRC's quote in italics to show how divorced it is from its proper context), "Well I suppose a subject like that is really so personal that it is entirely up to the parents to decide, but from my view, I believe there should be no more babies in starving countries for the next ten years."
The MRC's commitment to lying about Sanger starts from the top. In his speech at the tiny pro-censorship rally, MRC chief Brent Bozell -- who also heads ForAmerica, a right-wing group that worked with the right-wing black pastors who are purportedly leading the censorship effort -- said:
"Planned Parenthood and others inside this building want to pretend that what we really don't know," said Bozell. We do know. She wrote books, she gave speeches, she wrote letters. She organized organizations like the Negro Project to eradicate blacks, why? Because you weren't quite, human. You were weeds, you were waste. And that couldn't stand in a fixed society. Ladies and gentlemen so did Goebbels. He thought the exact same thing and did the exact same thing through eugenics.”
In fact, there's no evidence Sanger sought to "eradicate blacks" or considered them "weeds" or "waste." As fact-checkers have noted, while Sanger likely held paternalistic attitudes toward blacks that were unfortunately common during her lifetime, there's no evidence she was an avowed racist or that she coerced black women into using birth control.
And Bozell's eagerness to liken Sanger to Nazis, in addition to being counterfactual -- she was a member of an anti-Nazi committee and claimed her books were burned in Nazi Germany -- it's rather hilarious given the MRC's current outrage over Hillary Clinton making an apparent Nazi allusion about Donald Trump. Apparently, only conservatives are allowed to go Godwin.
The MRC also gave a free past to pastor E.W. Jackson, who lied that Sanger “was a white supremacist” and screeched that “If Margaret Sanger had her way MLK and Rosa Parks would have never been born.” While CNS prominently promoted those statements, it refused to fact-check them because that rally was created by the MRC and ForAmerica for the apparent sole purpose of having CNS cover it as "news," and since it's part of the MRC's propaganda machine, fact-checking a conservative who's spouting the MRC's agenda is not "news" at CNS -- even though Jackson, who claims to be a Christian pastor, is telling demonstrable lies.
But a Christian pastor being caught in a lie is not "news" at CNS, just like the right-wing Christian Josh Duggar's peccadilloes were buried as far down as one could do so until ConWebWatch shamed CNS into a little honest coverage.
Again: CNS is simply the MRC's right-wing agenda put into news-article form. Its role as a player in the MRC's Sanger censorship attempt and insistence on presenting lies as truth and refusing to hold the liars accountable is all the evidence one needs of that.
It's obvious that the MRC is putting so much energy into libeling a dead woman because it knows dead people can't fight back. It's a sad state of affairs.