Today Newsweek senior contributing writer Michelle Goldberg presented a less-than-truthful piece on Live Action’s President Lila Rose. This of course isn’t the first time I’ve seen right-to-life opponents engage in a cherry-picking exercise to distort the record of pro-life advocates nor do I expect it to be the last.
First a bit of history on Newsweek before commencing with the fact-check. Newsweek was owned since 1961 by the Washington Post which has been and continues to be outspoken in favor of abortion. As the circulation of Newsweek fell, the Washington Post sold the magazine to Sidney Harman in 2010. Sidney Harman passed away in 2011 leaving much of the publication’s ownership to his wife Jane Harman who is a former Democratic congresswoman from California. Harman strongly supported abortion while in office including opposing a ban on the termination of human fetuses that were alive and partially born. Jane Harman now sits on the Newsweek board.
Now back to Michelle Goldberg and her piece titled, “Lila Rose: The Woman Who Sparked the Planned Parenthood Flap.” The problems with this editorial curve-ball come one after another and range from slights to major omissions.
Goldberg describes Rose as “mischief-maker” which is how Rose could be seen only if one disregards the sexual abuse cover-up and lawbreaking that Rose uncovered Planned Parenthood staff willing to engage in. Rose isn’t investigating the practices of Planned Parenthood for kicks and giggles; this is serious stuff. For Goldberg to write-off an expose on child abuse cover-up as simply “mischief” reveals serious moral blinders. And even Planned Parenthood has admitted that Rose’s work is more than mischief by the mere fact that they have had to part ways with four staff members in the fallout.
Guilt by Association
An anti-abortion activist from a young age, Rose met the now-notorious conservative propagandist James O’Keefe when she was a freshman at UCLA, and the two began working together.
Notice how Goldberg brings in James O’Keefe who is hated in left-wing circles for his undercover videos that led to the demise of the community organizing group, ACORN. The logic goes something like this… Look, Rose made a few videos with O’Keefe in 2007 and 2008. We don’t like O’Keefe so don’t like Rose. This post isn’t about O’Keefe or debating the merits or demerits of his work but the simple reality that writers like Goldberg will bring up O’Keefe over and over despite the fact that Lila’s most notable investigations came later and were conducted completely independent of O’Keefe.
More Little Errors
In one of her first stings, she visited two Los Angeles Planned Parenthoods with a hidden camera, posing as a 15-year-old girl who’d been impregnated by a 23-year-old man. Her goal was to show that the clinics weren’t following the law in reporting statutory rape, and she succeeded; in both cases, when she asked for help avoiding police involvement, they complied.
The way Goldberg puts it sounds as if Rose’s goal before she ever started was to frame Planned Parenthood. First, Rose didn’t know exactly what she would find in her early investigations. She had read reports of investigative work by Mark Crutcher in which Planned Parenthood promised not to report child sex abuse as required by law and she wanted to see if that was happening in her area. There wasn’t a preconceived conclusion or goal, simply the pursuit of the truth and the truth was that Planned Parenthood was breaking the law.
Second, Goldberg uses the term “statutory rape” which is inaccurate. Planned Parenthood in California is not required to report statutory rape but child sexual abuse which is what they failed to do.
But while Rose had indeed caught some Planned Parenthood employees bending the law, some of her work, like that of her ally O’Keefe, is misleading. In one campaign, Live Action tried to prove Planned Parenthood’s complicity in sex trafficking by sending a man posing as a pimp into several clinics, seeking birth control, abortions, and STD testing for underage girls. In the resulting videos, clinic staffers seem to cooperate with him, supposedly providing proof that Planned Parenthood is a criminal organization. What the videos don’t show is that, following the “pimp’s” visits, Planned Parenthood notified the FBI of a potential multistate sex-trafficking ring.
Goldberg has swallowed Planned Parenthood’s lie which can be summarized as follows: We (Planned Parenthood) wrote a letter to the Department of Justice days after Rose’s sex-trafficking investigation so we did what we were supposed to do.
Here are the problems:
- In the videos, “clinic staffers” do not “seem to cooperate with him” but rather, blatantly aid and abet the trafficking
- Planned Parenthood only included some of Rose’s investigations in their letter to the DOJ meaning that they failed to report the claimed sex trafficking in other cases. In Manhattan for example, Planned Parenthood’s response was that the tape was doctored although Planned Parenthood offered no proof and Live Action stands behind the tape released online in full and unedited. Furthermore Planned Parenthood claimed that they did not report the incident to police because their staff did not know that the Live Action investigators were posing as sex-traffickers although the video evidence makes it clear what their business was.
- Planned Parenthood’s letter to the DOJ included places that Live Action had never investigated Planned Parenthood for sex trafficking cover-up.
- • State law does not require that Planned Parenthood report to the DOJ but to state law enforcement. Planned Parenthood has yet to provide documentation that they did this. In only one case, (Roanoke, VA), did local law enforcement confirm that Planned Parenthood had reported the incident. What happened in all the other cases? And in the case of the Charlottesville, VA clinic, Planned Parenthood claimed they contacted the local Albemarle police but Albemarle police later reported to the media that they have no record of a child sex abuse report.
In short Planned Parenthood points to one letter they sent days after the fact as proof of compliance with the law requires immediate reporting to state or local law enforcement – not the Federal government. Courts have generally interpreted immediate to be within 24 or 48 hours which 4-7 days later is clearly beyond. Writers like Goldberg should demand that Planned Parenthood show that they complied with the law instead of letting them claim innocence without proof.
Missing the Story
The group has also released tapes aiming to show that Planned Parenthood is lying about providing breast-cancer screening. In them, callers ask clinics if they can come in for mammograms, and are either told no or offered referrals. Planned Parenthood, like most private gynecologists, sends patients to radiologists for mammograms, and not all Planned Parenthood clinics have mammogram-funding programs. But for Planned Parenthood’s enemies, the recordings seemed sufficient to show that the organization is involved in fraud.
It was Planned Parenthood’s CEO Cecile Richards who in a national TV interview claimed that they provided mammograms and the Live Action video was a fact-check of her statement. Is Planned Parenthood exceptional for not providing mammograms? No. And that isn’t the point of the video. The point of the video is that Planned Parenthood in defending why they should receive taxpayer money was making false claims but Goldberg couldn’t see that. If Planned Parenthood didn’t make a false claim to the country, the video wouldn’t exist.
This time Planned Parenthood and its allies successfully fought back. Often though, they’ve found it difficult to clear a path through the miasma of misinformation. Trying to strip Planned Parenthood of federal funds last year, Indiana Republican Rep. Mike Pence said, “Every American should be shocked that an employee of the largest recipient of federal funds under Title X has been recorded aiding and abetting underage sex trafficking.” Stopping such misinformation from proliferating is next to impossible.
Maybe if Goldberg studied the truth behind Planned Parenthood’s claims instead of taking them at face value, she would see that she is now part of the misinformation machine that she imagines she is fighting.
So Ms. Goldberg and Newsweek, we at Live Action, seek the truth. If you have evidence that anything we have done is less than truthful, we welcome your input. My email is firstname.lastname@example.org. Likewise, we expect that you back-up the claims that you have put out with fact and because you have failed to do so, we respectfully ask that you correct the record. Your credibility is on the line.