Newsweek & Michelle Goldberg Distort the Truth

NewsweekToday 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.

Live Action President Lila Rose

Labeling Lila

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

Goldberg:

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

Goldberg:

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.

False Cover

Goldberg:

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

Goldberg:
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.

Finally why does the piece conveniently ignore the powerful visual evidence that our Rosa Acuna and Mona Lisa investigations discovered? Does Goldberg just ignore what she doesn’t have answers to?

True Misinformation

Goldberg:

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 davidschmidt@liveaction.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.

  • Oedipa

    “This is serious stuff”

    Exactly. Then why stoop to the O’Keefe style hoax journalism? Why not engage in a serious policy dialogue? The videos are a farce (and it’s not just that O’Keefe is “hated in left-wing circles”, his tactics have completely dis-credited him. Breaking into a Senator’s office? Filing to vote on someone else’s name? Conspiring to embarass a CNN contributor by “seducing” her? Yuck.).

    How do you prosecute a crime that’s not a crime, but just a crime that’s written into an actor’s script? All the hand-wringing about PP’s actions or inaction becomes tedious once you drill down to the fact that they’re fakers.

    It’s more on point to look at where real cases are being brought by AGs or DAs against PP. There’s just one. In Kansas, they’ve stooped to filing “Faulty Record Keeping” charges against PP. Oboy. I’ll sleep better at night knowing the good AG in Kansas has made Kansas Planned Parenthood keep better records.

    • Anonymous

      Are you saying that Planned Parenthood fired staff members because of a hoax? Planned Parenthood must be the worst organization ever to treat their employees like that.

      Planned Parenthood got exposed for how they operate…with disregard for the law and the well-being of minor girls.

      • Oedipa

        Oboy. I’ll try to unpack these in order.

        James O’Keefe was arrested and charged with entering federal property under false pretenses with the intent of committing a felony (tampering with Senator Landreau’s phone). Charges were later dropped.

        As for the efficacy of hoax journalism, it may get a rise out of you, but it’s sophomoric, and hasn’t lead to results since ACORN. It only pervades because the novelty of it actually worked once. If you don’t think your movement can operate in the environment with the “smooth-tongued” or the “calm”, then your movement is doomed. That’s how serious people conduct their affairs.

        The Kansas case was brought by a polarizing Kansas AG, who piled up ethics charges of his own and was recommended for disbarment by at least one board. In any event, his felony charges fell through for lack of evidence and he fell back on the conspiracy theory that PP had willfully destroyed paperwork that might have proved his case. I think you and I can agree that Planned Parenthood (or any helath care provider) should keep the very best records possible. But it should be noted, this is the only criminal case ever brought against PP.

        Everything else, such as the cases of personnel dealings that LoveTheLeast8 cites, were all handled by internal policy. So, maybe we can agree on another thing there: the LiveAction videos helped PP do some internal housekeeping when it came to their employees. Nothing criminal. Just not following SOP. That’s not “disregard for the law”.

        • Guest

          So you’re effectively admitting that he didn’t break into a senator’s office.  He wasn’t charged with break and enter.  With that being said, I largely agree with you on O’Keefe.  If you’re up for it, you may or may not enjoy reading the following:

          http://www.cnn.com/interactive/2010/09/specials/cnn.caper/index.html
          http://www.jillstanek.com/2010/10/cnn-documentary-james-okeefe-messes-it-up-for-everyone/
          http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/James_O%27Keefe

          I really don’t see why you keep clinging on to calling Live Action’s work “O’Keefe style hoax journalism”.  The basic premise (posing as sex traffickers and recording investigative videos) is similar, but that’s about all the two stings have in common.

          For me, hoax journalism would involve one of the following:

          1.  Falsely claiming that the videos showed a real pimp (rather than someone posing as one) getting business advice from Planned Parenthood clinics.  Live Action never did this.  In the very first video, the narrator clearly stated that “In January of 2011, undercover investigators went into Planned Parenthood of Central New Jersey posing as a pimp and prostitute…”

          2.  Renting an office somewhere, and staging the entire conversation (people on both ends are acting).  I think this is ridiculous, as Planned Parenthood didn’t even try to make this claim.

          3.  Recording videos, but deceptively editing them to dramatically alter the context of the situation (as was done with ACORN).  Unlike James O’Keefe, Live Action made the full footage available online for all seven trafficking videos.  If you can find any actual evidence that the tapes are doctored, feel free to share it.  Just a word of warning: Planned Parenthood, Media Matters, and RH Reality Check will be of little help to you.

          It may surprise you, but James O’Keefe didn’t invent hidden camera investigations.  Popular shows (60 Minutes, Dateline) along with countless television networks and newspapers have done similar work in the past.  Is the problem that citizen journalists (rather than massive corporations) are behind this?  If the corporate media aren’t interested in doing an investigation, isn’t that all the more reason for citizens to do it themselves (especially in the era of Youtube, Twitter, etc)?  How do you feel about Wikileaks?  What about NARAL’s evidence-free “investigations” of crisis pregnancy centres?  Is your grievance really that you’re just sympathetic towards Planned Parenthood?

          I believe that pro-life activists can compete in the marketplace of ideas (although quite often, abortion proponents refuse to publicly debate them).  That doesn’t mean that investigative videos aren’t useful tools for changing hearts and minds, or exposing corruption in a powerful, taxpayer funded organization.  I’m not sure what your idea of legitimate activism is.  If she were to follow your example, Lila Rose would simply spend all of her time at some pro-abortion blog, posting insulting comments on every entry.

          I haven’t closely been following the Kansas case, so I won’t try to change your views on the ethics of the AG’s conduct or the validity of his charges.  But it does demonstrate that if an AG tries to investigate Planned Parenthood, it could be detrimental to his career.  This could explain why only one has ever tried to do so.  Look at the Komen controversy, as another example.  If a simple breast cancer charity can’t stop funding Planned Parenthood to a very small extent without facing a backlash, I doubt sending a bunch of cops to raid each clinic would fly over very well.  Just because the videos would be difficult to use for prosecution doesn’t mean they don’t show serious wrongdoing, or that they don’t make a good case for a congressional investigation and/or removal of taxpayer funding.

          Planned Parenthood did fire the most boorish employee caught on tape, but they spent most of their time claiming that the videos showed professional behaviour.  Instead of thanking Lila Rose for helping them do “internal housekeeping” (or better yet, doing similar investigations themselves), they attacked her and did all they could to spin the story.  This wasn’t just internal, it’s a long pattern of disregard for state and federal law.

      • Bijoybalan

        If we are to judge an organization based on actions of a few employees then I guess we might as well acknowledge that pro-life condone people that bomb abortion clinics, thus pro-life  have utter disregard for human life. Afterall evidence has shown that people that have committed acts of terrorism on abortion clinics are pro-life and so far pro-life claim that acts of terrorism wouldn’t have happened if the abortion clinics existed

    • http://twitter.com/LNSmithee L.N. Smithee

      Since you seem to know so much about the Kansas case, Oedipa, why don’t you explain what the records they weren’t keeping were about.  Hmmm?

    • http://twitter.com/LNSmithee L.N. Smithee

      Who’s office did O’Keefe “break into,” Oedipa? Is that what he was charged with?  Are you sure you want that to be your final answer?

      As for your suggestion about “a serious policy dialogue” as opposed to “hoax journalism,” exactly how does one show that health care providers are not following the law when the patients are compliant in the law being broken, except through the use of hidden cameras?  In a “serious policy dialogue,” the Cecile Richardses and other smooth-tongued propagandists will calmly state their position that their organization doesn’t do anything unethical ever. 

      Naw, I don’t think Lila & the Live Action folks should operate on your terms.  I’d rather they be effective, which you don’t want.

      • Bijoybalan

        he broke into senator Landreiu’s office. That’s called trespassing. So far actions of Lila & the Live Action folks make Larry Flint look ethical and moral

  • Guest

    It is amusing (and frustrating at the same time) that Lila Rose’s critics always immediately bring up her past association with James O’Keefe (I must agree with @10840b5c14df2d2cf464a207a0148124:disqus ‘s assessment of him).  This commits the “guilt by association” fallacy.

    If we’re going to keep score, both Barack Obama and Planned Parenthood’s founder Margaret Sanger used to hang out with some pretty nutty people.

  • Guest

    You should really proof-read your posts. Numerous typos in this one.

    • http://twitter.com/LNSmithee L.N. Smithee

      I’m on your side, as you know.  But I agree.  The errors really get in the way of you making your point.

  • http://twitter.com/Saynsumthn Saynsumthn Blog

    Goldberg is in bed with Planned Parenthood as are many of the elite media- read: http://saynsumthn.wordpress.com/tag/michele-goldberg/

    • Bijoybalan

      Yes the consiparcy of liberal media. Let’s ignore the elitist conservative who are fighting to maintain white male domination

  • Del

    This is insulting.  A hatchet job against Lila Rose deserves a far more distinguished liberal fishwrap than tired old Newsweek!

    Nobody reads Newsweek anymore.

    I’m serious.  I am the guy who stocks the magazines at several local grocery and drug stores.  We rarely sell a copy of TIME or Newsweek.

    Which explains why these magazines cannot afford to hire decent editorial writers.

    • Anonymous

      They make their money from the ads in the magazine…not from people buying them because frankly very few people want to.

  • Bijoybalan

    I guess LiveAction doesn’t like it when truth gets told about their pranks. The pro-life industry always told me that they believe in telling the truth and telling the truth is not hate. I guess that all changes when you don’t like the truth. David Schmidt sounds like you like to read what you want to read and when people tell the truth that you don’t like you just whip out a meaning less rant. In case you didn’t read the article she backed it up facts rather than hate which is what your indulges in