“Anti-Abortion Sting Video Fools Washington Post, No One Else” (from Forbes.com)
“The conservative â€œgotchaâ€ video* whose claims fall apart upon close inspection is fast becoming a well-established trope. So perhaps itâ€™s a sign of learning that the latest entry in the genre, which â€œexposesâ€ the lack of mammogram services at most Planned Parenthood clinics, only snookered one mainstream media outlet: the Washington Post.
The video is the work of the Live Action, an anti-abortion group that has been lobbying fervently in support of a Republican-led effort to defund Planned Parenthood. Live Actionâ€™s founder, Lila Rose, is an activist-provocateur in the mold ofÂ James Oâ€™Keefe, he of the ACORN and NPR stings.
In the video, Live Actionâ€™s agent calls various Planned Parenthood clinics and attempts to schedule a mammogram, only to be told time and again that theyâ€™re not available. â€œ[C]ontrary to the claims of Planned Parenthood CEO Cecile Richards and other supporters of the nationâ€™s largest abortion chain, the organization does not provide mammograms for women,â€ declares the group â€” proof, it says, that Planned Parenthoodâ€™s claims to provide comprehensive reproductive health services are hollow.
The only problem is there doesnâ€™t seem to be any evidence that anyone in an official capacity at Planned Parenthood has ever claimed the organization does provide mammograms at its clinicsÂ â€” only that it conducts breast cancer screenings and refers patients needing mammograms to facilities where they can get them.
Live Actionâ€™s video shows Richards, during an appearance on HLNâ€™s â€œJoy Behar Show,â€Â saying that a bill before congress,Â H.R. 1, would cause â€œmillions of womenâ€ to lose their access to â€œbasic family planning â€” you know,Â mammograms, cancer screenings, cervical cancer [screenings].â€ Thatâ€™s a solid assertion: H.R. 1 would have defunded President Obamaâ€™s healthcare bill, which, among other things, provides insurance coverage for preventive care for women.
I searched through Factiva looking for examples of anyone from Planned Parenthood claiming its clinics offer mammograms and found nothing. I emailed and called Live Action to ask if it can cite any such instances; Iâ€™ve yet to hear back. So itâ€™s a non-story: Party A proves Party B doesnâ€™t provide thing Party B never claimed to provide. Doubtless thatâ€™s why The New York Times, CNN, The Wall Street Journal, USA Today and other major outlets gave the whole thing a pass, leaving the usual right-wing outlets â€”Â Fox Newsâ€™s Sean Hannity, theÂ Washington Times, etc. â€” to crow about it to each other, and the liberal watchdog group Media Matters toÂ pick it apart.
Yet somehow the Washington Post got pulled in sans skepticism, running a story on page A4 headlined â€œPlanned Parenthood Challenged on Purported Mammogram Claim.â€ What, you may wonder, is a â€œpurportedâ€ claim? Surely in this era of 360 degree media, any claim made in public must yield a digital paper trail? Why not, then, save the reader the work of figuring out whether that â€œpurportedâ€ claim was ever made, and save the copy desk the extra headline space?
I asked the Postâ€™s reporter, Rob Stein, those questions and whether, in effect, heâ€™d been duped into treating a lazy piece of propaganda as news. â€œIâ€™d prefer to let the story speak for itself,â€ he told me.
If only it did.”