Why Planned Parenthood Won't Get Fooled Again

Friday, February 11, 2011


This month, a group of anti-abortion activists called Live Action tried to catch Planned Parenthood in wrongdoing using hidden cameras. The stunt was modeled after a similar conservative expose' of ACORN two years ago. But while the ACORN tape ended up sinking that organization (Congress defunded them soon after), the Planned Parenthood tapes haven’t had quite the same resonance. Slate’s Dave Weigel explains why.

Comments [29]


The ACORN videos were edited in many ways. For one thing, the questions that were asked were edited out and replaced with entirely different ones in voiceovers so that what the ACORN employees said was both edited to make it look like something other than what they'd said, and it was responding to something other than what was on the tapes. And it's quite significant that James O'Keefe represented himself as something quite different when he and Hannah Giles went into the various ACORN offices. But it's quite obvious that you don't care about any of this because you're wedded to the idea that ACORN is evil.

As to Juan Williams, he had been reprimanded for years over things he'd said. I saw nothing in the transcript of his remarks that could be interpreted the way you said; all I saw was that he said that Muslims should not all be tarnished for the actions of some any more than all Christians should be tarnished for the actions of Timothy McVeigh. That is quite different from Shirley Sherrod, who included in the same story the story of how she came to realize that she'd been wrong and how that had changed her actions, which, once again, is not at all what you said. The part about what actually happened afterward was the part that was edited out. Anyone could find the entire O'Reilly Factor video to check out what Juan Williams had said, which was not the case with Shirley Sherrod's video.

Feb. 20 2011 10:26 PM
Mark Richard from Columbus, Ohio

Cambridge, is that all you got? O'Keefe didn't really dress up as a pimp? Did the ACORN folks say or did they not say what was recorded? I mean, come on. Planned Parenthood has fired the employee who said embarrassing things in Lila Rose's video. Is that like 'It's all a lie, but we're canning you anyway?' Shouldn't you be mad about that?

As for the Sherrod-Williams episodes, the reason NPR gave for the firing was his statement of unease at seeing people in 'Muslim garb' get on the airplane with him, just as Sherrod admitted an instinctive feeling of racism. Both went on to say that such impulses should be combated within themselves. The Williams firing clearly ignored his full statement, so NPR has less excuse for its reaction than did the Agriculture Dept. Gee, d'you think some outfit like 'Media Matters' might have directed Ellen Weiss to an edited version of Williams' statements.

If Breitbart is so bad, why did he post the full video when he had it? I'm not suffused with hatred for my political opponents, so far from being pro-Breitbart I'm simply asserting that he and O'Keefe are no different from the small army of left-wing documentarians who edit their stuff to create the impression they want to make, too. Liberals really get their knickers in a twist when the other side uses their own strategies and tactics against them.

Feb. 18 2011 06:07 PM

OK, you can't find your way through the headlines to a blog post that details how the videos were lies. Try this one, http://www.bradblog.com/?p=7705 ("Breitbart Lied About ACORN 'Pimp' Videos When Selling Story in His Own Washington Times Column"), which includes links to two other useful pieces, http://mediamatters.org/columns/201002170008 ("James O'Keefe and the myth of the ACORN pimp") and http://thelensnola.org/2010/01/27/okeefe-neither-pimp-nor-journalist/ (which has a picture of how O'Keefe actually dressed). There's also the fact that Hannah Giles admitted that James O'Keefe never dressed as a pimp when they visited the ACORN offices but that that footage was inserted later, http://washingtonindependent.com/77096/hannah-giles-explains-those-pimp-and-prostitute-outfits.

The difference between Shirley Sherrod and Juan Williams was that the tape of her was edited to make it look as though she had said something the opposite of what she had actually said, while Juan Williams was not. We can debate whether what Juan Williams said should have led to his firing, but his words were not misrepresented in order to sell a political story. If it makes you happy, you can believe that Andrew Breitbart is such an upstanding guy that he immediately retracted the lies about Shirley Sherrod and posted the truth instead of the other possibility that it was desperate damage control because he was caught distributing deceptively-edited videos again.

Feb. 17 2011 10:23 PM
Mark Richard from Columbus, Ohio

To Cambridge Knitter - I did link to the rather fervent site you mentioned. I saw a lot of headlines referring to the ACORN sting as a hoax, but nothing that led me to actual evidence. The blog you directed me to is . . . busy, to say the least. Be a little more specific.

To make an obvious point, about everything on TV and the web is 'edited'. The question is whether the context was edited out (i.e., the Rodney King video), or whether the video was faked (actors instead of real people), or if the original meaning was completely twisted, or something like that.

As for the Shirley Sherrod situation, please explain to me how it was different from the Juan Williams case as handled by none other than NPR. Breitbart was the one who ended up posting the entire Sherrod video when he had it all. I'm skeptical of all media - not just the outlets the Left obsesses about. Michael Moore, James O'Keefe, they're no different except in their politics - and that Moore's Hollywood-Left politics make him acceptable to the mainstream media and to the urban establishment, which is a clue as to his long-standing ability to get funding.

Feb. 17 2011 05:49 PM

So, Ed, I'm supposed to look at the deceptively-edited hoax videos for proof that they're not hoaxes? Forgive me if I don't take your suggestion. See, for example, http://mediamatters.org/blog/201102040026, where you can view the actual original and altered videos of one of these stings for yourself. For a devout Catholic, Ms. Rose sure seems to have forgotten the commandment not to bear false witness.

Feb. 17 2011 11:11 AM
Albert Ginouves from Lakeville, CT

Sadly, your recent segment discussing the similarity between the O'Keefe ACORN event and the recent Planned Parenthood tapes fails to mention that the ACORN tape turned out to be a hoax. You also failed to mention that most of the major media not only fell for the hoax but refused to correct for their sloppy journalism or even acknowledge it. Could the answer to your question, “Why isn’t the media jumping on this story?, be found in this important fact?
How about the media’s culpability in the embarrassing Shirley Sherrod incident, brought about by Andrew Breidtbart, O’Keefe’s champion in the ACORN hoax? Maybe rather than a bias we are seeing a healthy, if belated, skepticism on the part of major media.
Maybe I missed the point of the show but I am disappointed in Dave Weigel and your program. The segment was surely long enough to raise these important facts. That was my first time listening to your show. I’ll give you one more try but if you waste my time with Bill O’Reilly quality analysis again that will be it.

Feb. 17 2011 10:26 AM
Ed from Larchmont, NY

For evidence see Lila Rose's videos and law suits against P.P., similar to the video she just recorded that they are discussing. A crime was committed on tape. Also see Abby Johnson' book 'Unplanned' for a general picture of how P.P. operates.

Feb. 17 2011 09:52 AM

Ed, where's your evidence?

Feb. 17 2011 07:31 AM
Ed from Larchmont, NY

In defense of Lila Rose, they've done this in 15 states or so and P.P. did about the same thing. Abetting sexual trafficking in minors. This is small compared to their other crimes, but it's a start. "End of policy by America's stupidest home videos", ouch.

Feb. 16 2011 04:15 PM

I liked this one because it was stupid yet informational. I don't however like the fact that people are trying to get PP defunded. They help alot of people, weither it be for birthcontrol, condoms, or just taking care of yourself at a resonable price. They are confidental for a reason. If your trying to expose them for for something that they try to prevent in the begining then you should do a little better research before you try and be pimp and a prostitute. If your trying to prtevent obortions stop having sex or use a condom or birthcontrol provided by PP!!

Feb. 16 2011 01:16 PM

Mark Richard, did you look at the link to BradBlog that I included in my earlier comment? That will answer all of your questions about "what was 'proved false' about the ACORN videos". You might also recall how the same person edited video of Shirley Sherrod to make it appear that she had said something quite the opposite of what she had actually said. Of course, this assumes you actually want to know whether it's true or not, but I'll give you the benefit of the doubt.

Feb. 15 2011 05:36 PM
Margaret from Highland, IN

Why did you let Slate's Dave Weigel refer to "defunding abortion?" Planned Parenthood receives absolutely NO funding from the American taxpayer to pay for abortions...that was covered years ago in the Hyde Amendment.

You also let him slide on referring to Planned Parenthood as a "birth control and abortion" organization, completely ignoring the cancer screenings and prevention the organization performs (17% of their expenses in 2007, according to their annual report).

Shame on him and you.

Feb. 15 2011 12:59 PM
Mark Richard from Columbus, Ohio

Excuse me, but what was 'proved false' about the ACORN videos? Congress and the courts both have seen nothing to warrant reversal of the cutoff of federal funds to this candidly leftist organizing group. I have seen investigations charging that the videos were 'heavily edited' (unlike, say, NPR reports?) but nothing that undermined the substance of the charges that ACORN workers behaved badly, to put it mildly, in the advice they were giving.

By the standards applied to the ACORN sting, I wonder how many of the legion of left-wing documentaries employing ambush interviews or hidden cameras would prove embarrassing to their directors. Programs like 'Prime Time Live' and '60 Minutes' have about ended such practices, because out-takes tended to show the story as more complex than presented on-air. I've no doubt O'Keefe wanted to embarrass ACORN and edited accordingly, as is Michael Moore's habit, too, but I'm not sure editing is proof of falsehood.

Feb. 15 2011 12:41 PM
Rob Funk from Columbus, OH

Like a few others here, I was disappointed in this story because so many falsehoods and half-truths were repeated and left unchallenged.
The ACORN videos were proven to be hoaxes, and whatever sins ACORN may have been guilty of (if any) were greatly exaggerated in the ensuing firestorm.
Similarly, the Planned Parenthood videos were highly edited, also leaving out vital information.
And Planned Parenthood is not a "liberal contraception and abortion organization", but a comprehensive reproductive-health provider. (Abortion, by the way, is merely 3% of what they do.)

I really expected much better of Brooke on this story. I'm less familiar with Weigel, but given his journalistic reputation I'd expect better of him as well.

Feb. 15 2011 08:42 AM
Belinda Gomez

Brooke's snarky tone certainly let us know what she thinks. ACORN's demise meant that the grifters who ran it just changed the names of the shelter corps and kept on doing business.

Feb. 14 2011 08:32 PM
Marcia from Cleveland

I think it would be a good story for OTM to investigate why the media continues to mention a story long after the allegations have been proven to be lies. OTM isn't the only outlet to do this. The NY Times did the same thing. I can't imagine why a news outlet would cite the ACORN story and leave out that piece of information. It's like talking about someone who was blacklisted by McCarthy but refusing to acknowledge what the blacklist really was. ("Were they really communists? I don't know? Who's to say?") James O'Keefe is a convicted criminal. Why would you cite his fraudulent criminal activity as reporting?

Feb. 14 2011 11:33 AM
Darsan54 from Grand Rapids, MI

Brook forgets to point out the ACORN videos were proved false. She also forgets to point out, along with Weigel, the voter registration scandal was also made up and the organization eventually cleared. Also, she noted in the story the Planned Parenthood did report the suspected illegal acts. Just because they didn't perform a "citizen's arrest" immediately doesn't mean they were lax. (Actually, a CA probably wouldn't happen these days due the physical dangers involved and possibility of kidnapping charges.)

It is also amazing how people like Jay TEA think they know absolutely the total truth and it's obvious they have only been watching FOX.

Feb. 14 2011 09:38 AM
Jay Tea from http://wizbangblog.com

Amazing, how many people forget just how deeply ACORN was involved in voter registration fraud as well... the videos didn't happen in a vacuum, but were the nail in the coffin.

Of course, ACORN didn't really just go away, only the name when it became too toxic. But the same people are still doing the same things...

I repeat the crux of my argument: there are mandatory reporting laws. Those laws are cheerfully shoved aside by "progressive" groups when they become inconvenient, and their supporters howl in protest when they are caught, and do all they can to change the subject.

Well done, loyal lackeys and lickspittles.


Feb. 14 2011 05:54 AM
steven finkelstein from phoenix, az

Amazing how ACORN can still be vilified long after their dissolution. In more than one location, the ACORN person reported the "so-called" pimp to the police. Why didn't you report that? Why does Gladstone have a job? I guess you can be inept, ignore the facts, avoid doing any research, and be the perfect person for NPR. Maybe you're hoping up a job with Faux News.

Feb. 13 2011 04:10 PM
John Hamilton from Madison, Wisconsin

I don't often go back to a site where I've posted a comment, but did today, and found a comment below mine that calls for a response.

Whenever someone says "Let's cut through all the crap," what he or she is really doing is being a blowhard, availing to an opportunity for ego-inflation. This is further evidenced by the amorphous accusation of "whining." Who's doing the whining?

As to what the "sting" revealed, it is difficult to tell from a doctored video. One thing it reveals is that if you go to enough places with a video camera, someone is going to do their job in a lax or even illegal manner. This is no surprise. It's the USA. We are in a condition of social breakdown. Even "journalists" are behaving unethically, lying exaggerating, and scapegoating. "Leaders" are caught soliciting extramarital sex on the Internet. Some end up in jail for influence peddling. Others, or other, cancel travel plans in fear of being indicted for war crimes.

I don't have a lot of interest in Planned Panenthood, but probably will take more notice in the future. There are too many people in the world, and it is one of few organizations offering any alternatives to geometric growth. I might even send them some money.

Feb. 13 2011 11:40 AM
Jay Tea from http://wizbangblog.com

Let's cut through all the crap.

We have laws that say that certain people are required to report when they even suspect sexual exploitation of minors.

Those laws cover Planned Parenthood.

The "sting" was to put Planned Parenthood to the test -- would they comply with the laws that make them mandatory reporters, or would they ignore it?

They chose to ignore it.

This was no more of a "sting" than when police test stores to see if they will sell alcohol to minors, or people who look like minors, and don't bother to check IDs like they are supposed to.

If you don't think Planned Parenthood should be "mandatory reporters," then advocate changing the law. Don't whine when they are caught ignoring it.


Feb. 13 2011 10:25 AM
John Hamilton from Madison, Wisconsin

I was a bit surprised that Brooke Gladstone failed to mention that the Acorn videos were proven to be hoaxes. It would have made for a slightly different story line, which was likely the reason. I know enough about journalism to recognize that reporters routinely adjust the facts around the story. In a program about the media one tends to expect better, but these are disappointing times.

A better story line might be a historical perspective, or projection into the future, of the phenomenon of fake news. We have an entire network based on fake news, which includes present and former minions of NPR as props. There has been a progression of this phenomenon from well before Fox News. It may have reached a creschendo, but maybe not. What may be a better area of inquiry is the stupidity and bigotry of people who believe in these news sources, and the implications for our educational system.

Feb. 13 2011 09:06 AM
anna from New York

Good comments. I thought too that program was unacceptable and this babbling Slate guy was a hack.
I think that we are back to "American destiny." I think it's Zinn who said that the country was set up as a republic serving the needs of plutocracy. The original group was quite intelligent and knew that the needs of plutocracy include cultivation/toleration of a middle layer (in addition to a large group of slaves) - to serve the needs of "real people" (rich, rich, rich) directly in the areas slaves can't provide service and of course to control the slaves.
In modern America, so much effort was put into turning the poor into real slaves and destroying any mechanism which protects and helps them
American "liberals" (whom, in case nobody noticed, I despise) have served "the real people" well.

Feb. 13 2011 07:13 AM

I was appalled as I listened to this story at the parroting of total discredited rightwing lies about ACORN, Andrew Breitbart and James O'Keefe's successful campaign to destroy it and what actually happened. Just for starters, Mr. O'Keefe did not dress up as a pimp, nor did he claim to be one, when he went to ACORN's offices. Instead, he was dressed in a business shirt and tie and claimed to be the college student boyfriend of a prostitute who was trying to help her and various underage girls get away from an abusive pimp. The film he made was doctored and deceptively edited to create the erroneous impression that On The Media continues to perpetuate.

If you had any integrity whatsoever, you would do a full-length story correcting your slanderous total misrepresentation of the truth. You can start your research at www.bradblog.com; scroll down to the special coverage archives link on the right to the entries under "O'Keefe/Breitbart ACORN 'Pimp' Hoax".

Feb. 12 2011 03:59 PM

Typical of both these show and government radio: a right of center biased, so-called news analyst. First, ACORN did NOT commit voter registration fraud. That false accusation has been found to be a lie time and again. When signing up potential voters they are required by law to present the name as given to them to the appropriate voter registration offical. It is up to that offical to challenge any innappropriate application. Imagine if a liberal voter sign-up group was rejecting people and claiming that it had the right to decide whether the applicant was legit. Of course, the applicant thinks that his or her application was actually being forwarded to the appropriate public offical. Oh, and every such person just happened to apear to b e a conservative. Doesn't that explain even to the hacks at media matters why it should be the public offical's responsiblity rather than that of the private group gathering up those applications? Of course, media matters feels differently about planned parenthood which serves needs much more favored by middle-class people thant an organization that is trying to organize working and poor people (although obviously providing a much needed service).

Also, why do you let your commentator describe planned parenthood as a "leftwing" organization? It is a service organization providing legal medical services, including many, many such services beyond abortion.

Feb. 12 2011 02:05 PM
anna from New York

d8e8r8f (#2)
I like your comment. I just despise American "liberals" with their "My body, my bank accounts, my liberties and frequent ... My Palestinians" agenda.
No barbarity of American workplace, no barbarity .. almost everywhere - Uzbekistan, Libia, Sudan etc.
Sure. American liberals together with international prostitutional (oil money?) "left" say so.

Feb. 12 2011 11:36 AM
Daniel Garcia

The reason why this story wasn't picked up by the so-called "mainstream" media is Liberal media bias. The point was made that organizations as diverse as the Sierra Club and the SEIU are stepping in to defend Planed Parenthood which suggests to me that Liberals are circling the wagons. They can not allow Tea Party Patriots to go after one of their sacred cows. So even though no one came out and explicitly said it, the real answer was implied, the Liberal media will do what it can do defend this abortion provider.

I also think it is funny that FNC is defined as ideological. Liberals always set themselves as the gold standard for objectivity and so naturally anyone that doesn't follow their way of doing things is "ideological."

Feb. 12 2011 10:39 AM

The correct argument is underage prostitutes have the same right to medical care as others. A minor point is that medical conversations are supposed to be privileged.

ACORN was involved with the mortgage craziness, and may have actually injured their constituents. ACORN lost their way and was no longer serving people.

Feb. 12 2011 10:07 AM
anna from New York

This is comical. This Slate guy used so many words ... to miss the point.
There is a huge difference between organizations like Acorn which serve the needs of the poor (in Americanese "subhumans," totally disposable of course) and organizations like "Planned parenthood" which serves the needs of the overfed, overprivileged and overprimitive (in Americanese "the precious" even if not humans like the corporations")
Welcome to America, the land of negative eugenics, 'the rich are rich because they deserve to be rich" idiocy/criminality and the original "Arbeit macht frei."

Feb. 12 2011 08:04 AM

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