The XX Factor

Second Heavily Edited Planned Parenthood Attack Video Is Also a Big Bust

The Center for Medical Progress on Tuesday made good on its threats to release more misleading Planned Parenthood “sting” videos into the world. Last week the group released a hidden-camera video in which it tried to lure unsuspecting Planned Parenthood officials into secretly recorded conversations about donating fetal tissue, which CMP dishonestly tried to spin as a video about selling fetal body parts. In the latest heavily edited video, another Planned Parenthood official talks about such donations in terms that come across as overly frank to those of us who don’t work in the medical profession but are actually quite normal.

This video, unsurprisingly, is being received with a whimper in the media, especially compared with last week’s deceptively edited footage. That original eight-minute video, which purported to show illegal “harvesting” of fetal body parts for profit but demonstrated nothing of the sort, seemed to come out of nowhere. The longer video showed, despite claims to the contrary, that Planned Parenthood’s Deborah Nucatola did not offer to sell fetal body parts, but the opposite: She insisted that selling fetal tissue is simply not done. With the same, dishonest crew claiming to have another “shocking” video, you can guess that it’s probably the same kind of hoax: misleading editing, outrageous claims not held up by the evidence, and attempts to titillate people with gross details of medical procedures to distract from the fact that they have no evidence of wrongdoing. 

Irin Carmon of MSNBC has pulled the relevant quotes and found that, yep, it’s the same story: Despite CMP’s attempts to make it look like Planned Parenthood medical director Mary Gatter is “selling” fetal tissue, she repeatedly makes it clear that is not an option. “But see we don’t, we’re not in it for the money, and we don’t want to be in a position of being accused of selling tissue, and stuff like that,” Gatter says very clearly on the tape. She does talk about money, but as was made clear in the debunkings of the video last week, Planned Parenthood’s policy is only to take reimbursement for clinic expenses. The low figures she cites in this new video—$50—suggests that is exactly what Gatter is talking about, just as Nucatola was doing in last week’s footage. 

At one point, Gatter makes a joke about buying a Lamborghini, but it’s not the big reveal the right-wing press wants you to think it is. In context, it’s clearly an ironic joke—an arch statement about how money is not being made by any of this. 

Not only have both videos been misleading, so is the process by which they were released. Even though the people behind the videos would like you to believe they are a totally different organization than the Live Action crew that first publicized the initial footage—a group that is known for its history of misleading “sting” campaigns—this all fits the Live Action pattern: The release of a supposed exposé of Planned Parenthood causes a splash in the media, there’s an inevitable debunking, followed by less successful attempts by Live Action to publicize more videos making similarly fishy claims. In fact, as I argued last week, this pattern has repeated itself so many times that the Live Action brand is hopelessly tainted now, which is likely why a “new” organization that uses the same people and same tactics has popped up. It also helps explain how, just like last week, Live Action was the one to “break” this latest news, putting up a post about the video within an hour of it going up on YouTube. 

While this new video is kicking off another round of disingenuous posturing from Republican officials and demands to “investigate” the noncrime of donating fetal tissue, the real story here is not unethical behavior on the part of Planned Parenthood, but on the part of anti-choice activists. As Eli Clifton and I reported for the Nation last week, CMP shares leadership with the radical anti-choice organization Operation Rescue that devoted itself to harassing George Tiller until he was murdered by one of its regular activists in 2009. (Operation Rescue’s senior policy advisor Cheryl Sullenger also did time for an attempted clinic bombing in the 1980s.) These folks promise they have more videos coming, of course. That’s what Live Action always promised and it’s no surprise that their apparent spinoff would do the same. What would be a surprise is if any of these videos actually showed any wrongdoing.