During last week’s Republican debate on CNN, Carly Fiorina memorably described watching a video featuring “a fully formed fetus on the table, its heart beating, its legs kicking, while someone says we have to keep it alive to harvest its brain.” The problem is that no one can find this scene as described in any of the Planned Parenthood “sting” videos made by the Center for Medical Progress, which we all presume is what Fiorina was talking about.
You get a shot of a fetus that is moving slightly on a table, labeled “Courtesy of Grantham Collection & Center for Bio-Ethical Reform.” You get another shot of a fetus in someone’s hand. You get a woman telling a story about how she was in a room when someone was talking about procuring brains. But there is not and continues to be no scene capturing people, presumably Planned Parenthood employees, standing over a kicking fetus and saying they want to keep it alive to “harvest its brain.” If such footage existed, Fiorina and the CMP would produce it.
That they haven’t might be because the images weren’t filmed by CMP. One comes from the Grantham Collection, an anti-choice organization that goes so far as to intimidate women with pictures of syringes, which, as we all know, you never need encounter if you bring a pregnancy to term. There’s no actual reason to believe these images are from an abortion; they could very well be from a stillbirth, as OB-GYN Jen Gunter explained on her blog. One of them is definitely from a stillbirth.
If you want to be generous to Fiorina, you could say she misremembered what she saw. But that doesn’t explain why she doubled down when her error was pointed out. “False memory” is no longer a viable excuse.
Fiorina’s defensiveness is not a good look, but it’s hard not to feel a twinge of pity for her. After all, every single Republican in the race flagrantly lies about Planned Parenthood. Ted Cruz falsely claimed they confessed to “multiple felonies.” Jeb Bush falsely claimed that Planned Parenthood is “not actually doing women’s health issues.” Marco Rubio said that Planned Parenthood “created an incentive for people not just to look forward to having more abortions, but being able to sell that fetal tissue,” as if women were bringing in fetuses and exchanging them for cash. The conspiracy theories are getting more complex and bizarre by the minute.
In this atmosphere, Fiorina must feel like she’s being unfairly singled out unfairly. She of sort saw something that looked like the scene she described, if you squint and hum 99 Bottles of Beer really loudly while watching the video. She only 90 percent lied, unlike some of her colleagues, who went all the way.