Chief Political Correspondent
In July 2010, Department of Agriculture official Shirley Sherrod was forced to resign after videos surfaced of her appearing to admit during a speech to the NAACP that she did not do everything in her power to help a white farmer keep his farm simply because he was white. After outrage about what appeared to be a confession of racism getting in the way of her responsibilities, Sherrod was denounced by the media, the NAACP, and the Obama administration and subsequently lost her job.
Less than a year earlier, videos were released showing low-level officials at the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now (more commonly known as ACORN) providing clients with advice on how to evade taxes and carry out solicitation of prostitution without getting caught.
Unsurprisingly, nationwide condemnation of the organization followed the release of these videos, and ACORN permanently closed soon afterwards. The loss of ACORN was very unfortunate as it was a service whose primary focus was helping low-income individuals with voter registration, affordable housing, healthcare, and a myriad of other social services.
By time the news got wind of the true story behind the heavily edited videos, it was too late. As it turned out, Breitbart only showed a small snippet of Sherrod’s speech and it turned out that she did do everything in her power and saved the white man’s farm. Breitbart edited the video to intentionally take her words out of context, changing her original message of overcoming personal prejudices to one that makes her appear racist. As for the ACORN tapes, O’Keefe later admitted that the videos were very heavily edited and that he lied in order to achieve his goal of destroying ACORN. Why O’Keefe is not in prison is beyond my comprehension, but thankfully he was forced to pay several hundred thousand dollars to ACORN employees.
The media made the mistake of trusting the conservative activists who were intent on destroying the subjects of their videos. News organizations all over America mistakenly believed that these activists with a clear agenda cared about journalistic integrity. It appears that they are making the same mistake with the Planned Parenthood videos released by the ironically named Center for Medical Progress, a very notorious anti-choice group.
The Planned Parenthood story is based solely off the videos from CMP, a group whose core mission focuses on bringing down Planned Parenthood, similar to O'Keefe's goal of eliminating ACORN. There has been no investigation into the videos portraying Planned Parenthood officials discussing the sale of fetal tissue for medical research and profiting off of it. Until there is an investigation, Democrats in Congress should fight to defend Planned Parenthood, which is respect that they failed to show to ACORN.
Because the media is trusting CMP and are consistently reporting their findings to the public unchallenged, a swift knee-jerk reaction has followed, not unlike the ones that destroyed Sherrod and ACORN. After the videos of ACORN surfaced in 2009, Congressional Republicans promptly demanded all funding from the organization be stripped. The same thing is happening again with Planned Parenthood, as Republicans in Congress have already attempted to defund it in wake of the videos. However, they are going one step further with Planned Parenthood than they did with ACORN, and that is by threatening to shut down the government (AGAIN!) if they do not get their way.
I expect this kind of behavior from Congress, but the media has a responsibility to be impartial. It should bother anybody, whether they are pro or anti abortion, that the media is treating videos from an organization with a clear anti-choice agenda as legitimate undercover journalism without impartially investigating a single one of the claims beforehand. They were fooled once and twice in span of less than a year, and five years later it appears they are getting fooled a third time.
We know nothing about the veracity of the footage from these videos. Planned Parenthood is too important for millions and millions of American women to be destined to the same fate as ACORN. If the media continues to treat these videos as true undercover journalism, it is possible that millions of women will lose their primary source of healthcare.
There are a number of reasons to suspect that these videos are heavily edited to progress CMP’s agenda. First of all, the group claims to have several videos showing Planned Parenthood officials discussing and engaging in the sale of fetal tissue. However, they are waiting to release several of these videos, as they claim that "several more videos are on the way."
Why is CMP waiting? They have nothing to gain by withholding videos from the public. The only reason for the group to hold back in releasing any of the videos is because they need more time in the editing room. None of the videos that have been released to the media are the untouched originals. Until the group hands over the original, straight-off-the-camcorder, video files to investigators, there is no reason the media (or anyone else) should be paying attention to this story.
Secondly, there has been no investigation of any kind into whether or not the people on camera in the videos were being pressured by the people behind the camera to says things, true or untrue, to damage the organization. Even among the heavily edited footage, there has not been a confirmation that the claims by the alleged Planned Parenthood employees are actually true. Nothing about the videos has been verified, as was the case with ACORN years ago.
I am not saying that nothing shown in the videos is true, because neither I nor anyone else knows at this point. Even if the claims are verified, there is a good case to be made that using fetal tissue for medical research with the purpose of finding cures for a number of diseases is an honorable practice. But before jumping to conclusions like in the cases of the Sherrod and ACORN videos, we should wait for an unbiased investigation by real journalists to verify whether or not CMP’s claims are true. Because for all we know, the people at CMP may just be a club of James O’Keefes.