By now, the basic outline of this week’s Planned Parenthood controversy is probably familiar to most news consumers. A right-wing group released a sting video – as right-wing groups are wont to do – featuring a Planned Parenthood official talking candidly about fetal tissue, which prompted a conservative uproar.
Soon after, we came to realize that the right-wing group edited the video in a misleading way– as right-wing groups are wont to do – and the “controversy” didn’t amount to much of anything. It’s not clear why the Washington Post put the story literally on the front page, since there are no credible allegations of wrongdoing. Mother Jones’ Kevin Drum called it a “nothingburger,” adding, “In the end, this is just another sad attempt at a sting video that goes nowhere once you get beyond the deceptive editing.”
Planned Parenthood president Cecile Richards officially responded to the story yesterday, explaining that the organization did nothing wrong, though she acknowledged that the Planned Parenthood official featured in the sting video spoke with a “tone” that was “unacceptable.”
In theory, that should effectively end the controversy, such as it was, and since my wife works for Planned Parenthood – her work is completely unrelated to fetal tissue and she played no role in this report – I was prepared to look past it altogether. But a Roll Call article yesterday pushed the story in an unexpected direction: some congressional Republicans have known about the video for weeks.
Rep. Tim Murphy, a member of the House Pro-Life Caucus and chairman of the Energy and Commerce subcommittee looking into the video, said at a Wednesday news conference he’d seen the clip weeks before.
Asked afterward why he and others waited until this week to take action, Murphy struggled for an answer before abruptly ending the interview with CQ Roll Call, saying he should not be quoted and remarking, “This interview didn’t happen.”
Well, actually, it did happen, and members of Congress can’t talk to reporters, then retroactively pretend they didn’t.
In this case, Roll Call asked why the story, if it’s as scandalous as Republicans are now claiming, didn’t break immediately. If GOP lawmakers consider the revelations an outrage, why did some members say nothing for nearly a month?
Rep. Tim Murphy (R-Pa.), before pretending the interview “didn’t happen,” said, “Um, I don’t know why. All I know is I saw it and he said he was going to post it eventually, so that’s all I know.”
Rep. Trent Franks (R-Ariz.), one of Congress’ most strident opponents of reproductive rights, also said he first saw the video about a month ago, but also said nothing. “The hope was to have as much information as possible so that the authorities could be notified effectively before the media,” Franks argued yesterday.
It’s a curious argument. Republicans have spent the week characterizing this as a potentially criminal scandal, but when some far-right lawmakers saw the video weeks ago, they didn’t feel the need to do much of anything – they didn’t run to the GOP leadership to demand action; they didn’t call allies in conservative media; they didn’t hold a press conference to express outrage. If they genuinely saw the video as proof of illegal Planned Parenthood activities, notifying the “authorities” could have happened immediately.
But it didn’t. So what is this really all about? Consider this Politico report published overnight:
Republicans on Capitol Hill are betting the secretly filmed Planned Parenthood video — depicting an executive allegedly discussing the sale of fetal organs from terminated pregnancies — will give them cover to more aggressively push abortion issues without the political ramifications that have haunted the party in the past. […]
[Iowa Republican Steve King] was one of the first lawmakers to urge the defunding of low-income housing group ACORN, which went belly up following similar undercover videos suggesting criminal activity.
To this day, he keeps a tiny acorn in his pocket to remember his crusade. Now, he’s got his eyes on another organization. “This represents ACORN’s scalp,” King said off the House floor Thursday, pulling the acorn out of his pocket. “Ask me after the appropriations cycle and see if I have a talisman in my pocket for Planned Parenthood’s.”
Ah, there it is. Republicans don’t have proof of Planned Parenthood wrongdoing, but rather, have a desire to claim a “scalp.” When the GOP went after women’s healthcare in 2012, it backfired on the party, so Republicans hope a misleading video will offer new opportunities to try the same move again.
Those who were inclined to take the story seriously should probably adjust their perspective accordingly.
Postscript: The video released by the Center for Medical Progress doesn’t show Planned Parenthood doing anything illegal, but whether the video itself was recorded illegally is a separate matter.
By: Steve Benen, The Maddow Blog, July 17, 2015
Since Republican National Committee chairman Reince Priebus introduced the “Growth and Opportunity Project” in mid-March, the party has proven over and over and over again that it just isn’t ready to change.
The latest example of the GOP being intellectually and politically stuck in the 2012 presidential primaries comes courtesy of one of the stars of those disastrous contests: former Pennsylvania senator Rick Santorum. According to Santorum, the Republican Party’s path to revitalization is not a new round of engagement with women, young voters, and other groups that delivered an electoral landslide to President Barack Obama in November. No, Santorum has a different plan for saving the GOP: defunding Planned Parenthood.
The Raw Story reports that Santorum presented his three-point plan to save the party in a fundraising email over the weekend: mobilizing “pro-family conservatives,” “refuting the lies and half-truths that our detractors in the GOP are spreading about us,” and attacking the women’s’ health care provider.
“[W]e are going to push Republican congressional leaders to defund the monstrosity that is Planned Parenthood,” Santorum wrote. “Too many in the GOP want to ignore the millions of innocent lives that have been extinguished by this vile organization. Defunding Planned Parenthood is a winning issue. The polls prove it.”
In reality, polls prove the exact opposite — Americans oppose cutting the organization’s budget, and there’s reason to believe that Mitt Romney’s insistence on attacking Planned Parenthood cost him dearly on election night — but it comes as no surprise that Santorum, who lost his last general election by 17 points, would ignore the numbers.
But Santorum’s plan could signal a serious problem for the Republican Party. Despite the RNC’s effort to moderate the GOP’s tone with an eye towards the 2016 election, it’s clear that extreme right-wing rhetoric will still play a major role as the party settles on a nominee. In fact, Santorum himself may be the messenger once again.
All of the rebranding efforts in the world — even the NRCC’s nifty new website, which features a BuzzFeed-style “13 Animals That Are Really Bummed About Obamacare” listicle (but almost no mention of the word “Republican”) — won’t make a difference as long as the party is represented by ambassadors like Rick Santorum.
By: Henry Decker, The National Memo, April 8, 2013
It’s hard to overstate just how dire the situation is around women’s health care in Texas. The state has the third highest rate of cervical cancer in the country and one in four women are uninsured. After cutting family-planning funding by around two-thirds last legislative session, conservative lawmakers are now standing by their decision to cut off Planned Parenthood from the state’s Women’s Health Program, a move that ended $35 million in federal funding. (Here’s a timeline of the fight.) Governor Rick Perry, who bragged about the decision at the recent CPAC conference, has said he’ll find the money to keep the program—while still barring Planned Parenthood. No one seems to know exactly where he’ll find the money, given that the state has already underfunded Medicaid by $4 billion last session.
In the meantime, Planned Parenthood, which serves 40 percent of the 130,000 who rely on the Women’s Health Program, has already had to shut down more than a dozen clinics. Non-Planned Parenthood clinics, which may still be eligible for the program if the governor finds the money, are also struggling due to the drastic budget cuts to the program, and soon they may face increased demand. In spite of it all, women’s health advocates promise this fight is just beginning.
More than 300 protesters arrived on Tuesday to welcome Planned Parenthood’s “Women’s Health Express” bus (or as the organization’s president Cecile Richards calls it, the “don’t-throw-women-under-the-bus bus.”) After stopping at cities around the state, the entourage arrived across from the state capitol to protest new policies. It was diverse, both in terms of age and ethnicity, as were the speakers on stage, almost all of whom were female. It was also the second protest of the day—100 women showed up earlier as part of a weekly protest against the decision called “Seeing Red.”
The signs were quite creative. Planned Parenthood had some stating “Don’t Mess With Texas Women” or “No to metas con las mujeres de Tejas.” Then there were the homemade ones: “Dump Anita’s Husband” “Perry screws 130,000 women so who’s the slut?” and, possibly the funniest, “If men could get pregnant, birth control would be available in gumball machines.”
The program featured women who used the Women’s Health Program. At first, Delia Henry read nervously from a script, telling her story of relying on Planned Parenthood for information about her sexual health when her single father was too embarrassed to talk to her. Later, as part of the Women’s Health Program, she discovered she had diabetes during a routine blood test. “This program saved my life,” she said to applause.
In the crowd were women with similar stories. Sarah Jeansonne was there with her two daughters, explaining to them that politicians were trying to take away health care for women. The issue was hardly just politics for her. “It was a public clinic that told me I was pregnant with this one,” she said, caressing her daughter’s blonde hair. “It wasn’t planned. What if that wasn’t there?” She began to tear up.
“We all used Planned Parenthood at one time,” Jeansonne’s friend Kelly Taggle said. “Something has to fill in the gaps.”
The program featured everything from country singers to the Austin mayor, but undoubtedly the crowd favorite was state Representative Dawna Dukes, in red patent leather pumps to show she was “seeing red.” Dukes began with a story of getting excited to speak at her church, founded by her grandmother and where all her siblings had been married. Then she was told she could not speak. At first it was out of fear the church would appear to favor one candidate over another. “I’m unopposed,” she told the crowd.
Later, she said, the church called her back to tell her the U.S. Congress of Bishops barred her from speaking because she supported the Women’s Health Program on her website.
“I’m mad as hell,” she thundered. “I have not the time to go round and round and neither do Texas women.”
Dukes excoriated the governor, pointing out that the state’s Legislative Budget Board, the independent board that runs the state’s calculations, had called the program the most cost effective in Texas and recommended it be expanded. While Perry blames the Obama administration for the change in rules, Dukes was quick to point out that the rules for the program were conceived in 2007, under then-President George W. Bush. “Don’t blame Barack,” she said as the crowd cheered. “Blame your stupid recommendations under the Capitol dome!”
By the time Planned Parenthood President Cecile Richards took the stage, the clapping was pretty much nonstop. Richards kept her remarks short. “We do more to prevent unintended pregnancies than any organization in the country,” she said, a frequent point among the speakers.
Then she moved to politics. “We’re the biggest tent,” she said. “By God, women’s health care does not come with a political label.”
We talked yesterday about the latest conservative activism against the Girl Scouts: Indiana state Rep. Bob Morris’ (R) strident opposition to the group, which he believes has been “radicalized” to promote abortion and homosexuality. Morris added that he believes the Girl Scouts have been “subverted in the name of liberal progressive politics and the destruction of traditional American family values.”
After controversial remarks by one Republican lawmaker attacking Girl Scouts as a radical group that supports abortion, House Speaker Brian Bosma made his feelings clear Tuesday, one Thin Mint cookie at a time.
Bosma, R-Indianapolis, pointedly offered Girl Scout cookies throughout the day and munched them as he presided over the House. […]
Bosma … clearly wanted people to know he didn’t share Morris’ views. At one point Tuesday, he told House colleagues he had “purchased 278 cases of Girl Scout cookies in the last 48 hours.”
And when time came for the House to adjourn, he asked all lawmakers who had been Girl Scouts — and seemingly every female legislator stood — to give the daily motion to adjourn.
When a conservative Republican state House Speaker is making fun one of his own caucus’ members, it’s clear even the GOP in a reliably-red state was embarrassed by Morris’ antics.
For his part, Morris was asked for proof yesterday to support his claim that the Girl Scouts support abortion rights. “They’re not against it,” he said. “If you’re not against it, you’re for it.”
Deana Potterf, director of communications for Girl Scouts of Central Indiana, told the Indianapolis Star that the organization does not address issues regarding homosexuality, abortion and sex. “Any kind of those issues are best left to the girls to talk with their families about,” Potterf said.
By: Steve Benen, The Maddow Blog, February 22, 2012
Girl Scouts: “A Radicalized Organization Promoting Homosexual Lifestyles And Funding Planned Parenthood”
Next time you buy a box of Tagalongs, you might be helping to fund an abortion.
Or, at least, that’s what one Republican lawmaker in Indiana might have you believe. State Rep. Bob Morris (R) wants to kill a resolution honoring the Girl Scouts because they are a “radicalized organization” that promotes “homosexual lifestyles” and funds Planned Parenthood.
In a letter to his fellow Republicans on Saturday, Morris said he would refuse to support a resolution celebrating 100 years of the organization because “after talking to some well-informed constituents, I did a small amount of web-based research, and what I found is disturbing.”
The letter, obtained by the Fort Wayne Journal-Gazette, says that the Girl Scouts of America and the World Association of Girl Guides “have entered into a close strategic affiliation with Planned Parenthood,” though “you will not find evidence of this on the GSA/WAGGGS website—in fact, the websites of these two organizations explicitly deny funding Planned Parenthood.”
“Nonetheless, abundant evidence proves that the agenda of Planned Parenthood includes sexualizing young girls through the Girl Scouts, which is quickly becoming a tactical arm of Planned Parenthood,” Morris wrote. “Planned Parenthood instructional series and pamphlets are part of the core curriculum at GSA training seminars.”
He continues that the Girl Scouts also let in boys “who decide to claim a ‘transgender’ or cross-dressing life-style” and, in general, promote being gay. “Many parents are abandoning the Girl Scouts because they promote homosexual lifestyles,” Morris said. “In fact, the Girl Scouts education seminar girls are directed to study the example of role models. Of the fifty role models listed, only three have a briefly-mentioned religious background – all the rest are feminists, lesbians, or Communists.”
“As members of the Indiana House of Representatives, we must be wise before we use the credibility and respect of the ‘Peoples’ House’ to extend legitimacy to a radicalized organization,” he continued. “The Girl Scouts of America stand in a strong tradition that reflects with fidelity the traditional values of our homes and our families.”
Cathy Ritchie, of the Girl Scouts of Central Indiana, laughed off Morris when she heard about his letter. “I think perhaps he hasn’t done all of his research,” Ritchie told Eagle Country Online. “There is no relationship between Girls Scouts of the U.S.A. or Girl Scouts of Central Indiana to Planned Parenthood.”
Morris was the only one to refuse to sign the resolution, the Associated Press reports.
This is not the first time the Girl Scouts have been accused of a nefarious liberal agenda. In December, Fox News and some right-wing bloggers charged them with being part of a lefty conspiracy because of a section in the Girl Scouts’ media guide that advises readers to use sites like MediaMatters (“clearly a lefty blog,” as Steve Doocy of Fox & Friends put it) to fact-check what they read on the Internet.
By: Jillian Rayfield, Talking Points Memo, February 21, 2012