Debunking the Planned Parenthood Video Hoax

On this episode of Reality Cast, host Amanda Marcotte digs into the furor over the hoax video accusing Planned Parenthood of selling fetal tissue, and is joined by Hannah Groch-Begley of Media Matters, who analyzes how that video lied.

Read more of our articles on the misleading Center for Medical Progress video here.

Related Links

Abortion regret isn’t a thing

Cecile Richards responds

Bill O’Reilly goes extra sleazy

Right-wing pornography, indeed

Alex Wagner sets the record straight

No surprise: Planned Parenthood “sting” video is deceitful

Marco Rubio rewrites history

The religious right started off as a pro-segregation movement

Rick Perry continues to be full of it

Rick Santorum admits that it’s all about controlling other people’s sex lives

Supposed evils of contraception


On this episode of Reality Cast, I’ll dig into the furor over that hoax video accusing Planned Parenthood of selling fetal tissue, complete with an interview with a representative of Media Matters analyzing how that video lied. Also, National Right to Life had a conference, with lots of dishonest speakers.

But before we start tackling lurid right-wing nonsense, a small study reminding us what the real world looks like.

  • Regret *

Since a lot of anti-choice rhetoric these days is about how women have to be prevented from getting abortions to protect them from regret, knowing that just isn’t a thing is a useful and crucial piece of information. Not that the truth ever stopped a right-wing legend, as the rest of this podcast will sadly demonstrate.


No doubt listeners of this show in particular are well aware that a group that claims not to be Live Action but staffed by Live Action people and who publishes through Live Action put out a video using Live Action’s M.O. for attacking Planned Parenthood. Step one: Get an undercover interview with someone who works for Planned Parenthood under false pretenses. Step two: Publish a highly edited version of it that makes a bunch of lurid but utterly false accusations. Step three: Within moments of publishing it, start accusing the media of “ignoring” the story, in hopes that they will scramble to cover it without doing even basic research. Step four: Posture in public about how outraged you are and how there needs to be an investigation and defunding, as irresponsible journalists take your bait, publishing stories that report on the quote-unquote “controversy” without taking even an hour to verify if any of your claims have merit. Step five: Retreat from public view as more responsible journalists start debunking your lies, knowing that no matter how thoroughly they debunk your lie, it will live on for years as right-wing legend.

This time the lie was that Planned Parenthood was selling fetal tissue from abortions, which is illegal. It was a lie, a total lie. The video showed an interview with a doctor explaining how Planned Parenthood, with patient consent, donates fetal tissue to medical research for things like Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s. They edited all the stuff out about donation and disease and instead made it seem like she was selling fetal organs for scary unknown purposes, possibly for eating during Satanic rituals. The luridness of the accusations should have been enough for journalists to not run with the “accusations were made” story without taking 10 minutes to see if there was any, you know, validity to the accusations. But sadly, that didn’t happen, and the first debunkings didn’t come out until hours after the story was published in the New York Times and Washington Post, giving it enough time to get traction.

The good news is, I think, that the debunkings are starting to take and most reasonable people are embarrassed for ever thinking for a moment that this was anything but a hoax. Cecile Richards of Planned Parenthood also hit the right note in her video response.

  • PPFA 1 *

The only thing I’d add is that Live Action, who technically didn’t make this video but was clearly involved and who was the first to release it, doesn’t just oppose legal abortion. Their president, Lila Rose, has been up front on multiple occasions about her objections to contraception, which she says that contraception was “promised to eliminate the exploitative attitude of men toward women” but that it had “the opposite effect.” That’s right. The people behind this video think that if you choose to have sex with a man for fun instead of procreation, then he is exploiting you. And they call us man-haters. I believe the reason they hate Planned Parenthood so much has as much, if not more, to do with birth control than abortion.

As you can imagine, the utter falsity of the video did not stop the folks at Fox, uh, News from striking a bunch of phony outraged poses. Like Bill O’Reilly, who had David Daleiden, the guy in the video, on his show. Daleiden shamelessly lied, saying Planned Parenthood sells fetal body parts, which is, without any doubt now, a complete and total lie for which there is no evidence whatsoever. After letting this man with no moral character whatsoever lie shamelessly on his show, O’Reilly got into a snit.

  • PPFA 2 *

You’ll notice that O’Reilly was afraid to say that this is true, because he probably knows it’s a lie. But that bit of ass-covering is not good enough. He allows Daleiden to lie at length on his show, without a single bit of fact-checking or correction. That is deeply, deeply immoral, not that it surprises me, coming from O’Reilly.

Megyn Kelly tried a similar thing, trying to squeeze this story for maximum impact while carefully not saying if she thought it was true, because she knows it is not.

  • PPFA 3 *

Yes, yes, the people who made this video are lying liars who lie for a living, but let’s make this about someone’s tone. Someone who doesn’t lie. Someone who helps people for a living. Someone who was on video talking about how she helps women who are having abortions feel that some good has come out of it, by donating the tissue to science that goes on to help people. Let’s make this about her tone. Because otherwise we might have to talk about issues of substance, such as why a video that is nothing but a sack of lies is getting so much attention and outrage. Luckily, Robert Zimmerman of the DNC was on and he did not mince words.

  • PPFA 4 *

Of course she interrupts him, because he’s speaking truth. And it is right-wing pornography. Kelly’s own titillated tone that pretended to be outrage shows how true that is. The fantasies about body parts and babies and evil is just that, a fantasy. A titillating fantasy that both gets them excited and justifies hating this group they hate for irrational reasons, mostly having to do with anger that other people are having sex and not asking their permission first. That is what is morally disgusting, not women in a hard situation of abortion deciding to donate the tissue instead of throwing it out.

I’ll give the last word on this segment to Alex Wagner of MSNBC, who explained what exactly this tissue is used for.

  • PPFA 5 *

If this video means you think we shouldn’t have vaccines or treatment for cancer or diabetes, by all means, go ahead and refuse those treatments. But don’t impose your irrationality on the rest of us.




National Right to Life had a conference last weekend in New Orleans, and regular listeners will not be surprised to find out that the eleven billionty Republican candidates for president showed up to preen about how they will outdo each other in showing quote-unquote “compassion” for women by stripping away basic human rights. Unsurprisingly, their remarks were self-serving nonsense full of lies and misinformation. Some of it was so self-deluding that it was actually funny, such as Marco Rubio’s attempt at soaring rhetoric.

  • NRLC 1 *

Ha, yeah, no. I think it hardly bears mentioning, but the anti-abortion movement is a right-wing movement. They are the people who worked and continue to work in opposition to all those movements he mentioned. The anti-abortion movement grew out of the pro-segregation movement, in fact. In show links, I have a historical piece written by Randall Balmer that lays out exactly how pro-segregationists, looking to increase their power and take the Christian right in a new direction, latched onto abortion as an issue. Basically, the same people who organized to create white-only schools in the South, after a couple of defeats in the courts, decided to take their organizations and turn it to abortion. That’s why, I believe, a lot of the legal tactics employed by segregationists seem a lot like the ones employed now by anti-choicers, particularly in terms of creating laws that claim to be about one thing but really are about enforcing their reactionary views on the public. Anyway, not to belabor the point, but comparing the anti-abortion movement to the civil rights movement is not only false, but an inverse of reality, where the anti-abortion movement was the very same people who made up the pro-segregation movement.

That ugly history is important to keep in mind when listening to Rick Perry’s statements.

  • NRLC 2 *

It should be self-evident that anti-choicers do not want to heal bupkis. On the contrary, this entire fight is 100 percent, one thousand percent their fault. If they could learn to mind their own business and not try to control and punish other people for having sex, this wouldn’t be a problem. If they would let women use contraception and abortion as we see fit, there would be no battle. If they stopped trying to hijack health classes to push their anti-sex agenda, this would all be over. If they literally could just let other people, people they don’t even know, live our lives in peace, this would all go away. But they refuse. So are they for peace and healing? No, they are for pain, and increasing it, by forcing women to have children they do not want and cannot care for. If you want to stop being accused of waging war on women, start by not waging war on women.

He had more to say, sadly.

  • NRLC 3 *

Research shows that showing a woman a sonogram image of her pregnancy does not influence her decision to abort or keep the pregnancy. That’s because, while Rick Perry may think women are stupid, women are not actually stupid. We know what’s in there when we get pregnant, a developing embryo and fetus. The way he talks, you’d think we think we have a bushel of oranges up there or something. Women are not stupid. I feel that this might be a major case of projection with right-wingers, honestly.

Leave it to Rick Santorum, however, to really get a head of steam going on how evil and wrong it is for other people to do sex in ways he doesn’t approve of. He comforted the poor, suffering anti-choicers, knowing as he does that they are all furious about gay marriage.

  • NRLC 4 *

I will say this: At least Santorum can barely be bothered with the pretense that this is about “life”, much less “protecting women.” He really comes out with it there: The objection to same-sex marriage and the objection to abortion rights is about being angry, downright furious, that other people have sex in ways and for reasons he doesn’t like. He can’t believe that we are allowed to decide our lives for ourselves, when he thinks that authority belongs to Rick Santorum. I’ve never heard him make a good argument for why Rick Santorum should be the boss of my sex life or your sex life or whatever. Just some noises about God and nature that don’t make sense, especially when you realize that when he talks about what “God” thinks, he means what Rick Santorum thinks. I suppose that’s the narcissism we’re dealing with. Of course someone who thinks he should be able to dictate your sex life also thinks that he knows, without a shred of evidence of support, what God thinks. Not that it matters. We live in a secular democracy, not a theocracy, so whether you believe Rick Santorum is God or not, it doesn’t matter. You can’t impose your religion on others. We still have a First Amendment, even if it’s being chipped away at day by day.


And now for the Wisdom of Wingnuts, they just keep getting bolder about opposing contraception edition. This is Jennifer Roback Morse of the Ruth Institute, talking about how contraception supposedly ruined everything.

  • Morse *

That is, needless to say, not true. Not just the weird fourth-graders thing, either. The argument for contraception was never intended to limit it to married couples for health reasons. Yes, the Supreme Court decision that first legalized contraception was limited to married couples, but they weren’t told they had to give a reason for using contraception. The whole point was they had a right to privacy that protected them from having to justify themselves. A few years later, the Court reasonably agreed that single people also have a right to privacy. But of course the right has never respected the idea that other people have a right to make private choices that don’t affect them for ourselves.