When Lila Rose started releasing yet another set of her “exposes” of Planned Parenthood, pro-choice activists could be excused for rolling their eyes. Rose has been doing this for roughly forever, and it tends to go nowhere, because she uses deceptive editing and blatant lying, and there was no reason for us to believe it would be different this time. And on that front, it wasn’t. But what was different was that Rose coordinated her attack with a larger anti-choice push on accessible contraception and STD testing through Planned Parenthood. And this time, the “abortion” cover story is barely being used—anti-choicers are really coming out of the closet on their opposition to anything that minimizes negative outcomes of sex for young and impoverished women, even if there’s no chance of a fetal life being terminated. Sure, there’s a formal mention of abortion in Mike Pence’s bill to deny funding to Planned Parenthood and other Title X providers, but it’s just a formality at this point. Few are pretending this is about abortion, since none of that funding supports abortion, and most of it would actually prevent abortion. Rose’s videos support this—there’s equal attention paid to scandalizing the audience with the revelation that young people have access to contraception and STD testing as there is to floating the scare term “abortion.”
When you have that kind of coordination, it doesn’t matter how deceptive or asinine Lila Rose’s “exposes” are. Right wing media, especially Fox News, stays on-message, and the talking points this month are to say and do anything to smear Planned Parenthood, and by implication, smear sexually active women who lean on Planned Parenthood for their medical care. So, even though Rose’s second video shows no wrongdoing whatsoever, it’s being pumped all over Fox News as if it did. Sadly, gullible viewers probably do buy Fox News lying and suggesting young women don’t have a right to medical confidentiality or to appeal to the courts for safe abortions. Nor were viewers properly informed that Planned Parenthood immediately turned in the potential sex traffickers, or that the employee in the first video flouted Planned Parenthood policy, which is evident from the video, and the employee telling the actors that most of the rest of the office should be avoided because they, you know, follow procedures and don’t break the law.
There is, at this point, no reason for any mainstream media outlet to bite when Lila Rose or one of her comrades, most notably James O’Keefe, puts out a video claiming to say anything. (And there was, thankfully, some skepticism from mainstream media sources, though not enough.) O’Keefe is a known liar, as is Andrew Breitbart, who promoted the videos. O’Keefe also has a history of virulent misogyny, most notably when he concocted a scheme to trap a reporter in a situation that seemed a lot like it was going to be a rape in order to humiliate her by showing her begging to be set free. (Not sure why this would be humiliating for anyone but O’Keefe, but again, it just shows what a misogynist he is.) O’Keefe helped Rose get her start, which just gives you a good idea of how this whole project of hers in grounded in misogyny, dirty tricks, and blatant lying.
And sure enough, it didn’t take long for the evidence to come out that Live Action is doctoring footage, in this case to reinforce the already-bogus narrative that there’s something wrong with informing young people of their full legal rights.
Sex. Abortion. Parenthood. Power.
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But even without this, you can point to multiple ways that Rose’s videos are dishonest and therefore not fit for mainstream media news, which is supposed to be fact-based.
The biggest lies in the videos are lies of omission. Rose implies heavily in the videos that Planned Parenthood “cooperated” with alleged sex traffickers, but no where in the video does she mention that Planned Parenthood called the FBI and reported the supposed sex traffickers, usually as soon as they left. This is a pretty big lie, since this fact proves that Planned Parenthood did the exact opposite of what Rose claims they did. You don’t call the cops on someone you’re “cooperating” with. In a pathetic attempt to salvage this lie, Rose suggested that if they were really serious about stopping pimps, they would have usurped the police’s authority and detained the actors, something that is possibly illegal (interfering with an investigation) and, if the person in question really was a dangerous pimp, very dangerous. No serious grown-up can buy this excuse for maintaining such a big lie.
Then there’s lie of implying that the one employee they did catch doing something wrong is indicative of the entire organization of 11,000 employees. Omitting 11,000 employees who’ve done nothing wrong is a pretty big lie of omission. Even the woman caught on tape couldn’t omit such a huge chunk of people, as noted before, and she complains about them and how they actually do their jobs properly.
Then there’s the lie of implication. The videos, especially after the first one, only work to scandalize if you believe that young people don’t have rights. If you believe, incorrectly, that a minor can’t get contraception, STD testing, or accurate information about your legal rights without parental notification, maybe these videos would scandalize you. Rose and Fox News go out of their way to imply that the offers of non-abortion reproductive care to minors are somehow outside the law. The reality is that these are the rights of young people. That many conservatives don’t believe that young people should have human rights doesn’t mean that those rights don’t exist.
When will we stop letting a handful of dishonest sadists capture so much of the media’s attention in their quest to shut down basic, necessary services to some of the most vulnerable people in our society? There’s a lot of real news going on now, and all the time, and that deserves our attention instead of these side shows based on lies and paranoia.