What we have embedded here is one of the worst pieces of journalism I've ever seen. I probably shouldn't announce this, lest tmatt tell me to pack my bags, but I rarely if ever watch broadcast or cable news. I read my news online. The last time I watched ABC News was probably in the 1980s. But I was notified that the ABC piece was bad and so I searched it out. I almost wish I hadn't. The performance of the mainstream media over this Komen funding issue has not reflected well on journalism in general. Let's set the current scene on coverage of abortion and related issues. You'll recall that just last week we looked at how some mainstream media outlets handled their reports on the annual March for Life. Though the crowd was large (some estimates were in the hundreds of thousands), the local CBS affiliate published a slide show that featured not a single picture of a pro-lifer. Instead, they photographed and rephotographed the same small handful (maybe as many as a dozen) supporters of legalized abortion. Only after mass outrage (and three days) did they find and include any other pictures. The Washington Post ombudsman chastised his paper's coverage and the photo editor dismissed "this crowd" as impossible to satisfy.
We recently learned of the significant ruling from the Obama administration that Catholic charities (including educational institutions and hospitals that serve the most needy) would be forced under threat of massive fines to offer health insurance benefits that deeply violate church teachings, including contraception, sterilization and abortifacients. The news was covered, a bit. But none of the networks covered the news when it broke, and, according to one media watchdog, still haven't! In general, the coverage has been surprisingly restrained, even though 142 bishops (some 80% of dioceses) have vociferously condemned this action.
OK, let's look at what happened when Susan G. Komen decided to stop giving the country's largest provider of abortions, the $1 billion Planned Parenthood, less than $700,000 in grants. You can watch, for instance, this "interview" of the Komen founder Amb. Nancy Brinker by MSNBC's Andrea Mitchell where Andrea Mitchell just monologues about how devastated she is by the decision and barely lets the woman speak. (It's embedded below, too) Every time Brinker tries to speak, she is interrupted by Mitchell. She tries to explain that the Planned Parenthood grants weren't meeting criteria for effectiveness but Mitchell interrupts her. She explains that Planned Parenthood only offers pass-throughs -- sending women to other places that can test them -- and that they'd prefer to fund groups that directly provide services. She gets interrupted by a deeply hurt and personally offended Mitchell. At one point, Mitchell asks how, if the group is supposed to be bi-partisan, could they hire a pro-life individual who doesn't love Planned Parenthood. (I'm not joking. Apparently bi-partisan means Democrats and Republicans who love Planned Parenthood.) If you doubt me about how biased this piece is, you can see how the blog Jezebel cheers Mitchell on as "completely schooling Brinker on where she and her foundation went wrong. Boom."
Now the Mitchell piece is really bad journalism -- it's not journalism at all, actually -- but it's MSNBC and I'm not sure how much people expect from that outlet. Which is why this "reported" piece (and yes, I'm using the term loosely) from ABC World News with Diane Sawyer is so shocking. Actually, these are the only two broadcast pieces I've seen so maybe they're all this bad? Perhaps you shouldn't tell me if they are. I don't think I could bear it. I literally screamed at the top of my lungs when I watched this. Twice. Outside of sports, I don't yell at my television.
Remember how much the networks covered the Obama administration's regulation requiring Catholic organizations (and others) to do things they can't do in good conscience? Not at all, that is? Well:
@RickKlein: Backlash at Susan G. Komen over Planned Parenthood move leads @ABCWorldNews & NBC; CBS starts with Afghanistan war
Two things. While Komen reports that their fundraising is "up 100%" since the news (I'm a new donor to them, for instance) and in the interview mentioned above Brinker mentions that the response she's received has been quite favorable, that's not the framing for these stories. Instead, the "backlash" is. But what is even more interesting is that this biased framing literally leads the nightly news! Leads it! So again, it's not that the media are uninterested in covering abortion or related issues. They just prefer some stories over others. Rather dramatically so.
Diane Sawyer begins her ABC report by alluding to people taking one side. Then begins a relentless repetition of Planned Parenthood's talking point that Komen is putting politics ahead of women's health.
The first error is that Diane Sawyer exaggerates what Planned Parenthood does with regard to cancer treatment. As Brinker noted in the interview mentioned above, Planned Parenthood offers no direct services for cancer treatment and Komen would like to allocate its scarce resources to group that actually deal with cancer treatment. Sawyer describes Planned Parenthood as the place where "so many women get free tests for cancer treatment." What tests? Certainly not mammograms, which are not offered by Planned Parenthood. Planned Parenthood acts as a pass-through agency, a place where women can be given prescriptions for tests. But "free tests for cancer treatment" sounds so much better than "place that doesn't even offer mammograms," I guess.
Claire Shipman reports with lots of war language about firestorms erupting and the like. She says:
That ubiquitous pink ribbon for decades uniting women in the greater good is sporting a black eye today. Thousands of women saying they will no longer support the Komen foundation or buy pink. Women like Monique Benoit who benefited from a Komen Planned Parenthood mammogram.
See that? Women such as myself who couldn't in good conscience support Komen while it funneled money to Planned Parenthood are completely invisible to the mainstream media. We don't exist. We don't matter. We are never mentioned in this report. We are never pictured in this report. We are invisible to ABC News and others. That pink ribbon "united women" so long as it was associated with an organization that terminates 330,000 pregnancies a year. But now that it's not, it's not uniting women? In what world does that make sense?
And about this Komen Planned Parenthood mammogram ... how is that possible when Planned Parenthood doesn't offer mammograms? Great reporting, ABC! Of course, you'll note that the woman who received this mammogram is stationed in front of Planned Parenthood signage offering the exact same talking point as everyone else who launched this public relations campaign against Komen. That line, again, is that a decision to cease funding the country's largest abortion provider is "becoming" political. Funding that abortion provider? Just ask Andrea Mitchell, it's as apolitical as the day is long! Can't we all be bipartisan Planned Parenthood fans and champions?
The piece quotes Komen CEO Nancy Brinker who "spent the day in combat-style crisis management" (thanks to the mainstream media having the exact same line of attack as their Planned Parenthood cobelligerents). She denies it was political pressure and speaks against "scurrilous" allegations. What are those? Who knows? But ABC sums it up:
Brinker says there are simply better and more streamlined mammogram providers.
For instance, mammogram providers! MAMMOGRAM PROVIDERS WOULD BE BETTER AND MORE STREAMLINED MAMMOGRAM PROVIDERS THAN ORGANIZATIONS THAT PROVIDE NO MAMMOGRAMS! (And now you get a feel for my screaming at my computer screen when I first watched this.) Then we learn how great this has been for Planned Parenthood's fundraising. Perhaps a journalist might look into, I don't know, whether that was the plan all along for how Planned Parenthood leaked this news and took the ABC-approved spin that Komen's decision was a disappointing politicization.
There's a brief mention of conservative support. Very brief. Then Mitchell remembers an email she read earlier today where a woman said she couldn't support Komen anymore. Why? Well because they've "politicized women's health"! The PR team that developed that slogan and got the MSM to lede the evening news with it is worth every penny you paid them, Planned Parenthood. You usually can't get this many repeat mentions in a 3-minute story without some heavy wrangling. ABC speaks to no one who supports the decision, no one who is pro-life.
Anyway, Shipman can't explain Komen's confusing decision. She says that when Komen was funneling money to Planned Parenthood, it "always prided itself on being apolitical."
It's like Planned Parenthood is a church and most of the media are communicant members ready to defend its teachings and faith at all costs. Check out how the one pro-lifer who Komen hired last year is given the scarlet letter in this caption "Anti-Abortion Stalwart." Heretic! This ABC News headline gives two options for what's going on with Komen's decision to give money for breast cancer research and treatment to groups that do breast cancer research and treatment: "Witch Hunt or Policy Shift?" The story continues the backlash theme, completely oblivious to that portion of the country that doesn't love Planned Parenthood. I'm not even going to watch the CBS report at this point but it's headline? "Backlash grows over Susan G. Komen-Planned Parenthood flap"
Force Catholics to choose whether to violate their consciences or stop serving the poor? Ho hum! Who cares? Let's put "religious liberty" in scare quotes and move on already, ok? Focus funding on groups that actually provide breast cancer treatment and resources instead of the Most Holy Planned Parenthood? We will lead the nightly news and if we have to misrepresent what's going on, we'll do that.