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My Take: On Komen controversy, media told half the story
The author says the news media took Planned Parenthood's side in the Susan G. Komen Foundation controversy.
February 7th, 2012
12:44 PM ET

My Take: On Komen controversy, media told half the story

Editor's Note: Mollie Ziegler Hemingway is a media critic at GetReligion and editor at Ricochet.

By Mollie Ziegler Hemingway, Special to CNN

Faced with a deluge of media opposition and pressure from lawmakers, the Susan G. Komen foundation amended its decision to cut off funds to Planned Parenthood last week. Afterward, Democratic Sen. Barbara Boxer and NBC’s Andrea Mitchell complimented each other on getting Komen to buckle under pressure.

Mitchell’s hostile interrogation of Ambassador Nancy Brinker, Komen’s CEO and founder, was widely viewed as a key moment in Planned Parenthood’s campaign against Komen.

“I thought you did such an interesting interview with the ambassador yesterday,” Boxer said to Mitchell during a televised discussion, “which I think helped bring this about, if I might say.”

Mitchell later returned the favor: “Sen. Barbara Boxer, thank you very much. Thank you for everything you’ve done on this.”

Some claims of media bias are overwrought. But here, the media wasn’t even trying to hide its advocacy on behalf of Planned Parenthood.

And in so doing, the media only told half the story.

Half the political story.

The media bought Planned Parenthood’s public relations campaign hook, line and sinker. Planned Parenthood argued that Komen’s decision to stop funding was “political.” This was the way most media outlets framed the entire story. But logic dictates that it’s not more political to stop funding Planned Parenthood than it is to keep funding it.

We’re talking about the country’s largest abortion provider, an organization that performs 330,000 abortions a year. According to Gallup polls from recent years, about half the American population identifies as pro-life while half identify as pro-choice. If you don’t have a sense for how controversial abortion is, you simply shouldn’t be in journalism.

Planned Parenthood receives nearly half a billion dollars in taxpayer funds, including from Medicaid payments. Along with its political arm, it spent at least $1.7 million on lobbying at the federal level last year. Its political expenditures for the 2012 cycle have swung 100% for Democrats and against Republicans. Its political web site ranks a series of Republicans as “chumps.”

The notion that such a huge partisan player could be characterized as apolitical is laughable.

Half the reaction.

Media outlets certainly captured the outrage of Planned Parenthood supporters, which led most newscasts and articles. But was it an accurate reflection of how everyone reacted to the news? Hardly.

To explain, Komen had a serious fundraising problem due to its engagement with Planned Parenthood. Though its grants to the organization were around $600,000 a year, a relatively small snippet of either group’s budget, the relationship kept many people who oppose abortion from donating.

By ending its relationship with an abortion provider, Komen would likely be able to broaden its base of support to include donors who strenuously oppose abortion. But in most media accounts, these people were completely invisible.

This is part of a disturbing pattern where the media downplay stories of importance and interest to pro-lifers, such as their annual March for Life in Washington or the Obama administration’s recent mandate that religious organizations provide insurance coverage for abortifacients.

The way the media presented the views of women and breast cancer survivors in particular was even worse, as if they unilaterally supported Planned Parenthood when about half of American women identify as pro-life.

Charmaine Yoest, the head of Americans United for Life, had called on Komen to stop working with Planned Parenthood. After Komen’s initial decision, she said, “As a breast cancer survivor, I was always troubled with this whole idea that the nation’s largest abortion provider was enmeshed in the breast cancer fight when they weren’t actually doing mammograms. I look at this as smart stewardship.”

Half the investigation

Even after Komen backed down, the media have continued to attack. What was once widely presented as one of the most unifying charities in the country is now being thoroughly investigated by reporters.

“Komen spends lavishly on salaries and promotion,” The Washington Post announced, highlighting Brinker’s $417,000 salary heading the group she founded 30 years ago. Nowhere in the article, however, did we learn what Planned Parenthood CEO Cecile Richards makes ($354,000) or that her predecessor reportedly earned $900,000 in 2005.

While Komen will now be raked over the coals, will the media similarly investigate Planned Parenthood? It’s doubtful.

The media coverage has been so fawning over the years that conservative activists have recently gone undercover to raise doubts about whether Planned Parenthood actually performs mammograms. These independent journalists have also produced evidence suggesting that some affiliates have failed to report instances of sexual abuse, sexual trafficking and rape.

“There’s no question that the media,” said Daily Beast media critic Howard Kurtz, “have been approaching the whole narrative from the left.”

When the media tell only half the story, they become effective partisans, and they do so at the expense of accuracy, accountability and fairness.

The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Mollie Ziegler Hemingway.

- CNN Belief Blog

Filed under: Abortion • My Take • Opinion

soundoff (1,171 Responses)
  1. Rachel

    as a reporter you should be ashamed of yourself. you blame the media for taking planned parenthoods side? you should be fired for inaccurate and misleading journalism. NO federal money goes to abortions. NO money from komen goes to abortions. NO money out of your insurance premium goes to abortion. STOP massaging the facts. 3% of the total services planned parenthood provides are abortions. 3%. get your facts straight. and the few people who opposed abortion and dont donate to komen aren't really making the organization go broke. there is enough pink crap all over the place now that has proceeds going to komen. if anything, komen screwed themselves big time on this because now all the smart women like myself will never buy another komen piece of merchandise again. next time i want to donate to "cure cancer" ill donate to a place that actually spends their money on research and helping women. not advertising. komen spends more of their annual budget on advertising than on women. planned parenthood does a better of job of spending money on women's services than komen – that is who is making the difference.

    February 21, 2012 at 11:33 pm |
    • Blaise

      Finally, someone exposes the TRUTH. Well written expose. CNN and the other mainstream media have been in bed with PP for many years. Another point of interest is the clear link (proven by numerous research findings) between abortion and contraception to breast cancer. And Planned Parenthood is the number one dispenser of surgical death and the pill of death. That is reason enough for the crazies at PP to receive zero grant money, zero tax money, and be closed down immediately.

      February 22, 2012 at 2:37 am |
    • Dozer

      There is no, I repeat NO, proven link between abortion and breast cancer. None. Now, the prolife websites may want you to think there is, but THERE IS NOT. I really wish people would stop spreading this lie.

      February 23, 2012 at 11:41 am |
  2. BigDeano

    Am I wrong in the understanding the Komen removed their grant money from Planned Parenthood because they are under federal investigation?
    If so, then what is the issue?

    February 21, 2012 at 10:59 pm |
    • reason

      The investigation is political and Komen's defunding was also. Even Komen admitted these two points, which is why they revised their funding rules and forced that woman to resign, so that this would not happen again.

      February 22, 2012 at 5:42 am |
  3. Jacob Cremer

    I think the important thing to recognize in this debate is that Komen is a huge organization with a monopoly on the breast cancer cause. The political pressure from both supporters and non-supporters of abortion makes it hard for them to appear neutral and focus on what they really care about: preventing breast cancer.

    However, when assessing Komen's decision as to support Planned Parenthood or not, I recommend asking yourself this question: Boycotting aside, which choice of theirs allows them to provide more access to mammograms? Clearly supporting Planned Parenthood reaches out to an organization that actively educates and fervently suggests that women get their mammograms. Planned Parenthood is a huge ally in the fight against breast cancer. They won't push a woman into deciding to get an abortion, but they most certainly beat them over the head when it comes to getting a mammogram. Breast cancer prevention is an agenda-neutral issue.

    Are we squelching abortion by boycotting Planned Parenthood funding, or are we squelching breast cancer prevention? I think it's shameful to disallow Planned Parenthood from separately and kosherly providing breast cancer prevention services that have nothing to do with abortion. The apportioned funding from Komen should definitely be monitored, but this is true regarding the integrity of any charitable donation.

    Fortunately, Planned Parenthood doesn't need Komen's support. I think the only loser in this situation, whether Planned Parenthood is funded or not, is Komen and its pride and success as an organization. Support redirected by donars to Planned Parenthood would still fight breast cancer just as much, it just gives Komen less credit in the fight. As far as vanity is concerned, cutting off Planned Parenthood would jeopardize Komen's claim to the trophy on the success of the cause.

    February 21, 2012 at 7:09 pm |
  4. SuZieCoyote

    "Though its grants to the organization were around $600,000 a year, a relatively small snippet of either group’s budget, the relationship kept many people who oppose abortion from donating."

    Yes, but pro-choice women donated as well. They donated to an organization they thought was seeking a cure for breast cancer, but turned out to be promoting an anti-choice agenda. This is a simple truth and not a media bias.

    The "investigation" that triggered the cancellation of the grant to PP was trumped-up by anti-choice repblicans who can't get the majority they need to tell the rest of us what to do.. Where does the statistic that half of Americans are anti-choice come from? I don't believe it; a majority of Americans believe in a woman's right to choose. That's what drives the dishonesty on the part of pro-choice activists. They can't get a majority so they pull the kind of crap that rightfully lead to Komen's downfall. And in the process, we found out that a) Komen has not contributed anything whatsoever towards a cure, b) Komen sides with large corporations who produce products that have known carginogenic properties and c), they viciously safeguard what they consider *their own private* words – "for the cure" by bringing lawsuits against small charities throughout the country who err by using those words in their own cancer prevention efforts. All in all, Komen showed themselves for what they are – a self-serving, politically-driven scam.

    There are so many logic errors in this piece.

    February 21, 2012 at 3:41 pm |
    • Chris Rowland

      Suzie for someone who visibly demonstrates a disdain for actual research because you don't like it (" I don't believe it; a majority of Americans believe in a woman's right to choose"), you also demonstrate a stunning inability to construct logical arguments. Closing your post with "There are so many logic errors in this piece" is just another statement that we will have to take your word for, I suppose, since you don't enumerate any.
      Count me as one American who doesn't want my charitable donations entangled with the abortion industry.
      Do you really think destroying life is such a precious right? I doubt you do.

      February 21, 2012 at 5:42 pm |
    • Chuck Wagon

      Let me give Suzie a hand for you Chris Rowland. http://www.gallup.com/poll/147734/Americans-Split-Along-Pro-Choice-Pro-Life-Lines.aspx. Latest surveys say more people pro choice (but hey....its gotten really close in the last years). And even with it so close, look below. The vast Majority of Americans do not favor abortion being banned outright (the part the journalist didn't mention) lends credence to what Suziecoyote said.

      I support you Mr. Rowland. let your dollars do the talking. But apparently there are some more powerful dollars. Moderate America is getting tired of this culture war B.S. so anyone that wants to take a firm stance in the abortion arena had better recognize that MOST Americans do not want to see it outlawed altogether (see the gallop poll results above.). Komen decided to touch this issue. no one that is in the public spotlight can touch this issue without getting shocked.

      For the other stuff in this article.... the usual media-left-against-us b.s. the far right complains of. blah blah blah.

      February 21, 2012 at 11:30 pm |
    • Blaise

      Suzie, The murder of innocent, unborn babies is not "culture war B. S." If you were one of those little ones, you would hope that someone would do something to protect you. No, these human lives are not "culture wars", they're people.

      February 22, 2012 at 2:43 am |
  5. The Logical Truth

    I agree the media is biased one way or another and they need to be more fair (both liberal and conservative medeia) however I disagree with everyone that says making abortion services more accesible takes away "freedom" That is nonsense! It provides more freedom. If you are against abortion, well dont do it but why take other peoples rights away. I am a male and I would have had an older brother but my mom had an abortion and you know what I am fine with that. All of you pro-lifers need to think about the broader picture. Humans have always practiced abortion, in the past in horific ways (Roman women would just leave unwanted babies in caves to die), at least we abort fetuses now before there is brain activity (except in the rare cases of late term abortion). You want to care so much about potential life but what about kids and the living. I have news for you, the Earth is becoming overpopulated. Social systems and economies are strained, natural resources are becoming strained. If we dont have abortions and our population keeps exploding it wont be long until this planet cant support our species anymore and then you know what. There will be massive famines and war and millions will die, but you pro-lifers dont care or dont think about that. The hard reality and truth is we need population control so there will be a decent world for future generations. Think of the big picture and long term picture people!

    February 21, 2012 at 12:08 pm |
    • Mayflower

      I respect your right to believe as you do regarding abortion, however, I think you have missed the point of this article entirely. The point is that Planned Parenthood congratulates itself on being a nonpartisan group dedicated to womens' health but they are very clearly partisan and spend a great amount lobbying and donating only to Democratic candidates. Since they are funded through medicaid, donations, and taxpayer support, this is a conflict of interest. This writer also rightly points out the clear bias the media had in relaying this story, which is a great disservice to anyone who tries to think for themselves instead of reciting any particular party platform.

      Also, you may want to study the origins of planned parenthood before you sing their praises. Founder Margaret Sanger purposely placed it in poor minority communities in an attempt to control those populations. Eugenics, anyone? Their hands are dirtier than any organization I know of.

      February 21, 2012 at 1:32 pm |
  6. Mom of one

    As the bumper sticker says: if you can't trust me with a choice how can you trust me with a child? Frankly I wish as much issues arose over men getting testicular cancer screenings, having vasectomies and buying penis pumps. Men who think they have a right to say what a woman should do with her body are as ignorant as the women who agree with them. Funding in any form becomes political, Komen funds for cancer, that's all, if it's not handled the way it should be, then keep the issue internal and work it out.

    If all people are truly equal none of this should be an issue at all.

    February 21, 2012 at 11:24 am |
  7. sarahsmart

    Mollie Ziegler Hemingway you show your bias with a completely irelevant article. The issue that turns your entire article into a partisan cry baby whine fest is that NONE of the Komen money was ever used or ever would be used for abortion. Any support provided from Komen to planned parenthood is for cancer screenings. THATS why women both pro life and pro choice reacted. It was a completely political decision by top KOMEN officials to try to cut out planned parenthood, and thats the truth and thats the story that was told.

    February 21, 2012 at 9:21 am |
    • Mayflower

      But their reason for stopping the funding was completely valid. Komen is a foundation run entirely through donations. It is their right to ensure all of their grantees are completely legit before wasting any money on them, and Planned Parenthood is currently under investigation. Whether that investigation is legit or a witch hunt can be debated, but if I were a donor to Komen, I would be very angry and stop donating if I knew they were giving my hard-earned donation to an organization currently being investigated by a state attorney general's office. The media conveniently forgot that fact in their own witch hunt against Komen.

      February 21, 2012 at 1:35 pm |
    • HawaiiGuest

      @Mayflower

      The original reason for defunding was not legit at all. Their recently enstated (and now resigned) VP of policy was staunchly against PP, and e-mails emerged that linked her to Republicans running the "investigation", and she pushed through many policy changes which would give them a "legitamite" reason to defund PP, at least on the surface.

      February 21, 2012 at 2:19 pm |
    • Bill the Cat

      Want to talk about partisanship??? The Left railed Komen for "bowing to political pressure" when they decided to stop the funding, but then applauded them for bowing to political pressure from the left when they reversed their decision. That's rank hypocrisy, and it stinks of mule.

      February 21, 2012 at 4:39 pm |
  8. J. Morales

    Thanks for posting this. Honestly, a private individual or organization can choose to fund whomever they want for whatever reasons they want. Komen didn't even need a good reason to stop funding Planned Parenthood, it was their money to do with as they saw fit. I definitely will not donate to Komen because I can do with my money whatever I see fit. Unless I give it to PP, in which case I apparently can't ever stop or else they'll sic their attack dogs on me.

    February 21, 2012 at 9:11 am |
    • Robin

      Since Komen prides themselves on combating breast cancer, defunding Planned Parenthood makes absolutely NO sense. The money that Komen provided Planned Parenthood was used ONLY for cancer screenings, NOT one penny went for abortion. Komen even went so far as to CHANGE THIER OWN RULES in order to target ONE charity – Planned Parenthood, just to appease the conservative GOPBaggers. This is the essence of political pandering.
      As for @Mayflower: Do you only reply to other's posts so that no one can call you on your obvious bias toward women? I know there is a possibility that you are female, but if you are, you are a gender traitor for pandering to the so-called Pro-Lifers. Pro-Life is incredibly mis-named because they only care about possible life. Once a child is actually alive, these so-called Pro-Lifers don't care if it's wanted, fed, healthy, clothed, educated or housed. And if it commits a capital crime, Pro-Lifer's want them put to death, since they almost ALL are pro-death penalty.
      Your total hypocrisy is astounding. And ineffably sad.

      February 21, 2012 at 2:14 pm |
  9. reason

    To maintain funding for Planned Parenthood is not a political decision because the cause is women's health which is why they funded them in the first place. However, as even this author agrees, dropping funding was political. This validates Planned Parenthood's point that they were not making the decision based on the best interests of women.

    This author wanted to see more coverage of the pro-lifers that Komen was trying to pander to, however this would only serve to further validate that this was about politics, not women's health. Even Komen in all their official statements was downplaying this very point.

    February 21, 2012 at 7:57 am |
  10. Chris

    After really searching on this story it seemed to me that the funding was pulled from planned parenthood because they didn't do what they said they would with the money. Shame on them for being dishonest, and then stirring up a sympathetic media to cover up their mistakes. Now, planned parenthood is not only terrible for killing babies of primarily ethnic minorities. It also can't keep its books straight, and then sicks media on someone who rightly calls them on it.
    Why do they receive taxpayer funds again?

    February 21, 2012 at 2:25 am |
    • reason

      Planned Parenthood has never killed a baby.

      February 21, 2012 at 8:30 am |
    • J. Morales

      Reason, the definition of abortion is killing a baby, it's kind of the whole point of the procedure.

      February 21, 2012 at 9:12 am |
    • reason

      Abortions kill embryos.

      February 21, 2012 at 9:20 am |
    • Doc Vestibule

      @J. Morales
      Blastocysticide is not infanticide.

      February 21, 2012 at 1:43 pm |
    • Bill the Cat

      An embryo is a stage in the development of the human organism. Destroying an embryo, or a fetus, is killing a unique human organism. Any biology book will explain that fact.

      February 21, 2012 at 4:44 pm |
    • Rachel

      Chris – you are a moron.

      February 21, 2012 at 11:36 pm |
  11. Mary Beth

    Anyone who describes the Pill as an "abortifacient" completely loses credibility with me. This is the position of a zealot dominated by religious fervor. NOTHING MORE.

    February 21, 2012 at 12:14 am |
    • Mayflower

      Really? What proof do you have that this person is religiouz zealot and not just any other random person who happens to be pro-life? When you ignore the message and sling mud instead, it proves only that you are incapable of supporting your own opinion. Stop letting the media do your thinking for you and really research the history of Planned Parenthood. Seriously...you might be surprised at what you find and not be so zealous in your own support of them.

      February 21, 2012 at 1:39 pm |
    • Blaise

      Mary Beth, To englighten yourself, simply pull out the insert in a package of birth controls. You will see clearly written that if the contraceptive effect fails, the drug can, as a backup, cause the fertilized egg (human, my words) to be expelled from the uterine wall (where he or she normally lands and is provided nutrition, my words). In case you also didn't know, the secular World Health Organization has declared the birth control pill a Class 1 Carcinagen. Read up a little bit on the facts, dear; particularly, before you call someone a moron.

      February 22, 2012 at 3:02 am |
    • Dozer

      Blaise, "dear", if you would like to cite the World Health Organization's findings on the BC pill and cancer link: you may also want to read up on their website that there is NO LINK between abortions and breast cancer, since you claim there is one. :) Just trying to stop the lies from spreading. You're welcome.

      February 23, 2012 at 11:46 am |
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The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke and Eric Marrapodi with daily contributions from CNN's worldwide newsgathering team.