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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 • Opinion

soundoff (1,171 Responses)
  1. Kate

    Komen spend an astonishing amount of donated funds on its development budget. I stopped donating several years ago when I learned that much of the donated funds are rolled back into self-promotion and generous salaries.

    February 7, 2012 at 6:56 pm |
  2. SadVerySad

    The signs being held by the women in picture should read "I support the legalization of murder." The thought of abortion, even the political and financial support of it, makes my phsically SICK!!

    February 7, 2012 at 6:56 pm |
    • HawaiiGuest

      @SadVerySad

      Such wonderful partisan hyperbole. Please give us more, it makes me chuckle.

      February 7, 2012 at 6:58 pm |
    • SadVerySad

      Kill something that has zero chance to defend him/herself – makes you feel big, doesn't it? RIH!

      February 7, 2012 at 7:02 pm |
    • SadVerySad

      HawaiiGuest says give sources or stop trolling – you DEFINE troll! All you are doing is combing posts with the same hot air. You're the troll! Go kill another child why don't you?

      February 7, 2012 at 7:04 pm |
    • HawaiiGuest

      Awww did I make you Sad? I ask for sources when they are needed. Unlike you I require something at least verifiable.

      February 7, 2012 at 7:09 pm |
  3. George

    I will not support Komen either until they reverse this policy. The money for breast screening has been taken to be used for abortion. That is why the donations were stopped!

    February 7, 2012 at 6:55 pm |
    • HawaiiGuest

      No proof of such a thing occuring. Either give reliable sources or stop trolling.

      February 7, 2012 at 6:56 pm |
    • George

      Read the above article............HawaiiGuest. Why would any organization stop breast exams unless the money was misused..............

      February 7, 2012 at 6:58 pm |
    • George

      I quote the article above and I think Planned Parenthood needs some questions about where the money for breast exams went?

      February 7, 2012 at 7:01 pm |
    • HawaiiGuest

      Yes and the fact that their VP of Policy (Handel) is a staunch anti-abortionist who has not made her desire (to see PP shut down completely) secret just happened to start in April of 2011. Then a congressional (not a legal) investigation into PP started just a few months after Handel started at SGK. Don't forget the e-mails that the Huffington got leaked implicate Handel in a politically motivated policy change that affected (out of at least a dozen organizations that were being legitimately investigated) PP only. And one more thing if you read the article the author never says that the money SGK gave to PP was used for abortions. She dropped tiny hints that that was what she thought, hoping that people would catch it and take it as fact.

      February 7, 2012 at 7:08 pm |
  4. Victoria

    Breast exams are not abortion. Two different issues. Why is this so hard to understand?

    February 7, 2012 at 6:55 pm |
    • George

      They are two different issues agreed .... except when the money for breast exams is used for abortions instead.

      February 7, 2012 at 6:56 pm |
    • Mark B.

      Monies for breast screenings are being used for abortions. Get it?

      February 7, 2012 at 6:57 pm |
    • HawaiiGuest

      Like I said above George, give sources or shut up.

      February 7, 2012 at 6:59 pm |
    • George

      Well that is just it. The media never asked good questions about why in the first place the funding was stopped. Read the above article there are serious questions about where the money went for the breast exams?

      February 7, 2012 at 7:03 pm |
  5. Barleyman

    This issue brought to light that Komen has become a political organization. If they base their funding decisions on politics, who is to say they won't shy away from controversial research, even though it may be the cure. They should stick their purpose and channel the money the best they can. PP is the largest care giver to poor and under served women. there is no better organization that provides for this segment of the market, regardless of whether or not some affiliates also perform abortions. Most public hospitals also perform abortions, and let people die when it is time. Should Komen also cut them off too? I'm done with Komen... American cancer Society will get my donations in the future.

    February 7, 2012 at 6:53 pm |
  6. You Donamatter

    Who cares what some anti-choice azzhats think anyway. They will be miserable people until they die no matter what happens.

    February 7, 2012 at 6:52 pm |
    • Hard Luck

      Ha Ha Great argument! I`m baffled by your brilliance. You should be the spokesmen for pro-choicers all over the nation with such a weighty statement to offer.

      February 7, 2012 at 7:02 pm |
  7. Terry

    Abortion is law, period. I do not have to support that law, if women want to kill their babies they may. Its probably best for the baby. But I don't want my money supporting murder it should be supporting life, thats why I used to donate to Komen. Not any more.

    February 7, 2012 at 6:51 pm |
    • Mark B.

      Somehow saying killing the baby is "best for the baby" renders your point worthless.

      February 7, 2012 at 6:58 pm |
  8. Laura

    Apparently someone missed the point when they wrote this article... PP provides women's health care to low income women, especially in areas where that may be there only option. Abortion is not the issue here. Who cares if they also provide abortions, that's not the point. The point is you are giving the middle finger to thousands of women who need help getting care for breast cancer. I really wish people would stop referring to PP as an abortion clinic. They are a women's health clinic. Period.

    February 7, 2012 at 6:51 pm |
    • George

      Even if money is given for procedures that never happen in the first place and the money is used for other purposes?

      February 7, 2012 at 6:53 pm |
    • lilgtogirl

      The woman who wrote this article is a moron. How can it be half of a story? Komen tried to stop funding them, and people got angry. The anger was well deserved. This was for some whining on behalf of backwoods trailer trash that still think its better to be barefoot and pregnant than happy than be in a better place in the world. If it had only been half of the story, then they would not have reversed their own decision. You are correct. This woman just does not understand the whole story.

      February 7, 2012 at 6:54 pm |
    • Mark B.

      If they provide ANY abortion services, what you say is not true.

      February 7, 2012 at 7:00 pm |
    • SadVerySad

      You are an absolute IDIOT! Who do you think performs the HUNDREDS OF THOUSANDS of murder in our country each year?!? Under a feel-good label of pro-"choice"...it should be called pro-"murder" but you guys put it in such nice wrapper with a bow. I am convinced that every one of you who support abortions without repentance will spend eternity in hell!! Is it worth it? Enjoy the fire!

      February 7, 2012 at 7:00 pm |
    • HawaiiGuest

      @SadVerySad

      And that's what I've been waiting for!! The go to response for the zealot that can't get people to agree with them. "BURN IN HELL!!!!! BLAH BLAH HELL BLAH BLAH BIBLE etc. etc."
      Does it make you feel good to condemn people? Does it make you feel good to assume the role of your God and judge?

      February 7, 2012 at 7:13 pm |
  9. George

    There are questions whether the money was going to give breast exams. So if people give money for something that never happens why continue donating?

    February 7, 2012 at 6:49 pm |
  10. Melissa

    The Komen foundation can do whatever it wants with it's money, however, the public that is thinking of donating their hard earned money to them deserves to know where it goes. VERY few donated dollars go towards research or services. Most goes towards administrative expenses, legal fights, and salaries. They may have started out with great intentions, but they are one of the worst charities you could donate to. Local breast cancer service providers are a much better match for your dollars.

    February 7, 2012 at 6:49 pm |
  11. Mary

    Mollie,

    I think that you're really off the mark here.

    I'm pro-life. But, I thought that the move by the Komen foundation to stop funds to Planned Parenthood was very disturbing. The funds aren't to provide abortions. The funds are for cancer screenings for low income people. How can anyone call cutting off funds for cancer screenings 'pro-life'. It isn't. So what could it be but political?

    Somehow the term 'pro-life' has come to mean that you are only concerned with life before birth. That movement should be called 'pro-birth'. I'm pro-life and that means caring about the child after it's born and throughout it's life.

    February 7, 2012 at 6:48 pm |
    • George

      Breast exams that many have have happened in the first place!

      February 7, 2012 at 6:50 pm |
    • George

      Breast exams that may not have happened in the first place.

      February 7, 2012 at 6:51 pm |
    • Hard Luck

      I`m pro-choice after birth. Nice twist of logic.

      February 7, 2012 at 6:52 pm |
  12. Cobbscout

    Mollie Ziegler Hemingway doesn't see that this whole thing would not have even been an issue if the SBK had not folded to the pressures of the extreme right-wing anti-choice zealots. Helloooo!

    February 7, 2012 at 6:46 pm |
  13. Neal

    If you don't like Komen, do not donate. Vote with your wallet. What's the problem? Just remember there's a class warfare in this country. Donating to charity just because you have money is stupid to begin with.

    February 7, 2012 at 6:45 pm |
  14. SDFrankie

    Stupid media. They burned my toast this morning. They spilled my coffee on my dress shirt too. They forgot to pay my Chase bill last month and now I've got a late charge. Stupid media.

    February 7, 2012 at 6:45 pm |
  15. Loren

    Regardless of the statistics on how Americans view abortion rights, the media was biased against Komen's legitimate decision. As a charity, it is obligated by law to establish rules on its use of funds and do so consistently. If it determined that donations to Planned Parenthood did not comply with those rules, then it was obligated to stop funding. That the media badgered Komen to restore funding was clearly overstepping the role of the media to report the news, not to make it. All of the reporters who badgered Komen's officers should be ashamed of themselves as reporters, or should I say ex-reporters, because their actions show they are no longer reporters.

    February 7, 2012 at 6:44 pm |
    • Loren get a clue

      You need to know the whole story before opening your mouth. Komen attempted to change their funding guidelines for political reasons. The email of the CEO clearly demonstrated that it was for political reasons only. Get a clue.

      February 7, 2012 at 7:20 pm |
  16. Hard Luck

    @Hawaiiguest. The same goes for you. Two birds one stone etc.

    February 7, 2012 at 6:43 pm |
  17. kendallpeak

    Simple honesty dictates that when people donate to an organization they think is using the money to research for a cure for cancer, that organization should not then forward the money to another controversial organization. I have given generously over the years to Komen, unfortunately I will not in the future.

    February 7, 2012 at 6:42 pm |
  18. Logan

    I challenge the author to name a single organization that previously declined to fund Komen because of its relationship with Planned Parenthood that had pledge to donate once they dumped PP.

    February 7, 2012 at 6:40 pm |
    • poopoo

      poopoo

      February 7, 2012 at 6:58 pm |
  19. Neal

    Komen needs to be taken down. No more donation to Komen. Poor people who use Planned Parenthood hate rich people who donate anyway. With the way poor people hate rich people in this country, donating to charity is stupid.

    February 7, 2012 at 6:38 pm |
    • HawaiiGuest

      What a biased and untrue generalization. I would ask you to be a little less biased and partisan, but that might be to much to ask.

      February 7, 2012 at 6:41 pm |
  20. steve

    more than half of Americans are for abortion rights. you're article is so filled with inaccuracies i don't even know where to begin. I wish you and all your religious right friends would go to Newt Gingrich's moon colony

    February 7, 2012 at 6:35 pm |
    • Hard Luck

      If only we could of known about you Steve we would of not only supported but stressed your mothers right to abort. Sad thing abortion is not legal after the fact.

      February 7, 2012 at 6:39 pm |
    • HawaiiGuest

      @Hard Luck

      Talk about an idiotic response.

      February 7, 2012 at 6:40 pm |
    • Sam

      Hard Luck-That was an apt response!

      February 7, 2012 at 6:46 pm |
    • Beatriz

      Ha Ha Ha!

      What a great idea, Steve!

      February 7, 2012 at 7:06 pm |
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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 with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.