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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. Vickey Monrean

    I am so sick of people blaming the media, right or left for the people's reaction to things. I know both these organizations. Komen belittled not just PPO but the women who used its services and even the women who use Komen's work. We are not stupid lambs walking to the slaughter of media machetes. It is amazing how often we are told that women just don't understand. Baloney, sometimes we know all the sides, have done the research and still think you are wrong. Just because we disagree with you doesn't mean you're right.

    February 10, 2012 at 4:34 pm |
  2. DC

    Planned Parenthood is like the mafia. You give them money once, you'll be giving them money for the rest of your life. And if you cut off funds to them, they will unleash wrath and backlash that will cripple you as is the case with Komen, which comes out looking very weak now. I wouldn't be surprised if their charity is insolvent within a year.

    February 10, 2012 at 4:32 pm |
  3. BD

    Doesnt provide mammograms? Turn off Fox news you moron. That is specifically what the Komen funding is for. If they didnt provide them why would Komen being giving them any grants??

    February 10, 2012 at 4:23 pm |
  4. BD

    Seriously? Apparently, not giving the full story means leaving out the right wing propoganda. I love the way the author keeps calling PP the largest abortion provider rather than explaing the small percentage, 3% of total services, that these procedures account for? Also, PP has been attacked viciously the past few years by Republicans who have made no secret of hoping to elimate them altogether. They have suffered a hundred times the scrutiny that Komen has...not to mention the lies that this author themselves are helping to perpetuate. The Komen foundation should be fighting publically on behalf of PP to reach even more women with cancer screenings.
    And if Komen is trying to reach all these so called "doners" who will only donate if they cut ties with PP, where were they when the public flooded PP with donations upon this news. If there are so many of these doners why did Komen have to backtrack?
    Lastly, I cannot believe the author, without a shred of credible evidence, would accuse PP of not really performing screenings at all. This commentary is complete garbage!

    February 10, 2012 at 4:14 pm |
  5. Sarah

    Most media outlets also forgot to mention that PP doesn't even provide mammograms.

    February 10, 2012 at 3:26 pm |
  6. Marge

    Where's the rest of the story Mollie. Not one place did I see where YOU or the media told the story where most of the money collected after paying the outrageous salaries of the staff at Komen and the donations to Planned Parenthood, WENT TO REPUBLICAN ORGANIZATIONS AND TO REPUBLICAN CANDIDATES FOR PRESIDENT, MAINLY TO ONE JOHN MCCAIN. I don't see that in your hit piece of Planned Parenthood. And by the way I don't see one word in your hit piece that the money Planned Parenthood pays for those abortions with is PRIVATE DONATIONS TO THEM FOR THAT PURPOSE. So if you have an organization that gets private personal donations are you going to tell them what to do with it. I mean the people that donated to Komen for the cure didn't know their money was going to political republican donations. EXPLAIN THIS TO US PLEASE.

    February 10, 2012 at 3:07 pm |
  7. Justlove

    I am a health care provider for women. Every day I have women in my office whose hearts are broken 10, 20, 30+ years after having an abortion. Killing your own child is only a temporary answer to a life long problem – once you're pregnant, you're a mom – no matter what "choice" you make. Women get abortions because there aren't enough people showing them they are loved. I was attacked by a pro-choice women outside the abortion clinic where I was praying. When I told her she was my sister and I loved her and I was there to pray for her and offer my services if she needed them (free prenatal and other health care), she stopped her rage and shook my hand in friendship. I help women get off hormonal contraception and understand that they are not objects to be used for a man's pleasure – that they have worth and value and deserve better. Love is the answer, people. Not name calling, not finger pointing, not politicizing. Abby Johnson said she joined up with Planned Parenthood because Pro Life wasn't there. Are we going to be there next time? God bless and keep praying – He loves all of us.

    February 10, 2012 at 2:59 pm |
    • Cricket11

      Yikes. What kind of "health care" do you provide? I certainly hope women are aware of your stance on abortion before you assist them with their "health". Unless you work in a PL counseling center, which would make sense given the things you've said here.

      February 13, 2012 at 8:54 am |
    • Doc Vestibule

      Using birth control doesn't turn a woman into an object for male pleasure.
      Though you might find this hard to believe, there a women who actually ENJOY s.ex with their partner but don't want to get pregnant. You seem to imply that women consider s.ex a "wifely duty" to be endured for the privilige of being a mother.

      February 13, 2012 at 9:03 am |
  8. Hypatia

    Poor Mollie. She just loves underdogs and morons like Handel.

    February 10, 2012 at 2:26 pm |
  9. Barbara Stevenson

    If Komen thought they were losing potential donors because of their connection with Planned Parenthood – where are those donors now? What actually happened should be a lesson for them. Planned Parenthood received huge donations and many stopped donating to Komen. Doesn't that tell them anything? Planned Parenthood provides women's health care and prevents abortions. The only reason they may be the 'largest abortion provider' is that no one else has the guts and they are likely the only provider in many areas. These 'right to lifers' clearly know nothing about how was before Roe v Wade. There were plenty of abortions being done before this legal decision. They just weren't legal or safe. These fools want abortions back on the black market.

    February 10, 2012 at 2:15 pm |
    • HawaiiGuest

      Those anti-abortionists just want it out of the public eye. They think that if they shut down the providers and make it illegal, then they can sit back and ignore the problem. When they hear of a women that dies from a back alley abortion they will laugh and say she should not have broken the law. As long as they can make themselves believe it's no longer an issue they won't be satisfied. Sick, twisted and self-righteous.

      February 10, 2012 at 2:25 pm |
    • robert4524

      I agree with your premise. But I also agree with the article's author in that media coverage is most certainly biased. And that they rarely tell the entire story. However, people need to understand that groups have different beliefs. Neither the pro choice nor the pro life crowed is any better (or more right) than the other. This pointless argument will never die until both groups learn to accept each others beliefs. I also agree to that it is nieve to believe abortions would stop just because it was made illegal. People simply need to accept the others beliefs and mind their own business. Komen should have the right to give or not to give to whomever they chose. Planned parenthood should offer whatever services are required for women without need to explain. Planned parenthood should've accepted Komen's beliefs and adjusted their income accordingly. I feel they (as well as the media) were wrong.

      February 10, 2012 at 3:09 pm |
  10. Can't comment in replies

    is this thing on?

    February 10, 2012 at 11:37 am |
  11. MichaelJCaboose

    I hate all the crap the GOP has forced on PP. It is sickening. I have served at book fundraisers for PP and will do so as long as I am able to walk and hold books.

    February 9, 2012 at 8:35 pm |
  12. steven

    IUDs work both ways – by making it harder for fertilization and by making it harder for embryos to attach to the uteinre wall. Their effectiveness is the result of this combination of effects.

    February 9, 2012 at 8:17 pm |
  13. purelypolitics

    Reblogged this on purelypolitics and commented:
    Here's the thing....Planned Parenthood doesn't just provide abortions. They provide HEALTHCARE for those who are too scared or can't afford to go see a doctor at a hospital. What if Planned Parenthood were renamed "Reproductive Wellness Clinic?" They would still provide all of the same services, just with a different name. Would we even be having this conversation? The Susan G. Komen Foundation wanted to de-fund Planned Parenthood because they are under Congressional investigation. An investigation that is a conservative crusade to shame Planned Parenthood. There individuals think that just because Planned Parenthood does provide pregnancy termination services and they receive federal funding, that Planned Parenthood MUST be using federal money to provide pregnancy termination services. Where's the proof that they're using federal money for those purposes? Would it be easier if Planned Parenthood didn't charge for pregnancy termination services but still provided them? That way there would be a guarantee that ZERO federal funds are being used for these services. Ergo, no Congressional investigation and no reason for the Susan G. Komen Foundation to pull their funding. But then Planned Parenthood would have to rely on more and more donations to keep providing low cost medical care for the women AND men they see. While some may say that the amount the Susan G. Komen foundation grants to Planned Parenthood is a "relatively small snippet" of the organization's budget that is still $600,000 that Planned Parenthood has to make up some how. Breast cancer is not political. It does not have a party and does not attack only one set of people. Planned Parenthood may be aligned more so with Democrats than Republicans, but I'm sure that Planned Parenthood will provide all of the services they can to all of the individuals they can without considering their party lines. Planned Parenthood does do cancer screenings, including breast cancer screenings and referrals for mammograms. Planned Parenthood does not have all of the resources to be able to provide the mammograms. The machines are expensive. The techs to operate the machines are expensive. The doctors to read the results of the mammograms are expensive. So the money that the Susan G. Komen foundation grants to Planned Parenthood gives Planned Parenthood the ability to send their patients to the clinics that can do the mammograms. Maybe if the Susan G. Komen Foundation wanted to provide Planned Parenthood locations that don't provide pregnancy termination services with the ability to perform mammograms (machines, techs, doctors, etc.). Then we could avoid this whole political show and move on with Planned Parenthood providing reproductive wellness HEALTH care.

    February 9, 2012 at 4:40 pm |
  14. AnnieM

    First, she left out the fact that PP is also the biggest abortion PREVENTER in the country, by providing education and contraceptives to an equal number of hundreds of thousands of women who are in need of both. Second, the federal funding does not go to pregnancy termination services. Abortions are a relatively small part of PP's overall mission. They are mainly about education and providing a safe place to discuss the options, with no pressure from religious bigots or pandering politicians. Finally (my own opinion), how on earth does a 5 day old clump of cells have more rights than a young women who has already been through the most risky years of her life (i.e. childbirth and youth)?

    February 9, 2012 at 4:13 pm |
  15. Jeff

    Why is it to these types of people that FoxNews is never considered "the media"? Such a ridiculously narrow focus she has and for such obviously bias reasons as well.

    Congrats, CNN. Why not let Peter Brimelow write the next opinion piece, cause we should totally respect everyone's one sided biased ridiculous quote mined opinions.

    February 9, 2012 at 2:28 pm |
    • Bannister

      I love Peter Brimelow!

      In fact, since Rubin Navarette Jr constantly writes articles from a "Latino perspective" and LZ Granderson and Roland Martin write articles about the "Black perspective" then why not have Peter Brimelow write a few articles about the "White perspective." How about it CNN?

      February 9, 2012 at 3:43 pm |
  16. Dan

    Both organizations were happily going about their business protecting women's health when a very openly anti-abortion politician named Karen Handel joined the Komen leadership and created this mess. I can understand the anti-abortion point of view but the fact is that if you banned abortion Planned Parenthood and Komen would still be around doing 97% of what they are doing today. However, if you instead wreck the Komen Foundation and destroy Planned Parenthood abortions will still happen but hundreds, maybe thousands, of women will die. These Republicans are mad.

    February 9, 2012 at 2:15 pm |
    • ME

      I do feel like Komen kind of got roped into this mess. I feel bad because they do great work, but when you're a nonprofit you have to be so careful of your politics.

      February 9, 2012 at 3:37 pm |
    • Paul Schratz

      Maybe PP was content, but Komen was losing huge amounts of potential donations because of their association with the abortion provider. And those "thousands of deaths" numbers were fabricated. Google Dr. Bernard Nathanson.

      February 10, 2012 at 11:11 am |
  17. Credenza

    I saw a rep from PP arguing on CNN last night that the Catholic Church was "Denying POOR, disadvantaged women health care????????????
    WAIT A MINUTE – the Catholic Church is refusing Insurance cover that pays for their EMPLOYEES to recieve abortions or contraceptives.............................so working women are poor, deprived and disadvantaged are they????????? When they earn salaries every month?????????
    MORE of PPs lies. They must be really stupid if this person is their best representative!!!!!!!!

    February 9, 2012 at 2:00 pm |
    • Cricket11

      Do you know how much it costs to raise a family? Probably not. Most workers are barely making ends meet! If you want people to be able to support these babies instead of aborting them, make it so they don't get pregnant in the first place – by giving them contraception!!! It's not complicated. "Don't have an abortion. But don't go on birth control to prevent getting pregnant in the first place." Huh? How does that make sense? MOST women don't have an extra $35 a month to get the pill. This will prevent many pregnancies, thus reducing abortions.

      February 9, 2012 at 2:14 pm |
    • Credenza

      Not another apologist for the murder of 50 million 'inconveniences" on the grounds of finance! A wage is a wage. SHE was referring to them as the poor and disadvantaged aka out of work!

      I was born and raised poor. We all survived and were educated against the odds. We are all professionals. Not ONCE did my mother think of abortion as an easy way out. We were poor and scruffy but clean and LOVED. Every one of us.

      I raised a family on low wages. THAT is not dirt poor. Stop making pathetic excuses for murder. And don't splutter "B...b...but it's legal...." THAT only demonstrates that your judiciary are immoral murderers too. That's nothing to be proud of!
      BTW some of those judges who passed the abortion law now say how much they regret the decision. Well done to them!

      February 9, 2012 at 2:57 pm |
    • Cricket11

      Please Credenza, keep it up. With every post you make you're proving my points for me. I can respect the other side (unlike you) as long as they aren't in the rabid "pro-life at any cost" camp. Too bad you can't seem to do anything but parrot propoganda and use too many punctuation marks. But, again, I thank you for demonstrating just how ignorant you are on this subject. Sadly for you, it means your words will fall on many deaf ears.

      February 9, 2012 at 3:14 pm |
    • n0e11e

      "Not ONCE did my mother think of abortion as an easy way out. "

      credenza, i'm really interested to know how you know this. were you able to read your mother's thoughts in the womb? did god tell you? has your mother never told a lie her entire life, especially when her children ask hard questions and she knows she will be condemned if they don't like the answer?

      February 9, 2012 at 10:00 pm |
    • Credenza

      N0e11e – My mother was one of 14 children. We had a wonderful relationship and often talked about families etc. She was Pro-Life. But of course with your mentality, like the Cricket, you can't accept that – she MUST have been lying ! How juvenile to say nothing of thick.

      February 9, 2012 at 11:17 pm |
    • n0e11e

      14 children? wow. and it seems she learned nothing from that.

      February 10, 2012 at 1:22 am |
    • Cricket11

      Credenza, no one said she "must" be lying. What we're saying is that it's impossible for you to be 100% certain that she never once thought of it, despite what she told you. It's just not humanly possible. Maybe she never did. Maybe she sthought of it and was so ashamed she never told you. You'll never know for sure and that's a fact. One cannot know another persons complete thoughts. There's just no way to prove it. For all we know, you're a man and you never even met your mother. This is the internet so your anecdotes mean squat. Sorry. I know logic isn't your strong point.

      February 10, 2012 at 7:35 am |
    • Credenza

      Now I KNOW I/ve done quite well here and rattled your bars! All you've got is the fact that my mom MIGHT have been lying / I MIGHT be a man / I MIGHT have used too many exclamation marks and not much else. You've now lost ant credibility in the argument on abortion and you're boring me to boot.
      If you answer this you'll be talking to thin air – no change there then. Goodbye little Troll.

      February 10, 2012 at 10:47 am |
    • Cricket11

      Not sure why you think you rattled anything. I'm discussing, you're calling people names. All you have to stand on are personal stories that can't be verified and misinformation. Seems like you feel backed into a corner based on your last comment so I'll take that as your concession. Thanks for playing.

      February 10, 2012 at 11:40 am |
    • Gaiafan

      ahhh credenza "SHE was referring to them as the poor and disadvantaged aka out of work" this is where you fail. There are quite a few "working poor" in this country. Federal minimum wage is $7.25 per hour. That is a gross wage of $290 per week IF they are lucky enough to have a 40 hour work week. Just how wealthy do you think an individual is who earns $15,080 a year? Now consider that for a single parent with one child the poverty rate is $ 15,030. I guess you think $50 a year over the poverty rate is not poor.... how moronic can you be?

      February 15, 2012 at 9:15 pm |
  18. Terri

    PP has had nothing but media scrutiny with the battle the GOP has waged against them...for a very long time. The authors claim that the media has ignored salaries, etc... of PP is total BS.

    February 9, 2012 at 1:54 pm |
    • JW

      Please, Please, Please do not try and speak for a group of people, Terri. I am not a part of the Grand Old Party, yet I happen to be 100% against abortion. Many of my friends count themselves as Democrats as well, yet they are pro life. Pro Life does not = Republican and pro choice does not equal Democrat as you indicate in your remarks. I think all should remember that one issue, no matter how divisive, does not dictate one's voting (at least for those of us who actually think before just pulling the lever in the voting booth).

      February 9, 2012 at 2:56 pm |
    • Norman

      JW-dont be an idiot-majority of dems are pro choice (almost 90%) and majority of republicans are anti-choice (also 90%)-close enough

      February 9, 2012 at 8:16 pm |
  19. JustAnn

    Mollie, Mollie, Mollie,

    How ironic that you are complaining about someone's opinion that the media only told half the story, by only telling half the story! Of all PP's services, abortion accounts for 3%. And the last time I checked, it is a legal procedure. At least, according to the US Supreme Court.

    When people or organizations or corporations behave badly, we the people expect the media to speak up. The story was not about how much Komen or PP's founders make. The story was about money being pulled from PP from a right winger with a certain ideology. The story was that PP was targeted.

    The media got it right.

    It is also true that Komen can designate where their contributions go. If they didn't want it going toward abortions, they could specify. They didn't need to pull all their funding all together. Wonder why they chose to pull all of their funding? Hmmm. Surely not due to politics, right?

    Komen may have had trouble fundraising due to their PP ties (which I sincerely doubt...), but look at what dissing PP has done for their fundraising. It increased PP's! If money is speech, my friend, Americans spoke loudly and clearly.

    February 9, 2012 at 1:49 pm |
    • Credenza

      Last time I looked – 300,00 abortions is 10% ! More misinformation from PP!

      February 9, 2012 at 2:02 pm |
    • derp

      "Last time I looked – 300,00 abortions is 10% ! More misinformation from PP!"

      10% of what? Moron.

      February 9, 2012 at 2:50 pm |
    • Credenza

      Your name and comment indicate that you are a victim of your failed education system! PP say that 3% of their business is abortion but since they perform 300,000 abortions every year then 10% of all treatments per year are abortions.
      They are quoting 3% of the FINANCE goes to abortion. Sooooooooo, they are misleading – deliberately – and regularly THAT is misinformation.

      February 9, 2012 at 3:04 pm |
    • Got Facts?

      Credenza, your math and logic prove that you are the victim of a failed education system, of may just be slightly smarter than your handle. Your use of the word "business" is exactly what is faulty with this article; it's spinning false-truths or half-lies. They are a non-profit; they were founded that nearly 100 years ago, merely to help women in a time when women were also simply fighting for the right to vote. They are not a 'business', there is no profit to be made from the services that they provide; if there was, it would receive significantly more support from the GOP.

      February 9, 2012 at 3:22 pm |
    • Got Facts?

      Oh, and if you want to use your math, 300,000 abortions out of over 3M US and over 1M externally is more like 7% of services provided. Derp!

      February 9, 2012 at 3:26 pm |
  20. Switters

    Kiki-

    I was just wondering – what about women who use IUDs

    (IUDs working by not allowing the fertilized egg / zygote to attach to the uterine wall)

    February 9, 2012 at 1:24 pm |
    • Credenza

      Wrong! IUDs prevent the sperm from reaching and fertilizing the egg. NO fertilization has taken place. Please check before stating ill informed comments.

      February 9, 2012 at 3:11 pm |
    • Cricket11

      How ironic Credenza. "stating ill informed comments" seems to be your trademark.

      February 9, 2012 at 3:16 pm |
    • Candace Clough

      ACTUA:LLY, the IUD mimcs pregnancy so there is no cycle and no egg

      February 10, 2012 at 4:43 pm |
    • Cricket11

      Only hormonal IUDs prevent an egg from being released. Copper IUDs do not.

      February 13, 2012 at 9:02 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.