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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. Stephen

    Mollie,
    You are the media. You make your money telling stories and telling half he truth yourself. Planned Parenthood does do mammograms as I know people who have used their services, They also prevent many more abortions than they perform by getting birth control into the hands of people who would otherwise not get it. The best way to end abortion is to prevent unwanted pregancies, which none of the anti-choice people seem to grasp. If they really were against abortion and not for controlling women according to their religious view, then they would be helping Planned Parenthood distribute birth control.
    Plannned Parenthood also help young mothers provide get good healthcare and by extension help their unborn and birthed children have healthier lives. How many millions have not died or been crippled because of treatment they recieved at PP? Why are you telling only half the story? oh yeah, in your words, you are the media.

    February 7, 2012 at 4:28 pm |
  2. ruetienne

    I only had to read that the new senior vice-president at Komen had Sarah Palin for a supporter and just recently came up with the criteria for their grants, to understand the manipulation at work. I won't vote for a Republican from city councilman on up!

    February 7, 2012 at 4:27 pm |
  3. bravado in boston

    drivel

    February 7, 2012 at 4:26 pm |
  4. dianne

    Look, the issue WASN'T abortion...it was BREAST CANCER.

    February 7, 2012 at 4:26 pm |
  5. glyder

    does it really shock anyone that the media lies by telling only some things.

    February 7, 2012 at 4:25 pm |
  6. pete

    Unfortunetely, this "journalist" is giving 'Hemingway' a bad name... but I guess I should have guessed given that " Mollie Ziegler Hemingway is a media critic at GetReligion..." Any article prefaced by that will not be taken seriously by anyone with half a brain.

    February 7, 2012 at 4:24 pm |
  7. Brian

    So that media told half a story and now we are suppose to think this story is the full story? Give me a break! I did research after this fiasco hit the media and found much more about Susan G Komen than what was majorly being reported. In the last week, I have pointed others in the direction of information that has changed their minds about donating to SGK. I urge people to research the organization they chose to donate to. THINK BEFORE YOU PINK

    February 7, 2012 at 4:24 pm |
  8. A. Person

    In an article that admonishes nearly everyone for strongly taking the 'Pro-choice' side of the debate against Koman, this article is one sided itself. Planned Parenthood spends only 3% of its budgets on abortion. A fact Republicans completely inflate or ignore on most occasions. This is a political issue, because pro-life advocates can't get abortion outlawed they use every chance they can to try and limit the issue else where.

    February 7, 2012 at 4:24 pm |
    • Dado

      3% of the budget that results to 330,000 abortions a year? Wow! I hope they limit their budget at that.

      February 7, 2012 at 4:37 pm |
  9. Margaret

    Liberal media gives half the story, huh? Well, Ms. Ziegler Hemingway tells even less...I'll give her 5% truth.
    She insinuates that Planned Parenthood is a big ol' abortion warehouse.
    At most PP spends 5% of its budget on abortion. The vast majority of PP funds goes to prenatal care and birth control...both proven factors in REDUCING abortions.
    If you're pro-life, you should support Planned Parenthood.

    February 7, 2012 at 4:23 pm |
    • Mellowme

      Huge agenda on Ms. Ziegler's part. Giving statistics in bold and never mentioning what % of PP work or budget that is. And isn't it former Ambassador. She is no longer an ambassador but can be referred as former (wish I could make that bold). You wouldn't call a former CEO a CEO.

      February 7, 2012 at 4:30 pm |
  10. Carl

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

    Well, DUH! The media, with VERY few exceptions, are completely liberal, and have become the mouthpiece of all liberal ideology. Between government-controlled schools (staffed by liberals) and print and broadcast media (also staffed by liberals), it's a miracle there's any conservatism left in this country.

    February 7, 2012 at 4:22 pm |
    • Mellowme

      Actually the media is much more conservative than you give it credit for. The "majority liberal media" is a GOP catch phrase that bears little resemblance to reality. Much like "tax and spend democrats" when the republicans raise taxes and increase the deficit much more in the past 30 years.

      February 7, 2012 at 4:32 pm |
  11. Lauras50

    What a load of crap. When Koman hired someone who was directly and passionately involved with the war on women AND the war on women's health they immiddatley showed they didn't really care about women at all. Planned parenthood is often the only provider for health in rural areas AND one of the only providers for breast and cervical cancer for those with no insurance.. Only 3% of what they do has to do with abortions and Koman and everyone knows FULL WELL those services come from other sources. . Komen was amazingly stupid to hire Handler and make this political!! They SHOULD never be trusted again!

    February 7, 2012 at 4:22 pm |
    • lisa

      Most Planned Parenthood locations don't even provide the screenings – they provide referrals. I'm sorry Komen backed down and I'm sorry liberals are so angry at anyone or any agency who doesn't believe what they do.

      February 7, 2012 at 4:24 pm |
    • Leela

      Well, of course this article is "pro-Komen" ... it's the Belief Blog, for crissakes. The by-line tells it all: "Mollie Ziegler Hemingway is a media critic at GetReligion and editor at Ricochet." Did we really expect Ms. Hemingway to argue FOR Planned Parenthood on a Belief Blog???

      February 7, 2012 at 4:32 pm |
    • Dude

      Wow. Chill out.

      February 7, 2012 at 4:36 pm |
  12. Chris

    It could not have been more political! Tea Party favorite (and one time Republican contender for Gov Karen Handel Headed this charge). There are internal emails where she blatantly states how they can make it seem non-political while still pushing her pro-life agenda. If you have any doubt do just a bit of research into Karen Handel!

    February 7, 2012 at 4:20 pm |
    • Sandra

      Half-wit, you missed the point. These are federally-funded abortions. Not all of us want to pay for 330,000 abortions each year.

      February 7, 2012 at 4:22 pm |
    • HawaiiGuest

      @Sandra

      WRONG..by federal law PP cannot use federal money (including money from Medicaid) for abortions.

      February 7, 2012 at 4:29 pm |
  13. Kathy

    The people that oppose abortion should be referred to as anti-abortion advocates, NOT "pro-life". Stop referring to them as "pro-life". They only have one very limited issue – that is to criminalize and outlaw abortion.

    Abortion is and always will be a PRIVACY issue. When we legally force men (and women) to donate their extra kidney, blood and bone marrow to someone who needs them to save their lives, them we can take up the abortion issue.

    February 7, 2012 at 4:19 pm |
    • Jillp

      Murder is never a privacy issue. Aborting human life is not privacy.

      February 7, 2012 at 4:28 pm |
    • Russ

      @ Kathy: that is a very shallow understanding of your opponents. They believe abortion kills a child. Would you call pedophilia a privacy issue?

      February 7, 2012 at 4:31 pm |
    • Kathy

      So Jillp, why do you not propose a law that would require people to donate parts of their bodies to other people who need them? It is all about privacy and the right of an individual to the integrity of their own body.

      February 7, 2012 at 4:33 pm |
    • Larry

      That's right. Liberals are all about killing as long as it's done "in private". Execute someone for commenting a serious crime, it's a sin. Go to war, it's a sin. It seems Liberals only get upset about killing as long it's on TV.

      February 7, 2012 at 4:36 pm |
    • Rob

      please stop referring to yourself as "pro-choice" when you are really "pro-abortion" and seem not to support the "choice" for life

      February 7, 2012 at 4:37 pm |
    • LaLa

      Actually, "pro-life" means you think that all human life has dignity & value. We don't believe in killing an innocent child because he/she is not perfect, his/her father is a rapist, or because he/she is inconvenient. We believe life starts at conception so certain types of birth control are wrong since they lead to the destruction of a fertilized embryo. We also believe in protecting those at the other end of life's spectrum – the terminally ill & dying. So it really isn't JUST about opposing abortion. But perhaps you pro-abortion folks wouldn't understand.

      February 7, 2012 at 4:38 pm |
    • lionroar88

      Wrong. If Abortion is a PRIVACY issue then why is FEDERAL money being spent to fund them?

      Obama thumbed his nose at The First Ammendment when he mandated that Religious Health Insurance Providers provide birth control and abortion pills to their clientel. The First Ammendment is there so that Religious Organizations are prevented from mandating laws and the Government is to stay out of Religion. This president needs to go!

      February 7, 2012 at 4:38 pm |
    • Kathy

      Not shallow, but very narrow. I see pedophilia is entirely a different issue not involving the integrity of one's own body. I can't convince people that a fertilized egg is not a child, but I can challenge their opinions on rights to self determination of what happens to their own skin.

      February 7, 2012 at 4:47 pm |
  14. Kamal

    Why do you people trample on womens' rights? A woman has a right to get an abortion. Why confuse it with cancer screenings? if you want to link the two, should people who are pro-choice stop donating to the Komen Fund?

    February 7, 2012 at 4:19 pm |
  15. Russell Hammond, Hollywood

    Mollie Ziegler Hemingway is a religious zealot and you'll see that if you Google her profile/bio. Given that, what did you think she was going to say?

    February 7, 2012 at 4:19 pm |
    • Conrad Shull

      My guess is religious and zealot are interchangeable terms in your vocabulary.

      February 7, 2012 at 4:35 pm |
    • Russell Hammond, Hollywood

      @Conrad. Yes, and for good reason.

      February 7, 2012 at 5:20 pm |
  16. Ieat

    So what if Planned Parenthood performs abortions? Many OBs also do. Do you condemn the profession of OBs because of that? Planned Parenthood provides free screening which is a good thing. Don't confuse free screening with abortions.

    February 7, 2012 at 4:18 pm |
    • Dave

      This article is incorrect. The last honest polling shows that 70% of Americans support the woman's right to choose. If any politician wants to test this let them run on a completely anti-choice platform and see what happens.

      February 7, 2012 at 4:26 pm |
  17. RightTurnClyde

    But ... Obama care is going to pay for ALL of their needs. Why should Barbara Boxer pressure Komen for anything ... doesn't she know? She voted for it .. indeed campaigned for it. Obama care is EVERYTHING we will ever need. Cradle to grave. No need to private health care .. no need for planned parenthood .. no need for marathons and fund raisers. Obama is doing it all for us ... that's what he promised .. did he lie?

    February 7, 2012 at 4:15 pm |
    • David

      Excuse me but did you read the bill? Obamacare is a law that everyone seems to hate until they actually read it. Your post has nothing to do with the legislation that was actually passed and I suggest that you familiarize yourself with it because you do have obligations under the new law.

      February 7, 2012 at 4:26 pm |
    • ChuckMurph

      Where in Obama's Health Care plan does it state that there will be no private care?

      February 7, 2012 at 4:28 pm |
  18. Bob

    What nonsense! Komen did NOT back down. They had already agreed to continue to fund this year's grant and NO WHERE did they promise to fund in the future. And Handel certainly did LIE about the true objective. If you want to criticize "the media", don't open yourself to criticism.

    February 7, 2012 at 4:14 pm |
  19. Anomic Office Drone

    Typical right-wing response:

    "We're not wrong. The media is picking on us. Ignore that we own the media, please."

    February 7, 2012 at 4:13 pm |
    • Carl

      Seriously? Are you really that stupid? Other than perhaps Fox, what major media outlet is controlled by "the right"?

      February 7, 2012 at 4:24 pm |
    • Anomic Office Drone

      I'll gladly ignore that Time Warner (owner of CNN), Comcast (owner MSNBC) and their respective executives and board of directors give overwhelmingly to conservative candidates and causes so that you can go on living in your fantasy.

      February 7, 2012 at 5:00 pm |
  20. JohnnyGenius

    Still don't understand what abortion has to do with Cancer prevention and care. If all the prolifers out there would like to start up an organization that does everything PP does sans abortion, then by all means. Until then, shut up.

    February 7, 2012 at 4:12 pm |
    • RightTurnClyde

      Well it is the feminist version of "spay your cat." They an go there and get an abortion and their tubes tied and their rabies shots all at the same time .. one stop feminist cure all. (but what about Obama? Didn't he promise to do all of that? Or maybe do they think that will never be funded?)

      February 7, 2012 at 4:19 pm |
    • C. K

      MANY other organizations already exist that do cancer research and mammograms and more, that have NOTHING TO DO with abortions. We don't need to start a new one – just support the ones that exist and cut PP off at the knees for their two-faced lies about caring for 'life' by offering mammograms while at the same time killing babies!

      February 7, 2012 at 4:23 pm |
    • Robert

      If you'd bother to do some research, you'd find that the services that women really need are available through their doctors and are covered my insurance or Medicare. Of course, if you just want to follow what the media feeds you, go right ahead. But just because you believe a lie, that doesn't make it true.

      February 7, 2012 at 4:36 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.