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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. Arlene

    Molly Ziegler, another anti-abortion groupie, trying to shove her beliefs down everyone's throat. I can't believe CNN published this drivel.

    February 7, 2012 at 5:59 pm |
    • hwrcpa

      Did you look at the number of responses?

      February 7, 2012 at 6:02 pm |
    • Leah

      I used to be surprised by rude comments after the ends of pro life articles, but they've become routine that they're sounding less like respectable arguments and more like well, the drivel that you accuse Mollie of writing. "Shovel her beliefs down people's throats?" Did someone force you to read this article?

      February 7, 2012 at 6:52 pm |
    • Arlene

      Leah, let me rephrase your question: Is someone forcing you to have an abortion?

      February 7, 2012 at 7:36 pm |
  2. Pro Choice

    If you don't want an abortion, then don't have one. If you don't want cancer then don't have one (ie., have a mastecomy.)

    Life is all about Choices!!!

    February 7, 2012 at 5:59 pm |
    • Voice

      Where are the voices of the 50 million + babies that have been silenced forever???

      February 7, 2012 at 6:02 pm |
    • hwrcpa

      VOICE that sounds like a trick question.

      February 7, 2012 at 6:04 pm |
    • Vegetarian

      did you hear the choice of that chicken you ATE for lunch today? Did it ask to be killed? or is its life not as precious?

      February 7, 2012 at 6:06 pm |
    • Arlene

      Hey Voice, a embryo is a baby like an acorn is a tree. Embryos and fetuses, as precious as they are, are not babies. You are doing an enormous disservice to the world with your mis-representation of babies. You and people like you try to appeal to people's emotions by calling fertilized eggs, embryos and fetuses babies. Stop trying to guilt young women into ruining their lives and the lives of those that, at a later point, WILL be babies and children. Now, THAT is unacceptable.

      February 7, 2012 at 8:18 pm |
    • Arlene

      *an embryo

      February 7, 2012 at 8:19 pm |
  3. JPL

    The Susan G. Komen group is a Non-Profit aimed at the eradication of breast cancer. It is each person's individual prerogative whether or not to donate to them. Additionally, it is the Susan G Komen Organization's prerogative who to give money to in order to further that goal. If you, individually, want your money to go to Planned Parenthood than you should donate to Planned Parenthood; if you, instead, want it to go to Susan G. Komen you should do that. As long as the actions are legal, no Congressperson should get involved in how Non-Profit organizations spend their money. In the future, we should allow Susan G. Komen (and other similar organizations) to spend their money as they see fit. Allow the free market to determine where the preponderance of the money should go–not Congresspersons.

    February 7, 2012 at 5:58 pm |
  4. whatintheworld

    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.

    Really??!! I know MANY, and I do mean many, women that are anti-abortion (let's face it, it's not pro-life) that support PP for all of the things that they do for low-income women AND men.. You don't have to be pro-choice to see the good that comes from PP. You do, however, have to blind, to NOT see the many other services that they offer. You do have to be blind if you think that PP does the most abortions. Of the estimated over 1,000,000 abortions annually, only 300,000 are performed at PP. The rest are done at hospitals and doctors offices. Why don't we see anyone attacking them? Why are hospitals not subjected to the same scrutiny? Why don't people go into an uproar about donor money or federal money being given to their local hospital? I wonder, sometimes, if it is less about abortion and more about controlling the under/uninsured.

    February 7, 2012 at 5:57 pm |
  5. Otto

    This seems like such a bizarre response. A lot of the coverage I've seen indicates that Komen was simply being untruthful when they said that their decision wasn't political (e.g., they didn't announce that they were cutting ties with any of the other organizations they've given money to who have been or who are under investigations at various levels). This response by Ziegler essentially just outlines the ways that cutting ties to PP is a politically sound decision. So . . . essentially Ziegler is saying that Komen DID lie about the reasons for their decision, but that's okay, because it was a good decision?

    February 7, 2012 at 5:57 pm |
  6. John

    Folks, let's keep our eye on the ball... We need to erradicate breast cancer, not try to change Planned Parenthood. That is a whole different issue. If you are no longer comfortable with Komen, read this article. It gives you some other options. PLEASE don't let the core issue fall through the cracks... http://excelle.monster.com/news/articles/5158-the-five-best-breast-cancer-charities

    February 7, 2012 at 5:56 pm |
  7. RapidOne

    REALITY has a liberal bias.

    February 7, 2012 at 5:55 pm |
  8. Toni

    What does abortion, and the the rights thereof, have to do with breast cancer? Why would you stop funding for breast cancer screenings because of abortions? That's like chopping off your leg because you have a problem with your arm; or as the old folks use to say "throwing out the baby with the bath water". The problem with being a fanatic is that you don't think rationally – as was this case.

    February 7, 2012 at 5:54 pm |
    • Leah

      Planned Parenthood are America's largest abortion provider. There are other places for the needy to have cancer screenings, mammograms and cancer care.
      Actually, I do think straight, and I read the whole article.

      February 7, 2012 at 6:05 pm |
  9. americangal

    Komen went against their own word and their own mission statement. In June 2011, Komen posted on its website a statement in support of Planned Parenthood: "During the past five years, Komen Affiliate grants to Planned Parenthood have funded 139,000 clinical breast exams and nearly 5,000 mammograms, enabling the detection of 177 breast cancers. ... As long as there is a need for health care for vulnerable populations, Komen will fund the facilities that can best meet those needs." I am not reading - "Komen will fund the facilities that can best meet those needs as long as they do not provide abortions."
    If Komen is so concerned about a "pro-life" image, why do they back a partially pink gun for sale where part of the proceeds go to Komen?
    A man is only as good as his word – what does that say about Komen?
    Last I looked, it always was and should have been about CANCER. Cancer kills whether you are pro-life or pro-choice and whether you step foot in a door of a Planned Parenthood..
    Last I looked, abortion was legal in the United States of America – it is not a crime.
    And finally, if you want to argue about whose life is more important – an unborn fetus versus a young mother who had a baby at the young age of 18 who is struggling to put herself through school to better the life of her and her child who seeks help at Planned Parenthood for a breat lump ... aren't they equally important?

    February 7, 2012 at 5:52 pm |
    • TonyC

      SGK should not have either a pro-life or pro-abortion stance at all. They should have stayed completely away from this five years ago. Brinker has turned them into a political pawn shop. She would have done so much better by looking at the bigger picture before she leaped in 2005. Now she has 50% of America against them no matter which way she goes. Cancer causes and support organizations should never go there...

      February 7, 2012 at 5:57 pm |
    • americangal

      I completely agree Tony – Komen should have never gone there. Cancer screening, prevention, treatment and finding a cure has been the issue and their mission - not being the moral police of what is right or wrong.

      February 7, 2012 at 7:34 pm |
  10. Li Tai Fang

    Give it up, social conservatives. You lost!

    February 7, 2012 at 5:50 pm |
  11. Tex71

    If Mollie was trying to make Planned Parenthood look bad here, well, that kind of backfired, didn't it? This piece is so overdone, it serves as a good example of how religious extremists need to be counterbalanced by the law of the land.

    February 7, 2012 at 5:50 pm |
  12. TeddyN

    Karma will hit and Mollie will be struck with breast cancer tonight and have to have a double masectomy. That's what she gets for being against the poor being able to have mammograms done. May her Chemo be very painful

    February 7, 2012 at 5:49 pm |
    • rick

      You are a horrible example of humanity.

      February 7, 2012 at 5:56 pm |
    • hwrcpa

      Take your medication. Don't need to go that far.

      February 7, 2012 at 6:01 pm |
    • Leah

      Eww. Disgusting comment. But anyhow, just thought I'd let ya know that PP doesn't offer Mammograms and that there are other means and facilities for the needy to go to have breast exams and cancer screening and care.

      February 7, 2012 at 6:01 pm |
    • HHart

      Are you serious? That comment is disgusting. Whether you agree with the author or not, wishing cancer and painful treatments on ANYONE is ridiculously offensive and disturbing.

      February 7, 2012 at 6:04 pm |
    • dsavio

      Statements like this help no one and hurt the soul of the one who makes them.

      February 7, 2012 at 6:05 pm |
  13. Mary

    I think Dana52's comments are right on. I'm not thrilled about abortion, and have never donated to Planned Parenthood, but have donated to Komen. I was angry about their decision to stop funding breast exams at Planned Parenthood. It seems to me that providing funds to planned parenthood for breast exams is a "prolife" initiative, at least if one cares about life after birth too. Our country is becoming so horribly polarized. Most people, whether pro-choice or pro-life would like to see fewer abortions, and I bet if we stopped obsessing about Planned Parenthood and worked together to accomplish that we would be much more successful.

    February 7, 2012 at 5:45 pm |
    • Leah

      But, Planned Parenthood are America's largest abortion provider. Why can't it be an obsession for someone who is deeply against abortion? We simply are not ignoring the facts.
      There are other facilities for the needy to have breast exams and mammograms (PP does't actually offer Mammograms).
      Ignoring what Planned Parenthood does will not help anyone.

      February 7, 2012 at 5:58 pm |
  14. Reggie

    Excellent analysis. The fact that journalism is so biased should be a huge issue to all Americans. Instead, you have people arguing about whether abortion should be defunded, etc... You're all missing the point. This is ANALYSIS of bad JOURNALISM. And I have come to believe that I can now only believe about 40% of what I hear on the news. Regardless of who is saying it, because they are politically slanted in one direction or the other. It's sad that I can't even trust the news industry to give it to me straight.

    February 7, 2012 at 5:45 pm |
    • hwrcpa

      Especially if it's not the what you like.

      February 7, 2012 at 5:51 pm |
    • RapidOne

      Reality makes one seem biased sometimes to those that do NOT see what is real and true.

      So the journalists were reporting on the facts, and the facts seemed bias to Mollie. Well, perhaps the FACTS WERE BIASED against SGK because REALITY WAS BIASED against SGK. It's so trivial and crazy to explain this it's laughable.

      February 7, 2012 at 5:57 pm |
  15. TonyC

    SGK has completely lost focus. What was a noble cause has turned into a political pawn shop. Brinker should never have crossed the line back in 2005 when she started providing Planned Parenthood money. They easily could have sponsored programs for the poor and indigent that were not tied to the political program at PP. Furthermore, Brinker has shown absolutely no class. She hired Karen Handel knowing full well her intentions and convictions and then she drove the bus she threw her under.

    February 7, 2012 at 5:44 pm |
    • hwrcpa

      So your saying the purpose SGK is antiabortion and not breast cancer. Or only breast cancer that is antiabortion. If so I want my money back.

      February 7, 2012 at 5:54 pm |
    • TonyC

      I didn't say either you made that up yourself. What I said was that SGK has lost focus. As a cancer organization they should have avoided this years ago. They cannot win either way in this situation and that's the fault of their leadership, namely Brinker. I run a cancer support group and the last thing I will ever do is turn off half my membership by making such a terrible decision.

      February 7, 2012 at 6:05 pm |
  16. NYCMovieFan

    Wow, what a completely misleading editorial. The author should be completely ashamed of herself, trumpeting this garbage as fact. What are the facts: abortion is a legal medical procedure in the US. That is the law. Fact: no one is forced to have an abortion. Fact: reporters question interview subjects, they do not "interrogate" them. How misleading and biased to tell that lie in the opening paragraph! It gets worse, with strange "statistics" about "half" the country having one opinion, then extrapolating that to be "half " of women in the US – really? Not so. Anyone fighting against a legal medical procedure in the US is trying to invade the privacy of others, trying to invade a sacred medical space of privacy. Stop it, stop the traitorous, anti-American crusade against women. We are sick of the lies and garbage from these traitors!!!

    February 7, 2012 at 5:44 pm |
    • HistoryProf

      "Facts have a well-known liberal bias." –Stephen Colbert

      February 7, 2012 at 5:47 pm |
    • Katharine Sall

      Right on, NYCMovieFan- well said. She should be ashamed of herself – how did this get on the front page of CNN.com? Let her write for "GetReligion" and stay off my fair and balanced news site.

      February 7, 2012 at 5:58 pm |
    • Gallup Facts - Abortion

      Funny, they seem to link to an artcile and completely MISS that the self-identified Pro-Life/Choice break down is not the be all end all. There are questions related to LEGALITY (meaning, how the US is now).

      http://www.gallup.com/poll/147734/americans-split-along-pro-choice-pro-life-lines.aspx

      Odd that they linked to data 2 years old (almost 3).

      February 7, 2012 at 6:04 pm |
  17. jj

    What Tea Party hack wrote this story? There was no campaign by Planned Parenthood, just a natural backlash to Komen's idiocy.

    February 7, 2012 at 5:42 pm |
    • Jaynicia

      Here here!

      February 7, 2012 at 5:46 pm |
    • VanHagar

      I don't have any reason to doubt what you say here, but what's with the picture in this article–who paid for the nifty signs with the planned parenthood support (note the registered trademark on the right hand sign)? Just curious.

      February 7, 2012 at 5:58 pm |
  18. Becky Root

    Why does CNN.com bother to post a contributor like this? Obviously, the NATURAL outrage of any HUMAN is that Komen's action was de-funding mammograms, which aren't political in anyway.

    February 7, 2012 at 5:42 pm |
    • hwrcpa

      397 Responses

      February 7, 2012 at 5:45 pm |
  19. DMo Rightside

    Everyone is missing the real point – so, in my view the media has missed it 100%. The real point here is not the trumped up political palaver, but the fact that the Komen group was eliminating funding to recipients "under investigation". Gone apparently is the notion that you are innocent until proven guilty. So, even if the investigation is being done by a politician – not the FBI, not the CIA, not the local pOlice, not even a dog catcher – but a politician, then I can be denied something (anything)? Sounds like McCarthyism all over again. THAT is the real story. And no one is talking about it at all. Shame.

    February 7, 2012 at 5:40 pm |
    • RapidOne

      Those 'under investigation' were pointed out by an outspoken pro-lifer and then this was perpetrated by another pro-lifer in VP position. You don't actually know the story so for now we'll just blame your comment on ignorance.

      February 7, 2012 at 5:59 pm |
    • RapidOne

      Pro-lifer senator I meant. A pro-lifer senator was one of the people who pushed for Planned Parenthood to be placed under investigation. Then Karen Handel, new VP for Komen, put into motion the cutting of funding for this reason (emails and staff members are evidence to this). There IS MORE EVIDENCE, if you'd like it–but this should be enough for you, no??

      February 7, 2012 at 6:01 pm |
  20. hwrcpa

    Let see. First we don't fund organizations that do abortions. Then we don't fund organizations that are not "christian." Then we don't fund ones that arn't Catholic. Then we don't fund ones that arn't Republican. And then we increase everyones salary.

    February 7, 2012 at 5:39 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.