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. AlysonCT

    It is wrong to say that the news media or PP misrepresented the story causing SGK to have PR problems. It was because women and men all over the country had had enough of the politicization of women's healthcare. It was these same fed up people who took to social media and found that they were finally being heard! Millions of women have used PP for their gynecological needs for years..for pap smears and exams..In proportion to those uses, relatively few have used their services for abortions. And if they do, that is their own business. All I can say is pay attention to these continued political attacks on women's healthcare and let the powers that be know that you are not going to take it anymore!

    February 12, 2012 at 11:10 am |
    • Julie Smith

      OK .. and HOW is cutting off funding to one group to appease and appeal to donors from another group NOT being political? Really?

      February 12, 2012 at 11:59 pm |
    • Julie Smith

      That was actually not supposed to be a reply to you personally, Alyson .. just a general comment that somehow ended up as a reply. 🙂

      February 13, 2012 at 12:01 am |
    • july4th1776

      It's sad that women need to justify the taking of a child's life under the guise of "women's health." What about the health of the child? You're ending it's life, and denying it the basic rights enshrined in the Declaration of Independence – "LIFE, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness." The child didn't make the choice to come into existence – neither should a woman make the choice to take it out of existence.

      February 13, 2012 at 9:01 pm |
  2. Credenza

    Look up – "Confessions of an Abortionist" by Dr Bernard Nathanson . One of the NARAL members who got the abortion law passed. He performed 75,000 abortions He explains the tactics his group of colleagues used to get the law passed. These are HIS words, not mine.

    Tactics used:_
    [1] We persuaded the Media that abortion was liberal, enlightened and sophisticated
    [2] The number of illegal abortion in USA was 100,000 a year; but the figure we gave to the media was 1 Million.
    [3] The number of deaths from illegal abortions was 200-250, annually. The figure we constantly fed the media was 10,000
    [4] Another myth we fed to the public via the media was that ONLY illegal abortions woukd be done legally. but the annual number of abortions has risen by 1,500%
    [5] We systematically vilified the Catholic Church and its "socially backward ideas"
    [6] We picked on the Catholic hierarchy as the villains in opposing abortion but Catholics who agreed with it were enlightened and forward looking.
    [7] We suppressed the fact that most other religions were against abortion, including atheists so Ctholics were seen to be theonly opponents.
    [8] We denigrated and suppressed ALL the scientific evidence proving that life begins at CONCEPTION
    [9] Why do doctors who know that life begins at conception?
    Each abortion costs $300
    1.55 Million abortions a year
    The industry generates $500 MILLION a year most of which goes to the physician doing the abortion

    So many of the posters here chant out the mantra of this propaganda without thinking of the meaning of abortion. You have proved that if you repeat the big lie often enough people who have no spirituality will swallow it.

    February 12, 2012 at 12:02 am |
    • Ted

      It is fun to make up numbers and "facts"?

      February 12, 2012 at 9:16 am |
    • KJ6

      Hey Ted, Credenza actually cited his source so, go look it up before you spout off like a dolt!

      February 12, 2012 at 11:49 am |
  3. Wisdomforlife

    Does it upset you when people politicize the health and safety of women? Perhaps the Obama Administration didn’t calculate the controversy when refusing religious organizations exemption from purchasing health insurance that covers abortion related drugs and procedures. But to argue for their position as supporting health care for women is inexcusable. Have they interviewed any women who have had an abortion? See: http://thinkpoint.wordpress.com/2012/02/10/abortion-and-health-care-for-women/

    February 11, 2012 at 9:21 pm |
  4. Jo

    Very good article! I'm surprised CNN posted this, since most media, including CNN, seem to mostly only include articles that are left liberal leaning. This same thing happens for abortion issues, SSM, and others. It's to the point that many conservatives realize that media will not provide a fair share of their side of the story that we have just given up. My appeal to CNN and other media outlets go unanswered and only one side of the story- the liberal side- takes prominence. Sad situation when journalism is not fair in presenting both sides of a story.

    February 11, 2012 at 5:28 pm |
    • Credenza

      Excellent post, Jo. I'm English and our media is far from perfect BUT they havr strict rules – they can't run a programme or have a News item or political discussion unless BOTH sides are represented. Works well for us. American TV and newspapers are disgustingly biased. I really never expected it to be so awful. America is supposed to be a democracy. You can't HAVE one- sided democracy ..

      February 13, 2012 at 12:06 am |
  5. visitor

    I thought SKC was arguing this was not political and not about abortion? You just confirmed it was totally political and about abortion and SCK are a bunch of liars?

    Seriously, this was not a media campaign by Planned Parenthood. It was the utter grass-roots disgust that an organization that a lot of women embraced as their "own" ended up embracing anti-abortion politics. Bad move. Someone totally underestimated how sick women are of anti-abortion politics. Maybe someone much like you. You have no idea. Start having an idea.

    February 11, 2012 at 2:19 pm |
  6. SafeJourney

    Of course Komens decision was political, that is why Karan Handel was forced to resign.

    February 11, 2012 at 10:10 am |
  7. Pastor Walter Snyder

    The tag at the end of this essay reads, "The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Mollie Ziegler Hemingway." Considering the coverage of the Komen/Planned Parenthood mess and the past several years' Life Marches, the remark is superfluous, at least from what I've (not) seen from CNN.

    However, the tag is also incorrect, since a large number of people in America stand in wholehearted agreement with Mollie Hemingway. Among these are my wife and I, who would gladly support the work of the Komen organization but don't want to subsidize even legitimate cancer screenings done by PP, since this allows them to free up other funds for political purposes (unseemly!) and abortion provision (reprehensible!).

    February 11, 2012 at 9:23 am |
    • visitor

      And you have that right Pastor, just as I have the right not to contribute to any religious charitable organizations where I believe funds will be used to pay for Pastors' families' upkeep rather than for the core charitable mission.

      You have your wish. There were always huge questions around this organization's use of funds for salaries and this just brought it all to light. This organization is dead to millions of us women. It's yours now, MR. Pastor.

      February 12, 2012 at 9:52 am |
    • Cricket11

      So...you care about "life" as long as it's that of a fetus? By not supporting Komen's grants to PP you're potentially killing underprivledged women who would otherwise not receive cancer screenings, which could lead to their (preventable) death. I've never understood the "logic" behind the PL movement.

      February 13, 2012 at 10:59 am |
    • Bethany

      Komen never said that they were giving up on funding cancer screenings. They simply didn't want to involve PP.

      February 16, 2012 at 3:13 am |
    • Dozer

      If Komen truly cared about women's health they wouldn't have appointed a rabid pro-life activist to the board and allowed her to remove funding that can literally save women's lives. It's very apparent that there was a political agenda behind pulling the PP grant. It's so obvious that even a complete and utter moron could understand that. Oh, wait...I think I see why so many people don't get it now. 😉

      February 16, 2012 at 7:34 am |
  8. Noigiler

    There is a fundamental difference in the positions of the two sides here that seems to be overlooked. Planned Parenthood is providing women with a choice. If they are against abortion, they need not use that service. Nobody is being forced to have an abortion. What Christian fundamentalists and right wing politicians want to do, however, is not only make a decision for themselves, but for everybody else. How is that American?

    February 11, 2012 at 9:09 am |
    • Mark

      That is THE point!

      February 11, 2012 at 10:13 am |
    • Richard

      That is a beautifully put point! It's not forcing anyone to abort. People have to first choose. If they are against abortion, don't get an abortion. But just because some people think they know what's best in their own lives doesn't mean their lifestyles should be forced on everyone else.

      February 11, 2012 at 11:30 am |
    • Jo

      There is a level of individual "freedom" that requires moral evaluation. Many consider abortion to be like murder. I understand many don't. If it were, then would it be right to allow an organization to murder just because someone wants to do so? This is the point of pro-lifers. Not a simple, if you don't agree, then don't. This is why we have a democracy, so that these hot issues are debated and people choose for themselves, as well as how they want their nation to respond. 🙂

      February 11, 2012 at 5:31 pm |
    • Annie

      When does the baby get a choice? That is the crux of the problem.

      February 12, 2012 at 10:55 pm |
  9. Thomas Petersen

    No, it was political. First, Komen is not a religious org and doesn't conduct itself as one. Secondly, and more important, Komen based it's decision to cut funding because of politics. Most of the higher up staff members have, and are still involved in the business of politics. The major reason the now former VP (the woman who unsuccessful ran for Gov of GA.) based her decision to stop funding PP, because it was under investigation by guess what...a bunch of politicians.

    February 11, 2012 at 8:22 am |
  10. Rene Tamargo

    I think what most bothered the writer of this article and some of the conservative commentators here is that the media uncovered why Planned Parenthood really was dropped from Komen's list of funded programs. I find myself beyond words that conservatives would risk the destruction of a such a worthy foundation for women's causes just for their own political agenda.

    February 11, 2012 at 7:18 am |
  11. Rick

    I find it ironic that most of the people who support Planned Parenthood (and their 300,000 murders a year) were outraged at the Casey Anthony verdict because one child was killed.

    February 11, 2012 at 6:45 am |
  12. Myriam

    Politics or not, it's so sad to see women demanding to have the right to kill their own child. What kind of Nation are we building?

    February 11, 2012 at 4:43 am |
    • Rene Tamargo

      I suspect that our country which has been around for 236 years will be around for long after all of us are dead and buried. This issue of abortion has also been around long before you and I were born and will probably remain an issue for long after we are both dead and buried. The world will probably not come to an end because abortion either comes or goes. One just does what one thinks is right and moves on without making too many judgements on the other.

      February 11, 2012 at 7:46 am |
  13. city1360

    saw an ad for sgk race this tonight- cannot believe they seriously think that any woman would participate i such a scam- the- I bet by next fall- they will shut down.

    February 10, 2012 at 10:56 pm |
  14. Jonathan

    Thank you! The way CNN covered this was so very sad. There was not even an attempt to hear any voice other than those who agreed with them. I don't like the polarized Fox vs. CNN label game... but CNN (in their mainstream articles on this) definitely earned their reputation on this one. It was poor journalism and manipulative political maneuvering... the kind of tactic you would expect to find in state controlled media outlets – make it appear as if there is only one legitimate point of view and attack anyone who might think differently. They may not have said it with their own voice, but they only cited people whose views coincided with their own.

    February 10, 2012 at 10:41 pm |
  15. Keith

    Doc Vestibule, "silly little signs", imagine a nazi prison guard from a concentration camp on trial for his crimes holding up a sign during his trial saying, "death to all Jews". It won't help him in sentencing one bit now wil it?

    February 10, 2012 at 6:36 pm |
  16. dbrock010

    I am totally shocked that CNN actually printed this, albeit buried in their website way after all the controversy has subsided. I'm surprised because this article breaks their usual pattern of one-sided political reporting. Wow! I'm still shaking my head. . . is this CNN's way of throwing conservatives a bone?

    February 10, 2012 at 6:09 pm |
  17. rick horwitz

    So, here is Mollie doing exactly what she has criticized the media for doing...you go girl

    February 10, 2012 at 5:35 pm |
  18. Jennifer

    Why is everybody so stupid as to what planned parenthood actually does? Planned parenthood doesn't just fund abortions people!!! Stop mixing politics with religion!!!! They provide services to people that can't afford doctor office visits. They provide funding for mammograms and pap smears and all of the other stuff too. You cut off the funding to them like the government wants and once again you are screwing the poor. In our town they help with our cancer patients too! Why doesn't everybody read about the good that planned parenthood does in their town and stop judging them based on what the politicians have made it be which is all about abortions.

    February 10, 2012 at 5:16 pm |
    • MCFx

      If their services are for the poor then why do they charge for abortions? And, if the other services are so great like pregnancy prevention then why not STOP abortions and put those resources into prevention? I'll tell you why, because they recieve almost $200,000,000 from abortion revenue!

      February 10, 2012 at 5:42 pm |
    • Truth teller

      Well, now that all health insurance plans have to pay for all contraceptives and mammograms, there will be no need for planned parenthood.

      February 10, 2012 at 9:20 pm |
    • Jonathan

      And yet their name is "Planned parenthood"... so while these other services may have been brought in to legitimize their original objective – tying necessary procedures to their fundamental focus providing abortions is along the same lines of giving a portion of gambling funds toward education so that whenever a bill comes up to dismantle video lottery people cry "What about our children!" We cannot be afraid to destroy poor foundations merely because someone has appendaged a valuable service that could be offered without building it off of something so destructive.

      February 10, 2012 at 10:55 pm |
    • city1360

      you need to realize that most of the postings on this board are made by representatives of SGK- you can tell by the nasty comments about abortion.–sgk has been exposed as part of the right wing- surprised they are not attending the CPAC celebration this weekend.-

      February 10, 2012 at 11:04 pm |
  19. Hairbear

    I guess Komen must think there To big to fail! I think we should just start funding the individual organizations and do away with Komen all together!

    February 10, 2012 at 5:06 pm |
  20. Nicole

    Nice try. It WAS political, no news media had to tell me that. Politicians have been trying to defund PP for years, a politician entered Komen and the result was an effort to defund PP.

    February 10, 2012 at 4:40 pm |
    • MCFx

      That's the point! It JUST as political to fund Planned Parenthood as it is to defund it. Either way Mollie's point is that the defenders of planned parenthood are in a political battle. Why should the American taxpayers pay for something that half find morally reprehensible? And why just charitable Komen breast cancer donors indirectly fund PP. They shouldn't! Go get your funding from Hollywood. They'd be MORE than happy to fund abortions if you could pull their money from addictions.

      February 10, 2012 at 5:26 pm |
    • HawaiiGuest


      OMG I am so tired of people thinking that taxpayer money funds abortion. DO SOME RESEARCH!!!! FEDERAL LAW STATES THAT NO MONEY FROM THE GOVERNMENT CAN BE USED TO FUND ABORTIONS!!!! EVEN FROM MEDICAID!!!! How fu.cking hard is it to understand this simple godd.amned FACT!!!

      February 10, 2012 at 6:45 pm |
    • MCFx

      HawaiiGuest, Let me explain to you how it works since you've displayed your IGNORANCE by your lack of knowledge in simple math and your use of typical four lettered Liberal adjectives. Get a dictionary while your looking for your math book. If I give YOU $1000 dollars to pay YOUR rent because your government check is late and then YOU run to your filthy sock drawer and pull out the $500 YOUR 3 boyfriends "gifted" you for "favors" and YOU use that to buy crack, I've essentially paid for YOUR crack. And THAT is why Planned Parenthood is under federal investigation today.

      February 10, 2012 at 7:10 pm |
    • Thomas Petersen

      @MCFx you forgot to mention the money you were so graciously giving was to a black welfare queen. like you'd ever even think about lending money to someone in need.

      February 11, 2012 at 8:39 am |
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