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. Lamar


    February 19, 2012 at 2:36 pm |
  2. Lamar

    did you know that a leading cause of breast cancer is abortion ? http://abortionbreastcancer.com/

    February 19, 2012 at 2:34 pm |
    • TRH

      That is absolutely not true. Please stop spreading this known pro-life "weapon."

      February 19, 2012 at 3:42 pm |
  3. Matt

    LauraJT criticized this article by saying "Planned Parenthood does NOT perform abortions." From the PP Website: "Abortions are available at many Planned Parenthood health centers, clinics, and the offices of private health care providers." Funny to criticize the author of this article for false information when you use false information yourself.

    February 19, 2012 at 2:12 pm |
  4. TRH

    Abortion is unfortunate reality and an unfortunate necessity. Deal with it.

    February 19, 2012 at 1:50 pm |
  5. Jennifer Snell

    Reblogged this on The Berean News Analyst and commented:
    This story is a bit old now, but this is a great post and worth reblogging.

    February 19, 2012 at 1:44 pm |
  6. bdl1978

    Why does religion have to put its ugly nose into every issue on earth? seriously get a life religion

    February 19, 2012 at 1:31 pm |
  7. nick p.

    the antiabortion group is who turned this foundation into a political issue! if its about donatingmoney then there twenty other organizations with same goal, sodonate to them, but this is more about political ideology and having it their way, all the pro-choice group did pushback for right to access to healthcare, questionis who started the politicalness of Komen, it was anti-abortion groups with help of some representing Komen, not the other way around!

    February 19, 2012 at 1:29 pm |
  8. Joy

    Let me get this right. You think that denying poor women access to mammograms which inevitably would lead to more breast cancer is a good idea? I don;t know in what universe you reside, but it's not this one!

    February 19, 2012 at 12:53 pm |
    • Lamar

      Joy, you are an idiota!

      Planned Parenthood didn't provide screenings, it provided referrals. 600000 for referals?

      Joy – do you know about the link between abortions and breast cancer ? Planned Parenthood, being an abortion provider, is the cause of more breast cancer than cures via the silly referrals for screenings.

      February 19, 2012 at 2:29 pm |
    • TRH


      "do you know about the link between abortions and breast cancer ?"

      No. Please tell us about it.

      February 19, 2012 at 3:35 pm |
    • TRH


      Never mind.

      Per Wikipedia:

      "The abortion–breast cancer hypothesis has been the subject of extensive scientific inquiry, and the scientific community has concluded that abortion does not cause breast cancer."

      February 19, 2012 at 3:38 pm |
  9. Kill refuse

    How incredibly disengeuous of you. You cited a 2-year -old Gallup poll, when was conducted last year and had the numbers 49% choice / 43% life.

    February 19, 2012 at 12:23 pm |
  10. Dave

    Bias, schmias. Nothing here was news to me, I'd heard it all presented by other media in the past couple weeks.

    February 19, 2012 at 12:17 pm |
  11. Michael Gale

    WOW – What a bizarre piece. This is not an intellectual debate but one around poor planning, shoddy execution and a complete failure to understand the zeitgeist. Komen had every right to do what they did and every action has an equal or on this occasion even more than equal opposite action. They should have thought far more intelligently not just about the media reaction.

    February 19, 2012 at 12:00 pm |
  12. A. D. DiSorda

    Excellent exposition of the truth many people know and feel about PP. Separate the life ending technologies from the life supporting technologies and the conflict disappears. Mammograms don't need to be provided by PP. It is just a cover they are using to hide their real purpose which is the killing business. And before you say it's not a person they are killing tell me how you can distinguish between an unborn child and a born one on the cellular level? They are both human beings. And how is abortion an woman's health issue? Is pregnancy a disease?

    February 19, 2012 at 11:30 am |
  13. Jeff

    Ms. Hemingway, your argument might mean something if it was the reason Susan G. Komen originally gave for cutting of Planned Parenthood. But it wasn't. SGK said it was severing its relationship with Planned Parenhoot because the organization was being "investigated." In so doing, SGK gave legitimacy to a McCarthyist move by Congressional Republicans to destroy Planned Parenthood with innuendo, just as they destroyed ACORN. Even though ACORN was cleared of all wrongdoing, conservatives managed to turn it into such a pariah that no one would come to its defense. People were determined not to let that happen with Planned Parenthood. You left all of that out of your "other side," making your report dishonest.

    February 19, 2012 at 11:27 am |
    • LauraJT

      You are absolutely correct. Not only that, but Planned Parenthood does NOT perform abortions, as she states in this article. They refer woman who want abortions to clinic that perform them, true, but where does the writer get this "largest abortion provider" and where is she getting her figures of 300,000 abortions per year? This is all right wing propanganda with no facts to back it up. A totally one-sided article with little if any truth connected to it.

      February 19, 2012 at 1:47 pm |
  14. Arron

    Our nation is in decline because we keep killing the one innocent thing that we bring into the world: our youth. Our aging country will die out due to a low birth rate and we will be taken over by someone that does not have the same values we used to have. Too bad that a country that was built on Judeo-Christian values would not last more than two hundred years. Goodbye, America – it was nice knowing you.

    February 19, 2012 at 8:58 am |
  15. Usman Akhtar


    Not touching the topic but way media never show these videos for people to understand the truth. Watch these videos to see who your Lord, Your Savior, is truly and who take Jesus back after his Cruisifiction. I Challenge you to deny these videos and the massage in these videos. Paradise, who’s Paradise? Think about your kids and what they believe in. Listen to these creatures very carefully. These creatures are saying the name of their and every bodies Creator. May be GOD wants to give you a chance? I hope you won't call these creatures terrorist. Good Luck. I hope after finding the truth you will love the One and Only Provider, Savior, Creator and Owner of Paradise.
    Watch these videos.

    Watch where this Red car is going.
    Usman Akhtar

    February 18, 2012 at 9:34 pm |
  16. Rebeckah

    I think you're indulging in wishful thinking if you think that SGK could get MORE donations if they dropped Planned Parenthood. In fact, I think SGK has probably permanently lost the participation of any woman who cares at all about women's health as opposed to religious ideology. But it's a free country and you're free to post any bit of poorly thought out, baseless accusations and wishful thinking that you'd like.

    February 17, 2012 at 8:19 pm |
    • MikeM

      Rebeckah, you have no idea how much money Komen has lost over their support for Planned Parenthood. I know that, as just one person, I made sure that thousands of dollars were sent to another worthy organization instead of Komen due to their PP ties. If I could cost them thousands of dollars a year, I can only imagine that their net loss on the matter is easily in the millions. And, it costs them additional money because they don't qualify for grants because they can't track outcomes for Planned Parenthood patients since PP doesn't provide anything beyond rather inconclusive breast exams in-house.

      And, Noel, yes Planned Parenthood does perform abortions. Currently, not every location is able to provide abortions, but most now do, and they've set making them available at every location as a goal. Where they're not available, they will provide referrals to get them done elsewhere. 98% of the pregnant women who go to Planned Parenthood go for abortions. As for the humans whose lives they take, go find the worst off people and ask them if they'd rather be dead than alive... most will say no.

      February 19, 2012 at 4:52 am |
    • Sue


      Do you care to provide a source for your claim that 98% of pregnant women go to PP for abortions or that their goal is for all locations to provide abortion services?

      Go ahead, I'll wait....

      February 19, 2012 at 11:57 am |
  17. Dale

    Funny, this article bashes the media for being biased, but this article is also biased...can you say, hypocritical? For example, the author keeps referring to Planned Parenthood as an abortion provider. Yes, this organization does provide referrals for abortions, but by identifying only one of very many services they provide on tells a fraction of the story. Planned Parenthood provides women's health services. The funding from Komen supports Planned Parenthood's early cancer detection programs. Would you really want a women to not get screened, just because her only healthcare option is Planned Parenthood? If so, that does not sound very "Christian" to me.

    February 17, 2012 at 5:10 pm |
    • MikeM

      The article says it's providing the other side of the story. Obviously the other side is a side...

      February 19, 2012 at 4:53 am |
    • Fred

      Planned Parenthood IS an abortion provider. Don't hide behind the 'other services' and ignore where they get the lions share of their profit.

      February 19, 2012 at 12:12 pm |
    • wonder how this works

      How can a not for profit organization make a profit with a service representing 3% of revenue, often provided below cost?

      February 19, 2012 at 1:46 pm |
    • Cynthia

      Not for profits can make revenue, what they can't make is a profit. There is a difference between the two, that's why they're called "not for profit" instead of "not for revenue".

      February 19, 2012 at 2:05 pm |
    • Fred

      Don't be confused by their statistics. They claim abortion is 3% of their services but that accounts for 48% of their income, which is 148 million in 2010 from abortions. How can they be non profit and why do tax payers have to fund it?

      February 20, 2012 at 8:29 pm |
  18. Stephanie

    My favorite line: "But logic dictates that it’s not more political to stop funding Planned Parenthood than it is to keep funding it." Nailed it.

    February 17, 2012 at 3:34 pm |
    • biblicalaaronc

      Stephanie, your so-called "favorite line" is called a thesis. It's also called obvious spin. Welcome to writing 101. Unfortunately, the premise is false, but it's what you want to hear, so non-critical thinkers like yourself lap it up. This thesis is like saying that if someone sneaks up and sucker punches you in the face out of the blue that you would be wrong to try to defend yourself. The fact is that the public sympathized with Planned Parenthood because they perceived exactly this happening. It is not just as political to defend yourself against McCarthyite witch hunters as it is to start the witch hunting in the first place. The person who draws first blood will always be perceived as the aggressor, and there is nothing illogical about that. Simple-minded "logic" might say that you hit me and I hit you so both actions are the same, but that ignores the order and context in which the events occurred. It ignores it on purpose to justify a political preconception. I'm glad I could help explain to you how this actual process works.

      February 19, 2012 at 12:15 pm |
  19. Noel

    This is such an insanely biased peice. Fist of all Planned Parenthood does not actually perform abortions, the refer people to the clinics yes, but that is what any OBGYN would do for their patient. So lets protest ALL women's health care now. Most of what Planned Parent hood does is in fact women's health checkups and contraception.
    And even if they did do the abortions, do you really want....what was it 330,000 unwanted children born in the US each year? Is that not cruel in itself? How many children are already in foster care and being abused, think about the mental, physical and at the least financial cost of that kind of a burden on society.
    Just use logic, even if raising those children only cost 1k each that would be 3.3 MILLION dollars that the government had to put up, because remember these children were not planned for or wanted.
    Lets use our brains people, there's no way we could adopt out 330,000 children, and no way we could pay for them, and the legal fees when the parents that don't want them beat them, neglect them or try to sell them.

    February 17, 2012 at 3:07 pm |
    • Bill

      So do you really want 330K infants growing into adolescents? Let's just kill them right? Think of how much money that would save.

      You're assumption is that because these children haven't passed from pre-born status to born status, that they do not ALREADY exist as living human beings just because they are located in a woman's uterus. Even if the mother did not "plan" or "want" the conception of her baby, she NOW has a baby.

      Solving the problem of an unwanted person by killing him hardly qualifies as a "solution" (unless you are Hitler of course).

      Those who oppose abortion are not forcing a woman to bring a child into existence, they are simply saying the mother should not be able to kill her ALREADY existing child.

      February 18, 2012 at 7:58 pm |
    • Dawn

      Very true and this is what happens when children are not wanted.

      February 19, 2012 at 11:19 am |
    • Victoria

      1. Your information is TOALLY WRONG. PP absolutely provides abortions at many of its facilities. This information is on their own website for goodness sake. Quote: "Abortions are available at many Planned Parenthood health centers, clinics, and the offices of private health care providers. Use our health center locator to find the nearest Planned Parenthood health center that offers abortion services." You can find that at this URL: http://www.plannedparenthood.org/health-topics/abortion/in-clinic-abortion-procedures-4359.asp.

      2.Your argument about unwanted children is an articulation that led to the horrible tragedy of eugenics in this country and the Holocaust in Europe. Lives should not be terminated based upon whether they are wanted or not. Your logic means that killing the elderly or kids in foster care would be an acceptable practice. While your argument makes sense from the standpoint of "practicality" it contains no respect for human life or others.

      February 19, 2012 at 2:19 pm |
    • TRH

      "your argument about unwanted children is an articulation that led to the horrible tragedy of eugenics in this country and the Holocaust in Europe."

      Whoa.....there's a HUGE difference between a woman's right to choose and state-mandated abortion or eugenics. Your attempt to "link" the two here is baseless and invalid. However since you mention it the Nazis DID use eugenics studies in Virginia on which to base their own experiments. The Nazi policy of exterminating the Jews was driven by far more than eugenics.

      February 19, 2012 at 3:59 pm |
  20. Cindy

    People in our country have no morals anymore. A woman wants to have control over her body so we say abortion is OK. True control would be to use contraceptives, adoption or keep her legs closed. Abortion is not an acceptable birth control method. Fortunately, these innocent souls end up in Jesus' arms instead of a mther who chooses to kill them. You people disgust me.

    February 17, 2012 at 2:33 pm |
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