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. Lucy

    Great article. You forget to mention, though (as most of the media does), that there are plenty of pro-life Democrats who never get a say. It's not about 'right' and 'left,'–but rather, an overpoliticized issue that can no longer be discussed civilly or logically in most arenas. What is never talked about is how PP and NARAL have such tremendous power in the Democratic party due to their financial heft–so that their cause has rather brilliantly succeeded in completely ostracizing pro-life Democrats–many who are HIGHLY electable in areas where the party struggles more. They aren't interested in the success of the party's other values–they're interested solely in their own agenda. And sadly, because pro-life progressives are never heard, the pro-life cause has become associated with right-wing 'fanaticism.' If only the party recognized how much they could gain from being more open to diverse beliefs...they could stop letting the right claim so many values voters who see this as a top hot-button issue.

    I also question why the topic must always be talked about in such black and white terms. I often wonder why the pro-life camp doesn't quit trying to overturn laws (which is unlikely to happen) instead of lobbying for better abortion education so that the many women who are not adequately informed would have more of a choice, or to advocate to earlier cut-off dates for abortions–two things that more voters could agree on. But then I also have to consider that groups like PP rarely seem to want moderation and often don't even try to protect women who are being pressured into abortions by their families or significant others. If it was really about women's health an not about a billion dollar industry, perhaps we'd find more common ground.

    February 20, 2012 at 6:12 pm |
    • Mandy

      Finally, someone who can actually think for themself. I whole heartedly agree with every single thing you said. Thank you for sharing your thoughts.

      February 20, 2012 at 9:51 pm |
    • Phil

      I agree with you completely. Very good comment. I'm kind of a moderate guy and find myself voting for a democrat sometimes but I oppose abortion because I was the product of an unwanted inconvenient pregnancy and I think I deserved a chance to get to live. I also am anti-death penalty, against war in most cases, believe that poor people should get health care, etc... But because I don't like abortion I am now a religious zealot, hate women, or am a crazy right wing lunatic.

      As for the funding, Komen can do what it wants with it's own money. If you don't like it, tough. You have the right to not donate to them. People have a right to their own opinions. This is America, there is no "thought crime."

      February 21, 2012 at 5:40 pm |
    • Blaise

      Lucy, Which pro-life democrats? You mean Ben Nelson, Bart Stupak, Bill Casey and all the rest of the losers who knowlingly supported the abortion-heavy Obama health destruction bill? These people who compromised with the insatiable abortion promoting President Obama. No, there's not one Democrat who can legitimately say he or she is pro-life. The Obamacare debacle was proof enough where their true loyalties lay.

      February 22, 2012 at 3:09 am |
  2. The Logical Truth

    I agrre the media is biased one way or another and they need to be more fair (both liberal and conservative medeia) however I disagree with everyone that says making abortion services more accesible takes away "freedom" That is nonsense! It provides more freedom. If you are against abortion, well dont do it but why take other peoples rights away. I am a male and I would have had an older brother but my mom had an abortion and you know what I am fine with that. All of you pro-lifers need to think about the broader picture. Humans have always practiced abortion, in the past in horific ways (Roman women would just leave unwanted babies in caves to die), at least we abort fetuses now before there is brain activity (except in the rare cases of late term abortion). You want to care so much about potential life but what about kids and the living. I have news for you, the Earth is becoming overpopulated. Social systems and economies are strained, natural resources are becoming strained. If we dont have abortions and our population keeps exploding it wont be long until this planet cant support our species anymore and then you know what. There will be massive famines and war and millions will die, but you pro-lifers dont care or dont think about that. The hard reality and truth is we need population control so there will be a decent world for future generations. Think of the big picture and long term picture people!

    February 20, 2012 at 5:43 pm |
    • Blaise

      Okay, if you think the world is so overpopulated, then you and all the rest of the pro-abortion, save the tree and the whale/not the baby types can get together for one massive suicide party- of course to do you part and to make room for the unborn babies who actually want to live. With your line of thinking, the false threat of overpopulation (the whole USA could fit in the state of Texas with 2,000 square feet of land for each person), it's logical to see where you go with that. Government, in the best welfare of the people, of course, should be allowed to exterminate 80 year olds, handicapped children, unborn babies, etc. to make room for those who support the exterminations. The government can also override family and religious rights by forcing a one child mandate, etc. Your overpopulation justification for abortion is disgusting!

      February 22, 2012 at 3:17 am |
  3. ellen

    Too bad Komen caved... No more donations from to them or P.P. for bringing politics into the mix... Anyone who listens to Boxer Car Willy loses my support.

    February 20, 2012 at 5:27 pm |
  4. J Peterman

    It's really a shame that women can't simply be defined as they wish or by their own merits. The liberal, elitest feminist agenda is trying to create a baseline model of what a woman is and represents as opposed to letting each individual woman decide who they are. They are taking the very notion of freedom and trashing it. If you believe in the premise that an individual is valued whether they raise their kids or work a high-end corporate job you're viewed as out of touch. What a shame and what difficult position the feminist radicals have put women of all ages it. An individual should be able to think for themselves and be respected regardless of their opinion–but that's inconsistent with the radical feminist agenda.

    February 20, 2012 at 3:32 pm |
  5. Robert M. Simon

    The pink ribbon people can get lost.All I see now is the blood of the unborn on it.There are other ways to support breast cancer research than support this collection of biological bigots. The Susan G.Komen Fund can drop sead for all I'm concerned....

    February 20, 2012 at 2:34 pm |
    • The Logical Truth

      Richard, I am a male and I would have had an older brother but my mom had an abortion and you know what I am fine with that. All of you pro-lifers need to think about the broader picture. Humans have always practiced abortion, in the past in horific ways (Roman women would just leave unwanted babies in caves to die), at least we abort fetuses now before there is brain activity (except in the rare cases of late term abortion). You want to care so much about potential life but what about kids and the living. I have news for you, the Earth is becoming overpopulated. Social systems and economies are strained, natural resources are becoming strained. If we dont have abortions and our population keeps exploding it wont be long until this planet cant support our species anymore and then you know what. There will be massive famines and war and millions will die, but you pro-lifers dont care or dont think about that. The hard reality and truth is we need population control so there will be a decent world for future generations. Think of the big picture and long term picture people!

      February 20, 2012 at 5:45 pm |
  6. vbscript2

    Amen to this article! It's about time someone pointed out the hypocrisy of the left and their friends in the media (and, before I get flamed, no, I don't like Fox or their extreme bias for the right, either.)

    February 20, 2012 at 2:15 pm |
  7. Randy

    First, PP does not provide mamagramso they have x-ray techs on site and how much is an x-ray machine? Check the pp website (http://www.plannedparenthood.org/health-topics/womens-health/breast-cancer-screenings-21189.htm). They only offer "education, referals and screening". Second, Some studies show a link between abortion and breast cancer. Third, Jesus told, the us to obey His commands, Matt 28:18-20. Fourth, PP gets much money from government, donations, etc. Why do they need Koman's money?

    As a cancer survivor, I fully support legit cancer research. As a Christian, I view all life as precious and life begins at conception. As a college graduate, I was taught to look at both sides, look at the sources to see thier worldview, and then decide upon the truth.

    February 20, 2012 at 1:11 pm |
  8. Rae Ann Pointer

    Glad we can all agree Andrea Mitchell is NOT a journalist.

    David, the media isn't representing all people's rights. This is the point of the article.

    February 20, 2012 at 12:44 pm |
  9. Debbie

    Those claiming the mandate to cover contraception includes abortifacients, are incorrect, according to HHS. The mandate specifically EXCLUDES abortifacients. This information can be found on the Health and Human Services website. Those who claim the mandate funds abortion inducing drugs are mistaken.

    February 20, 2012 at 8:04 am |
  10. Ron

    Thank you CNN for having the courage to post an opinion that flies against the common main stream media. The fact remains: No one, not media, senator, or internet anonymous blogger has the right to tell one private charitable organization what agency it chooses to support.

    February 19, 2012 at 10:41 pm |
    • David

      Your comment doesn't make sense. Of course everyone has the right to express their opinion on whether or not a charitable organization can fund a particular agency. What people can't do is force tthe charitable organization to fund or not fund a particular agency. And in this case, Komen was not forced to continue funding PP. They chose to. But why? They chose to because many people that currently donate to Komen stated that they would no longer donate, which is their right. So everyone was exercising a right. If those wanting Komen to stop funding PP would have made up the difference in what Komen would have lost in donations, I am sure Komen would have decided to not fund PP.

      So, like most decisions – it came down to dollars rather than the more interesting scenario that they were "forced" to change by the media and some members of Congress.

      February 19, 2012 at 11:39 pm |
    • SurelyUjest

      You are out of line with reality, The Komen foundation is an organization for breast cancer, Planned Parent Hood teaches breast cancer screening education and in some locations mammagrams. The decision by Komen to cut funding was lead by 1 upper level executive with a history of being anti-abortion, she pushed and got her way. The donating public whom fund Komen responded, yes the media played a big part in this issue. Should they? Yes this was a political partisan move by Komen and to defend Komen here is to attack womens rights in general. Even if this article is correct and 1/2 the women support pro-choice (which I believe is wrong) that is still half the women in the U.S. Does Komen want to alienate 1/2 for the other or just do as they have done which is specify that their money not be spent on abortions. Plain and simple and it works but their are a few evangelical zealots out their trying to make a legal procedure illegal and since they cannot seem to win they want to demonize everyone involved with pro-choice. Cutting funding, name calling like "killer" ,"murderer", etc.... are all apart of a very partisan political game we have watched for years. So you are wrong we the donating public would also stop Giving money to Komen if they cut funding for Planned ParentHood. We the donating public have a right to say where our money goes and you know what Komen follows the anti-abortion crowd when it comes to this policy. I do not see a problem other than religious nuts once again standing infront of womens health issues.

      February 20, 2012 at 12:08 pm |
  11. Rex

    Conveniently, Ms. Ziegler Hemingway's editorial leaves out the facts behind the Komen decision. Komen's board passed a resolution which requires Komen to stop funding any organization under investigation by Congress. What Komen's board knew before, during, and after this debacle was that PP is perpetually under congressional investigation due to political attacks from the far right and those in Congress who support their causes. Even more to the point, Komen's board passed this resolution specifically to revoke their grant to PP. A horrifying precedent...stop funding to organizations whenever Congress opens an investigation...seriously!? They could have just stop giving PP money, instead they acted cynically and politically and they deserve all the bad press from the left and the right.

    February 19, 2012 at 9:01 pm |
    • SurelyUjest

      Good Job REX...we need more informed people like yourself writing here.

      February 20, 2012 at 12:11 pm |
  12. Hope

    if you wanna get saved Jesus2020.com everyone need God in heart and obey gospel

    February 19, 2012 at 7:22 pm |
    • Easy E

      Everyone needs to 'obey' the gospel? That's funny, I am not aware of anything in the four gospels that requires us to obey. Rather, it is about repentance and a relationship with God, not about obedience to some set of rules. I think you need to read them for yourself instead of just listening to what others say about them.

      February 20, 2012 at 10:02 am |
    • SurelyUjest

      The only thing wrong with Jesus is RELIGION. If the Christian church would throw out the use of the Old Testament and the Revelations I would consider becoming Christian.

      February 20, 2012 at 12:13 pm |
    • Jack Pearl

      Hope- please no spamming

      Easy E- I believe the commandments were "Love God with all your mind, heart, and soul, and love your neighbor as yourself. And tecnically, repenting and having a relationship is something we are commanded to do.

      SurelyUjest- How can the church throw out the entire Old Testament when Jesus himself routinely quoted from it and numerous passages pointed towards his coming?

      February 20, 2012 at 8:53 pm |
  13. Hannah Tutt

    I think if you actually read the article, you would discover that the main issue is that the Komen organization funds organizations that are seeking to eliminate or prevent or detect cancer. Unfortunately, PP doesn't even provide mammograms in a great deal of cases, instead referring women to somewhere else that does. If PP is just going to be referring, then Komen has every right to choose to invest in an organization fighting cancer more actively.
    It doesn't have to be about "abortion" or even "politics". Its about a cancer based organization wanting to fund places that are actually fighting cancer.

    February 19, 2012 at 7:14 pm |
    • Rex

      PP does mammograms in communities where many women have few health care alternatives. So while they don't do cancer screening at all of their clinics, they do provide it in areas where women need these services.

      February 19, 2012 at 9:03 pm |
  14. sanjosemike

    I get it. The Religious right is against abortion. However, it is also my understanding that PP keeps funding categories completely separate that involve abortion. Please correct me if I"m wrong.

    I think the Komen Charity could have better argued that ANY funding from them must avoid abortion funding, and leave it at that.


    February 19, 2012 at 3:38 pm |
    • SurelyUjest

      You are correct and they do keep funding separate and PP does not spend Komen donations on abortion. This is a plain and simple fact.

      February 20, 2012 at 12:14 pm |
    • jgator12

      Actually, surelyujest, you are completely INCORRECT. Actually, all funding to PP goes into a general operations fund, so all things like education services, apportion funding, and keeping the lights on, are all funded out of the same account – it's all purposely kept as fungible funding so items CANNOT be separated out. This data comes from PP itself. Check your facts.

      February 20, 2012 at 12:40 pm |
  15. Lamar


    February 19, 2012 at 2:43 pm |
  16. Lamar


    February 19, 2012 at 2:42 pm |
  17. Lamar


    February 19, 2012 at 2:41 pm |
  18. Lamar


    February 19, 2012 at 2:39 pm |
  19. Lamar


    February 19, 2012 at 2:39 pm |
    • Ard162


      See look i can copy and paste too.

      February 20, 2012 at 1:07 pm |
  20. Joseph

    This is an issue because Komen is the organization that claims to be apolitical not PP. Komen is apolitical when it supports organizations that promote the cancer health of women and PP does just that. Otherwise, if you pick and choose when to help women concerning cancer then you are being political. To reach and support the most women in the battle of cancer Komen must be apolitical.

    February 19, 2012 at 2:36 pm |
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