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)



    February 7, 2012 at 6:16 pm |
    • HawaiiGuest

      I guess ANDREW takes rule 39 seriously, but I think he should pay attention to rule 40.

      February 7, 2012 at 6:19 pm |
  2. Hard Luck

    It`s amazing now a child becomes a "issue" something that has to be"dealt" with. Women`s health should be centered on protecting on the woman and her child. Fifty million abortions equates progress. What a bunch of sicko`s.

    February 7, 2012 at 6:16 pm |
  3. Todd Rowland

    Typical type "conservative" comment. PP provides much more than abortions. and Komen wasn't getting donors because of a million dollar grant to PP what RUBBISH. Do people even think before writing these types of idiotic commentaries? we should support all groups who are fighting the fight for health care of all women and men

    February 7, 2012 at 6:15 pm |
  4. Susan

    media reports from the left or the right I don't care – what I do care about is that a VP at Komen pushed her own personal agenda over the best interests of the organization and she did so gleefully. She was pretty darn proud of herself and her agenda and I"m very glad that the decision was reversed and she resigned. She should have been fired. When one person puts their own personal agenda above the good of an organization they are no longer useful to that organization. SGK has been irreparably harmed by the actions of this one person. I don't think anyone "likes" abortion but having the option out there for a safe (and don't read into my word "safe" – it means just what it's supposed to mean and you know it) procedure beats the begeebers out of returning it to the back alleys and rusty scalpels of yesteryear.

    February 7, 2012 at 6:15 pm |
  5. Design Diva

    This entire situation is sad beyond words. The Komen Foundation is the group that took the initial political position that funding women's health care was less important than their minority opinion on the issue of abortion. I don't know where Mollie gets her idea that the pro-choice/anti-choice split is 50/50 in this country. Clearly, pro-choice is the majority opinion. However, women are more than baby machines, women's overall health is more important to most Americans than the few American women who undergo abortions each year. I will never give another penny to Komen, all my donations will go to Planned Parenthood – I apologize to all my friends who walk miles every year to support Komen, but I can no longer do so in good conscience.

    February 7, 2012 at 6:14 pm |
    • Hard Luck

      If the majority of women are pro-choice then thats the greatest argument I have ever heard for not having given women the right to vote.

      February 7, 2012 at 6:23 pm |
  6. HawaiiGuest

    Last post should have read @VanHagar

    February 7, 2012 at 6:14 pm |
  7. Denglindo

    Obviously this Ms. Molly does not know the difference between abortion and breast cancer. So sad !!!

    February 7, 2012 at 6:13 pm |
    • Right

      What a totally ridiculous statement. Seriously.

      February 7, 2012 at 6:30 pm |
  8. JVH

    The truth is that some people within Komen opposed funding Planned Parenthood, and others supported it. A plan was devised, largely by anti-abortion zealots within Komen led by Karen Handel, but with the support of some who simply wanted to avoid angering abortion foes, to cut off funding to Planned Parenthood through what was supposed to appear to be a neutral policy–no funding for anyone under investigation. They knew, though, that an anti-abortion Congressman was investigating Planned Parenthood, so they knew and intended that it would cut off funding to Planned Parenthood, and as it turned out, no one else. Komen founder Nancy Brinker then went on TV and claimed that the decision had nothing to do with abortion issues and that Karen Handel had nothing to do with the decision. Both claims were false. The media called her and Komen on it. The media revealed the truth. The media did its job.

    February 7, 2012 at 6:12 pm |
  9. Tony

    This is a media critic?

    The story is thus: Komen hired a vehement pro-lifer to run their organization. Vehement pro-lifer manipulates Komen into implementing a policy that affects really only a single recipient: one of the biggest targets of anti-abortionists everywhere, Planned Parenthood (and by the way, [[citation needed]] on that "biggest abortion provider" claim). Public cries foul, Komen backs down in the face of public anger that an organization with such a wonderful goal has been spun by a single political viewpoint.
    Easy to track, yes?

    February 7, 2012 at 6:12 pm |
  10. Mack

    I read through these comments and ended up with a headache. The thing that bothers me the most about these type issues is the fact that everything is shouded under the catchy phrases such as:

    Planned Parenthood ( It should be "planned motherhood". I havent heard of any fathers beiing treated.)
    Womens Health ( What is inhealthy about having a baby? Womens right to have an abortion or receive birth control yes but not "Womens Health".)

    February 7, 2012 at 6:11 pm |
  11. Jason

    At Snow.... Hamas and Hezbollah provide hospitals, schools, roads, and funding for the poor. They also fire bomb Israel and innocent children in Israel in their schools, and their homes, and they attack Israeli hospitals with missiles. That doesn't make them great people. Yes, certainly Planned Parenthood provides the amazingly necessary services, but they have been known, as the article says, to also do some pretty dirty things behind closed doors. Planned Parenthood was under an investigation by the Federal Government and continues to be. Koman has a policy of not funding groups under investigation. Read the article! And read some facts! You know not of what you speak.

    On the other side of the coin, Koman is a champion of ending Breast Cancer.... not specifically about Women's health. I have issues with Koman in that they denied help to several MEN who were diagnosed with.. yes.... BREAST CANCER. Yes, there is a terribly disproportionate number of women who are afflicted with this terrible and life ending disease, however, men are affected by it too and they could not get help from the organization that wishes to stamp it out. Explain that to me?

    In reality, both sides of this issue are at fault for something, and really they both need to be investigated.

    February 7, 2012 at 6:11 pm |
  12. Voice

    Sadly for some women their breasts are more precious than their unborn

    February 7, 2012 at 6:10 pm |
    • C'est la vie


      February 7, 2012 at 6:12 pm |
    • Pete L

      You stupid person – a dead woman cannot bear a child.

      February 7, 2012 at 6:13 pm |
    • Natalie

      CANCER is the issue, not some vanity over breasts.

      CANCER kills the woman. Without the woman, no baby is coming.

      Abortion IS NOT the issue here. CANCER is the issue.

      February 7, 2012 at 6:15 pm |
    • Pro Choice

      If u don't want an abortion then don't have one.

      If u don't want cancer then don't have one(have a masectomy)

      February 7, 2012 at 6:18 pm |
  13. Drake

    Why not withdraw funding for states with anti-NRA gun laws?
    People that work for liberal media?
    States that allow gay marriage?

    February 7, 2012 at 6:08 pm |
  14. Jeff

    Great article. I'm SHOCKED that CNN even published it, considering they were one of the organizations that bought the PP spin "hook, line and sinker."

    February 7, 2012 at 6:07 pm |
  15. Cmolina

    This article obscures the reality of the controversy. Komen fabricated a rule to achieve a political end, which undermined the purpose of the organization. The organization's purpose is to combat breast cancer. Pulling the plug on funding for planned parenthood can do nothing to further that objective. Does the author of this article think that readers are so naive as to be unable perceive political bias? Does she think that we can't see her own bias?

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

      Generally people who are wrapped up in there own little world do not see the forest for the trees.

      She keeps saying that 50% of woman oppose abortion, well what about the 50% who support it, she is marginalizing them by not even acknowledging that they are the other half. I love irony. Say kettle black??

      February 7, 2012 at 6:28 pm |
    • Ferd Mergatroid

      Cmolina, your premise is completely false. The author is making no claim of being unbiased – rather, she's pointing out that the supposedly "objective" reporters covering this were only presenting one side of the story. Just because you share that bias doesn't make her claim false.

      February 7, 2012 at 6:32 pm |
  16. RapidOne

    Man, Mollie Ziegler Hemingway, lives in another reality. I'd love to debate her and her utter garbage can of non-truths spilled out before us.

    You have to love the commentary on 'total media left bias'. What a liar and a SHILL.

    February 7, 2012 at 6:06 pm |
  17. Squeezebox

    Why should poor women be forced to go to an abortion mill for mammograms and pelvic exams? Don't hospitals provide the same services based on ability to pay? I say no more blood money to Planned Parenthood for anything!

    February 7, 2012 at 6:03 pm |
    • Gallup Facts - Abortion

      A free clinic (Planned Parenthood provides more services than just abortions) is more private, readily accessible, and available to those who may not have the funds.

      You're suggestion is to go to a HOSPITAL, where the primary services provided are surgery and emergency care to receive a routine service? No wonder people have no idea about how Health Care works. They have no idea where to go for regular services.

      February 7, 2012 at 6:11 pm |
    • Natalie

      Obviously you have never been a poor woman in America. If you are poor and single with no kids, you get NOTHING. Hospitals that claim to bill you based on your "ability to pay" still expect a person with little to no income to pay hundreds of dollars for basic medical care.

      Planned Parenthood is necessary.

      February 7, 2012 at 6:13 pm |
  18. Speak the Truth

    This Mollie is clueless. Let's end breast cancer now! Regardless of who is funding it, regardless of where the money goes, we need to stop politicizing women's health and simply STOP CANCER. Shame on you Mollie. Shame on all of those who stop women from getting the health care they need. Shame on all those who put creed over protecting our wives, sisters, mothers, daughters and friends.

    February 7, 2012 at 6:01 pm |
    • Christy P

      Why doesn't anyone know that a cure for cancer was discovered by Dr. Stanislaw Burzynski over 40 years ago? Oh that's right, because our government, the FDA and the state of Texas' Medical Board have been trying to steal his research & patent, engaged him in four Federal Grand Juries spanning over a decade attempting to indict him, all of which ended in no finding of fault on his behalf. Finally, Dr. Burzynski was indicted in their 5th Grand Jury in 1995, resulting in two federal trials and two sets of jurors finding him not guilty of any wrongdoing. Why are they doing this to him? Because Oncology is Big $$. His discovery and creation of antineoplastons have been completely curing people since the early to mid 80's. Google Burzynski.
      When Antineoplastons are approved for public use, it will allow a single scientist to hold an exclusive right to manufacture and sell these medicines on the open market—leaving the pharmaceutical industry absent in profiting from the most effective gene-targeted cancer treatment the world has ever seen. Why aren't ALL monies donated going to true research? If people truly care about ending cancer, support the Burzynski Clinic.

      February 7, 2012 at 6:31 pm |
  19. Snow

    Oh yes.. How dare they provide

    – cancer screening
    – std screening and service
    – sterilization procedures
    – medical guidance
    – contraception
    – counseling
    – medical references
    – pregnancy tests
    – adoption referrals

    They are truly evil corporation to provide such ghastly services. Lets not think about 97% of things they do.. lets focus all our anger on that 3% we do not approve and kill them..

    Down with them, isn't it, all you supporters of "life"?

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

      Or, perhaps the other way to look at it is...a person contributes 97% of his earnings to the hungry, gives 97% of this time caring for the sick and 97% of his energy, prayer, effort, etc. to those in need, but then goes out and murders someone. Do they get a pass because of their good deeds?

      February 7, 2012 at 6:07 pm |
    • HawaiiGuest

      @Wan Hagar

      Idiotic analogy that has no bearing on the actual issue of SGKs politically motivated decision.

      February 7, 2012 at 6:12 pm |
    • HawaiiGuest

      Last post should have read


      February 7, 2012 at 6:15 pm |
    • mikola

      I really don't care if anyone does good things as well as bad. PP may do some good, but it still facilitates killing people. There is no amount of good that justifies that.

      And just in case nobody noticed, the idea of being the champion of a persons health by ending the life of another being is remarkably hypocritical. A society that kills babies because they lack value is on its way to kill others in the society that lack value. Defund PP.

      February 7, 2012 at 6:16 pm |
    • Gallup Facts - Abortion

      Van – You're arguing on the PERSONAL moral definition of Abortion = Murder.

      And then to make sure you properly trolled, you used the term PASS instead of the common line of moral v. legal (do they go to jail? do they go to heaven/hell?). Love the general.

      In reality, the 3% item in this case is not legally wrong and also helps people. Maybe the best example for the 3% of the time would be that they dress in a way that some people find provacative, some people find sinful, others like, and even others still have no real opinion on the matter. BUT, everyone who doesn't like it seems to make it out like the type of dress is the WHOLE picture of what they do and forgets that, in the end, they're helping people

      February 7, 2012 at 6:16 pm |
    • Oh really

      @Van.. Do you support capital punishment?

      February 7, 2012 at 6:17 pm |
    • VanHagar

      Let me clarify for the record–I don't think SGK should have defunded PP for cancer screenings. My response was addressed solely to Snow's hyperbole. That said, and in response to Gallup, you're correct–I did personalize it because abortion is murder. It's always easier to swallow something as horrible as the death of an unborn child by characterizing it as something less malignant: to call abortion simply provocative is mind boggling at best.

      February 7, 2012 at 6:26 pm |
    • VanHagar

      @Oh Really...nice try. No, I don't support the death penalty. To be fair, there was a time that I would have said that I did...time (and wisdom) have given me the opportunity to rethink that position.

      February 7, 2012 at 6:28 pm |
    • Snow

      Ok then how many pro-life organizations are there that support all the other services PP gives to the community? leaving out the abortion of course. the other 97% of those services no one seems have problem with.. or do they have it?

      People love to criticize those who do some actual work, but seem to have a lot of hesitation to actually do any work by themselves...

      February 7, 2012 at 6:38 pm |
    • VanHagar

      Snow...I don't disagree that PP does a lot of good things. As I indicated, I believe it was wrong from SGK to defund the cancer screening. If all PP did was the "97%" you reference, then kudos to them. But in the end, its not an issue of percentages–one murder is too many.

      February 7, 2012 at 6:45 pm |
    • HawaiiGuest


      The classification of a fetus under a certain gestation period as human is not scientifically, or medically, acknowledged. Therefore your classification of abortion as murder is merely a personal opinion and not a scientifically backed fact.

      February 7, 2012 at 6:55 pm |
    • VanHagar

      @Hawaii–so if it isn't human, what is it? After your "certain gestation period" would you then agree abortion is murder ("it" being human at that point after all)? This are obviously rhetorical. I really don't care what a "medically acknowledged" human is or isn't. It is, at the very least, the start of human life and that is being destroyed.

      February 7, 2012 at 7:14 pm |
  20. Stanz2Reason

    This is nonsense. The notion that a charity that champions women's health would deny funding (funds which aren't in fact used directly for abortions) to an organization that also champions women's health is simply sad. Of course abortion is a highly politicized issue, but the politics behind this should be blamed on the ones who started this... and it ain't the folks at NBC.

    February 7, 2012 at 6:00 pm |
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