The Komen Race for the Cure and Planned Parenthood: A Follow Up, Part Three of Three
By Dave Andrusko
In Part Two we wrote about New York Times columnist Ross Douthat’s conclusion that coverage of Komen’s decision on Planned Parenthood funding had been “frankly brutal.” As we finish bringing you up to date, let me begin with a very helpful summary from the Media Research Center that provides additional quantitative evidence to support the conclusion that the “mainstream press” not only did a hatchet job on the Komen Race for the Cure but also almost completely ignored another controversy that could prove very detrimental to President Obama.
Matthew Balan makes two very important points, along with providing many fascinating details and links (“Media Go to Bat for Abortion Giant, Ignore Catholics vs. Obama Controversy” at www.mediaresearch.org/realitycheck/realitycheck/2012/20120203063403.aspx). First,
“Over the course of about 60 hours, ABC, CBS, and NBC emphasized the controversy with a whopping 13 morning and evening news stories. The soundbite count was loaded: 76 percent of the quotes came from supporters of Planned Parenthood (35 in total). Only 11 clips or statements came from Komen representatives or new allies.”
The media narrative was unrelievedly accusatory, painting Komen’s decision in the worst possible light. Since Balan’s piece appeared on Friday, it did not include even worse trashing of Komen in which supposedly non-partisan network correspondents interrupted and berated Komen CEO Nancy Brinker.
The other, perhaps equally significant point made by Balan is while Komen/PPFA generated a cacophony of angry commentary, there was virtual silence over the Obama Administration’s faceoff “with angry Catholic bishops and their flocks” over the issuance by the Department of Health and Human Services of regulations that require Catholic universities, hospitals, and charities to pay for health insurance that covers sterilization and contraceptives. Balan writes,
“It took CBS 10 days to air one news brief about the controversy on CBS This Morning on January 30. Neither ABC nor NBC have aired anything on their morning and evening newscasts over the past two weeks, and CBS hasn’t done anything since giving that one brief.”
This morning the Washington Post’s Sarah Kliff responded to Douthat. She conceded that “Douthat is right that those who supported Komen’s decision to cut ties with Planned Parenthood got significantly less media coverage than those who opposed it.”
But while Douthat characterized the coverage as a “frenzy,” writing that “on the abortion issue, the press’s prejudices are often absolute, its biases blatant and its blinders impenetrable,” Kliff attributed her own imbalance to PPFA’s greater media savvy/aggressiveness.
“As Lena Sun and I reported in yesterday’s Washington Post, Planned Parenthood had a very aggressive media strategy: Within a day of the Komen decision, the organization blasted out the news it had raised $400,000 from 6,000 online donors. On a press call Friday, the group announced it had raised $3 million in 72 hours.
“Throughout the past week, I’ve repeatedly called and e-mailed Komen requesting comparable data. So far, nothing.”
In that Sunday story, after explaining the sophisticated (and deeply unfair/misleading, I would add) PPFA response, Sun and Kliff wrote, “By contrast, Komen was caught off guard by the rush of developments.”
Without reading every column inch of Kliff’s various stories to see if her benign explanation explains much/most/all her coverage, it would certainly seem clear that Komen was hugely outgunned. In its defense Komen has an impeccable public relations image for the work it has done to raise public awareness about breast cancer, so why would it expect that it and its ‘brand’ could/would come under a tsunami of criticism for trying to make sure that organizations that actually perform mammograms receive funding from Komen?
More to the point, much of the coverage Balan cites (and even more since) made not the slightest attempt at balance. When Brinker was interviewed, the story was framed as Komen ‘betraying’ its non-partisan work on behalf of women’s health. No sooner would Brinker attempt to explain this was not the case than she would be cut off in the rudest fashion. But why listen to anything that was at odds with the narrative of “betrayal”?
PPFA and its assorted influential allies are sounding a triumphant tone. We’re told Komen has ‘backtracked,’ PPFA has been inundated with money, and the “pro-choice” movement has been energized.
Well, Komen has said simply that “We will continue to fund existing grants, including those of Planned Parenthood, and preserve their eligibility to apply for future grants, while maintaining the ability of our affiliates to make funding decisions that meet the needs of their communities.”
PPFA may be short of many things—compassion for unborn children, a willingness to admit that abortion also hurts women, the ability to admit that it opposes every protective law, so matter how widely it is supported by the public—but it has never, ever been short of money. No doubt they raked in lots of money over the last week. For what it is worth, Brinker told reporters donations were “100 percent up.”
I have no idea if there is an increased intensity among abortion advocates. I DO know that our Movement went to warp speed in 2011 and that that momentum will only, can only increase in 2012.
And while PPFA got all the media attention—what else is new?–we at National Right to Life know that the controversy also sparked the most intense, voluminous online results we’ve ever experienced.
Add to that truism the knowledge that for many Americans this is first time they learned that PPFA has any abortion involvement. From my perspective, which is always to look ahead, that may be the most significant development of all.
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