Republicans allegedly knew about controversial Planned Parenthood video weeks ago -- so why did they wait to launch an investigation?

House GOP members appear to be downplaying the fact that they sat on allegations of criminal behavior for weeks

Published July 16, 2015 7:42PM (EDT)

House Speaker John Boehner (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)     (AP)
House Speaker John Boehner (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite) (AP)

Congressional Republicans were especially swift to respond to the release of a highly edited "sting" video targeting Planned Parenthood this week, alleging that the reproductive health organization has been involved in the illegal sale of donated fetal tissue. House Speaker John Boehner quickly issued a statement calling for an investigation of Planned Parenthood, and GOP presidential hopeful Sen. Ted Cruz pressed Congress to defund the organization entirely (something it's already tried to do this year, not to mention many times before that). Combative Republican reactions to the video all struck similar chords, and that appears to be no coincidence -- and it's not just because of the GOP's existing hardline stance on abortion.

According to CQ Roll Call, several high-ranking Republicans have admitted to seeing the "sting" video weeks before it was released by the anti-choice group Center for Medical Progress, which surreptitiously recorded Planned Parenthood's senior director of medical services discussing fetal tissue donation last year. At least two top GOP congressmen -- Rep. Tim Murphy and Rep. Trent Franks, both members of the House Pro-Life Caucus -- admitted to learning of the criminal allegations against Planned Parenthood nearly a month ago, yet declined to take action until after the video was released.

Via CQ Roll Call:

Rep. Tim Murphy, a member of the House Pro-Life Caucus and chairman of the Energy and Commerce subcommittee looking into the video, said at a Wednesday news conference he’d seen the clip weeks before. Asked afterward why he and others waited until this week to take action, Murphy struggled for an answer before abruptly ending the interview with CQ Roll Call, saying he should not be quoted and remarking, “This interview didn’t happen.” [...]

Murphy spokeswoman Gretchen Andersen told CQ Roll Call on Thursday the congressman had a responsibility to do “due diligence” before starting an investigation.

Another Pro-Life Caucus and Judiciary committee member, GOP Rep. Trent Franks of Arizona, said Wednesday he had also seen the video about a month ago.

Asked why steps weren’t taken immediately after he viewed the video, Franks said in an email, “The hope was to have as much information as possible so that the authorities could be notified effectively before the media.”

The site also included a brief excerpt from the conversation with Murphy that "didn't happen," in which the lawmaker claims not to know why Congress did not take action in the weeks since some members first learned of the video. But the revelation that he and Franks (and possibly other anti-choice legislators) knew about the Center for Medical Progress' claims backs up what some, including Fusion's Katie McDonough (formerly of Salon), have already argued: The "sting" video is merely Republicans' latest justification for an all-out congressional assault on Planned Parenthood, something they've been pushing with varying excuses and zero apologies for years.

It also confirms what we could have guessed -- that the GOP's attacks on reproductive rights are not only coordinated with antiabortion extremists, but also take precedent over immediately trying to stop the so-called "gruesome practices" Planned Parenthood has been accused of (and denied) committing. If members of the House Pro-Life Caucus, in particular, want to continue to portray themselves as defenders of "the unborn," they might also want to explain why they didn't feel compelled to launch their bogus investigation weeks ago.

By Jenny Kutner

MORE FROM Jenny Kutner