They say a lie can travel halfway around the world before the truth gets its pants on. That's certainly the case with a new and highly deceptive anti-choice propaganda video that claims to show a Planned Parenthood official caught on a hidden camera while allegedly discussing how the women's health clinics are involved with the harvesting and selling of aborted fetus organs via a sordid underground black market.
In the video, Dr. Deborah Nucatola, Planned Parenthood's senior director of medical services, is seen eating salad and drinking a glass of red wine as she discusses what the selectively edited video would lead us to believe is the process of acquiring intact organs from aborted fetuses and then selling them to buyers. Nucatola describes the most desirable organs, as well as the admittedly disturbing manner by which the fetuses are aborted in a way that doesn't damage the organs that are to be harvested. She also appears to discuss the prices that buyers pay for a particular fetal organ.
As we've seen with similar "gotcha!" videos, this one completely misrepresents what Nucatola was discussing, and numerous sites have almost too-easily debunked just about every claim. (Full debunkery here, here, here and here.) It turns out, Nucatola wasn't discussing the illegal black market sale of fetal organs, but instead the perfectly legal donation of the organs to biomedical research laboratories that use the organs to help save lives. The price range of the organs described by Nucatola is, in reality, the reimbursed expenses accrued in the delivery of the specimens. (Which makes sense: $30 to $100 is hilariously below the going rate for human organs.) Furthermore, the video was produced by an anti-choice pop-up outfit called the Center for Medical Progress, which not only claimed that this one video required three years of research, but which also has ties to known video fraudster James O'Keefe.
Yet as rapidly as the video was resoundingly debunked as a fraud, it wasn't fast enough to catch up with the zealous haste of the lies.
As soon as the video hit The Daily Caller and The Drudge Report, it was pretty much game over for the already beleaguered Planned Parenthood. Social media immediately erupted with garment rending and all varieties of unhinged screeching over what too many gullible viewers perceived as the ultimate smoking gun indictment of the organization. Anyone pointing out the obviously deceptive editing and the false claims made by the video were attacked as ghouls, Nazis and baby-killers.
The intensity of the outrage closely matched the degree of the flimflam. Anti-choice activists wanted desperately to believe the video was an accurate representation of what Planned Parenthood is up to behind the scenes, so they overlooked the obvious scare-edits and manipulative soundtrack. Clinically speaking, the video is cleverly produced, even though it's really easy to make abortion sound creepy. That said, it flagrantly exploits the worst and most ignorant aspects of social media: the utter lack of critical viewing, the impulse to rapidly retweet clickbait without reading, and especially the internet's torch-and-pitchfork mob justice.
On the Tuesday edition of my podcast, I predicted that in addition to the radical far-right mob, the video would also be accepted at face value by A-list Republicans and especially the congressional GOP. And why not? It's happened before. Congress buried ACORN based on a provably fake video. Planned Parenthood has been relentlessly de-funded due to previously fraudulent videos. Indeed, members of the most powerful governing body in the world spoke on-the-record from the floor of both the House and Senate and permanently attached their names to more than one egregiously fake smear video. Legislation was passed and livelihoods were ruined because congressional Republicans were repeatedly duped by James O'Keefe and his acolytes.
Sadly, my prediction came true on Wednesday when Republican members of the House Energy and Commerce Committee announced they'd hold hearings on the video.
“This video is abhorrent and rips at the heart. The committee will get to the bottom of this appalling situation,” the press release quotes Republican lawmakers Fred Upton, Marsha Blackburn, Tim Murphy, and Joe Pitts as saying.
Again, taxpayer money will be wasted on an investigation into Planned Parenthood based on a video that was debunked within 24 hours of dropping. Even anti-choice Americans ought to be outraged by this total waste of resources. But they won't be because now the "respected" members of an elite governing body of 535 powerful Americans have announced that this mendacious video is, in fact, "abhorrent" and "appalling." So, now, the video is endowed with the legitimacy of a congressional committee.
Meanwhile, several GOP presidential hopefuls have condemned Planned Parenthood for the (misleading) content of the video.
“The video showing a Planned Parenthood employee selling the body parts of aborted children is a disturbing reminder of the organization’s penchant for profiting off the tragedy of a destroyed human life,” said former Texas Gov. Rick Perry.
“Today’s video of a Planned Parenthood official discussing the systematic harvesting and trafficking of human body parts is shocking and gruesome,” said Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal. [...]
“This latest news is tragic and outrageous,” said businesswoman Carly Fiorina. “This isn’t about ‘choice.’ It’s about profiting on the death of the unborn while telling women it’s about empowerment.”
We seriously have to question whether any of these Republicans have given their bank account information to Nigerian princes with dubious Hotmail email accounts. I hate to be a Debbie Downer, Republicans, but guess what? Professional wrestling is fake and the Easter bunny isn't real. Sorry.
Arguably the worst aspect of this scam video, beyond the harm it will do to reproductive rights and Planned Parenthood, is the reality that Dr. Nucatela's life is all but ruined for the foreseeable future. At this moment, anti-choice extremists are likely fanning out around the internet, collecting damaging information about her; finding out her home address and contact information; discovering whether she has children and where they go to school; planning rallies outside her house; or worse. Based on wrongful charges, she now represents Enemy Number One for googly-eyed radicals, fueled by visions of aborted fetuses and the false impression of Planned Parenthood as the Walmart of black market fetus organs.