Carly Fiorina's post-truth politics: Even her most delusional defenders admit she's fudging the facts

Defending Fiorina's Planned Parenthood claims, Jonah Goldberg says sure, she's fibbing -- but that's not the point!

Published September 23, 2015 11:59AM (EDT)

  (AP/Mark J. Terrill)
(AP/Mark J. Terrill)

I usually avoid reading anything by Jonah Goldberg because life is short and the world has a finite supply of blood pressure medication. But his column in the Los Angeles Times covering the controversy over Carly Fiorina’s comments about the Planned Parenthood videos is so awful, it has to be read to be believed.

The editorial starts off with the full Fiorina quote that has become so controversial: “Anyone who has watched this videotape, I dare Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama to watch these tapes. Watch a fully formed fetus on the table, its heart beating, its legs kicking while someone says, 'We have to keep it alive to harvest its brain.'”

Fiorina was describing a scene that was not actually in this or any other video. Even anti-abortionists have been forced to admit that footage of dead babies in the videos was not shot inside a Planned Parenthood clinic, and at least one image appears to have been of a stillborn baby, not an aborted fetus.

The debate lie is so blatant that even Goldberg has to admit Fiorina was lying. He then waves this lie away by saying, “But anybody who has watched the videos would find Fiorina's account pretty accurate.”

Ah, you can see where this is going. Fiorina’s description is a lie, but it describes something conservatives believe must be happening, therefore it’s OK because it gets at a larger “truth.” Even though there is no evidence that what conservatives believe is going on in Planned Parenthood clinics actually is, as at least five states have already discovered when they launched investigations after the videos were released.

In other words, it’s all lies, but isn’t that the real truth? Used to be you couldn’t find logic like that outside of old episodes of "The Simpsons." This standard of basing public policy on what someone feels must be true despite all evidence to the contrary is how we wound up with the Supreme Court’s Hobby Lobby decision. It is a pretty flimsy hook on which to hang a policy of yanking healthcare from millions of poor women and families, which is what defunding Planned Parenthood over these videos would do.

Goldberg continues: “They also include eyewitness descriptions accompanied by borrowed footage of a fetus dying in a metal bowl, its leg kicking, to illustrate the witness' recollection of seeing precisely that in another case. That sort of juxtaposition might not fly on the nightly news, but it's the sort of dramatic device used in documentaries all the time.”

Golly, I remember when I took my freshman Intro to Film Studies class too. One week we watched “Roger and Me” and discussed the ethics of Michael Moore manipulating the timeline of certain events in order to fit his narrative that Flint, Michigan, was dying a slow and absurd death. Based on this column, Jonah would have been totally fine with that. I’m sure the unionized auto workers of Michigan will be grateful for his support during the next round of plant closings.

In fact, the ethics of manipulating footage in order to portray an ostensibly objective truth have bedeviled documentary filmmakers since Robert Flaherty filmed “Nanook of the North.” Again, this is a terribly flimsy standard for taking away access to healthcare and family planning from half the population. (And yes, conservatives, this is what happens when you slash any Title X funding from clinics, including Planned Parenthood.) But then, Goldberg probably thinks James O’Keefe was really dressed like a pimp when he visited all those ACORN clinics too.

“We're also often informed that the videos weren't merely ‘edited’ but ‘highly edited.’ Left out of such caveats is that the news reports passing along these descriptions come via highly edited newspapers, radio and TV programs.”

I’m having my doubts that this standard applies to Goldberg’s column because a good editor would have taken out this obvious and nonsensical point. It in no way absolves Fiorina of lying about what she claims she saw.

Then he winds the column up with this humdinger.

But when host John Dickerson asked if she'd support any federal restrictions at "any stage of pregnancy" — conceivably right until birth — Clinton said she wouldn't, because such abortions only take place for "medical necessity."

That is a far greater distortion of the truth than anything Fiorina said.

Hm, if only there was a quick way to find some data to back up this assertion! Fortunately my laptop has the Google on it, and the Google tells me that about 1.2 percent of all abortions performed yearly are late-term. It also tells me that data strongly indicates late-term abortions are only performed in cases of severe fetal abnormalities or for the health of the mother, which is why even Republicans will usually build such exceptions into antiabortion bills.

I’m still waiting, by the way, for Goldberg and his ideological mates to produce the woman who aborted a perfectly healthy fetus in her 36th week of pregnancy because she changed her mind about giving birth, or the doctor who performed the procedure. Believing that it must happen is not the same thing as it actually happening.

No wonder the Times has been having such problems the last few years if it’s regularly publishing this level of wingnut hackery. Sure, the journalism industry in general has its problems. But seeing a once-proud paper now doing business as the equivalent of a free circular you find moldering in a stack by the front door of your local food co-op is a sad state of affairs.

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Aol_on Carly Fiorina Jonah Goldberg Los Angeles Times Media Criticism Planned Parenthood