The poster child of anti-choice sleaze: David Daleiden, Planned Parenthood video hoaxster, gets raided — but to the unhinged religious right, he's a hero

Facing an indictment and 2 lawsuits, David Daleiden sees things get stickier with authorities confiscating evidence

By Amanda Marcotte

Senior Writer

Published April 6, 2016 5:06PM (EDT)

David Daleiden   (Jeffrey Malet, Jackson/Salon)
David Daleiden (Jeffrey Malet, Jackson/Salon)

The Center for Medical Progress (CMP), an organization created to make hoax videos masquerading as "exposes" of Planned Parenthood and other abortion providers, continued down its spiral into legal hell this week when California authorities allegedly raided the house of David Daleiden, the head of CMP, on Tuesday. Daleiden announced the raid in a typically hyperbolic Facebook post, where he painted himself as the victim of some kind of political conspiracy.


Posted by The Center for Medical Progress on Tuesday, April 5, 2016


I'm not a lawyer, but it does seem unwise to me to accuse the office that's investigating you of being a "bought-and-paid-for" stooge of an organization you've spent months spreading blatant lies and misinformation about. But hey, it probably does help with the fund-raising.

It's hard to keep track, but this is now the fourth separate legal battle that Daleiden and CMP have become embroiled in since last summer, when they first started releasing hoax videos that were heavily edited to push claims that Planned Parenthood pressures women into unwanted abortions in order to sell fetal tissue on the black market. (No matter how many times you say it, it never stops being ridiculous.)

The National Abortion Federation has an ongoing lawsuit against Daleiden, which led to a huge release of embarrassing information on CMP's unsavory methods that the Los Angeles Times published in a for real expose last week. Planned Parenthood is also suing Daleiden. In Texas, a grand jury was convened, under instructions from a Republican-controlled state government, with the clear hopes of finding some dirt they could use to attack Planned Parenthood. The grand jury found nothing, but were so appalled by Daleiden and his co-conspirator, Sandra Merritt's behavior that they indicted them instead.

Now apparently the state of California is looking into the situation and seizing Daleiden's things. (That is, if Daleiden is to be believed, always a dicey proposition, given his history. But there seems to be no reason he'd lie about this.) Despite all this, Daleiden has remained bombastic and confident, presenting his mounting legal problems as little more than minor annoyances. Yes, even though the case that's furthest along — the NAF lawsuit — is not going his way and already features a judge used the words "fraud" or "fraudulently" 13 separate times in a court order explaining why Daleiden had to turn his materials over to the court.

Anti-choice activists — Daleiden especially — love to portray the pro-choice movement and abortion providers are if they are criminal deviants who coerce innocent blushing maidens into feeding them "babies" that they supposedly kill for fun and profit. Or, as William Murray of the Religious Freedom Coalition argues, they do so as human sacrifice to the god Moloch. The whole point of Daleiden's hoax videos was to push the abortion-doctors-are-criminals-and-deviants narrative.

The reality is, as all these legal battles show, the real baddies in this situation are not abortion doctors, the vast majority of whom are devoted to offering compassionate care to women who need it. No, the real deviant weirdoes who seem to have no respect for law or ethics come from the anti-choice side. The sleaze just radiates off Daleiden and his bizarre insistence on pushing his ridiculous story about "selling baby parts" is an act of public self-titillation that is just straight-up creepy.

But this guy is a hero to the religious right. His Jack Chick-style hoax videos have been exploited by Republicans nationwide as an excuse to defund and attack Planned Parenthood. It's very reminiscent of the 80s era hysteria over "Satanism" in heavy metal music and fantasy role-playing games, except instead of teenagers getting their records taken away by Christian fantasist parents, it's poor women losing access to basic health care.

The attorney general's office in California hasn't released a statement about the raid, but last year, the attorney general, Kamala Harris, confirmed that CMP is under investigation. The uptick in intimidation and violence, including the murders of three people in Colorado Springs, against abortion clinics no doubt adds urgency to efforts to hold Daleiden legally responsible for his misinformation campaign against Planned Parenthood.

By Amanda Marcotte

Amanda Marcotte is a senior politics writer at Salon and the author of "Troll Nation: How The Right Became Trump-Worshipping Monsters Set On Rat-F*cking Liberals, America, and Truth Itself." Follow her on Twitter @AmandaMarcotte and sign up for her biweekly politics newsletter, Standing Room Only.

MORE FROM Amanda Marcotte