Fiorina and the Planned Parenthood “Fact Checkers”

Republican presidential candidate Carly Fiorina has come under intense scrutiny for her now famous remarks about Planned Parenthood at the second GOP debate: “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. This is about the character of this nation!”

The video Fiorina alluded to in her remarks includes a conversation with a former procurement technician describing how she and her colleagues went about obtaining a brain from a fetus whose heart was still beating, and whose nodes were still firing. But Fiorina’s remarks at the debate suggested that the video captured the procedure itself rather than a conversation about it.

In reaction, journalists rent their garments – not about the procurement of organs from nascent human life, but rather about Fiorina’s technical misstep, which was condemned as a fabrication, a lie, bogus, mendacious, “exuberant chicanery.”

It is a bracing thing to find punctilious fact checkers across the fruited plain pointing out that a candidate got the precise details of something wrong, especially when on many matters that make the media nervous (notably, abortion), they are quite happy to write (and hector us) with no real basis in fact at all.

But seizing on a technicality in order to deflect attention from what is obviously the larger issue – human vivisection (to call it by its right name) and harvesting baby body parts for profit – isn’t just a technical oversight. It’s a self-induced exercise in being deaf, dumb, and blind. Fiorina’s indignation centered upon the fact that organs are being harvested from fetuses that still show signs of life.

None of the pundits accusing Fiorina of lying contest this. And how could they? It’s worth looking as some of the pathetic misdirection they’ve tried because that alone shows a certain panic and desperation.


It’s like saying that Fiorina was wrong about the color of an envelope in which a document was delivered to us—café au lait rather than khaki. Or it’s as if Fiorina exclaimed “Look! That man in flannel is being mauled to death by a bear!” The fact checkers respond by saying “That man’s wearing plaid, not flannel, you liar!” Then the inevitable headline: “Fiorina’s Bogus Claim about Man’s Shirt Color Debunked.”

There is in all this a remarkable lack of a sense of proportion, and those of us whose brains have not yet been procured by Planned Parenthood recognize here a Machiavellian elision of the crucial details. Until reporters like NBC’s Chuck Todd and ABC’s George Stephanopoulos, along with a host of lesser lights who have joined forces to distort the story, acknowledge that the substance of Fiorina’s remarks were correct, she has no reason to concede anything to them. Indeed, if the real point were ever recognized, she would receive apologies – and praise for telling some difficult truths.

The editorial board of the Washington Post roundly condemned “Fiorina’s Falsehoods” and chastised her for stubbornly doubling down when questioned. But it’s fairly easy for any fair-minded person to parse out what she did – and did not – mean. Minor errors of fact do not invalidate her main contention at all.

During the 2008 presidential election, the fact checkers at the Washington Post somehow were unable to verify that President Obama simply lied about his vote against the Born-Alive Infants Protection Act. (Princeton bioethicist Peter Singer was more candid about what was going on than the politicians and their enables in the media can afford to be: he wrote an op-ed for the London Spectator enunciating the principle behind the media bias: “Killing Babies Isn’t Always Wrong.”)

Then Senator Obama must have realized that no transubstantiation takes place at birth; there is merely a change of place, not of kind, and the being that was in utero does not become a different kind of thing ex utero. Obama simply wanted to protect our current abortion regime, at all costs..

Pressed about this position in the 2008 presidential election, Obama flatly denied having espoused it. And the fact checkers at the Washington Post concurred: “It is unfair to accuse Obama of supporting the withdrawal of medical treatment from babies born as the result of a botched abortion,” wrote Michael Dobbs. But that is precisely what Obama had done, a fact which could be ascertained by comparing his initial criticism of the Illinois Born-Alive Infants Protection Act with his 2008 criticisms of it.

Four years later, the Washington Post belatedly acknowledged that it could have awarded Four Pinocchios (the highest measure of lying) to then senator Barack Obama had it been more astute. Four years from now, will some impartial truth-teller suggest that, during the run-up to the 2016 elections, the Washington Post, the New York Times, and numerous electronic outlets deserve Four Pinocchios for having been unable to play fair with Carly Fiorina when Planned Parenthood’s outrages were put in question?

Jordan Bissell

Jordan Bissell

Jordan Bissell, a new contributor to The Catholic Thing, holds an M.A. in Religious Studies from the University of South Carolina. A former Benedictine novice, he currently works as an academic advisor at Indiana University.

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