The Washington Post published a breezy little profile Thursday of David Daleiden, the man behind the Center for Medical Progress, the group who made the sting videos attacking Planned Parenthood as vicious sellers of baby parts. It’s warm, respectful, congratulatory, and strangely light on some key details.
The profile, by WaPo’s “social change” reporter Sandhya Somashekhar, is titled “Meet the millennial who infiltrated the guarded world of abortion providers.” Somashekar describes Daleiden, a “slim young man in Clark Kent glasses,” as an anti-abortion superhero who blew the lid off whatever it is Planned Parenthood is doing wrong:
Daleiden’s videos landed like a bomb in Washington this summer, providing fodder for a crowded field of Republican presidential contenders and energizing social conservatives on Capitol Hill. They also shed harsh new light on the venerable women’s health organization, capturing officials sipping wine while joking about abortion and appearing to haggle over the price of fetal tissue.
Somashekhar works in some fun details—Daleiden has a 30-pound pet lizard named Rocky! He drives a hybrid! Those Clark Kent glasses probably had a hidden camera in them, since he doesn’t wear them anymore!—yet neglects to mention what’s happened when anyone other than the CMP followed up on their “investigation.”
State authorities who vowed to investigate the nonprofit have found no evidence of wrongdoing. Officials in South Dakota, Massachusetts, Georgia and Indiana all found that Planned Parenthood providers there either did not participate in fetal tissue donations at all or did so legally, as did Missouri. (Texas is still investigating, evidently, and it promises to be a very objective investigation indeed, considering that Attorney General Ken Paxton has repeatedly referred to abortion as “an abomination.” )
Those investigations doesn’t make into the piece. Nor does it analyze or even mention that while Daleiden’s videos may have “energized social conservatives on Capitol Hill,” it hasn’t energized them to do anything about fetal tissue donation. At the numerous hearings about Planned Parenthood—both the ones PP isn’t invited to and the ones where congressmen brandish phony graphs produced by anti-abortion organizations at PPFA president Cecile Richards—the focus isn’t on fetal tissue donation laws, but, more or less, on whether abortion is an abomination against God. (Let’s not forget the House Judiciary titled their “fact-finding” hearing “Planned Parenthood Exposed” and referred to its “horrific abortion practices.”) Nor does it mention that this has fed into Republicans’ longstanding determination to take away Planned Parenthood’s federal Title X funding, which does not and cannot pay for abortions and hasn’t since the Hyde Amendment was passed in in 1976.
Somashekhar also briefly mentions that undercover operations targeting Planned Parenthood’s fetal tissue donation practices were pioneered in the 1990s by Mark Crutcher, the head of an anti-abortion group called Life Dynamics. Crutcher claimed he’d infiltrated a Planned Parenthood and found out that doctors were killing live fetuses in order to sell their organs. The WaPo mentions that a 20/20 investigation and a congressional hearing “cleared the clinic of wrongdoing.”
The full story there, which there must not have been space to mention in the Post, is that Crutcher’s star witness, a medical technician named Lawrence D. Alberty Jr., admitted that he’d been paid $10,000 by Crutcher to go work at the abortion clinic and that he’d lied about virtually everything he had seen.
Daleiden went to meet with Crutcher at the outset of his “investigation.” He is also, as the WaPo mentions, now good buddies with anti-abortion activist Troy Newman, who’s now a board member at the CMP, along with a longtime anti-abortion activist named Albin Rhomberg (who has accused Planned Parenthood of shielding sexual abusers of children).
Newman is the head of Operation Rescue; he was recently denied a visa to Australia because authorities feared he would incite violence against abortion providers, then deported when he entered the country illegally. Newman’s history of calling for abortion providers to be killed “in order to expunge bloodguilt from the land and people” also goes unmentioned. So does the fact that Scott Roeder, the man who murdered Dr. George Tiller, claimed to have had close ties with Operation Rescue (a charge the group denies, although Roeder had contact information for the group’s senior policy advisor in his phone when he was arrested.)
In the Post’s version, Newman was deported over concerns that his presence could inspire “acts against medical professionals.” What “acts”? Who could know, right? Newman does, however, get space to cheerily imply that Planned Parenthood workers are all alcoholics, or, as he puts it, “troubled individuals” who “soothe their consciences with copious amounts of alcoholic beverages.”
Daleiden laughingly describes Dr. Deborah Nucatola, the target of his first sting video, as a “friend” to the Post. The piece mentions in passing that the National Abortion Federation says Nucatola has received death threats. She’s not alone: death threats on abortion providers spiked sharply after the videos began being released, with the head of the NAF telling the Huffington Post she’d never seen threats of such intensity and volume. (“I’ll pay ten large to whomever kills Dr. Deborah Nucatola,” writes a commenter on Fox Nation. “Anyone. Go for it.”)
There is also, strangely, zero mention in the piece that the CMP footage was heavily edited, and that no one has actually seen all of it. The only people who have it, seemingly, are the members of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, who subpoenaed it on September 15. Chairman Jason Chaffetz — recently seen weeping over how much he wants to defund Planned Parenthood — released a statement yesterday, October 14, saying they’ve finally received it. He’s declining to make it public: “Out of an abundance of caution to ensure the safety and security of all individuals recorded, the footage will not be released to the public at this time.”
The Post piece is being widely shared by people who believe Daleiden is a hero.
Jezebel emailed Planned Parenthood for comment on the story. Their vice president of communications, Eric Ferrero, responded by calling the piece “outrageous:”
“It’s outrageous that this extremist is being treated like a legitimate advocate by the Washington Post, and it’s especially appalling that the Post felt no need to balance his demonization of medical providers. Doctors who provide abortion services are compassionate, highly skilled, and committed to women’s health and autonomy. They trust women to make their own medical decisions and care for women every day — and they do this in the face of continuing political attacks.
“David Daleiden, on the other hand, is a liar and a fraud with ties to violent extremists who have terrorized women and their doctors for decades. The Post seems confused about who the ‘predator’ is and who the ‘troubled individuals’ are.”
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David Daleiden. Screengrab via YouTube/Center for Medical Progress