Update: Video and audio added
On Friday's O'Reilly Factor, Fox News host Bill O'Reilly held ABC and NBC News to account for failing to cover the recent Planned Parenthood video stings conducted by the pro-life organization Live Action: "Fox News and CNN covered the...tapes extensively and CBS News did as well...However NBC and ABC News both ignored the situation....it was a pretty big omission." [Audio available here]
O'Reilly challenged two liberal political science professors on the lack of coverage and the reasoning behind it. Speaking to Dr. Caroline Heldman of Occidental College and Dr. Mark Sawyer of UCLA, O'Reilly cited the Media Research Center's reporting of ABC and NBC's silence on the issue: "Brent Bozell's organization basically says this is a pattern, because those news organizations are liberal and they like abortion – not like abortion – but they support abortion rights. They don't want to bring any attention to this kind of stuff." Both networks have continued to ignore the story.
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Dr. Heldman tried to argue that there was no story in videos showing Planned Parenthood workers willing to provide abortions to underage prostitutes: "I think what we have here is a lot of smoke but not much fire....the only controversial tape in looking at this closely is the one from New Jersey....in the remainder of the tapes are Planned Parenthood employees explaining the law to the supposed sex traffickers....I don't know exactly what the story is here." O'Reilly pointed out: "I mean, if ABC and NBC News wanted to defend Planned Parenthood, they could certainly do that by stating what you stated: 'Well, we've analyzed it, and we don't think there's enough here.' They chose to ignore it."
Heldman argued that media were wary of the videos because they did not want to "get burned again," like after the release of a highly edited video of Agriculture Department employee Shirley Sherrod. Heldman added that "there are some sacred cow organizations" that the media do not like to go after.
In response, O'Reilly explained: "...we all know, those of us who work in the national media here in New York City and in Los Angeles and Washington, D.C., if you did a poll, 80-85 percent of people in the media support abortion rights. So this could be the sacred cow." Actually, two studies of journalist attitudes in the 1990s found that those in the media were nearly unanimous in their pro-choice views on abortion.
In a spring 2001 article for the academic journal The Public Interest, authors Stanley Rothman and Amy E. Black revisited their 1995 survey of the media elite and found that 97 percent of the nation's top journalists agreed that "it is a woman's right to decide whether or not to have an abortion," and that 84 percent agreed strongly with that statement.
A 1992 survey by Indiana University journalism professors David H. Weaver and G. Cleveland Wilhoit similarly found that 91 percent of journalists thought abortion should be legal in all or some circumstances.
O'Reilly concluded the segment by predicting that Republican efforts in Congress to stop federal funding for Planned Parenthood would be successful in the wake of the video controversy: "...when you start to get into the criminal justice system, Congress can't be in business with those people. And that's why Congress is going to bail on Planned Parenthood. You wait and see over the next two years. Might not happen right away, but it will happen." All the more reason for ABC and NBC to finally cover the story.
Here is a full transcript of the February 11 segment:
BILL O'REILLY: 'Factor Follow Up' segment tonight, as we reported earlier this week there is an amendment in the House to de-fund Planned Parenthood, which gets about $360 million taxpayer each year from the federal government. Recently seven, seven separate undercover stings have embarrassed Planned Parenthood.
UNIDENTIFIED MAN [ACTOR, LIVE ACTION VIDEO]: So some of them are like – some of them are young, they're kind of like, something like 15, 14.
UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN [COUNSELOR, PLANNED PARENTHOOD]: You know, me and my other counselor, like for the most part we want as little information as possible. So as long as they just lie and say, 'oh she's 15.'
O'REILLY: Well, Fox News and CNN covered the Planned Parenthood tapes extensively and CBS News did as well, though a little late on the story. However NBC and ABC News both ignored the situation. Joining us from Los Angeles, Dr. Mark Sawyer, who teaches Political Science at UCLA, and from Austin, Texas, Dr. Caroline Heldman, who teaches Political Science at Occidental College. Dr. Helmand, it was a pretty big omission on the part of NBC and ABC News, is it not?
DR. CAROLINE HELDMAND [PROFESSOR, OCCIDENTAL COLLEGE]: Well, Bill, I think what we have here is a lot of smoke but not much fire. The only tapes – you talked about seven being controversial – the only controversial tape in looking at this closely is the one from New Jersey with the employee who was clearly going against Planned Parenthood's policy. What I see in the remainder of the tapes are Planned Parenthood employees explaining the law to the supposed sex traffickers, and they then go and turn them over to the FBI. So, again, I don't know exactly what the story is here.
O'REILLY: Well, the Bronx one was pretty horrific. I mean, there are at least two of them where the employees break the law if, indeed, they would carry out their advice. The Bronx one and the Jersey one. But this is like ACORN. I mean, if ABC and NBC News wanted to defend Planned Parenthood, they could certainly do that by stating what you stated: 'Well, we've analyzed it, and we don't think there's enough here.' They chose to ignore it.
And, Brent Bozell's organization basically says this is a pattern, because those news organizations are liberal and they like abortion – not like abortion – but they support abortion rights. They don't want to bring any attention to this kind of stuff. And I mean, that seems to be what might be in play, Dr. Helmand.
HELMAND: Well, perhaps that's – perhaps that's in play, but there is also the Shirley Sherrod, that they're going to get burned again. And there are some sacred cow organizations. I would say Planned Parenthood is one on the Left. Catholic Charities is one on the Right.
O'REILLY: I'm glad you admit that. Because that's what I see, Dr. Sawyer. I see, you know, a bunch of liberal – and ABC, to me, isn't – NBC, absolutely off the chart. Not ABC so much. But, we all know, those of us who work in the national media here in New York City and in Los Angeles and Washington, D.C., if you did a poll, 80-85 percent of people in the media support abortion rights. So this could be the sacred cow, Dr. Sawyer, no?
DR. MARK SAWYER [PROFESSOR, UCLA]: I don't think it's the sacred cow. What they look for is that Planned Parenthood systemically supports sex trafficking. And there's really no evidence of that. Like Caroline said, the one person – the people who get caught are clearly and knowingly breaking Planned Parenthood policy and are trying to hide the fact.
O'REILLY: But ACORN made the same – ACORN made the same argument. ACORN said look, these guys-
SAWYER: And I think people should have defended ACORN. We should have defended ACORN.
O'REILLY: Wait, wait, wait, wait-
SAWYER: It wasn't systemic, and people called the police on those guys.
O'REILLY: How do you know it wasn't systemic? There were so many indictments across the country, so many cases that Congress basically said, 'We can't be in business with these people.' And the same thing is going to happen with Planned Parenthood. I mean, this is just the beginning.
SAWYER: Oh, no, it's not.
O'REILLY: I bet you it does. I'll bet you it does. They're going to de-fund them.
HELDMAN: I don't think that's going to happen.
SAWYER: Planned Parenthood provides a lot of services, Bill. You know, they – they provide prenatal services, STD screenings, even the kind of stuff that appears in this video, where they're giving really good information about things like birth control.
And look, these guys are against all of that. They're against abortion. They're against family planning. They're against birth control. And so then they want to do is, like, tie Planned Parenthood to sex trafficking because then that will shut them down.
O'REILLY: It's a pro-life-
SAWYER: Why not say you're against birth control?
O'REILLY: They say they're against birth control. But look, if Planned Parenthood is providing a service, why can't they raise their money privately? Why do they have to be on the taxpayer dole, when abortion is a very serious issue. Country is evenly divided about it. Why should my dollars go to pay for abortions? That's not right, doctor, and I think that's in play here, too. Dr. Heldman.
HELDMAN: Well, Bill, I – 97 percent of the services that Planned Parenthood provides are not abortion services. Three percent are. And they are providing those to low income, primarily women of color. And they are very-
O'REILLY: Where do they make their money? Planned Parenthood makes money, a profit, a heavy-duty profit on providing abortions. You know that.
HELDMAN: Well, and that money goes back into family planning. So, it's a good all around. Especially-
O'REILLY: It's good for you.
HELDMAN: It's not.
O'REILLY: It's not good for people though don't belief in abortion.
HELDMAN: Even if you're not pro-choice. Even if you're pro-life. 97 percent of the services they provide are for family planning for-
O'REILLY: It doesn't matter. There are millions of abortions, millions of abortions being performed in Planned Parenthood clinics.
HELDMAN: -poor woman. But Bill, if you are a poor woman and you don't want to have a child, you can go and get birth control-
O'REILLY: Raise the money privately. Alright, okay.
HELDMAN: -which means that child will not be on the public dole later.
O'REILLY: Raise the money privately is my solution. But you both agree – no, you don't both agree. Dr. Heldman says that the secret cows in the media; they want to stay away. But Dr. Sawyer, you just say you don't think the story is fair, and that's why ABC and NBC News didn't cover it?
SAWYER: Right, exactly. And I think they are a little bit of a sacred cow. Because I think we should have fought for ACORN, too. But you disagree with me on that.
O'REILLY: Well, you know, look, ACORN when you start to get into the criminal justice system, Congress can't be in business with those people. And that's why Congress is going to bail on Planned Parenthood. You wait and see over the next two years. Might not happen right away, but it will happen. Thanks for a lively debate, doctors. We appreciate it.
— Kyle Drennen is a news analyst at the Media Research Center. You can follow him on Twitter here.