NBC, CBS Tout Indictment of Pro-Life Activists Behind Undercover Vids

On Monday, NBC Nightly News and CBS Evening News both spotlighted how a Texas grand jury indicted two people from the pro-life Center for Medical Progress on the felony charge of tampering with a government record. One of the two was also charged with purchasing and selling human organs, a misdemeanor. The grand jury also cleared Planned Parenthood of the Gulf Coast of any crime, despite the hidden camera footage shot by the organization. At the same time, ABC's World News Tonight chose not to cover the latest development in the ongoing controversy. [video of the NBC and CBS reports below]

The NBC evening newscast devoted one minute and 10 seconds to the Planned Parenthood story. Anchor Lester Holt trumpeted the "breaking news from Texas: a grand jury investigating undercover footage of a meeting with a Planned Parenthood official has cleared the organization of any wrongdoing; while instead, choosing to indict the anti-abortion activists involved in making the videos that provoked so much controversy."

Holt turned to correspondent Pete Williams, who noted the "surprising turn...in an investigation requested by the governor of Texas, who wanted to know if Planned Parenthood broke any laws." Williams summarized the charges against the "anti-abortion activists," and underlined, "So that brings to twelve the number of states where investigations have cleared Planned Parenthood."

On CBS Evening News, anchor Scott Pelley gave a 32-second news brief on the indictments. He noted that "the charges include tampering with a government record, but the D.A. wouldn't say today what that record was."

Outside of the Big Three networks, Judy Woodruff gave a 18-second news brief on PBS NewsHour about the story:

JUDY WOODRUFF: Back in this country, a Houston grand jury has cleared Planned Parenthood officials of wrongdoing. Instead, the panel today indicted two anti-abortion activists who secretly taped them. The activists are accused of tampering with a governmental record and a separate misdemeanor count.

The conservative Federalist blog pointed out in a Monday item that "Lauren Reeder, one of the prosecutors in the Harris County district attorney's office, revealed last August that she was a member of the board of directors for the Planned Parenthood affiliate that was targeted by [the CMP's David] Daleiden."

The report from NBC's Williams included a screen capture of the press release from the Harris County D.A.'s office, which bore the name of First Assistant District Attorney Belinda Hill [see image at right]. It isn't clear if Reeder, the Planned Parenthood board member, was actually involved in the investigation of the organization.

Back in July 2015, the Big Three networks set aside more than 14 minutes of air time in just one day to the shooting of Cecil the Lion. By contrast, ABC, CBS, and NBC's morning and evening newscasts devoted 11 minutes and 13 seconds spread out over two weeksto the Planned Parenthood undercover videos.

The transcripts of Pete Williams's report from NBC Nightly News and Scott Pelley's news brief from CBS Evening News, both of which aired on January 25, 2016:

Tell the Truth 2016

01/25/2016
07:12 pm EST
NBC Nighty News

LESTER HOLT: There is breaking news from Texas: a grand jury investigating undercover footage of a meeting with a Planned Parenthood official has cleared the organization of any wrongdoing; while instead, choosing to indict the anti-abortion activists involved in making the videos that provoked so much controversy.

Our justice correspondent Pete Williams is in Washington with late details. Pete?

[NBC News Graphic: "Video Firestorm"]

PETE WILLIAMS: A surprising turn, Lester, in an investigation requested by the governor of Texas, who wanted to know if Planned Parenthood broke any laws — the question arose after anti-abortion activists made videos that appeared to show representatives of Planned Parenthood talking about selling tissue from aborted fetuses. Those videos quickly became a sensation. But now, it's the makers of the videos who've been indicted. Two face charges of tamping with government records. One is accused of violating state laws against buying human organs — that's a misdemeanor.

The Harris County, Texas district attorney says tonight — quote, 'We must go where the evidence leads us;' and says the grand jury cleared Planned Parenthood of the Gulf Coast of breaking any laws. So that brings to twelve the number of states where investigations have cleared Planned Parenthood. No comment tonight from the organization that made those videos, Lester.

HOLT: All right. Pete, thank you.


01/25/2016
06:43 pm EST
CBS Evening News

[CBS News Graphic: "Activists Indicted"]

SCOTT PELLEY: And late today in Houston, a grand jury investigating allegations of wrongdoing by Planned Parenthood didn't find any. Instead, the jury indicted Planned Parenthood's accusers — two anti-abortion activists — who shot undercover video of Planned Parenthood employees discussing the sale of aborted fetal tissue for research. The charges include tampering with a government record, but the D.A. wouldn't say today what that record was.

Matthew Balan
Matthew Balan
Matthew Balan is a news analyst at Media Research Center