What does Planned Parenthood have to do for a mention on the network news? The group provides services abhorred by much of the American population and it has been riddled with scandal recently. But according to the abortion group's latest figures, its intake of federal tax dollars up by more than a third, and that 90 percent of its government funding comes from federal money.
Sounds like a controversial story. Too bad ABC, CBS and NBC haven't been paying attention.
As CNS News reported Jan. 4, the Planned Parenthood Federation of America has released its annual report covering July 1, 2009 to June 30, 2010. During that time, the abortion group's funding from the federal government increased by $124 million (34 percent) to $487.4 million.
In the meantime, America's largest abortion provider performed 332,278 abortions in 2009 alone, referring a steeply declining number of women to adoption services. Its offerings also encourage sexual experimentation among children, declaring that "young people's sexual rights are human rights."
And Planned Parenthood has been wracked by controversy of a different kind this year. Seven videos showing Planned Parenthood caught allegedly assisting in illegal activities were released, and a comprehensive report claimed Planned Parenthood engaged in fraudulent and illegal activity. Based in large part on these scandals, the House of Representatives is investigating the organization with an eye toward withholding its federal funding.
The broadcast networks have largely ignored these controversies surrounding Planned Parenthood, which is strange, given what's at stake. Recently, when the state of Texas withdrew funding, seven Lonestar Planned Parenthood clinics were forced to close. If the House denies it the $487 million in federal subsidies, the organization will face serious difficulties across the nation.
Networks Find Charlie Sheen Saga Over 30 Times More Important than Sex Trafficking Videos
The major networks are eager to look into potential scandals affecting conservative groups. ABC's investigative unit teamed up with Truth Wins Out, a homosexual activism group, to expose the clinic run by Michele Bachmann's husband Marcus for allegedly promoting reparative therapy. In the first week after the story broke, the networks ran 6 stories on the scandal at the clinic.
Videos exposing Planned Parenthood have received much less coverage. Live Action, a pro-life group, put out seven "sting" videos about Planned Parenthood during the 2011 year. These videos were mentioned only three times by the networks.
Early in 2011, Live Action put out videos showing Planned Parenthood staffers assisting sex traffickers at seven different clinics evade mandatory reporting laws.
Despite the fact that the New York Times covered the Live Action videos as early as Feb. 2, the three major broadcast networks ignored the story for a full week. CBS waited until Feb. 9, before reporting on the videos, and ABC waited until Feb. 18 to mention the scandal, but only because NBC never once mentioned the videos.
When the House of Representatives voted to defund Planned Parenthood on Feb. 18, in part as a reaction to the videos, all three major networks aired Rep. Jackie Speier's (D-Calif.) impassioned plea to preserve abortion funding. Only ABC connected the video scandal with the House's vote to eliminate federal funding for Planned Parenthood.
Perhaps the networks were too busy covering Charlie Sheen's meltdown to care about alleged sex trafficking. The networks devoted 38 separate broadcasts and over 4 hours and 51 minutes of airtime to covering Charlie Sheen's personal life, and only 3 stories and 7 minutes and 37 seconds of airtime to the Live Action videos.
In other words, the networks found Sheen's antics over 30 times more important than videos showing alleged assistance of sex trafficking at Planned Parenthood and their impact on federal funding.
Live Action followed up with other videos exposing alleged falsehoods in statements made by Planned Parenthood, which received no coverage whatsoever on the networks.
Planned Parenthood CEO Cecile Richards, in a February 21 interview on "The Joy Behar Show," claimed that depriving Planned Parenthood of funding would eliminate women's access to services such as "mammograms." Live Action produced a video showing calls to 30 different Planned Parenthood clinics, not one of which offered a mammogram.
Despite the fact that the Washington Post covered this video, none of the networks reported on it.
Live Action wasn't done. On May 10, the state of Indiana cut off funding for Planned Parenthood. In response to claims by Planned Parenthood that their services provided necessary women's healthcare in Indiana, Live Action came out with a third video, detailing how women could receive basic healthcare without Planned Parenthood's assistance.
Not one of the broadcast networks covered the Indiana videos. By contrast, Fox News Channel did segments on all three Live Action videos: the sex trafficking scandal, the mammogram story, and the Indiana videos.
The broadcast networks jumped on investigative journalism when it coincided with the homosexual agenda, and ignored it when it was turned the nation's foremost abortion provider.
What Congressional Investigation?
Even a congressional probe into the finances of Planned Parenthood could not spark the networks' interest.
Americans United for Life (AUL) published a report on July 7, 2011, alleging that Planned Parenthood engaged in potentially illegal activity - including the systematic cover-up of sex crimes and misuse of federal funds to support abortion.
The AUL report, titled "The Case for Investigating Planned Parenthood," alleges that Planned Parenthood engaged in illegal and potentially criminal activities. It documents multiple instances where Planned Parenthood clinics allegedly covered up sex trafficking and child abuse and misappropriated federal funds for abortions.
AUL spokeswoman Kristi Hamrick told CMI: "Our report documents evidence of financial improprieties within Planned Parenthood and instances in which laws requiring notification of public officials of suspected sexual abuse were not followed. Congress has the right and the duty to make sure that all institutions receiving federal funds deserve that support."
Congress has taken the report seriously. Rep. Cliff Stearns, R-FL., chairman of the Oversight and Investigations Subcommittee of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, called for a government investigation of the organization, based on the findings of the AUL report. On Sept. 15, 2011, Stearns sent a letter to Planned Parenthood, demanding that the organization hand over its records to a congressional investigation.
Network coverage of the report and congressional investigation into Planned Parenthood has been sparse. The broadcast networks completely ignored the AUL report when it came out in July, perhaps because they were too focused on actress Mila Kunis being asked to the Marine Corps Ball. Ten stories were aired about Kunis' invite in the week after the report came out - including an ABC interview with the Marine's parents.
NBC briefly mentioned that Congress was investigating Planned Parenthood, in 80 words on the Sept. 28 "Today." ABC and CBS did not mention the Planned Parenthood probe.
Even left-leaning MSNBC covered the Planned Parenthood congressional investigation, bringing on AUL president Charmaine Yoest for an interview on October 1, 2011.
Hamrick told CMI: "This report on Planned Parenthood is an opportunity for the media to decide whether or not it is an honest arbitrator in the abortion debate."
The three major networks have made their decision. They aren't.
Apart from possible illegalities, Planned Parenthood's positions and programs raise serious questions about whether is should be subsidized with tax dollars. For example, the group declares on its website: "It's important for children to learn that masturbating is normal, is not harmful, and will not hurt their bodies. They should also know to seek privacy when masturbating."
And of course, Planned Parenthood performs well over a quarter million abortions per year. But journalists continue to perpetuate the fantasy that Planned Parenthood is a non-controversial organization, arguing as Kelly O'Donnell did on NBC Nightly News' Apr. 7 broadcast that Planned Parenthood "provides medical care and family planning services, including some abortions." (This is like saying that McDonald's sells fries and chicken nuggets, including some burgers.)
Journalists are supposed to cover both sides of important issues. The Society of Professional Journalists' Ethics Code states that journalists are supposed to "support the open exchange of views, even views they find repugnant." But the allegations of scandal leveled against Planned Parenthood during 2011, were, by and large, ignored by the three major networks. The broadcast networks gave a bare minimum of coverage to video showing potential complicity in sex trafficking by a federally funded organization, and even less coverage to a congressional investigation against Planned Parenthood.
Considering the willingness of the networks to thoroughly investigate conservative groups and the private lives of actors, this silence is telling.
When it comes to Planned Parenthood, it seems major mainstream media outlets truly hear no evil and see no evil.
The Media Research Center's Culture and Media Institute analyzed coverage of Planned Parenthood on morning and evening shows on the three broadcast networks - ABC, CBS, and NBC - from Jan. 1, 2011 to Dec. 31, 2011.
Fifty-five stories on the three major broadcast networks mentioned Planned Parenthood during this period. Three stories covered a Live Action sting operation which exposed clinics covering up sex trafficking abuses, while one eighty word brief was all the networks had to say regarding the congressional investigation.
ABC was the "best" of the networks in reporting on Planned Parenthood-related scandal. In 21 segments, ABC mentioned the Live Action sex trafficking video of Planned Parenthood twice.
In 18 segments, CBS did one story on the Live Action sex trafficking video of Planned Parenthood.
NBC was the worst of the networks in reporting on Planned Parenthood-related scandal. In 16 segments, NBC mentioned the congressional investigation into Planned Parenthood in an eighty word brief.