MSNBC Got a Big Surprise While Pushing the Abortion Agenda

MSNBC anchor Thomas Roberts got a big surprise on Tuesday when he tried to use the mother of a stillborn child to attack a pro-life organization’s effort to defund Planned Parenthood. Roberts talked to Lexi Oliver Fretz about her deceased son Walter. An image of the stillborn Walter was used in a video by the Center for Medical Progress in one of its videos. 

Roberts attacked, “How do you feel about Walter's picture used to discredit Planned Parenthood?” Fretz explained that she was surprised to see her son used to illustrate a grisly description in the video, but added, “My husband and I are actually extremely pro-life.” 

So, Roberts tried again: 

THOMAS ROBERTS: I know that Walter's story is very precious for you and your family. This has been really distorted out of context in this larger political conversation. Have you felt betrayed in any way by Walter's life being used and mischaracterized in such heavy — and in some ways mischaracterized political debates? 

Fretz again expressed her surprise at Walter being used in the video (without permission). But she mentioned God: “We are trusting that He is going to take care of use and use Walter for His good.” 

Roberts again attempted to get this mother to attack CMP: 

ROBERTS: Lexi, do you hope that the organization that put together this video reaches out and apologizes to you or offers any sort of explanation? 

LEXI FRETZ: No. I have talked to them directly and we've cleared the air and my husband and I are fine that it's been used. 

Probably not the way MSNBC producers imagined the segment going. 

[Thanks to MRC intern Michael McKinney for the transcript.]

A transcript of the September 29 segment is below: 

2:15pm ET

THOMAS ROBERTS: More now with our breaking news taking you back to Capitol Hill and Planned Parenthood's President Cecile Richards just returning to resume her testimony on Capitol Hill. This comes after she faced heavy criticism from Republicans questioning whether or not the organization should receive federal funding. And we're going back to a story that we were talking about just a few minutes ago. It's about a woman of Lexi Oliver Frets. Lexi is a photographer who never thought she would find herself in the middle of the Planned Parenthood debate. She is the mother of a stillborn child whose image has been used in anti-abortion videos and Lexi joins me on the phone right now. Lexi, thank you for joining me. 

LEXI OLIVER FRETZ: You're welcome. 

ROBERTS: So, it was two years ago that you lost your child in the summer of 2013. His name is Walter. I understand you had a miscarriage. He was stillborn at 19 weeks and I know that this was heartbreaking for you and your family. 

FRETZ: Correct. 

ROBERTS: What made you decide this story, Walter's story, and pictures of him on your website and blog? 

FRETZ: Well, I am from a very small town and I -- after coming home from our trip to Indiana to visit family, was tired of answering the question as to why are you not pregnant anymore. So I wrote my story down not as a way to look for attention at all but as just a go-between so I didn't have to talk to people and continue to relive my nightmare. 

ROBERTS: Lexi, how many children do you have? 

FRETZ: We have two older girls and this past year we had another little baby girl. 

ROBERTS: Another little baby girl. You have a beautiful family. I want to warn our viewers that the images that we are about to show are graphic, are sensitive. So if you do have kids and you're watching at home, we want to give you this moment to let them out of the room if you see fit. So Lexi, we pulled a picture of Walter, your child that was born stillborn at 19 weeks. And this is from your website. We have cropped it. Matched it up to an image used a video featuring Carly Fiorina and distributed by Center of Medical Progress and anti-abortion organization. It is the same child. How do you feel about Walter's picture used to discredit Planned Parenthood? 

FRETZ: Well, my husband and I are actually extremely pro-life so we were a little shocked at first and surprised because like I said we never imagined that this would come about this way or we shared our story with the purpose of gaining any kind of fame or anything. But we are extremely proud of our son and this path that the Lord put us on to help. I mean, he has saved many, many unborn lives. I've had stories of people that have been sitting in the clinic waiting for an abortion and changed their minds. I have had people come up to me personally and tell me, I never knew. I was misinformed. I was not educated and what a baby looks like at that point. At 19 weeks, they're very legal to abort and most people assume it's a blob of nothing. 

ROBERTS: When Walter was stillborn, we have images of your girls, you had them meet their brother. Why did you want to do that? 

FRETZ: They were both old enough to know that I was pregnant. They were thrilled that we were having a baby. They were so excited to have another baby and for them to not have met their brother and to just him be gone we both would have been much more detrimental to them. They were able to see him, hold him, to realize that he was real and while, yes, he was technically stillborn, his heart was beating. I held him in my hands until his heart stopped beating. I saw it under the rib cage. He was not with us when they met him but they still talk about their brother. He's still very much a part of their life and talk about him every day. 

ROBERTS: I know that Walter's story is very precious for you and your family. This has been really distorted out of context in this larger political conversation. Have you felt betrayed in any way by Walter's life being used and mischaracterized in such heavy — and in some ways mischaracterized political debates? 

FRETZ: I was a little surprised at first. Not being directly asked. But at the same time, I -- where our lives are in God's hands. My and husband are trusting God and the ultimate perfect plan and if this is happening, we are trusting that He is going to take care of us and use Walter for His good. 

ROBERTS: So we have reached out the Center for Medical Progress and responded with this statement saying, and I'm paraphrasing here: “Walter Fretz, Lexi's son, is a clear illustration of what the human fetus looks like in the late second trimester. We have spoken with Lexi and she's supportive of CMP's investigative journalism work exposing Planned Parenthood.” So, Lexi, let me ask you again. Did anyone reach out for permission to use Walter's picture in the anti-abortion video? 

FRETZ: Not directly, no. He pulled it from another article, interview I had done previously last year for the Daily Mail. 

ROBERTS And so no one from their organization reached out and said we'll be using this image in an anti-abortion video aimed at defunding Planned Parenthood or putting Planned Parenthood in a false light? 

FRETZ: Not before it was released, no. 

ROBERTS: So we also reached out to the Carly Fiorina campaign and they responded that, quote, “we have no comment.” We weren't involved in the production of these videos. Obviously, you've probably heard from the political campaign and Fiorina's fiery impassioned talk during the debate of a few weeks ago. That used this illustration and referenced the video and that image. What do you want people to know about Walter Ian also about your own views about being pro-life? 

FRETZ: I just believe that every child should have a chance, a chance to be alive, to make a difference. We had so many little lives being lost and thrown away each day and I wish so much that my son was here. We miss him and the short time we had was precious with him. But I know his purpose, his purpose was to help to educate the world as to what a child really looks like. You know, you say fetus, baby, whatever you want to call it, he was very much alive. And I just believe that every, every little baby should have a chance. 

ROBERTS: Lexi, do you hope that the organization that put together this video reaches out and apologizes to you or offers any sort of explanation? 

FRETZ: No. I have talked to them directly and we've cleared the air and my husband and I are fine that it's been used. 

ROBERTS: Lexi Oliver Fretz. Lexi, thanks again for sharing your story with us today. I really appreciate it.

Scott Whitlock
Scott Whitlock
Scott Whitlock is the associate editor for the Media Research Center's NewsBusters.org site.