Networks Hype ‘Spirited,’ ‘Unfazed’ Planned Parenthood President in Coverage of ‘Five-Hour Interrogation’

Hours after Planned Parenthood President Cecile Richards testified Tuesday before the House Oversight Committee concerning the videos that have embroiled the abortion provider in scandal over the selling of aborted baby parts, the “big three” networks of ABC, CBS, and NBC rushed to the defense of the “unfazed” and “spirited” Richards as she “endured a five-hour interrogation” by the GOP.

Using language that was likely not employed to describe, say, hearings involving tobacco and auto companies, ABC neglected to show a back and forth between Richards and a member of Congress while all three painted Planned Parenthood as harmless providers of “health screenings, birth control, and breast exams” for millions of women annually.

NBC Nightly News led with the hearing as anchor Lester Holt explained that abortion “jolted Capitol Hill today with the head of embattled Planned Parenthood going before congressional critics” to testify for the “first time since a series of controversial undercover videos concerning aborted fetuses were made public.”

Before tossing to correspondent Kelly O’Donnell, Holt added that the hearing “was long and it was contentious with the group’s president offering a spirited defense.”

O’Donnell did little to hide her spin for Planned Parenthood from the beginning, gushing how “[s]upporters of Planned Parenthood took to the streets for what they called nation pink-out day” with “the same passion in Washington for those that provides a range of women's health care services, including abortion.”

In contrast, O’Donnell declared that the GOP were subjecting Richards on Capitol Hill to “five hours of tense...[and] sometimes confrontational questioning.” Following a clip of a tense exchange between Richards and Republican Congressman Jim Jordan (Ohio), O’Donnell touted the funding structure of Planned Parenthood (but, to her credit, included a total for annual abortions):

Planned Parenthood provide services to 2.7 million each year. Mostly low-income women. That includes 327,000 abortions. No federal money is used for abortions, but Planned Parenthood does get major taxpayer help. $530 million a year, much of that through Medicaid for services like health screenings, birth control and breast exams.

Further fawning over Richards appearing to be “unfazed by tough questions,” O’Donnell teed up liberal Democratic Congressman Gerry Connolly (Va.), who whined about how “[t]he disrespect, the misogyny rampant here today tells us what is really going on here.”

All too happy to plug the latest NBC News poll (with slanted questions, as the MRC’s Tim Graham explained), O’Donnell concluded: “While conservatives threaten to shut down the government this week over Planned Parenthood, the organization has strong support in our latest NBC News poll where 61 percent say that funding should remain.”

Not surprisingly, the spin for Planned Parenthood continued on ABC’s World News Tonight. Anchor David Muir informed viewers that Richards “fac[ed] questions for hours, grilled by lawmakers after those undercover videos recorded by anti-abortion activists of Planned Parenthood employees.”

One upping Muir’s description, chief White House correspondent Jonathan Karl ruled that Richards became “target number one for Republicans [and] endured a five-hour interrogation today on Capitol Hill.”

Looking to give GOP candidate Carly Fiorina a “reality check” concerning the videos, Karl had this to say: “Planned Parenthood has accused Fiorina of lying about the video. The anti-abortion group video does include a scene like Fiorina described, although the audio is edited from a different event.”

Towing a rather mild line, Karl stated that the videos from the Center for Medical Progress “claim to show Planned Parenthood officials discussing the sale of aborted fetal tissue.” While he chose to plug an undated Pew poll touting the support for Planned Parenthood, Karl provided the caveat that “a strong majority of Republican voters say they want to see the funding eliminated.”

While the CBS Evening News showed numerous exchanges between Richards and House Republicans (including Jordan, John Duncan of Tennessee, and Cynthia Lummis of Wyoming), anchor Scott Pelley and congressional correspondent Nancy Cordes closed with a positive take on Planned Parenthood: 

CORDES: 80 percent of federal funds for Planned Parenthood come in the form of Medicaid reimbursements for services like birth control and breast cancer screenings. The group does get some reimbursements for abortions, Scott, but only in very rare cases, such as when the life of the mother is at risk. 

PELLEY: And Planned Parenthood sees about three million patients a year.

NB Daily Campaigns & Elections 2016 Presidential Culture/Society Media Bias Debate Bias by Omission Double Standards Labeling Conservatives & Republicans Liberals & Democrats Political Scandals Sexuality Abortion Birth Control ABC World News Tonight CBS CBS Evening News NBC NBC Nightly News Video Government & Press Planned Parenthood John Duncan Lester Holt Kelly O'Donnell David Muir Jonathan Karl Scott Pelley Nancy Cordes Jim Jordan Gerry Connolly Cecile Richards
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