'Fox News Sunday' Spotlights Planned Parenthood Scandal; Other Sunday Shows Ignore

ABC, CBS, and CNN's Sunday morning news shows all ignored the ongoing controversy over Planned Parenthood's harvesting of aborted babies' organs, as exposed in a series of recent undercover videos by the Center for Medical Progress. George Stephanopoulos featured Democratic presidential candidate Martin O'Malley on ABC's This Week, but failed to ask him a question about the scandal. NBC's Meet the Press did include a clip of Chuck Todd asking Republican Senator Joni Ernst about federal funding of the abortion giant. However, Todd didn't bring up the issue with California Governor Jerry Brown.

By contrast, Fox News Sunday featured a six-minute panel discussion segment on the hidden camera videos and their impact on the 2016 presidential race. Substitute host Shannon Bream spotlighted Hillary Clinton's support for Planned Parenthood, as well as the possible fight over federal funding in Congress. She also mentioned the hundreds of anti-Planned Parenthood rallies across the country on Saturday.

Bream led into the segment (with the Wall Street Journal's Kimberley Strassel, Peter Baker of the New York Times, the Washington Post's Robert Costa, and Juan Williams) with her mention of the "hundreds of protests held across the country this weekend, as outrage over Planned Parenthood's practices continues." She first turned to Strassel and asked, "Do you feel like the political conversation is any different this time around because of these undercover videos coming out – with conversations and footage, frankly, that is very uncomfortable for people – even those who...identify as pro-choice?"

Strassel replied, in part, that "it's definitely different – and that this has made a lot of people think about the limits of where they want to go with this." She also pointed out that "Congress is going to come back; and then, we're going to get some real information on this, too...two committees in the House...[are] going to be talking to...doctors at Planned Parenthood. They've been getting in touch with some of these research groups that have been...involved in all of this. And so, then, we're maybe going to get some more answers about what actually happened."

The Fox News journalist then played a clip from one of the Center for Medical Progress videos and noted to Baker that "it's tough material." The New York Times correspondent acknowledged that "it's very tough material, and it's aimed at people in the middle." He also highlighted that "it's sort of like the partial-birth abortion debate in the '90s – in which basically, rather than attack abortion rights as a whole-on thing, it says, look at some of the aspects of it that are most objectionable, and try to appeal the conscience of people who might find it something that they can't live with." He later asserted that "for the moment, the momentum, obviously, is on the side of those who are...trying to expose this."

Costa later zeroed in on the scandal's impact on the 2016 presidential race, and how when "Congress comes back; Senator [Ted] Cruz, so many conservatives want to see, perhaps, a defunding fight; and that could lead to a government shutdown." Bream used this as a jumping-off point to play a clip from a recent Clinton campaign video, where the former first lady disclosed that she's "proud to stand with Planned Parenthood."

Williams responded to this by underlining that "if you look at the polls...54 percent, I think, of Americans support Planned Parenthood; want Planned Parenthood to continue, in terms of contraception, disease prevention, and the like. But when you get into it in terms of the politics, this is where it becomes more intriguing, because I think that you can stir the Republican base. But what happens when you...threaten to shut down the government? We've seen that story before. It doesn't work out well."

The transcript of panel discussion from the August 23, 2015 edition of Fox News Sunday:

SHANNON BREAM: (clip of pro-life protest in Boston, Massachusetts) That's just one of the hundreds of protests held across the country this weekend, as outrage over Planned Parenthood's practices continues.

We're back with our panel now to talk about this; and Kimberly [Strassel], I'll start with you: do you feel like the political conversation is any different this time around because of these undercover videos coming out – with conversations and footage, frankly, that is very uncomfortable for people – even those who – many of them identify as pro-choice?

KIMBERLEY STRASSEL, THE WALL STREET JOURNAL: It's definitely different – and that this has made a lot of people think about the limits of where they want to go with this. And you've been having this debate out in the states already. If you look at places like Texas, people have been more focused on – where do we want to draw lines; where do we want to have limits; and having more thoughtful conversation.

I think it's going to change even more because Congress is going to come back; and then, we're going to get some real information on this, too. And what you've had so far are these videos come out; and then, you had Planned Parenthood say that they're false and – or edited. And so, what you're going to have is – there are two committees in the House. They're going to be talking to members of – doctors at Planned Parenthood. They've been getting in touch with some of these research groups that have been taking some of the – been involved in all of this. And so, then, we're maybe going to get some more answers about what actually happened.

BREAM: Well, and I – I noticed, too, that late in the week, Congressman Elijah Cummings, the ranking Democrat on House Oversight, has now reached out to the group, Center for Medical Progress, that exposed and taped these videos – now wanting to investigate them. I mean, that's part of this equation, too.

We want to play a little bit of the video they put out this week. A woman they identify as Holly O'Donnell – they say she worked for StemExpress, which is one of these procurement companies – but that she was stationed inside a Planned Parenthood clinic, and described something she saw there.

HOLLY O'DONNELL, EX-PROCUREMENT TECHNICIAN, STEMEXPRESS, LLC: She's like – okay, I want to show you something – so she has one of her instruments – and she just taps the heart, and it starts beating. So I'm sitting here and I'm looking at this fetus, and its heart is beating. And I don't know what to think.

BREAM: Peter, she went on to describe the process of harvesting a brain from that fetus. It's tough material.

PETER BAKER, THE NEW YORK TIMES: It's very tough material, and it's aimed at people in the middle – not people on – on the pro-choice, pro-life side – because those guys have made up their minds – and are trying to tell ordinary Americans that this isn't just about – you know, an antiseptic idea. And it's sort of like the partial-birth abortion debate in the '90s – in which basically, rather than attack abortion rights as a whole-on thing, it says, look at some of the aspects of it that are most objectionable, and try to appeal the conscience of people who might find it something that they can't live with. And it's energized the pro-life side of this debate. The pro-choice side of the debate, to use these terms that we – that we use, you know – is trying to fight back by saying, in fact, it's a smear. It's energizing them to say our rights are under attack. But for the moment, the momentum, obviously, is on the side of those who are – you know, trying to expose this.

BREAM: And late Friday, the group – Center for Medical Progress – behind these videos, had a victory in California court. They've got multiple things pending. But at least, Bob, on this one dealing with StemExpress, the restraining order that was keeping them from releasing some of the material was dissolved, and they're promising yet another release. This will be their eighth this week.

ROBERT COSTA, THE WASHINGTON POST: The questions are only mounting, and the politics are just simmering. Now, I checked in with my sources on Capitol Hill, and they say come fall, this could become a boil – because Congress comes back; Senator [Ted] Cruz, so many conservatives want to see, perhaps, a defunding fight; and that could lead to a government shutdown, and that could thrust itself into the 2016 race. Governor [Mike] Huckabee, [Ben] Carson, every conservative who's looking to win Iowa, they're going to rally to this as well. And for a party that wanted to gently avoid social issues for the most part, now they will be front and center because of Planned Parenthood.

BREAM: Well, and with the first three or four of these videos that came out, Hillary Clinton did say that she found some of the images disturbing – although many on the left have said they haven't actually watched the videos. We're told that the President hasn't watched them; that most in the administration are not watching them. But within just two days of her making those comments, she put out a video about two minutes long. Here's a portion of it.

HILLARY CLINTON (from campaign video): We're not going back. We're going to fight back. I'm proud to stand with Planned Parenthood.

BREAM: So, Juan [Williams], she has made her decision that, for this campaign, she – despite what she feels, maybe, about some of these videos – says that she's fully behind the organization.

JUAN WILLIAMS: I don't think there's any choice for a Democrat – especially a leading Democrat at this moment. There's no moving away from Planned Parenthood or women. If you look at the polls – you know, just, sort of, directly, you see it's 54 percent, I think, of Americans support Planned Parenthood; want Planned Parenthood to continue, in terms of contraception, disease prevention, and the like. But when you get into it in terms of the politics, this is where it becomes more intriguing, because I think that you can stir the Republican base. But what happens when you shut – threaten to shut down the government? We've seen that story before. It doesn't work out well. And I think you are, as Bob was suggesting, we are moving forward. There's such excitement in the Republican base about these videos. And it's not just one more to come. I think there's a series of additional videos to come-

BREAM: Yes, there are several more coming-

WILLIAMS: So, this will continue to steam; and the question is, how far do they want to take it?

BREAM: Well, we did see a couple of Democrats, on the first vote – the only vote we've seen in the wake of these videos in the Senate – they had to get past this procedural vote. They need 60 votes to get to the first pass at defunding. They couldn't do it, but they did have two Democrats who went with them. Kimberly, do you think that number is potentially going to grow as these videos continue to release?

STRASSEL: The question for Democrats – who are so eager to do this war on women theme – is if they don't end up turning off a lot of people in the middle, as Peter said, who really do and are disturbed watching these videos. And I think the question for Republicans, meantime, is, do you want to do this again where you end up putting all the focus on shutting down the government; loss of services; and taking away from the actual question and substance of these videos, which is a big concern.

BREAM: Yeah – and the messaging is going to be difficult for them, because there are some of them who say, based on these videos, they can't in good conscience vote for anything that would allow funding to move forward. So, again, it shuts – a potential shutdown and who gets blamed for that on the horizon.

Thank you, panel.


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