In a federal court in San Francisco, the Planned Parenthood Federation of America is currently suing the Center for Medical Progress (CMP) for illegally taping videos and racketeering, among other crimes. Founded by David Daledien, the CMP nearly brought Planned Parenthood down when it released its series of undercover videos. How Planned Parenthood avoided disaster is a story that deserves attention given what we have since learned about the agency that rescued it, Fusion GPS, the mastermind behind the notorious "Steele dossier."
In 2013, the then 24-year-old Daleiden launched what would prove to be the most sustained and effective undercover journalism project since the Chicago Sun-Times famed political sting of 1977. That year, the Sun-Times purchased a rundown bar, renamed it "The Mirage," staffed it with its reporters, and captured on camera the shakedowns, payoffs and sundry criminal mischief of Chicago's political underclass.
Daleiden's "Mirage" was a sham biomedical research company called "Biomax Procurement Services." Over time, he had become aware that Planned Parenthood was engaged in the trafficking of "fetal tissue," a double-edged euphemism for "baby parts." Working through a journalistic entity of his own creation, the CMP, Daleiden and his partner Sandra Merritt learned the language and the mechanics of the fetal tissue procurement business and went to work.
Over a period lasting more than two years, the highly disciplined twosome worked their way into the good graces of Planned Parenthood clinicians in several states and captured on camera the chilling words and deeds of the practitioners in the nation's least regulated major industry.
In July 2015, Daleiden started dropping the videos in a style perfected by Project Veritas and James O'Keefe. The combination of callow words and cruel images, repeated in one video after another, rocked Washington. The timing was good. The 2016 presidential campaigns were revving up, and many Republicans spoke out about what they saw.
"The out-of-sight, out-of-mind mantra that propelled the pro-choice movement for decades is forever gone," Kellyanne Conway, then a Republican pollster, told the New York Times. Reeling from the blow, even the Times had to wonder whether "the new offensive will succeed in crippling Planned Parenthood." Barack Obama, the first president to speak at Planned Parenthood's national convention, kept his distance from the hubbub. An indifferent media got no closer to the president than his press secretary, Josh Earnest. On July 30, 2015, a young reporter asked Earnest if Obama had seen the video that was released on that day. The video in question begins with interview footage of harried Planned Parenthood president Cecile Richards insisting, "It's not a fee. It's not a fee. It's just the cost of transmitting this material." The undercover footage that follows undercuts everything Richards said.
A doctor at a mega Planned Parenthood clinic in Colorado is seen explaining the clinic's traffic in body parts. Aware that it is illegal to transfer "human fetal tissue" for "valuable consideration," the doctor plays semantic games with the would-be purchasers.
"We don't want to get called on, you know, selling fetal parts across states," she jokes unaware she is being recorded. This interview is followed by an on-site review of actual body parts with the doctor and a clinician. What is impressive is how well Daleiden and Merritt play their roles as buyers. What is unnerving is how casually the doctor and clinician pick through trays of baby parts -- a heart, a brain, a lung -- while talking about the commercial viability of the "fetal cadaver."
At the press conference, Earnest appeared to be bored by the whole subject. He did not know if Obama had seen the video in question or any of the videos and did not think it mattered. He airily dismissed CMP's investigative project "as the tried and true tactic that we have seen from extremists on the right: To edit this video and selectively release it so that it grossly distorts the position of the person who is actually speaking on the video." Apparently satisfied with Earnest's explanation, the reporters quickly moved on to a new subject.
Running for president at the time, Hillary Clinton could not afford to be so dismissive. Although her first instinct was to attack the video producers, Clinton herself began to waver as each new video dropped. "I have seen pictures from [the videos] and obviously find them disturbing," Clinton told the New Hampshire Union Leader late that July. No one knew better than Clinton, however, what overwhelming force Planned Parenthood and its allies in the Democratic-media complex could bring to bear against a pair of citizen journalists.
For immediate assistance Planned Parenthood turned to the well-connected fixers at -- where else? -- Fusion GPS. The beleaguered organization contracted with Fusion to review the unedited footage Daleiden posted online. O'Keefe started this practice to counter the inevitable claims that he somehow doctored the videos. O'Keefe's transparency went largely unappreciated. The journalists who reviewed his footage knew what they wanted to say even without seeing it. The former journalists at Fusion GPS, now in the employ of Planned Parenthood, did not even have to feign objectivity.
Armed with a ten-page report from Fusion, Richards went on the offensive. Convincing people they did not see what they saw would not be easy, but the networks made the task possible by refusing to show the actual videos. As to the newspapers and online journals, they did their bit by leaving the assessment of the videos to Fusion GPS. Faced with real journalists doing real work, the Obama courtiers reflexively turned stenographer. They welcomed this "forensic study" as heartily as they would the Steele dossier a year later.
According to the Washington Post, Fusion's Glenn Simpson "enlisted experts who analyzed both the short, highly produced videos publicized by the antiabortion group, as well as hours of ‘full' footage the group posted on YouTube." This took no great effort or skill. Fusion GPS reviewed only the first four videos and supporting footage. The Post could and should have done its own analysis, but by 2015, it did not much matter. The Post was as deep in the tank for Planned Parenthood as were the paid shills at Fusion GPS.
The Times headlined its story, "Planned Parenthood Videos Were Altered, Analysis Finds." Deep in the copy, Fusion admitted they "found no evidence that CMP inserted dialogue not spoken by Planned Parenthood staff," but the headline did the damage. To complete the rout, prosecutorial friends of Planned Parenthood, in both Texas and California, brought utterly bogus criminal charges against Daleiden and Merritt. Mainstream journalists yawned, even cheered.
As the 2016 presidential campaign wound its way to its expected conclusion, Planned Parenthood Action felt confident enough to ridicule CMP for its "fake, criminal videos." Hillary Clinton felt comfortable enough with Planned Parenthood to make her first speech as presumptive nominee at one of its events. Hillary and friends were on a winning streak until, alas, they weren't. Thanks to social media millions of Americans had seen those pesky videos, even if Obama refused to.
Abridged from Jack Cashill's forthcoming book, Unmasking Obama: The Fight to Tell the True Story of a Failed Presidency.