Carly Fiorina set off fact-check alarm bells during the CNN GOP presidential primary debate when she dared Hillary Rodham Clinton and President Obama to watch a surreptitiously recorded undercover video by the Center for Medical Progress, an anti-abortion group out to destroy Planned Parenthood. “Watch a fully formed fetus on the table, its heart beating, its legs kicking while someone says we have to keep it alive to harvest its brain,” she said.
Factcheck.org found that the scene that Mrs. Fiorina urges others to watch is not present in any of the Planned Parenthood videos. Politifact called her statement “mostly false.” Sarah Kliff at Vox.com, who actually watched all 12 hours of footage and is in a position to know says Carly Fiorina is wrong about the Planned Parenthood tapes. I know because I watched them. The Washington Post’s Fact Checker says the same thing. Fact checking the second round of GOP debates: Fiorina might have trouble finding this video to show to Clinton. No video has surfaced showing the scene Fiorina describes taking place inside a Planned Parenthood facility.
Steve Benen notes that Fiorina, when later called out for her debate falsehood, decided to follow in the footsteps of Willard “Mittens” Romney who built his entire campaign on lies (Benen provided an invaluable public service in 2012 with his fact check series “Chronicling Mitt’s Mendacity”). Fiorina doubles down on Planned Parenthood falsehood:
One of the amazing things about Mitt Romney’s 2012 presidential campaign was its indifference towards the truth. Plenty of politicians lie, but Romney had a unique ability to adopt a post-truth posture.
In the traditional model, a politician would make a claim, wait for it to be discredited, and then move on to the next falsehood. Romney preferred to skip the third part – he’d lie, wait for news organizations to catch the lie, and then effectively declare, “I like the lie, so I’m just going to keep repeating it anyway.”
Yesterday, GOP presidential hopeful Carly Fiorina decided to take the Romney model out for a spin. MSNBC’s Irin Carmon explained:
At Wednesday’s second Republican debate, Carly Fiorina described a secretly recorded video from an anti-abortion group, part of a series that includes Planned Parenthood executives, as showing “a fully formed fetus on the table, its heart beating, its legs kicking, while someone says, ‘We have to keep it alive to harvest its brain.’” She challenged Democratic front-runner Hillary Clinton and President Barack Obama to watch the tapes for themselves.
One problem: No such video exists.
Under the traditional rules, candidates caught telling a falsehood during a nationally televised debate would try to finesse a subtle walk-back. In a case like this, maybe Fiorina would say she was exaggerating for effect, or perhaps speaking metaphorically. Maybe she’d argue that such a scenario could happen, even if she hasn’t seen proof.
But yesterday, Fiorina instead stuck to the Romney method of campaigning.
ABC’s George Stephanopoulos gave the Republican candidate a chance to clarify, asking yesterday, “[A]nalysts who have watched all 12 plus hours say the scene you describe … actually isn’t in those tapes. Did you misspeak?”
Fiorina, caught telling an obvious falsehood, replied, “No, I didn’t misspeak.” Even though the images she described don’t exist, Fiorina went on to tell the ABC host, “I have seen those images.”
Except, of course, that’s impossible, since the scene the Republican described is “pure fiction.”
Later in the day, a Fiorina spokesperson told NBC News, “The videos speak for themselves. They are gruesome and Planned Parenthood is funded by taxpayers. Those are the facts.”
Well, those aren’t all of the facts. It’s also a fact that abortions aren’t funded by taxpayers. It’s also a fact that fetal-tissue research is legal and plays a key role in life-saving medical research. It also appears to be a fact that Carly Fiorina said something that wasn’t true to tens of millions of people on Wednesday night, but doesn’t want to admit she told a falsehood.
The reliably Republican editorial board of the Washington Post editorializes today, GOP candidates spout irresponsible rhetoric on Planned Parenthood:
THE SECOND Republican presidential debate took place as the nation faces the possibility of another destructive government shutdown. Instead of the responsible discussion one would hope to hear from those asking to be entrusted with the fate of the country, the candidates by and large exacerbated the threat of a shutdown with inflammatory pandering on the subject of Planned Parenthood.
Sen. Ted Cruz (Tex.), New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie and Carly Fiorina all seemed willing to force a government shutdown based on invective and deceptive claims. By comparison, Ohio Gov. John Kasich and, in the earlier debate, Sen. Lindsey Graham (S.C.) appeared almost statesmanlike in acknowledging the recklessness of passing a budget without Planned Parenthood funding since they know it will be vetoed by the White House, though they also favor defunding this highly useful organization.
Mr. Cruz, Mr. Christie and Ms. Fiorina all alluded to a series of heavily edited videos produced by antiabortion activists that have become a flash point in efforts by congressional Republicans to defund Planned Parenthood. Mr. Cruz labeled the family planning provider an “ongoing criminal enterprise” and said the videos show Planned Parenthood officials “bartering and selling the body parts of human beings . . . essentially [confessing] to multiple felonies.” Mr. Christie referred to the “systematic murder of children in the womb to preserve their body parts.” Ms. Fiorina challenged President Obama and Hillary Clinton to view the tapes and “watch a fully formed fetus on the table, its heart beating, its legs kicking, while someone says we have to keep it alive to harvest its brain.”
Those characterizations are false. The videos, highly suspect because of how they were produced, contain callous, even insensitive, discussion of medical procedures and aborted fetal tissue, but there is no instance of any Planned Parenthood official discussing the sale of fetal tissue for profit. The images described by Ms. Fiorina, as has been pointed out by media fact checkers, don’t exist.
What is true is that two out of 59 Planned Parenthood affiliates (down from seven) are involved in legal fetal tissue research, offering a connection between scientists and women who want to donate tissue. The only money these affiliates receive is reimbursement for their costs. No federal money, with few exceptions, is used for abortions in any of the affiliates; most of the federal funding to Planned Parenthood helps women, many of them low-income, receive vital services such as family planning and cancer and sexually transmitted disease screenings. Also true is that most Americans don’t want Planned Parenthood defunded and most certainly don’t want the government closed over the issue.
It’s unclear who won Wednesday’s debate, but the clear losers of this segment of conversation were reason and facts.
This is what the “fact-free world” of FAUX News and the conservative media entertainment complex hath wrought: facts simply do not matter to a large segment of the population who live inside the bubble of the closed conservative information feedback loop. “Don’t bother me with the facts, I know what I believe!“