Jay Bookman

Opinion columnist and blogger with The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, specializing in foreign relations, environmental and technology-related issues

Fiorina's heart-tugging Planned Parenthood story did not happen

One of the dramatic highlights of Carly Fiorina's debate performance was her description of a scene allegedly from one of the secret and highly controversial Planned Parenthood videos:

"As regards Planned Parenthood, anyone who has watched this videotape, I dare Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama to watch these tapes,” Fiorina said. “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.”

Not surprisingly, pro-life groups rushed to use Fiorina's statement to their advantage. “Carly also brought in another face we need to see — the face of the child, whose heart continued beating even after he had been aborted — whose face was cut open in order to have his brain harvested,” Marjorie Dannenfelser, president of the pro-life Susan B. Anthony List, said in a statement afterward.

The problem is that no such scene exists, as the Wall Street Journal and other outlets have thoroughly documented. In the many hours of video taken surreptitiously at Planned Parenthood by the Center for Medical Progress, nothing close to that horrific scene occurs. So call it what you will -- a lie, a mistake, whatever -- it simply is not true.

Here's what is true:

In one related and heavily edited video also released by CMP, a short video segment of a living, highly stressed and  clearly premature fetus is shown on screen while a former medical technician describes a totally unrelated incident. Again, the technician's description and the video shown as she talks have nothing to do with each other. In fact, the scene inserted into the video was not filmed at Planned Parenthood; it has nothing to do with Planned Parenthood, and there in no evidence that it has anything to do with abortion at all. (And even in that doctored video, nobody is talking about trying to keep that doomed fetus alive in order to harvest its organs, as Fiorina so emotionally and devastatingly described.)

It's telling that Fiorina's defenders, while insisting that her remarks are accurate, cannot find the scene in question in the 12 hours of raw, unedited video released by CMP. It exists only in the doctored, edited form

That video is below, and the scene in question comes at the 6:00 mark. If you look closely, you can spot a small, barely noticeable notation on the bottom right indicating that the snippet's source is "Courtesy of the Grantham Institute and Center for Bio-Ethical Reform," another pro-life agency. What it actually depicts is anyone's guess, but it's there for its shock value. And it didn't come from Planned Parenthood.

In her defense, it is plausible that Fiorina honestly misunderstood what she was seeing. I say plausible because the CMP tape is artfully edited, on purpose, to create just that kind of misunderstanding.  In fact, that's exactly what critics of the CMP guerrilla operation have been saying about it all along -- that its tapes were edited and doctored to create a false impression.

Viewed honestly, Fiorina's false testimony in the debate Wednesday night about what she thought she saw -- but did not see -- becomes proof that the critics have been right. She fell for it too. And given the attention that her remarks received, she or her campaign have the responsibility to acknowledge that she was deceived. (She also made repeated claims of criminal behavior against Planned Parenthood, but despite repeated investigations no criminal charges have been filed or are likely to be filed, let alone proved. Because again, the tapes do not show what their champions claim they show.)

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About the Author

Jay Bookman writes about government and politics, with an occasional foray into other aspects of life as time, space and opportunity allow.