In Interview with Biased MSNBCer Andrea Mitchell, Former Komen Exec Handel Complains About Liberal Bias That Fueled Controversy

In February, I documented how liberal MSNBC anchor Andrea Mitchell thoroughly went to bat for Planned Parenthood in a biased interview with Komen for the Cure CEO Nancy Brinker. The larger controversy, you may recall, was over Komen's decision to not extend grants to Planned Parenthood chapters, redirecting those funds elsewhere. This was one of the controversies that MSNBC later used as evidence of a conservative "war on women." In the midst of that firestorm, Komen vice president and pro-life Republican Karen Handel was pressured by pro-choice activists to resign her post.

Fast forward to the present, Handel is out with a new book, "Planned Bullyhood," which tells her side of the story. The former Komen executive was interviewed via satellite today by Mitchell, who, of course, stuck to her guns pushing liberal talking points and seeking to discount Handel's version as self-serving spin. [MP3 audio here; video follows page break]


"[B]y ending the funding to Planned Parenthood, you were in effect denying screenings to millions of women who rely on Planned Parenthood because they cannot afford medical care on their own, private physicians," Mitchell groused after Handel poured cold water on the notion that Planned Parenthood is an apolitical provider of health care services (emphasis mine):

HANDEL: What I find interesting here is that it somehow is political to not want to give grants to Planned Parenthood but apolitical to force an entity to do the grants. The bottom line for Komen is they were focused on the best interest of women and breast health. Because after all, Planned Parenthood does not do mammograms. When I think about breast cancer, when most Americans think about breast cancer, it not left, it not right, it's just about saving women from this horrible disease and that was Komen's focus.

[...]

HANDEL: The scapegoating came from, frankly the liberal media and from the left. I was singled out for my politics and frankly our friend, Nancy Brinker, our mutual friend Nancy Brinker was singled out for her politics. And yet the politics of Planned Parenthood of their president Cecile Richards, was given a complete pass. You didn't see Nancy Brinker speaking and vilifying the left, yet Cecile Richards was a keynote speaker for the Democratic Convention. She's on the campaign trail for Barack Obama. The organization is giving upwards of $10 million in political ads to support Barack Obama. She even received a phone call from him. Komen has been completely apolitical focused on one thing and one thing only, and that's breast cancer. The only people who made this about politics were Planned Parenthood and the Left.

It was "absolute nonsense" to say as Mitchell did that ending the Komen grants cut off health care for women, Handel added:

Komen was realigning those dollars in to better, more effective programs so they could do more mammograms, more screenings because Planned Parenthood does not do not mammograms. Let's also keep in mind $700,000 in Planned Parenthood's $1 billion budget is inconsequential. Planned Parenthood wanted the alignment with Komen because it game them legitimacy, credibility, allowed them to wrap themselves in the pink. That's what this was about, and Komen has always been focused on its mission and continue to be focused on that mission.

Mitchell also played dumb as to the media's role in tarring Komen as political, which, again, is completely cynical given Mitchell's role in stroking the fires of controversy in February (emphasis mine):

MITCHELL: Why, then, is there a widespread perception that you were pushing Komen into politics where it had never been before in decades and decades of laudatory work? When you and others who are very strongly opposed to any kind of abortion rights, that your entry into the fray is what facilitated this move against Planned Parenthood?

HANDEL: That was the press' spin on it. That did not happen within the organization. The issues with Planned Parenthood had been affecting the organization for long before my time, a decade at least. I only came into Komen in April. Are you really suggesting that as one person I came in and was able to do all that in one fell swoop? That's ridiculous. The organization was trying to do the best thing they could with their grants. They wanted to go to direct mammography providers instead of having the middle woman, if you will, involved in it so they could do more for women. They were always realigning those dollars and it was the press with the help of Planned Parenthood who hijacked this for the sake of politics. 

MITCHELL: Well, I think it was also to a great degree the membership, because it's been the women and men who were members of Komen who have had such an impact on the reorganization. We’ll have to it leave it there. Thank you for joining us today.

You can read the full transcript courtesy of Media Research Center intern Ryan Robertson here:

MSNBC

 

Andrea Mitchell Reports

 

1:46 P.M. EDT

 

ANDREA MITCHELL: Welcome back. When controversy erupted earlier this year over the Susan G. Komen Foundation's decision to stop funding Planned Parenthood, fingers were immediately pointed at Komen Vice President Karen Handel, who as a Republican candidate in Georgia had opposed Planned Parenthood funding. In the thick of the controversy, Komen's founder and CEO Nancy Brinker came here to defend the decision and in a sense absolve Handel of blame.

NANCY BRINKER: Well let me just for the record tell you Karen did not have anything to do with the decision. This was decided at a board level and also by our mission.

 
MITCHELL: In the days following my interview with Brinker, Handel resigned her position. Brinker herself stepped back from her day-to-day leadership of the organization as it regroups. Now Handel has written her side of the story titled "Planned Bullyhood" and Karen Handel joins me now. Thank you for joining us.


KAREN HANDEL: Andrea, thank you so much for having me.


MITCHELL: I very much want your perspective in the days that followed that decision. There was a lot of controversy over exactly what happened. Tell us, from your perspective, what your role was and how the Komen group responded?


HANDEL: I was a senior vice president of public policy, brought on board to advocate for the organization and as things played out, Komen was really looking at how to deliver breast health services in the best, most effective way. Unfortunately, what transpired, as you saw the Left and Planned Parenthood literally bullied up on Komen over $700,000. When Komen was about breast health, not about politics. Planned Parenthood made it about politics.


MITCHELL: But of course, they say that you all made it about politics by going after Planned Parenthood, that there was, in fact, a decision made because of politics to go after Planned Parenthood which was being opposed by many groups, conservative Republican groups, who believed that Planned Parenthood's role in abortion care or providing abortion services, and reproductive services, which is about 3% of what they do, not the mammography, not the breast health, that was the focus and that this was basically a game plan since you first entered.


HANDEL: Well, first of all, the issues with Planned Parenthood had been affecting Komen for at least a decade, long, long before my time. What I find interesting here is that it somehow is political to not want to give grants to Planned Parenthood but apolitical to force an entity to do the grants. The bottom line for Komen is they were focused on the best interest of women and breast health. Because after all, Planned Parenthood does not do mammograms. When I think about breast cancer, when most Americans think about breast cancer, it’s not left, it’s not right, it's just about saving women from this horrible disease. And that was Komen's focus.

MITCHELL: Let me focus on the days immediately following that interview with Nancy Brinker. When the decision was reversed you write in your book that Karl Rove and others like Debbie Wasserman-Schultz pressured Brinker to back down on the position that you had taken. Now we've gotten in touch with both Karl Rove and Debbie Wasserman-Schultz, and spokespeople for them say that did not take place. Karl Rove is denying any involvement, Wasserman-Schultz is saying -- he says Mrs. Handel's account is not accurate, and Wasserman-Schultz says the characterization of the call to Nancy Brinker as threatening and could not be further from the truth.

HANDEL: I can only relate how it was related to me when events were unfolding. What I can tell you is that, it is without question that Komen was on the receiving end of a bullying beat-up by Planned Parenthood and the Left. The organization was receiving bomb threats. We had Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman-Schultz was weighing in, there’s no question trying to pressure the organization. Corporate sponsors were being contacted and told, see what we're doing to Komen if you don't stop supporting them, you're next. That is bullying to the absolute definition of it.

MITCHELL: You claim that you became scapegoated with -- been in touch with Komen, they say you're entitled to your own recollections, they're moving forward. What way were you scapegoated?


HANDEL: The scapegoating came from the liberal media and from the left. I was singled out for my politics and frankly our friend, Nancy Brinker, our mutual friend Nancy Brinker was singled out for her politics. And yet the politics of Planned Parenthood of their president Cecile Richards, was given a complete pass. You didn't see Nancy Brinker speaking and vilifying the left, yet Cecile Richards was a keynote speaker for the Democratic Convention. She's on the campaign trail for Barack Obama. The organization is giving upwards of $10 million in political ads to support Barack Obama. She even received a phone call from him. Komen has been completely apolitical focused on one thing and one thing only, and that's breast cancer. The only people who made this about politics were Planned Parenthood and the Left.

MITCHELL: But by ending the funding to Planned Parenthood, you were in effect denying screenings to millions of women who rely on Planned Parenthood because they cannot afford medical care on their own, private physicians.

HANDEL: That is absolute nonsense. Komen was realigning those dollars in to better, more effective programs so they could do more mammograms, more screenings because Planned Parenthood does not do not mammograms. Let's also keep in mind $700,000 in Planned Parenthood's $1 billion budget is inconsequential. Planned Parenthood wanted the alignment with Komen because it gave them legitimacy, credibility, allowed them to wrap themselves in the pink. That's what this was about, and Komen has always been focused on its mission and continue to be focused on that mission.

MITCHELL: If Planned Parenthood was not doing a useful service, why did Komen then reverse itself and re-engage Planned Parenthood?

HANDEL: That's a question you have to ask of Komen. What I can tell you, I disagreed with the decision. I felt that Komen should have held the line because, again, breast cancer is not about left, it's not about right. Komen didn't want to be in the abortion wars. We wanted to be only about breast cancer.

MITCHELL: Why, then, is there a widespread perception that you were pushing Komen into politics where it had never been before in decades and decades of laudatory work? When you and others who are very strongly opposed to any kind of abortion rights, that your entry into the fray is what facilitated this move against Planned Parenthood?

HANDEL: That was the press' spin on it. That did not happen within the organization. The issues with Planned Parenthood had been affecting the organization for long before my time, a decade at least. I only came into Komen in April. Are you really suggesting that as one person I came in and was able to do all that in one fell swoop? That's ridiculous. The organization was trying to do the best thing they could with their grants. They wanted to go to direct mammography providers instead of having the middle woman, if you will, involved in it so they could do more for women. They were always realigning those dollars and it was the press with the help of Planned Parenthood who hijacked this for the sake of politics.

MITCHELL: Well, I think it was also to a great degree the membership, because it's been the women and men who were members of Komen who have had such an impact on the reorganization. We’ll have to leave it there. Thank you for joining us today.

HANDEL: Thank you for having me. I appreciate it. Thank you.

 

Ken Shepherd
Ken Shepherd
Ken Shepherd is the Managing Editor for NewsBusters