Anderson Cooper Fact-Checks Abortion Foes – But Not Planned Parenthood

On last Friday and on this past Tuesday night, CNN's Anderson Cooper ran fact-checks against the claims of two anti-abortion members of Congress against Planned Parenthood – but did not bother to conduct similar fact checks on the claims of Planned Parenthood and its Democratic supporters.

During his Tuesday segment of "Keeping Them Honest," Cooper countered the claims of conservative Rep. Michelle Bachmann (R-Minn.) that Planned Parenthood is the largest provider of abortions in the U.S. "They are a big abortion provider, although that's only a small fraction of what they do," he stated.

Last week he also countered claims by Sen. Jon Kyl (R-Ariz.) with information provided by Planned Parenthood. "According to Planned Parenthood, here's the breakdown of patient care they gave us, which they say is double-checked by outside auditors," he explained. But he did not fact-check any of Planned Parenthood's information, which claimed that a mere 3 percent of the organization's services are abortions.

For instance, The Washington Examiner's Tim Carney provided this graph breaking down the services Planned Parenthood offers specifically to pregnant women. The graph claims that over 97 percent of the services offered to pregnant women by the organization in 2009 were abortions. The other 3 percent consisted of prenatal care and adoption referrals.

Carney also pointed out that the terms Planned Parenthood uses, like "services," could refer to a whole host of things, helping to skew the data in a way to downplay how much of its resources are devoted to elective abortions.

But aside from the validity of the arguments made by either side, Anderson Cooper reported Planned Parenthood's information as fact – without a sufficient investigation to prove it as such.

A transcript of the segments, which aired on April 12 and April 8, respectively, is as follows:

CNN ANDERSON COOPER 360 4/12/11 10:00 p.m. EDT

ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: We begin tonight "Keeping Them Honest" with the headline-grabbing words of a congresswoman who might soon be running for president, Michele Bachmann.

Bachmann has been spending a lot of time in Iowa lately, testing the waters for a presidential run and it's in Iowa yesterday that she launched into an attack on Planned Parenthood. Now, it's not my job to support or oppose Planned Parenthood. My job is to report what's true and what's not.

And some of what Michele Bachmann is claiming about Planned Parenthood simply is not true. Listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. MICHELE BACHMANN (R), MINNESOTA: The executive director of Planned Parenthood in Illinois said, they want to become the LensCrafter of big abortion in Illinois. They're the largest provider of abortion in the United States. And not only that, they are one of the largest political organizations that you can imagine as well.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: Now, Planned Parenthood says it performed some 330,000 abortions a year out of some 1.2 million abortions in the country, according to the Guttmacher Institute. So they are a big abortion provider, although that's only a small fraction of what they do.

But Bachmann is claiming a Planned Parenthood executive said they want to become the LensCrafter of big abortion. And she's also claiming they're one of the largest political organizations you can imagine. Neither of those statements is true.

And what's interesting is it's not the first time Congresswoman Bachmann has made these claims. This is her talking about Planned Parenthood back in July 2008.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BACHMANN: This organization has now become a big box retailer, big abortion in other words. The executive director in Illinois for Planned Parenthood said, we want Planned Parenthood to be the LensCrafters of big abortion.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: So it's a catchy quote. The question is, where did she get this quote from the executive director? Well, we believe she's referring to a quote made by Planned Parenthood's Illinois executive director Steve Trombley a month before that statement in 2008.

He was quoted in "The Wall Street Journal" back in June of 2008 saying of Planned Parenthood -- quote -- "I like to think of it as the LensCrafters of family planning." Again, "I like to think of it as the LensCrafters of family planning," not big abortion.

So what Congresswoman Bachmann has repeatedly done is taken out the family planning part of the sentence and inserted the term big abortion. She's made up a quote. In the article, Mr. Trombley was talking about setting up express locations in shopping malls for family planning services, like birth control, pregnancy testing, STD screening, the kind of services which make up the vast majority of what Planned Parenthood does.

He wasn't talking about performing abortions in malls. Congresswoman Bachmann, we should point out, is not the only lawmaker who has been making up things about Planned Parenthood. Here's Senator Jon Kyl.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. JON KYL (R-AZ), MINORITY WHIP: If you want an abortion, you go to Planned Parenthood. And that's well over 90 percent of what Planned Parenthood does.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: Well, later Senator Kyl retracted that and his office saying -- and I quote -- "His remark was not intended to be a factual statement."

Not intended to be a factual statement, even though it was made on the floor of the Senate. We asked Congresswoman Bachmann to join us tonight, she declined. We did get some reaction from Planned Parenthood, they said -- quote -- "The continued misleading attacks on Planned Parenthood expose a cynical and cold-hearted willingness to further a divisive political agenda even if it will deny women access to life-saving cancer screenings and birth control."

As for the congresswoman's other claim that Planned Parenthood is one of the largest political organizations you can imagine, that is not really true, either. According to OpenSecrets.org the two top donors in the 2010 midterm elections were the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the Service Workers Union, depending on how you measure it. Depending on which measurement you use, SEIU spent about $53 million and the Chamber of Commerce spent about $33 million. Planned Parenthood spent less than a million. A lot of money, no doubt about it, but compared to the others, hard to call it one of the largest political organizations you can imagine.     

-  -  -  -  -  -  -  -  -  -  -  -  -  -  -

CNN ANDERSON COOPER 360 4/8/11 10:01 p.m. EDT

SEN. JON KYL (R-AZ), MINORITY WHIP: If you want an abortion, you go to Planned Parenthood. And that's well over 90 percent of what Planned Parenthood does.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: That's not true. According to Planned Parenthood, here's the breakdown of patient care they gave us, which they say is double-checked by outside auditors. It shows 35 percent each for contraception and STD screening, cancer screening 16 percent, other women's health services 10 percent, and abortion just 3 percent.

The senator later backed away from his claim, his office releasing a statement late today saying -- quote -- "He misspoke and was simply attempting to highlight that Planned Parenthood, an organization that receives millions of taxpayer dollars, subsidized over 300,000 abortions on 2009 alone."

Matt Hadro
Matt Hadro
Matt Hadro was a News Analyst for the Media Research Center's News Analysis Division from 2010 through early 2014