Nets Hype Social Media 'Torrent' in Komen Reversal, Keep Slant Toward Abortion Lobby

ABC, CBS, and NBC spotlighted the Komen foundation's about-face on funding Planned Parenthood on their Friday evening newscasts, and played up the apparent role of social media in getting the charity to reverse its earlier decision. On World News, ABC's Diane Sawyer trumpeted the "dramatic day for people power," while on Nightly News, NBC's Lester Holt concluded, "score one for the power of social media."

The Big Three outlets also covered the 180 by the breast cancer organization on their Saturday morning shows. Altogether, the networks added seven more reports to the 13 from the first 60 hours or so of the controversy, bringing the total to 20 since February 1, versus only three on the face-off between the Catholic Church and the Obama administration since January 20 (the MRC documented and highlighted this imbalance in a report on Friday; ABC and NBC added mentions on their Sunday morning political shows).

Lester Holt, NBC News Anchor | NewsBusters.orgNBC Nightly News led their broadcast on Friday with Komen's reversal. After Holt gave his "score one for the power of social media" remark, he continued that the foundation was "the latest high-profile organization forced to beat a hasty retreat from an unpopular decision, in the face of a Twitter and Facebook firestorm....many women read it as Komen bowing to pressure from anti-abortion groups. The public outcry, amplified over the Internet, became deafening, and today, an about-face for Komen."

Just as she did in her previous coverage of the issue, correspondent Lisa Myers then gave a report that slanted towards Planned Parenthood, stacking it full of statements and sound bites which supported the abortion giant:

MYERS: The organization, known for its iconic pink ribbon, today pulled out a white flag. On social media sites, which had excoriated Komen, the about-face got mixed reviews: 'Komen announces new event: Backpedal for the Cure'.; 'Too little, too late. The damage has been done'; 'Will wear my pink running shoes tomorrow.'

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN 1: I'm happy that they changed their mind. I will continue to wear pink.

MYERS: ...In Denver, where the local Komen affiliate had publicly opposed the cut-off, there was elation.

MICHELE OSTRANDER, KOMEN DENVER AFFILIATE EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR: I view this reversal decision as a complete reversal. We will be able to fund Planned Parenthood.

MYERS: Today, Planned Parenthood says it's grateful for the astonishing outpouring of public support.

CECILE RICHARDS, PLANNED PARENTHOOD PRESIDENT: I feel very, you know, positive, relieved, and I'm glad that we can all focus on women's health again.

Myers only briefly mentioned later in the report that "those happy with the initial decision were furious. 'Done with any donations. You caved!'"

On CBS Evening News, correspondent Nancy Cordes gave a more balanced report, with two clips each from people on both sides of the controversy, but like NBC, highlighted the role of social media:

CORDES (voice-over): Looking for shelter in a political firestorm...Komen announced it was reversing its decision made public on Tuesday to cut off funding for breast exams at Planned Parenthood. Komen also said it would amend its new funding criteria that had seemed to disqualify Planned Parenthood alone among its 2,000 grant recipients.

In a telephone call with reporters, Planned Parenthood's president, Cecile Richards, said she was grateful.

CECILE RICHARDS, PRESIDENT, PLANNED PARENTHOOD: What we've seen over the last few days and the outpouring of support sends a real important message about that women are willing to stand up for women and women's health.

CORDES: The Komen foundation changed course after a torrent of women posted messages online that were ten to one against the charity. Today, Democratic Senator Patty Murray of Washington State congratulated Komen with this caveat.

SEN. PATTY MURRAY, (D), WASHINGTON (from press conference): We will remain vigilant to make sure that politics doesn't come between us and our health care.

CORDES: The Komen foundation was recently ranked the nation's second most-trusted non-profit. But this week it managed to outrage people on both sides of the nation's most divisive issue- abortion.

CHARMAINE YOEST: I think we've seen this week a disgraceful display of Planned Parenthood using real thug tactics to try to bring political pressure on the Komen foundation.

CORDES: Charmaine Yoest leads the anti-abortion rights group, Americans United for Life.

CORDES (on-camera): You called Planned Parenthood 'thug-like.' They say it's groups like yours that have been bullying the Komen foundation.

YOEST: We have been working very diligently to get all the information out there about how Planned Parenthood does business. There are real serious and substantive questions about their financial stewardship of the public moneys that they receive.

CORDES (live): Scott, Planned Parenthood said today it has raised more than $3 million in the past three days. Opponents of Planned Parenthood say that's proof the organization doesn't need the $700,000 it gets from Komen each year.

At about the same time, ABC's World News had the one news brief from Sawyer that included her "dramatic day for people power" line.


The following morning, ABC's Good Morning America and NBC's Today gave news briefs on Komen's flip-flop, with NBC news anchor Jeff Rossen proclaiming that "the face of pink turned bright red, after it cut funding of breast cancer screenings at Planned Parenthood, which also provides abortion and birth control services."

CBS This Morning aired an abridged version of Corde's report from Friday's CBS Evening News, with a new voice-over from correspondent Elaine Quijano. Cordes, who anchored the Saturday edition of the CBS morning program, also brought on John Abell of Wired.com to comment on the role of social media in the controversy. Abell claimed that the reversal "saved Komen, because they were able to see so much blowback so quickly, they were able to process that information and come to what many think is a very wise decision, to just say we got it wrong."

On Monday, the MRC's president, Brent Bozell, wrote a letter to the news divisions of the Big Three networks, blasting how they "almost instantly piled on with publicity that helped fill Planned Parenthood's coffers and added to the pressure that forced Komen to reverse." Bozell also called on the networks to actually "report the current, unprecedented assault against freedom of religion in this country, as well as the millions of Americans who would be left out in the cold by the Obama administration if it does not rescind HHS’s recently issued insurance mandate requiring contraceptive coverage."

Matthew Balan
Matthew Balan
Matthew Balan is a news analyst at Media Research Center