No, Liberals Did Not Ignore or “Censor” the Planned Parenthood Sting Videos

I don’t have the fascinated love/hate relationship with Camille Paglia that a lot of my artsier colleagues seem to have; I mainly recall her for a bizarre and hostile 1996 take on Hillary Clinton entitled Ice Queen, Drag Queen (one of those pieces that seems to have disappeared from the TNR archives).

So it was with moderate interest that I looked at at the second in a three-day series of interviews with Paglia at Salon and saw this graph that jumped off the page and right up my sensibilities:

[L]et me give you a recent example of the persisting insularity of liberal thought in the media. When the first secret Planned Parenthood video was released in mid-July, anyone who looks only at liberal media was kept totally in the dark about it, even after the second video was released. But the videos were being run nonstop all over conservative talk shows on radio and television. It was a huge and disturbing story, but there was total silence in the liberal media. That kind of censorship was shockingly unprofessional. The liberal major media were trying to bury the story by ignoring it. Now I am a former member of Planned Parenthood and a strong supporter of unconstrained reproductive rights. But I was horrified and disgusted by those videos and immediately felt there were serious breaches of medical ethics in the conduct of Planned Parenthood officials. But here’s my point: it is everyone’s obligation, whatever your political views, to look at both liberal and conservative news sources every single day. You need a full range of viewpoints to understand what is going on in the world.

Now the only thing worse than refusing to look at both liberal and conservative news sources is to look at conservative news sources’ assertions about liberal news sources and take them for gospel, which must be what Paglia did in this case. I’ve written about the Planned Parenthood videos several times; so has just about every “liberal” I know. And indeed, the complaint of conservatives about liberal coverage of this incident was largely that liberals waited many hours, some even a whole day, before writing about it.

Here was my response to the timing issue on July 16:

Think about what journalists faced when the video appeared. It was self-evidently the product of a advocacy sting operation. It was heavily edited. It was released with language suggesting that Planned Parenthood committed multiple felonies (again, I keep wondering why the scamsters here didn’t have an obligation to go to law enforcement officers with their video when it was shot more than a year ago). And it was greeted instantly with a huge outpouring of wrath and glee from political and ideological advocacy outlets using the most inflammatory language available about illegal abortions and the sale of baby parts—language supported by the video only to the extent that you think “fetus” and “baby” are interchangeable terms and that all late-term abortions are or should be illegal.

You get the impression [the Daily Caller‘s Betsy] Rothstein and her friends think the MSM and everybody else should have somehow been forced to report the story on their terms. I mean, how could the sting operation that produced this video not be part of the story? How could responsible journalists fail to note that the moment the video appeared half the Republican politicians on the planet dusted off old legislation to defund or otherwise damage Planned Parenthood?

This is far, far from “total silence.” It’s just coverage the sting perpetrators and their political and media allies didn’t like. It’s not “censorship” to interpret events from your own perspective.

So I don’t know where this particularly claim from Paglia is coming from, but I don’t think we can let anyone perpetuate this silly claim that liberals sat silent in shocked and guilty refusal to deal with the videos and the issues they raised. It just didn’t happen that way.

Ed Kilgore

Ed Kilgore, a Monthly contributing editor, is a columnist for the Daily Intelligencer, New York magazine’s politics blog, and the managing editor for the Democratic Strategist.