Fiorina Making Stuff Up

I noted in an update to my earlier post on last night’s debate that Carly Fiorina may have stored up treasure in the antichoice and Christian Right worlds with her little disquisition last night on the disturbing images in the Planned Parenthood sting videos. But as Sarah Kliff, who has watched all the footage and written about it extensively, points out this morning, there’s one problem with Fiorina’s take: it’s all made up.

Carly Fiorina gave a harrowing description of the Planned Parenthood sting videos at Wednesday’s Republican debate, challenging Barack Obama to 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.”

Fiorina is wrong: Nobody watching the Planned Parenthood tapes would see those things. I know, because I recently watched all 12 hours of footage….

There are two Planned Parenthood sting videos that were shot inside Planned Parenthood clinics (other videos exist, taped at conferences and lunch meetings). One was taped in Louisiana and the other in Colorado. And in both videos, Planned Parenthood employees do work with the fetal tissue, showing the pro-life advocates posing as tissue buyers the different parts of the body.

But the things Fiorina describes — the legs kicking, the intact “fully formed fetus,” the heart beating, the remarks about having to “harvest its brain” — are pure fiction.

Kiliff has a back-and-forth with Fiorina’s staff–even as the candidate went on Good Morning America to argue against the idea the videos were “doctored”–and concludes, mainly via a shrieking post from The Federalist‘s Mollie Hemingway–that the images in question were stock footage from who knows where that accompanied the testimony of a former Planned Parenthood staffer who described “tissue harvesting” in still another sting video.

There is rich irony here, assuming Kliff knows what she is talking about, which is always a very good working hypothesis. The whole “sting video” crusade has been framed as the godless baby-killing media refusing to even look at the evidence that PP is slaughtering infants and selling off “baby parts” for big profits, violating a thousand laws. It’s a story as much about supposed information suppression as about late-term abortions or fetal tissue. So standing on that supposedly unshakable ground, why are Fiorina and other antichoicers shifting to some other videos of questionable provenance in arguing with someone who has watched the original videos and written about them extensively?

Beyond that, of course, the remedial action Fiorina and every single other Republican presidential candidate (with the occasional exception of Donald Trump) is demanding has little or nothing to do with the rare late-term abortions PP conducts, and everything to do with the perfectly legal abortions it carries out along with its vast array of women’s health services, including the contraceptives that make abortions less necessary.

The war on reproductive choice will not end until reproductive rights end, but at a minimum pols like Fiorina should not be able to simply make stuff up. If what she said was true, why didn’t she and every other anti-choicer in America march into the nearest court and ask for a writ of mandamus ordering law enforcement agencies to prosecute Planned Parenthood for felony violations of federal and state laws? It’s either because the evidence is fabricated, or because late-term abortions are not at all what these people are trying to stop.

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.