The press has largely downplayed undercover footage this week of a Planned Parenthood director discussing the process by which her organization is reimbursed for delivering organs salvaged from the remains of aborted children.
For the Hill, the story Tuesday afternoon was about how Republicans have "seized" on the video as a means to defund Planned Parenthood. The Wall Street Journal followed suit Wednesday evening, publishing a report titled, "Abortion Foes Seize on Video of Planned Parenthood Official."
The Associated Press in its initial coverage of the story Tuesday evening presented the discussion seen in the video as a little more than a Planned Parenthood executive explaining the "disposition of fetal remains." And Mother Jones dismissed the story outright as "yet another right-wing nothingburger."
In a video released early Tuesday morning, Planned Parenthood's surreptitiously recorded Deborah Nucatola can be seen discussing the going price for specific body parts, including hearts and "lower extremities."
Nucatola, who has served as Planned Parenthood's senior director of medical services since 2009, can also be seen in the nearly three-hour long footage saying that livers are especially in demand.
The video was recorded by two actors posing as health care representatives, and is the result of a three-year-long undercover investigation by the pro-life Center for Medical Progress, according to Life Site News.
Nucatola said during her conversation with two undercover actors that she and her team "huddle at the beginning of the day" to decide which body parts are most in demand. She said that unborn children are then dismembered in such a way as to preserve the in-demand organs, appearing at one point to suggest that affiliates perform partial birth abortions in order to keep the requested body parts intact.
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This would seem to suggest that Planned Parenthood affiliates are in violation of federal regulations that prohibit doctors from altering "the timing, methods, or procedures used to terminate a pregnancy."
Regarding the question of partial birth abortion, Nucatola said, "The federal abortion ban is a law, and laws are up to interpretation. So, if I say on day one that I don't intend to do this, what ultimately happens doesn't matter."
Planned Parenthood acknowledges that it salvages organs for donations, and that it uses its affiliates as go-betweens. However, it stressed this week that it does not profit from this practice, claiming that it is only reimbursed for the cost of collection and transportation.
The group has yet to answer for Nucatola seemingly implying in the video that their affiliates can make some money from it.
"I think for affiliates, at the end of the day, they're a non-profit, they just don't want to — they want to break even," she said. "And if they can do a little better than break even, and do so in a way that seems reasonable, they're happy to do that. Really their bottom line is, they want to break even."
And in what appeared to be an attempt to impress who she thought were two potential buyers, she also bragged, "We have 40 percent of the market in the whole country!"
Though the video does not prove that Planned Parenthood is profiting from selling salvaged organs, it has nevertheless caused an uproar among Republicans, with many calling for an investigation of the group.
The story has failed, however, to incite similar outrage in the press.
News of the undercover footage made the front page of the Washington Post Wednesday morning, but the newspaper's report was more about the pro-life group that "targeted" Planned Parenthood than it was about Nucatola's actual comments. The scandal failed to make the front pages of the New York Times, USA Today and the Wall Street Journal.
By Wednesday afternoon, ABC and CBS News had not yet mentioned the story, despite having ample time to prepare coverage after the video's release early Tuesday morning. NBC News dedicated a mere 39 seconds to the controversy Wednesday morning. ABC and CBS News' evening newscasts eventually got around to the story later that night, with the former referencing the salvaged body parts as merely "fetal tissue."
Online reporting was more of the same.
When the New York Times eventually got around to covering the video, it did so with a Reuters wire story about Planned Parenthood's reaction, headlined, "Planned Parenthood Slams Secret Video as False Portrayal of Fetus Tissue Program."
Later, when the Times finally dedicated original coverage to the controversy Wednesday, it ignored both Nucatola's comments about Planned Parenthood affiliates doing "a little bit better than break even" and her suggestion that the group's affiliates alter the methods and procedures to salvage organs. The report also warned that Republicans risk damaging themselves by "overreaching" in their reaction to the news.
Though National Public Radio played it mostly straight with the story Wednesday evening, its report was accompanied by a headline that characterized the controversy as one where undercover pro-life activists had "targeted" Planned Parenthood.
A Newsweek article published at around the same time as the NPR report was dedicated largely to quoting Planned Parenthood's official response to the video. Time magazine, for its part, offered an "explainer" article that same day titled "Why Planned Parenthood Provides Fetal Cells to Scientists."
Dismissing the video entirely as a "doctored Planned Parenthood sting," the Daily Beast's "gender, sexuality, and technology" correspondent Samantha Allen published a 1,500-plus-word article exploring the video's producer, David Daleiden, and his ties to "pro-life extremists."
Numerous blogs also focused on attacking the producers of the video. ThinkProgress, for example, called the video "inflammatory," while Slate called it "another piece of propaganda."
Not all media downplayed the story, however, as a handful of news groups, including CNN and the Atlantic, have done a fine job presenting the full details of the story. Right-of-center news organizations have also been all over news of the footage, with many of them condemning both Nucatola's remarks and the press' apparent disinterest.
"Nucatola's blasé butcher's banter makes it clear that this is a competitive market and that supply and demand, not Planned Parenthood's expenses, is what sets prices," wrote National Review's Kevin Williamson.
Commentary's Noah Rothman added in reference to the press' general silence, "Something is amiss here. A political media that catapulted an obscure Texas state senator to stardom over the quixotic filibuster of her state's 20-week abortion ban barely uttered a peep about this shocking video despite its wild popularity in social media outlets."
Fox News' Megyn Kelley meanwhile dedicated a large portion of her show Wednesday evening to excoriating Planned Parenthood and its defenders in both Congress and media.
A few media figures have suggested that the press' glacially slow response to the story – even as it trended on social media – reflects a commendable cautiousness on the part of newsrooms concerned by the seriousness of the video's content as well as its origins.
After all, the initial eight-minute video is heavily edited. And given the fact that it comes from a partisan, pro-life group, it's possible that Nucatola's comments have been taken out of context.
However, this plodding, supposedly careful response stands in sharp contrast to the press' reaction in 2012 when Mother Jones published a 60-second video of former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney saying he wasn't going to bother trying to win the 47 percent of American voters who wouldn't support him.
When the "47 percent" video went live on Mother Jones, newsrooms everywhere wasted no time covering the content of the heavily edited video, which was provided to the left-leaning news site by Jimmy Carter's grandson.
Few in media questioned the video's origins or the fact that Romney's controversial remarks were presented at first without the broader context of his address to donors; fewer questioned the fact that the scoop came from a website with a heavy liberal bias.
Of course, the difference in the Romney and Nucatola tapes is that the former governor wasn't filmed discussing potentially illegal behavior. This could potentially account for media's sluggish response: The fact that there appear to be some serious legal implications tied to the Planned Parenthood executive's remarks.
This does not, however, account for members of the press cautioning immediately against the video on the grounds that it may have been "selectively edited" (the full three-hour video was made available Tuesday afternoon). It also doesn't account for media warning from the get-go that the footage should be taken with a large grain of salt because it was produced by a partisan group.
Nucatola deleted her Twitter account shortly after the video was posted this week. Stem Express, which has partnered with selected Planned Parenthood affiliates for organ donations, took down its website on Wednesday, as reported by the Washington Examiner.