The right-wing's undercover sting campaign targeting Planned Parenthood failed in its attempt to unearth some sort of elaborate sex trafficking ring supported by the venerable health care organization. And the parade of hidden camera, pimp-n-hoe videos released by Lila Rose and Live Action failed to create any sort of large scale furor over the issue.
But what the heavily orchestrated campaign did accomplish was highlight the ways in which Fox News-friendly politicians often make use of the right wing's steady diet of undercover sting operations, and how once politicians take interest in the resultsthey help, in fleeting ways, to lend some much-needed credibility to the gotcha endeavors, thereby creating a self-sustaining loop.
In terms of Live Action, the first two undercover video were filmed in New Jersey and Virginia. After looking at the evidence, NJ's Star-Ledger called Lila Rose's accusations against Planned Parenthood "silly," while the Roanoke Times condemned Rose's gotcha work as "a lie." In other words, there's no there, there.
Faced with a gotcha campaign that didn't deliver much gotcha, the challenge is how to boost and extend the story. Enter Republican politicians who have a history of hyping Republican Noise Machine offerings. Politicians like Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli who immediately jumped into the Planned Parenthood fray and helped juice the story.
Here's what the Virginia attorney general told Fox in a clip that was quickly posted on the Live Action website. Cuccinelli was asked if his office would take an interest in investigating the matter:
Well certainly we take an interest in any time you see an expression like you do in these tapes of a willingness to support sex trafficking of minors. What you don't have is an actual case of it on film but what you do have is clearly an open willingness of several organizations meaning subsidiaries of Planned Parenthood nationally in the same category, sex trafficking of minors, and an open willingness to participate in this.
And, this is at a time that we are trying to deal with human trafficking. For a few years we have been trying to figure how to get at it. And, when you see something like this you can see how it can flourish. There are institutions already in place in Virginia and across America, Planned Parenthood in this case, who are happily willing to aid and abet that sort of effort.
Media message: Virginia's top law enforcement officer might investigate Planned Parenthood's sex trafficking!
Note that Cuccinelli is no stranger to Fox News audiences. His politicized office regularly pursues legal action that titillates Roger Ailes' team, like the AG's ongoing harassment of the University of Virginia. Cuccinelli is demanding the school turn over all kinds of documents to determine whether a former professor "defrauded taxpayers" while studying global warming at the university. (i.e. Global warming's a hoax!)
Cuccinelli's also fighting the Obama administration in court in an attempt to overturn health care reform. And for his brave efforts, the AG is often saluted on Fox News. But with the Planned Parenthood sting operation, it was Cuccinelli who returned the favor by going on Fox and pretending the undercover clips might have captured some sort of lawbreaking.
Live Action's first released video featured a Planned Parenthood office in New Jersey, home to Gov. Chris Christie, who became something of a James O'Keefe cheerleader last October. That's when O'Keefe, the discredited right-wing activist (and Lila Rose mentor) released videos of New Jersey teachers surreptitiously recorded in a loud bar talking about work. The absurdly premised videos were supposed to reveal dark truths about the teaching profession. They didn't. Nonetheless, Christie stepped forward and vouched for the video scam, calling the clips "'enlightening and enraging." (Christie has a long-running political feud with teachers in New Jersey.)
Meanwhile, we all know the type of Christie star-gazing that goes on at Fox News:
According to reports, after Live Action's release of the New Jersey video, Christie's office immediately notified New Jersey's attorney general about the video, who then passed it onto the Division of Criminal Justice.
Within days, Christie had vetoed again a bill that would have helped fund Planned Parenthood. It's true the governor had previously vetoed $7.5 million in state aid. But by vouching for previous right-wing, hidden-camera sting operations and by alerting his attorney general about the Planned Parenthood tapes, Christie allowed anti-abortion activists to claim victory:
Following the release of a video that has received nationwide attention showing Planned Parenthood staff at a New Jersey abortion center helping alleged sexual traffickers cover up their crimes with abortions and STD testing, Governor Chris Christie has vetoed a bill funding Planned Parenthood.
It's becoming increasingly clear that these well-orchestrated, and well-funded undercover attack campaigns need more than just right-wing media hype to sustain them. They also need right-wing media-friendly politicians to push them along.