Three Myths Behind The Right-Wing Media's Attack On The Girl Scouts

››› ››› ALEXANDREA BOGUHN

Right-wing media figures, led by Fox News, have launched a campaign against the Girl Scouts accusing the group of indoctrinating young girls into liberal politics. The accusation has been propped up by misleading claims, ludicrous oversimplifications, and frequently repeated myths about the organization, which focuses on empowering girls.

Myth: The Girl Scouts Tweeted An Endorsement Of Wendy Davis

Fox's Bill O'Reilly Claims Girl Scouts Tweet Was "Supportive Of Abortion Advocate Wendy Davis." On the February 19 edition of The O'Reilly Factor, host Bill O'Reilly interviewed Girl Scouts of America chief communications executive Kelly Parisi about "charges that the Girls Scouts of America are leaning left." As evidence, O'Reilly highlighted a tweet that he claimed was "supportive of abortion advocate Wendy Davis, who's running for office in Texas." O'Reilly later followed up his question by saying,"You said kind of nice things about her, and she's a fairly radical person." [Fox News, The O'Reilly Factor, 2/19/14]

Fact: Girl Scouts of America Did Not Endorse Or Support Wendy Davis' Policies

Girl Scouts Did Not Tweet Support For Wendy Davis Or Endorse Her Policies. On December 19,2013, the organization tweeted a link to a Huffington post article about women who had been influential in 2013 and asked followers if there was "anyone you'd add to this list." The tweet contained no mention of Wendy Davis in any way:

Girl scout tweet

[Girl Scouts of America, 12/19/13 via Twitter]

Huffington Post Article Linked To By Girl Scouts Focused On Youth Activist, Not Davis. While the Huffington Post article that the Girl Scouts linked to did mention Davis as a possible contender as "standard-bearer for females in 2013," along with Beyonce and "the millions of intelligent women airing their views on Twitter," the post focused primarily on Malala Yousafzai, the 16-year-old Pakistani student who became an activist for women's education and rights after surviving a failed assassination attempt:

The ladies in contention ran the gamut from Beyonce to Wendy Davis to the millions of intelligent women airing their views on Twitter, but one name that continued to pop up was the woman many said deserved to be named Time Magazine's person of the year -- youth activist Malala Yousafzai.

"There was something so inspirational, to have a girl so courageous and speaking out on behalf of girls' education," said Marianne Schnall, the founder of Feminist.com. "If there was one symbol of what's possible when one young girl uses her voice, I just thought that was such a potent example." [Huffington Post, 12/17/13]

Girl Scouts Clarified That It "Has Not Endorsed Any Person Or Organization." In the wake of conservative reaction to the tweet, the Girl Scouts issued a statement in which it said, "We listened, and would like to take a moment to sincerely apologize to anyone we have offended. We are truly sorry," and stressed that "To be clear, Girl Scouts has not endorsed any person or organization." [Girl Scouts of America, 1/1/14]

Myth: The Girl Scouts Are Affiliated With Planned Parenthood

Fox's Todd Starnes Boycotts Girl Scout Cookies Because of Alleged Planned Parenthood Affiliation. In a February 19 blog post, Fox News radio host Todd Starnes wrote a post on Fox News Insider claiming the Girl Scouts have "alleged ties to Planned Parenthood." Starnes quoted anti-choice activist Lila Rose saying ""No little girl -- or her parents -- should have anything to do with an organization that kills over 330,000 pre-born children a year, covers up sexual abuse, advocates for infanticide, and builds its entire business model on harming women," and concluded "So that's why I've decided to forego their peanut butter patties this year. If I knew that a single penny of Girl Scout money was helping to fund Planned Parenthood -- Well -- I'd just lose my cookies." [Fox News Insider, 2/19/14]

Fact: Girl Scouts of America Is Not Affiliated With Planned Parenthood

Girl Scouts Of America: "No, Girl Scouts Of The USA Does Not Have A Relationship With Planned Parenthood." The myth that the Girl Scouts of America are affiliated with Planned Parenthood has been so persistent that the organization responded to the accusation on its website, explicitly stating that it has no relationship with Planned Parenthood and responding to "numerous Internet stories and blogs that were factually inaccurate and troubling" that attempted to manufacture a connection:

Q: Does GSUSA have a relationship with Planned Parenthood?

A: No, Girl Scouts of the USA does not have a relationship or partnership with Planned Parenthood.

Q: Did GSUSA distribute a Planned Parenthood brochure at a United Nations event?

A: No, we did not. In 2010, GSUSA took part in the 54th Commission on the Status of Women at the United Nations. Our participation in that conference was the subject of numerous Internet stories and blogs that were factually inaccurate and troubling. Girl Scouts had no knowledge of the brochure in question and played no role in distributing it. [Girl Scouts of America, accessed 2/24/14]

Girl Scouts Spokesman On Planned Parenthood Rumors: "Distortions Get Repeated Over And Over." A May 10, 2012, article that highlighted the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops' complaints about the Girl Scouts noted that the charges were "recycled complaints that have been denied by the Girl Scouts' head office repeatedly and categorically":

Some of the concerns raised by Catholic critics are recycled complaints that have been denied by the Girl Scouts' head office repeatedly and categorically. It says it has no partnership with Planned Parenthood, and does not take positions on sexuality, birth control and abortion.

"It's been hard to get the message out there as to what is true when distortions get repeated over and over," said Gladys Padro-Soler, the Girl Scouts' director of inclusive membership strategies. [AP, 5/10/12]

Girl Scouts CEO: "We Do Not Now, Nor Have We Ever, Had A Relationship With Planned Parenthood." In a YouTube statement, Girl Scouts of America CEO Anna Maria Chavez responded to organizations who had announced a boycott of Girl Scout cookies by explaining that "We do not now, nor have we ever, had a relationship with Planned Parenthood. Girl Scouts of the USA believes that reproductive issues are deeply private issues best left to families." [Girl Scouts of America, 2/20/14 via YouTube]

Myth: The Girl Scouts Of America Promote Left-Leaning Politics

Fox's Elisabeth Hasselback Asks If Girl Scouts Of America Are "Trying To Convince America's Girls To Lean Left." On the February 24 edition of Fox News'Fox & Friends, co-host Elisabeth Hasselbeck asked if Girl Scouts of America is "trying to convince America's girls to lean left" by supporting Democratic politicians. Hasselbeck interviewed Penny Nance from the conservative group Concerned Women for America, introducing the interview by claiming "this isn't the non-political Girl Scouts that a lot of parents were promised." [Fox News, Fox & Friends, 2/24/14

Fact: The Girl Scouts Of America Have Connections To Both Political Parties

Daily Beast: Conservative Critics "Have Completely Overlooked The Group's Connections To The Republican Party." In a Daily Beast article about the conservative-led boycott of Girl Scout cookies, Emily Shire pointed out that critics of the Scouts have based their accusations on selectively highlighting prominent liberal women who are affiliated with the organization and ignoring that the Scouts also have "connections to the Republican Party and conservative politicians":

Meanwhile, what the pro-lifers fail to mention is that they have completely overlooked the group's connections to the Republican Party and conservative politicians. The organization's list of famous alumni includes Elizabeth Dole, Laura Bush, and Nancy Kassebaum, a Republican and the first woman elected to the Senate without her husband previously holding a Congressional seat.

The Girl Scouts also runs Troop Capitol Hill, a bipartisan organization of former and honorary Girl Scout politicians. It is currently chaired by Senator Barbara Mikulski (D-MD), Senator Susan Collins (R-ME), Congresswoman Kay Granger (R-TX), and Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-FL). [The Daily Beast, 2/7/14]

Wash. Post's McCartney: All First Ladies Are Honorary Presidents Of Girl Scouts, Including Republicans. In a February 22, 2012, post, Washington Post columnist Robert McCartney responded to an Indiana politician's claim that Michelle Obama serving as honorary president of the organization was indicative of the Girl Scouts' politics by noting that Republican first ladies have also been honorary presidents:

Another over-the-top critic is Indiana state Rep. Bob Morris (R), who achieved instant notoriety Saturday for a letter condemning the Girl Scouts as a "radicalized" organization that promotes homosexuality. He said he was putting his two daughters in American Heritage Girls.

Here is my favorite line from Morris's letter: "The fact that the Honorary President of Girl Scouts of America is Michelle Obama, and the Obamas are radically pro-abortion . . . should give each of us reason to pause."

Every first lady since Edith Wilson in 1917 has been honorary president of the Girl Scouts. That includes Republicans Mamie Eisenhower, Nancy Reagan and Laura Bush. [Washington Post, 2/22/12]

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