Salt Lake Tribune

Tags ››› Salt Lake Tribune
  • Why Is Reuters Avoiding The Facts About The Smear Campaign Against Planned Parenthood?

    Blog ››› ››› RACHEL LARRIS

    A Reuters article on a recent Planned Parenthood legal victory in Utah gave equal weight to both discredited claims by Republican Utah Gov. Gary Herbert that Planned Parenthood had violated fetal tissue laws and the truth: Planned Parenthood Association of Utah had not violated the law.

    Last August, Republican Utah Gov. Gary Herbert instructed the state’s Department of Health to stop distributing federal funds to Planned Parenthood Association of Utah (PPAU), citing videos produced by the anti-choice Center for Medical Progress (CMP) -- Media Matters’ 2015 Misinformer of the Year -- that used misleadingly edited footage to baselessly accuse Planned Parenthood of engaging in illegal activities. In September, PPAU sued the state for blocking its funding and argued that the governor’s attack was motivated by his position against abortion. On July 12, the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals reversed a lower court’s decision, allowing PPAU to continue to receive funding for STD testing and sex education programs.

    As reported by The Salt Lake Tribune, the 10th Circuit concluded that “the governor's personal opposition to abortion could likely be demonstrated as a motivation for blocking Planned Parenthood's funds.” The court determined it was “undisputed that at no time has [Utah’s Department of Health] complained about the services provided by PPAU” or alleged that PPAU was misusing the funding. The court also noted that none of the multiple state and federal investigations into Planned Parenthood yielded evidence of illegal activity and that “no evidence was found to support the CMP videos’ claim” of illegal actions. Moreover, the court explained that Gov. Herbert had already admitted that PPAU was not engaging in illegal behavior (citations removed):

    During the press conference on August 17, 2015, Herbert acknowledged that the events depicted in the video “may not have happened in Utah.” And in opposing PPAU’s motion for preliminary injunction in the district court, Herbert made more specific admissions. To begin with, he admitted that the CMP videos involved other affiliates of Planned Parenthood and not PPAU. Herbert further admitted that “there is no evidence, or even accusation, that PPAU has ‘colored outside’ of any lines, including because PPAU does not participate in any program that provides fetal tissue for scientific research.” … In addition, Herbert admitted that the accusations made by CMP in the videos regarding Planned Parenthood and its other affiliates had not been proven and indeed were false.

    Yet despite the court’s conclusion that claims in CMP’s videos were unproven and false, Reuters framed CMP’s claims as “he said/she said” rather than relying upon the facts found by the court:

    In ordering the cutoff, Herbert, an abortion opponent, cited secretly recorded videos provided by the Center for Medical Progress that allegedly showed out-of-state Planned Parenthood officials discussing the sale of aborted fetal tissue.

    Planned Parenthood has said it did nothing wrong and that the videos were heavily edited to distort their content.

    In contrast to Reuters, other media outlets directly described the falsity of CMP’s videos and claims. The Salt Lake Tribune wrote that “the videos … were determined to be inaccurate and misleading,” while The Associated Press noted both that multiple investigations have cleared Planned Parenthood of wrongdoing and that a Texas grand jury indicted CMP’s founder and his associate. Even the local Fox affiliate in Salt Lake City, Fox 13, reported that “the videos have been widely discredited as noted by the court decision calling them ‘unproven and in fact false.’”

    Media Matters has extensively documented the deceptive edits and misleading claims made in all of CMP’s videos. In February, a federal judge also found the videos “misleadingly edited” and said they included “unfounded assertions.” And since CMP put out the first video nearly a year ago, numerous media outlets have repeatedly demonstrated their deceptive nature.

    In March, the Los Angeles Times published an investigative report showing that the unreleased footage from CMP revealed CMP’s founder “coaching” answers from a supposed “documentary” testimony and trying to “plant phrases” in the mouths of targeted individuals.In May, the Columbia Journalism Review wrote that CMP founder David “Daleiden’s video footage and commentary did not reveal any attempt to profiteer [from illegal activity], and his editing sensationalized the evidence that he actually had.” The Washington Post’s editorial board also concluded that “as we now know, those videos are bunk, neither accurate nor reliable” while The New York Times’ editorial board wrote that CMP’s “charges against Planned Parenthood were completely bogus.”

    Given that CMP’s allegations have been so thoroughly disproven it’s beyond time for all media outlets to stop relying on false balance and just use the actual facts: The videos were deceptively edited in order to lodge false allegations against Planned Parenthood.

  • Federal Court Rejects Right-Wing Myths, Maintains Utah's Planned Parenthood Funding

    Appeals Court Rules That Gov. Gary Herbert’s Attack On Planned Parenthood Was Meant To “Punish” The Organization

    Blog ››› ››› SHARON KANN

    On July 12, the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals reversed a lower court decision and granted Planned Parenthood Association of Utah (PPAU) an injunction, blocking Gov. Gary Herbert’s order to cut off funding to the organization.

    In the decision, the appeals court explained that not only was Herbert’s order to defund PPAU based on misinformation, but also that his politically motivated attack on the Planned Parenthood affiliate was meant to “punish” the health care provider.

    The controversy began last year after Herbert attempted to defund PPAU in response to deceptively edited videos from the Center for Medical Progress (CMP), which claimed Planned Parenthood illegally profited from the sale of donated fetal tissue. In reality, this smear campaign was so fraudulent that a Houston, TX, grand jury indicted CMP’s founder David Daleiden, and the organization earned the title of Media Matters’ 2015 Misinformer of the Year. CMP’s videos have been repeatedly discredited, and multiple state investigations have cleared Planned Parenthood of wrongdoing.

    Nevertheless, Herbert followed in the footsteps of anti-choice legislators in many other states and ordered “state agencies to cease acting as an intermediary for pass-through federal funds to Planned Parenthood.”

    Since the release of CMP’s deceptively edited videos, right-wing media have consistently pushed misinformation about Planned Parenthood as part of an ongoing attempt to defund the organization. Right-wing media have justified these defunding efforts by claiming that community health clinics can effectively fill the gap left by barring Planned Parenthood from state and federal health care programs, an allegation echoed in Utah.

    In an August 2015 article, the Salt Lake Tribune reported that even though Herbet admitted that the alleged violations shown in the CMP videos “may not have happened in Utah,” he maintained that his decision was appropriate and would not adversely “affect educational programs for preventing teen pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases.” Instead, he argued that “the monies we have right now are going to be put into the marketplace with other qualified providers, it just won't be going to Planned Parenthood.”

    Despite his claims, there is ample evidence that removing Planned Parenthood from such programs has a detrimental impact on community health. In fact, health policy experts have explained that the idea of community health services filling in for Planned Parenthood is “a gross misrepresentation of what even the best community health centers in the country would be able to do." This is particularly true in Utah, where “PPAU is currently the only statewide organization that provides reproductive health services to anyone who requests them … without regard to a patient’s health insurance status, socioeconomic status, race, or ethnicity.”

    Recent studies show that defunding Planned Parenthood can lead to decreased access to contraception, particularly for low-income women. In February, a study published in The New England Journal of Medicine found that when Texas eliminated Planned Parenthood from its family planning program, there were “over 30 percent fewer claims for long-acting and injectable contraceptives among low-income patients using the Women’s Health Program.”

    Access to contraception is not the only service patients lose when states defund Planned Parenthood. In 2011, Indiana cut funding to Planned Parenthood, leaving one rural county without an HIV testing center as it experienced a sharp increase in HIV infections. Similarly, the Texas Observer found in June that in Harris County, TX -- which had the highest number of new HIV diagnoses in the state in 2014 -- the county’s health department hadn’t conducted a single HIV test since the county ended its decades-long contract with Planned Parenthood for HIV testing and prevention in December.

    The 10th Circuit further noted that prior to Herbert’s defunding order, “at no time has UDOH [Utah Department of Health] complained about the services provided by PPAU, or otherwise claimed that PPAU was not qualified to provide services.” The opinion further explained that not only had PPAU won competitive contracts from the state on multiple occasions but the amount provided through those grants had also been increased in exchange for continuing service.

    As the court concluded, Herbert “more likely than not” put politics above program effectiveness when making his decision to block PPAU’s funding:

    Considering all of this evidence together, we conclude that a reasonable finder of fact is more likely than not to find that Herbert issued the Directive to punish PPAU for the First and Fourteenth Amendment rights it has identified in this litigation. In particular, we conclude that a reasonable finder of fact is more likely than not to find that Herbert, a politician and admitted opponent of abortion, viewed the situation that presented itself by release of the CMP videos as an opportunity to take public action against PPAU, deprive it of pass-through federal funding, and potentially weaken the organization and hamper its ability to provide and advocate for abortion services.

  • Which Western Newspapers Connected Wildfires To Climate Change?

    Blog ››› ››› MAX GREENBERG

    Source: NASA Earth Observatory

    As some of the most destructive wildfires in history ravage the Southwest, major newspapers in the area have documented the way climate change makes blazes more likely less than half as often as national newspapers.

    Recent fires have taken a massive toll as the hottest, driest parts of the U.S. become even hotter and drier. In Arizona, 19 firefighters perished in the worst American wildfire disaster in decades, a quick-moving inferno that destroyed a small town. Months ago, fire season began early in California, and it has since been called the state's worst ever. Colorado recently experienced the most destructive wildfire in its history, bringing the total area set aflame this season within the state to about 180 square miles, larger than the area of Barbados. New Mexico and Utah have lately faced "unprecedented" and "potentially explosive" fires, respectively.

    Fires like these must be sparked (by anything from lightning to a stray rifle shot), but research indicates that climate change, and the extreme heat and drought conditions it propagates in the Southwest, boosts the chances that they will happen and cause significant damage. Indeed, seven out of nine fire scientists contacted by Media Matters as part of a 2012 study agreed that journalists should detail the role of climate change in worsening risk when they report on such fires.