August 27, 2015 — Recently released videos that target Planned Parenthood were manipulated, making them unreliable for official inquiries into the organization, according to a report Planned Parenthood submitted to Congress on Thursday, the New York Times reports.
According to the Times, Planned Parenthood commissioned the report from Fusion GPS, a research and corporate intelligence firm, and Glenn Simpson, Fusion's co-founder and former investigative journalist for the Wall Street Journal (Calmes, New York Times, 8/27).
The videos, which depict Planned Parenthood staff discussing fetal tissue donation, were released by an antiabortion-rights group called the Center for Medical Progress. CMP secretly filmed the videos by meeting with Planned Parenthood staff while posing as buyers of fetal tissue.
Planned Parenthood has stated that the videos were heavily edited and that the filmed officials did not conduct any illegal activities. The organization said it does not profit from fetal tissue donations and only receives reimbursement for costs associated with such donations, which is legal. Meanwhile, supporters of Planned Parenthood said the videos are part of a decades-long campaign against the organization.
Following the videos' release, conservative lawmakers on the House Energy and Commerce Committee in July launched an investigation into Planned Parenthood (Women's Health Policy Report, 7/24). Meanwhile, Attorney General Loretta Lynch (D) has said the Department of Justice is "going to review all the information and determine what steps, if any, to take at the appropriate time" (Women's Health Policy Report, 7/29).
According to the Times, Cecile Richards, president of Planned Parenthood Federation of America, sent the report to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio), Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.).
The report assesses footage and transcripts from content CMP recorded in California, Colorado and Texas. CMP has since released more footage (New York Times, 8/27).
Specifically, the researchers looked at five shorter clips that featured snippets of conversation taken from meetings between Planned Parenthood and CMP (King, Washington Examiner, 8/27). The researchers also examined four longer pieces of footage, from which the shorter videos were compiled, that CMP activist David Daleiden claims are full-length recordings. A service was hired to transcribe the footage -- without being notified that Planned Parenthood was the client -- to compare with the transcripts provided by CMP.
In comparing the two transcripts, researchers found that there were "substantive omissions" in CMP's content. The researchers said, "A thorough review of these videos in consultation with qualified experts found that they do not present a complete or accurate record of the events they purport to depict." For example, they noted that certain recordings collected in Colorado and Texas cut roughly 30 minutes of content from the alleged full-footage videos and that the edited material in the shorter videos misleadingly portrays comments from Planned Parenthood staff.
They concluded that "the manipulation of the videos does mean they have no evidentiary value in a legal context and cannot be relied upon for any official inquiries," unless CMP shares original footage that is independently assessed and found to be unaltered (New York Times, 8/27).