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September 29 2015

CNN's Costello Boosts Planned Parenthood's Talking Points as 'Facts'

News Busters
Julie Gunlock

On Tuesday's CNN Newsroom, Carol Costello treated Planned Parenthood's own talking points about "three percent" of its services are abortions as "facts" during a panel discussion on federal funding for the abortion organization. Costello emphasized that "$500 million in federal funds goes to Planned Parenthood. None of that money...pays for abortions....Planned Parenthood says only three percent of their services are dedicated to abortion. The group says 97 percent of its services are for things like...breast exams...cancer screenings and contraception – all of these things provided for many women who cannot afford care." 

The anchor brought on Julie Gunlock of the conservative Independent Women's Forum; as well as Anushay Hossain, whom she identified as a "journalist and editor-in-chief of AnushaysPoint.com." However, she failed to point out that Hossain previously worked for the left-wing Feminist Majority Foundation.

Costello touted that "as I've said many times before, I am hopelessly addicted to facts. So I want to lay a few facts on you before we begin a discussion over this." She continued with Planned Parenthood's talking points – all the while ignoring that even the left-leaning Slate website pointed out in 2013 that three percent statistic is "meaningless," since "Planned Parenthood 'unbundles' all of its services so that a pack of pills, an STD test and an exam are three separate services."

The CNN journalist repeatedly wondered why Planned Parenthood was being investigated by Congress instead of the Center for Medical Progress, the pro-life organization which shot the undercover videos on the selling of unborn babies' organs and tissue. Costello first asked Gunlock, "Don't you want to hear from the people who made those videos?" The conservative guest replied, "Sure, and I think there's time for that. But I think Congress has an obligation to ensure that taxpayer dollars are being used smartly and ethically and legally." She followed up by asking her "journalist" guest, "Doesn't Congress want to know if what's on that tape is accurate and true and where it happened – and don't they want to track down the people allegedly responsible for selling these baby parts?"

Hossain answered by decrying a supposed "domestic war over abortion" being conducted by conservatives/Republicans:

ANUSHAY HOSSAIN, JOURNALIST: Exactly, Carol. I completely agree with you. You know, just as you were showing earlier – despite the fact that 97 percent of Planned Parenthood's services don't have anything to do with abortion, this organization has really become the kind of defining symbol of the politics of women's health, and the domestic war over abortion in this country. Recent polls even show that despite this calculated smear campaign – I mean, this is part of a much larger campaign to really bring down Planned Parenthood and ban abortion in this country – despite that, the majority of Americans still believe that the government should be funding Planned Parenthood – and they support this. So, we really need to talk about what this is really about – which is a larger war – domestic war – on abortion.

Costello returned to her point about investigating the pro-life group after playing up how "there have been investigations of Planned Parenthood in Indiana, Missouri, and Massachusetts. No wrongdoing whatsoever has been uncovered." She repeatedly interrupted Gunlock as she tried to defend the congressional investigation of Planned Parenthood:

JULIE GUNLOCK, SENIOR FELLOW, INDEPENDENT WOMEN'S FORUM: ...This is an organization that is potentially misusing American taxpayer dollars. Congress is mandated to look into this. So, I don't think it's that unusual. I understand it's – it's a really highly-charged issue, but it's absolutely within the rights of Congress to look into this-

COSTELLO: Well, but – but that's exactly – that's exactly what I'm saying, Julie. I want to take the emotion out of it...I just don't understand why they wouldn't want to investigate the tape and its accuracy before they go on to defund Planned Parenthood-

GUNLOCK: Well, they – but I think – I think what's important is that – that Planned Parenthood has admitted that it does this-

COSTELLO: It's legal....It's legal to do it-

GUNLOCK: But we need – well (laughs), I think that's a question that they're going to examine-

COSTELLO: Exactly!

GUNLOCK: But again-

COSTELLO: But shouldn't they want the people who made the tape-

Hossain then chimed in and again went on the offensive against pro-lifers. She also basically claimed that the whole controversy was fabricated: "This is Republican political deja vu, and it's becoming ridiculous theater. They are obsessed with this organization....Once again, they're threatening to hold Congress hostage over this issue – shut down the government. I mean, this is not about these doctored tapes that have been proved to be false." Costello did let Gunlock have the last word in the segment.

This isn't the first time that the liberal Costello has taken the pro-abortion side on the air. In January 2013, on the 40th anniversary of the Roe v. Wade decision that legalized abortion, she challenged both a pro-life guest and a pro-choice guest from the left on the issue.

The full transcript of the panel discussion segment from Tuesday's CNN Newsroom:

CAROL COSTELLO: As I've said many times before, I am hopelessly addicted to facts. So I want to lay a few facts on you before we begin a discussion over this: $500 million in federal funds goes to Planned Parenthood. None of that money – none of it – pays for abortions. That's been banned by law since 1976. Planned Parenthood says only three percent of their services are dedicated to abortion. The group says 97 percent of its services are for things like breast exam – breast exams, rather – gynecological services including pap smears and pelvic exams, cancer screenings and contraception – all of these things provided for many women who cannot afford care.

So let's talk about what's happening in Congress right now. Journalist and editor-in-chief of AnushaysPoint.com, Anushay Hossain joins me now. I'm also joined by senior – by senior fellow of the Independent Women's Forum, Julie Gunlock. Welcome to both of you. I appreciate you being here.

ANUSHAY HOSSAIN, JOURNALIST: Thank you, Carol.

COSTELLO: Thank you. Julie, so first question to you: don't you want to hear from the people who made those videos?

JULIE GUNLOCK, SENIOR FELLOW, INDEPENDENT WOMEN'S FORUM: Sure, and I think there's time for that. But I think Congress has an obligation to ensure that taxpayer dollars are being used smartly and ethically and legally. So that seems the more pressing issue for Congress. This is not a small amount of money. You mentioned $500 million, and – and that's going to an organization that might be performing some illegal activities. So, I think Congress really owes the taxpayers some investigation into that. And I certainly think stopping funding until that investigation is complete is – is acceptable.

COSTELLO: Okay. So Anushay – so doesn't Congress want to know if what's on that tape is accurate and true and where it happened – and don't they want to track down the people allegedly responsible for selling these baby parts?

HOSSAIN: Exactly, Carol. I completely agree with you. You know, just as you were showing earlier – despite the fact that 97 percent of Planned Parenthood's services don't have anything to do with abortion, this organization has really become the kind of defining symbol of the politics of women's health, and the domestic war over abortion in this country. Recent polls even show that despite this calculated smear campaign – I mean, this is part of a much larger campaign to really bring down Planned Parenthood and ban abortion in this country – despite that, the majority of Americans still believe that the government should be funding Planned Parenthood – and they support this. So, we really need to talk about what this is really about – which is a larger war – domestic war – on abortion.

COSTELLO: And Julie, I'll just lay this by you to see what you think of this: there have been many state investigations of Planned Parenthood separate – separate from the federal government-

GUNLOCK: Sure-

COSTELLO: There have been investigations of Planned Parenthood in Indiana, Missouri, and Massachusetts. No wrongdoing whatsoever has been uncovered. Are you surprised by that?

GUNLOCK: Well, I haven't examined each of those – those investigations. But again, this is the federal government's responsibility to ensure that American taxpayer dollars are being spent wisely. Don't forget, if – if a contractor with the Department of Defense, or a health care provider with HHS, or a contractor with the Department of Education – if there were charges or – or videos showing illegal behavior, the money would be cut. There would be no question.

We need to separate this issue from the very emotional issue of abortion. This is an organization that is potentially misusing American taxpayer dollars. Congress is mandated to look into this. So, I don't think it's that unusual. I understand it's – it's a really highly-charged issue, but it's absolutely within the rights of Congress to look into this-

COSTELLO: Well, but – but that's exactly – that's exactly what I'm saying, Julie. I want to take the emotion out of it, and – and the only way you can, like – I just don't understand why they wouldn't want to investigate the tape and its accuracy before they go on to defund Planned Parenthood-

GUNLOCK: Well, they – but I think – I think what's important is that – that Planned Parenthood has admitted that it does this-

COSTELLO: It's legal-

GUNLOCK: Right-

COSTELLO: It's legal to do it-

GUNLOCK: But we need – well (laughs), I think that's a question that they're going – they're going to examine-

COSTELLO: Exactly!

GUNLOCK: But again-

COSTELLO:  But shouldn't they want the people who made the tape and-

HOSSAIN: No, Carol, they don't to want see the people who made the tape, because this is political theater. This is Republican political deja vu, and it's becoming ridiculous theater. They are obsessed with this organization, and it's – I mean, we were here last year. We were here the year before. Once again, they're threatening to hold Congress hostage over this issue – shut down the government. I mean, this is not about these doctored tapes that have been proved to be false, and it's – you know-

GUNLOCK: There are plenty-

COSTELLO: Okay. Julie, last word – then, I got to go. Julie, last word – I got to go.

GUNLOCK: There are plenty of other organizations, community health centers, and women's health centers that can provide the services that Planned Parenthood provides. And there can be private funding for Planned Parenthood – in particular, some of the Hollywood stars that are so concerned about this issue. So, I see nothing wrong with the idea of shifting the funding to community health centers, and taking it away from Planned Parenthood until the investigation is complete. I think the American public and the American taxpayers deserve that.

COSTELLO: All right. I've got to leave it there. Julie Gunlock, Anushay Hossain, thanks to both of you for being here. I appreciate it.

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Independent Women’s Forum’s mission is to improve the lives of Americans by increasing the number of women who value free markets and personal liberty. Sister organization of Independent Women’s Voice.
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