Slate’s Dahlia Lithwick writes today on what is emerging as an enormous political disaster for Republicans at every level of government, after they spent most of the year vilifying Planned Parenthood in the harshest imaginable terms–rhetoric now under intense scrutiny as the motivating factor in the domestic terror attack on Planned Parenthood’s clinic in Colorado Springs last week:
In the days after Robert L. Dear went on a shooting spree in a Colorado Planned Parenthood, killing three people and injuring nine and telling law enforcement “no more baby parts,” many commentators have observed that the blame for this act of abortion terrorism can be placed directly on Carly Fiorina, Ted Cruz, Mike Huckabee, a GOP committee’s endless investigation into Planned Parenthood, and the maker of a wholly discredited “sting video” intended to show that Planned Parenthood cheerfully sells “baby parts” for profit…
Of course none of the Republicans who have made claims about the baby killers at Planned Parenthood have accepted even a filament of responsibility for the Colorado killings, or for the other five attacks on Planned Parenthood clinics since July, when the first sting videos were released. Carly Fiorina was quick to disclaim any kind of connection between her demonization of Planned Parenthood for its alleged profiteering from “baby parts” and the actions of Dear on Friday.
Lithwick proceeds to nail the problem:
What they are saying is a lie. [Pols emphasis] Every single state to have investigated the Planned Parenthood baby-parts accusations has found nothing. The congressional search has also turned up nothing. The videos cited repeatedly by Fiorina and co. do not prove what they set out to prove. There is no factual or empirical basis from which to believe that Planned Parenthood sells fetal parts for money. Indeed, more and more the candidates, like Trump, hide behind the passive “lots of people are upset about this” language of the not-quite-persuaded.
Yesterday, liberal and pro-choice groups gathered at the Colorado Capitol to denounce the wild rhetoric directed against Planned Parenthood by Republican politicians, after the release of heavily-edited undercover videos falsely accusing the organization of “selling” fetal tissue for medical research. In recent months, Colorado Republicans have seized on these videos to demand redundant “investigations” and make petty, ultimately self-defeating swipes at the organization’s public funding. These attempts have been rejected by state officials at the Colorado Department of Public Health, who are aware that the investigations elsewhere have uncovered no wrongdoing and that the videos underlying the allegations have no objective factual value.
At the same time liberals and pro-choice groups were holding their press conference, the Colorado Independent was moving a story that powerfully validated their contention: GOP Rep. JoAnn Windholz issued a statement flat-out asserting that the “true instigator” of the violence against Planned Parenthood is Planned Parenthood itself. This statement, tacitly excusing the actions of the alleged terrorist and blaming the victims of terrorism for the attack against them, is exactly the kind of rhetoric that supporters of Planned Parenthood say incited the attack. The Independent’s scoop on Windholz has now been picked up nationwide, and is an ugly, damning new piece of a story that already had the GOP on the defensive.
And you know who else is on the defensive? Rep. Mike Coffman. 9NEWS:
The Republicans who were blamed by name Tuesday have all recently said incendiary things about Planned Parenthood.
But, the progressive groups also listed Congressman Mike Coffman, who has moderated his position on abortion over the years.
Coffman is Colorado Democrats’ top target in next year’s elections.
He issued a statement following the rally:
“I’m deeply offended that anyone would try to exploit this horrific incident purely for political gain. Both sides should knock-off the partisan games and name-calling. It is beneath the dignity of our state and country, and a grave disservice to the victims. A horrible tragedy has happened in our state. Our focus should be on the victims, and honoring their lives and supporting their families. And we should focus on achieving justice – this shooting was a premediated atrocity, and absolutely ripe for a death penalty prosecution.”
Voting to defund Planned Parenthood recently with fellow Republicans in response to the doctored video campaign against the organization, Coffman stated that Planned Parenthood “flies in the face of human decency.” 9NEWS’ report that Coffman has “moderated his position on abortion” dreadfully oversimplifies Coffman’s attempt to thread the needle on this issue since redistricting put him into a competitive district. While Coffman votes to defund Planned Parenthood and ban abortions in Congress, he uses the group’s logo in campaign ads (photo top right). All told, Coffman has not “moderated” his views on abortion so much as he has muddied them up.
Defenders of Coffman decry the fact that he is being “singled out” for criticism while other stridently anti-Planned Parenthood politicians like Doug Lamborn have not been to the same degree. But the problem with that logic is obvious: Lamborn never used Planned Parenthood’s logo in a campaign ad.
Bottom line: there are many Republicans today whose extreme rhetoric against Planned Parenthood can be fairly characterized as incitement to violence. But in terms of hypocrisy with regard to Planned Parenthood, Mike Coffman stands alone.
The political fallout from the attack is plain to see at this point–enough that congressional Republicans appear to have backed away completely from threats to force a government shutdown over Planned Parenthood’s funding. This attack has revealed not so much the lies told about Planned Parenthood by Republicans, which were already well-known–but the effect those lies are having on some Americans who hear them and believe them. It’s not a matter of free speech, any more than yelling “fire” in a crowded theater is a matter of free speech. The situation inevitably is different now that three people are dead at the hands of a man who admitted his motive was “no more baby parts.”
And no amount of protesting their own guilt can change that.