It is one thing for journalists to ignore stories because they find the facts unsettling. It’s something else to silence journalists by using the courts.
After the inauguration of Donald Trump, The Washington Post changed its masthead to read “Democracy Dies in Darkness” – a noble sentiment, indeed, and one that seems to speak plainly to the idealistic aim of journalism: to tell the truth, enlighten the public, and shed light on the corrupt. President Trump – certainly an adversary of the media (the same media that created him) – has even been accused of undermining the press and threatening the First Amendment. A longtime White House press correspondent, April Ryan from American Urban Radio Networks, told CNN that “We are – the press is – under attack. We are under attack by this administration.”
As a staunch defender of the First Amendment, the press has a right – even biased press – has a right to speak out. I only ask they be honest and consistent in doing so. Yet time and again, the media has tried to ignore facts. The national media has, for example, largely ignored the frightening and illegal raids on the homes of Wisconsin conservative activists during the height of the Scott Walker recall in 2012; they largely ignored or dismissed the IRS scandal that targeted conservative nonprofits during the presidential election of that same year. They also gave the Obama administration a pass on “Fast & Furious” as well as the terror attack in Benghazi that lead to the death of an American Ambassador.
When Kermit Gosnell was put on trial for his Philadelphia area abortion clinic (dubbed the “house of horrors”) it was considered a “local news story” and the press section at trial was all but empty.
Which brings us to the news that broke last week: two journalists with the Center for Medical Progress are facing 15 felonies in California for carrying out one of the most bold and brazen acts of journalism of the past decade. David Daleiden and Sandra Merritt took hours of footage from meetings with Planned Parenthood and medical research facilities that proved the nation’s largest abortion provider was engaging in the profitable and illegal sale of baby organs and tissues harvested from abortions, and that doing so was encouraged for monetary gain.
In the media, the videos – which are often graphic – were dismissed as selectively edited and unethical. David Daleiden and Sandra Merritt faced charges in Houston, Texas including tampering with a government record for using a fake identification to gain access to the facility. The Harris County District Attorney’s office dismissed all the charges in July of 2016. Daleiden’s defense attorney, Peter Breen from the Thomas More Society, called the dismissal a “huge win for the First Amendment rights of undercover journalists” and said his client “used standard journalism techniques and followed all applicable laws in doing so” calling the prosecution “meritless and retaliatory.”
And the prosecution of Daleiden and Merritt in California reeks of retaliatory behavior on the part of prosecutors who are politically Democratic and sympathetic and supportive of Planned Parenthood.
Writing at Hotair.com, Allahpundit notes that this investigation was started by Kamala Harris, who has received $81,000 dollars from Planned Parenthood and who worked on legislation to make Daleiden’s journalistic act a crime. Harris is now a Senator from California, and as of publication, her Twitter profile picture was overlayed with a “#IStandWithPP” banner.
If journalists worry about an attack on the press and democracy dying in darkness, they should be rallying against Harris and the 15 felony counts Daleiden and Merritt now face. Daleiden and Merritt broke no laws and at least one federal appeals court agrees. In 2002, the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that video recordings – similar in nature to the videos Daleiden produced – were, in fact, legal and not private communication subject to California’s two-party consent laws. In that case, ABC News did an undercover investigation of Medical Laboratory Management Consultants for its Primetime Live show. The 9th Circuit even said the public’s interest outweighed privacy concerns.
It should also be noted that none of the Planned Parenthood or medical research personnel featured in the video were brought up on criminal charges.
The only “crime” Daleiden and Merritt committed was exposing the unethical and illegal practices of the nation’s largest abortion provider and pet cause of many leftists and Democrats. Planned Parenthood receives tens of millions of dollars in federal and state funds annually; is it not in the public interest to know what goes on at these facilities? Shouldn’t politicians and investigators want to know and have a right to know when a medical facility is breaking the law? Daleiden and Merritt pulled back the veil of “women’s health care” and exposed high-ranking Planned Parenthood officials, and others, as profit-driven and who show little regard for federal law while taking federal money.
It is precisely the kind of journalism the pro-life movement needs, coupled with scientific advancements that have given us a glimpse into the womb and shown us that an fetus (to use the left’s parlance) is human and very much alive during pregnancy. It shattered the notion that Planned Parenthood was about “women’s health” and even alleged women were not fully informed about what would happen to their aborted children’s tissues and organs.
And is it not in the interest of journalism for journalists – especially investigative journalists – to defend Daleiden and Merritt for doing journalistic work protected by the First Amendment? Investigative journalists are the ones who shine a light in the darkness where democracy dies, so to speak. Yet here we have two investigative journalists facing fifteen felony charges for doing the exact same work ABC did and fought to do in court. Where is April Ryan? Why is she not lamenting and criticizing this blatantly political attack on fellow journalists?
There is indeed an attack on the press in this country, and it’s an attack on itself and an attack on journalists who don’t toe the hidden (yet glaringly obvious) bias of the mainstream national media. Until journalists stand up for the likes of Daleiden and Merritt, and until they are honest about their reporting biases and consistent in their reporting, they will continue to lose credibility with the American public.