Here's How the Right Wing Choreographs the Perfect “Scandal”

The GOP is desperate to distract the media from the presidential-contender clown car to galvanize the conservative base. And what better way to do that than to go after Planned Parenthood.
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She ate some salad, drank a glass of wine, and talked to two people she believed were colleagues while using medical terms, all during the nearly three hours of what she was told by those participants was a business lunch. Now, Dr. Deborah Nucalota, the senior director of medical research for Planned Parenthood, has been vilified by the right for her alleged “callous” language used in a less-than-10-minute long video snipped from that meeting, recorded without her awareness or consent.

According to a friend and fellow provider, eventually Dr. Nucalota is “going to be just fine.” As for Planned Parenthood the entity, well, they will be just fine as well once time passes, too. But it will take a bit of time to weather the latest right-wing media-manufactured scandal, and that is the exact goal of this attack and why it was launched roughly when it was.

Republicans have been under massive scrutiny over their “clown car” of GOP presidential contenders, and this summer, especially, is a balancing act for those who are on the road for the endorsement. In order to win over the grassroots, conservatives need to appeal to their base, a hodgepodge of values voters, social conservative and religious right leaders who all want a candidate who will champion biblical values, “traditional” marriage, and a society that believes sex should only exist between two heterosexual adults who are ready to accept pregnancy and child-rearing as the end result of their actions.

The GOP primary is a race back to the ’50s, and that’s an era to which most of the rest of the country has no desire to return. The party is well aware that their endorsement process could lead to a series of statements and policy backings that, come general election time, could be used against their eventual winner, and they would like their preliminaries as ignored as humanly possible.

Luckily, they have been able to provide many of their own distractions. Donald Trump declaring that Senator John McCain isn’t really a war hero has dominated a media cycle that otherwise would have provided far more scrutiny to an Iowa summit that last year resulted in nearly every GOP contender swearing a pledge to support values ranging from “robust families” and an elimination of no-fault divorce, and only removed a section implying African-American children were better off under slavery than in today’s society after massive public outcry.

Unfortunately for the GOP, Donald Trump can't rescue every news cycle, and that is just one of the reasons that a frenzied push for a Planned Parenthood investigation is so well timed. By releasing a number of videos a week a part, as the so-called “Center for Medical Progress” says it plans to do, Republicans can manipulate the media week by week, offering them a bright, shiny object to cover rather than report on their own internal battle for the endorsement, their congressional obstructionism, or the states under their leadership that are going bankrupt. Congressional leaders have a new talking point to pivot to when they are questioned on why nothing is getting through the legislative branch, and a place to hide on legislation they want to slow down or strong arm over. As we’ve seen in the past, the media outlets themselves get painted into a corner: cover the “scandal” and they abet the Republicans in their attempt to distract the American public. Don’t provide the massive amount of wall-to-wall coverage the right wing believes it deserves, and be accused of being part of a cover up.

And of course GOP leaders were a part of the media plan. As Roll Call reported, many knew about the video weeks ago but said nothing. The roll out of this video, the conservative media push, and the legislative “action” on it were all a part of the coordinated push to maximize impact.

Claims of abortion clinics somehow profiting off the products of conception after an abortion has been completed are nothing new for abortion opponents. Life Dynamics, an anti-abortion action group in Texas that is run by Mark Crutcher, has made similar allegations, complete with a similar nearly three-year-long investigation and reams of what he claims is documentation supporting his thesis, all released in 2000. Perhaps not coincidentally, Live Action’s Lila Rose considers Crutcher “her inspiration” according to author Kathryn Joyce, and Live Action was the original home of David Daleiden, the face of the Center for Medical Progress. The products of terminated pregnancies have been allegedly sold into everything from make-up to vaccines to flavoring soda.

However, repackaging and reintroducing these allegations in a massive, coordinated effort across political and advocacy lines, and with congressional and state legislative action? That’s definitely different, and it’s done for a reason. The Republican party has the most to lose in the 2016 elections, from a number of senate seats that are in close races to a continued loss of the White House—and the court seats and nominations that result from it.

Defunding Planned Parenthood as a health care organization would do a great deal to energize the values voters grassroots that the GOP needs desperately to turn up at the polls during the next election. Depressing Planned Parenthood’s PAC donations, and keeping them from being able to play a significant role in the 2016 cycle? That’s even more valuable, and with a major and continuing scandal being packaged and fed to media outlets, that’s entirely possible.

According to Sunlight Foundation, Planned Parenthood’s political advocacy arms had “near perfect ‘return on investment’" for the 2012 elections, using their fundraising gains for calls, get out the vote efforts, candidate awareness campaign and other resources, and most of that went to the presidential race. The 2016 White House race will be the most expensive ever, especially when it comes to outside interest groups, and conservatives want every advantage they can grab, especially when they can’t be sure that their own candidate will have any mainstream voter appeal.

Manufacture a scandal, limit Planned Parenthood’s ability to participate in the 2016 presidential race. It’s that simple.

So, when you read the latest news about the “fetal harvesting” and watch conservative politicians trip over themselves to condemn Planned Parenthood or demand an investigation or defunding, remember, at its heart this has very little to do with the unborn.

As always, this is about politics.

 

Robin Marty is a freelance writer and speaker and the author of CROW AFTER ROE, a book outlining the blueprint to end abortion one red state at a time. Marty’s articles have appeared at Cosmopolitan.com, Politico, The Guardian, and other publications, and she is a Women’s Media Center SheSource Expert on Reproductive Rights and Politics. Follow her: @robinmarty
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