She was “wrong.”
And she could have gotten more media attention for the unborn if she and her supporters admitted it and called for another look.
On Wednesday night Carly Fiorina accomplished what she set out to do. She stood out. Fiorina received the loudest applause of the night when she responded to Donald Trump’s comments in Rolling Stone. In the interview, Trump said of Fiorina, “Look at that face! Would anyone vote for that? Can you imagine that, the face of our next president?!” She simply said: “Women all over this country heard very clearly what Mr. Trump said.” When Trump patronized her by calling her beautiful, she glared at him with dagger eyes sharper than a Planned Parenthood scalpel.
Fiorina later delivered an impassioned speech urging President Obama and Mrs. Clinton to look at the recent Center for Medical Progress (CMP) videos exposing Planned Parenthood’s trafficking of fetal body parts:
As regards Planned Parenthood, anyone who has watched this videotape, I dare Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama to watch these tapes. Watch a fully formed fetus on the table, its heart beating, its legs kicking while someone says we have to keep it alive to harvest its brain.
The speech was met with tumultuous applause. Less than a minute long, this clip of the moment became one of the most shared videos coming out of the debate. Pro-life media outlets hailed it as the re-igniting of the abortion debate.
But Fiorina’s description of the video is technically inaccurate. She handed her opponents the means to blunt her absolutely accurate point.
She is referring to the video: Human Capital – Episode 3: Planned Parenthood’s Custom Abortions for Superior Product. About five minutes into the video, Holly O’Donnell, an ex-procurement technician from StemExpress describes the horrible moment she was asked to cut into the face of an aborted baby and harvest his brain.
Edited into the video, corresponding to O’Donnell’s description, is a clip of a baby boy, who was the victim of a botched abortion. He was left in a metal bowl to die. The film had not captured the actual events described by O’Donnell. It illustrated them. Planned Parenthood seized upon the discrepancy and declared “lie.”
CMP clearly credited the footage to the Grantham Collection and Center for Bio-Ethical Reform and smartly edited it into their video. Nobody was filming Planned Parenthood’s butchery of the baby described by O’Donnell. Using a comparable image to show viewers how developed this child was when O’Donnell sliced him up is a perfectly legitimate technique used by documentarians as respected as Ken Burns, Alex Gibney or Errol Morris. “Show, don’t merely tell” is lesson one for any communicator. Using a comparable image lends authenticity to O’Donnell’s description and properly heightens our revulsion by making the humanity of the child more vivid.
America won’t stop abortion until it sees abortion. Only those inclined to defend Planned Parenthood’s actions would try to deaden the moral horror described by O’Donnell. It is, literally, an attempt to throw the baby out with Planned Parenthood’s bathwater. Planned Parenthood is saying, “Forget the victim you encountered in Ms. O’Donnell’s description.”
While Fiorna’s imprecision didn’t give her opponents a cleaver to shred her argument, she unwittingly handed them a butter knife. Planned Parenthood turned a petty criticism into a charge of lying.
Predictably, the mainstream media merrily danced to Planned Parenthood’s press release declaring Fiorina a liar. Journalism through activist groups’ press releases used to be counted as shameful. No longer.
The videos that have stirred up so much trouble for Planned Parenthood don’t show what Fiorina claims. […]In one video, a former employee of the fetal tissue procurement company StemExpress[…]alleges that she saw an aborted fetus’ heart beat after a clinician tapped its heart. That video relies solely on the interview and does not include footage to support her claims. [But]…at no point do they include footage of an entire aborted fetus.
Planned Parenthood was echoed by the Huffington Post, Vox, and others. On ABC News, George Stephanopoulos interviewed Fiorina and said that “analysts who watched all 12+ hours said the harrowing scene you describe isn’t actually in those tapes.” Stephanopoulos then asks Fiorina if she misspoke. Fiorina dug in and claimed she did not misspeak,
But she did. The video is not precisely as she described during the debate.
Is that a problem for Fiorina? Would her message be less powerful if she focused on O’Donnell’s harrowing description of having to use scissors to cut through the face of a baby in order to harvest its brain?
Fiorina did not mislead viewers of the debate. In the heat of the moment, she described what she remembered from the video.
That is not the problem.
The problem comes when pro-lifers instinctively double down and refuse to admit an error. Supporters argue that technically, there is a kicking baby on a table and, technically, there is a voiceover describing the harvesting of a brain. Technically, yes, this is true, but technically, Fiorina still misspoke. That particular baby on the screen isn’t aborted and the voice is not from inside an abortion clinic. Holly is recalling her experience on camera.
Fiorina would lose no respect if she and her supporters admitted the video is not exactly as she described, The video has enough muscle as is and admitting a mistake, however minor it is, does not show weakness. It shows humility and a desire to expose the truth at any cost. It also gives would-be detractors one less distraction to talk about.
Worse, Fiorina and her supporters missed a great opportunity by reacting so quickly. When Planned Parenthood started singing “Liar, liar, pants on fire.” Carly and crew shot back: “Butcher, butcher, swing that cleaver.” What she could have said was, “Let’s look at it that video again..and again and again until we both get it right.”