So how can you know that you can, in fact, trust a documentary, especially on a controversial political topic? Well, that’s where the Planned Parenthood mini-documentaries made by the Center for Medical Progress really threw down the gauntlet. Perhaps because they knew the horrifying information they presented would be challenged, CMP did something very nearly unprecedented: They released hours and hours of raw footage to show the full context of their edited videos.
The media, of course, almost completely ignored this context. When they didn’t, they got things badly wrong. Vox’s Sarah Kliff, whose sympathies toward abortion providers are not exactly a secret, wrote a piece claiming she’d “watched all 12 hours of the unedited Planned Parenthood videos.” But there were 17 hours of unedited footage, not 12 (and more hours of unedited footage have been released since then). Even the correction to her story made claims that footage didn’t exist when it clearly did.
Then Planned Parenthood, reeling from the bad publicity the videos generated, commissioned a “forensic audit” of the videos. Unsurprisingly, that audit alleged problems, and the media regurgitated this report uncritically. “Planned Parenthood Videos Were Altered, Analysis Finds,” was The New York Times headline. Politico went with “Report for Planned Parenthood finds sting videos manipulated.” However, even Planned Parenthood’s own audit concluded there was no “widespread evidence of substantive video manipulation.”
Further, neither the Times or Politico reported that the firm doing the “forensic audit” for Planned Parenthood was a partisan Democratic opposition research firm with a dodgy reputation and a history of harassing Republican donors.