Initial skepticism of the Ohio abortion story was warranted

AP Photo/Paul Beaty, File

The media is full of very similar stories today about the fact that the right-wing media dared to question a story which arose in Ohio about a 10-year-old rape victim. As Ed pointed out the day the (alleged) rapist was arrested, it turns out the story was true and that should be acknowledged by anyone who expressed doubt about it initially.


However, while it’s reasonable to ask that people align themselves with the facts once they are clear, many on the left are going beyond that and retroactively declaring it wrong for anyone to have doubted the story in the first place. Case in point, this column by Monica Hesse for the Washington Post:

A reporter with the Daily Caller presented, as apparent evidence the story was a concoction, the fact that the physician who had publicized the case declined to offer additional information.

Other members of the media also cast doubt on the story. The Wall Street Journal’s editorial board criticized Biden for perpetuating an “unlikely story from a biased source that neatly fits the progressive narrative but can’t be confirmed.” The Washington Post Fact Checker column wrote cautiously about the case, particularly the fact that it was attributed to a single source (the physician) and to the fact that abortions performed on 10-year-olds are “pretty rare.”…

…we need to stop and reflect for a minute on how some people reacted to this story when it first became public. Because it was a disaster.

Beginning with the journalists: A physician in good standing had gone on the record to discuss the case of the 10-year-old. In every other medical story I can think of, a doctor sharing the story of a patient would be considered highly credible. If a surgeon describes removing a tumor for a broader article on new surgical techniques, we do not demand to talk to the cancer survivor. What, precisely, did my fellow members of the media think the doctor — bound by HIPAA — should have done? Provide a press release with the name and address of an underage sexual assault victim?

If Hesse is interested in the truth then she should try offering some context to her readers. Dr. Caitlyn Bernard isn’t just “a physician in good standing” she’s an abortionist connected with Planned Parenthood, one who has been quoted in the media a number of times before this latest case. In other words, she’s something of a partisan when it comes to this particular issue. Of course that doesn’t mean she’s a liar but it does mean that as a sole source there are reasons people might be skeptical of her story absent any corroboration.

Put it this way, if a pro-life doctor had come forward and announced a dramatic story about an abortion clinic murdering an infant, I suspect Hesse and many on the left would want some corroboration that went beyond that one doctor before denouncing the clinic in question. By the way, there was such a case of an abortionist murdering babies born alive by snipping their spinal cords with scissors. His name was Dr. Kermit Gosnell and he’s in prison for a tiny fraction of his actual crimes.

As for what Dr. Bernard should have done, Hesse immediately jumps to hyperbole, i.e. the absurd idea that corroborating this case could only have come from “a press release with the name and address of an underage sexual assault victim.” No one that I’m aware of ever demanded the name and address of the victim in the case. Suggesting that’s the only thing that could have resolved questions about it is especially silly since, as of now, we still don’t have her name and address. That was never necessary.

Here people point to HIPAA laws as preventing Dr. Bernard from saying anything. But in this case Bernard had already revealed the age and sex of the victim along with the state where she lives. Could she have revealed the city as well to help reporters track down the case? Even if she couldn’t do that, under state law she was required to report evidence of a rape to authorities. She apparently did that within three days. So, without revealing anything about the victim, she could have told reporters that she had followed all mandatory reporting guidelines. That would have indicated to reporters that a crime had been reported and that an arrest might be expected to follow.

Hesse then moves on to some data on sexual abuse:

Moving onto the attorney general: In an interview, Yost said: “I know the cops and prosecutors in this state. There’s not one of them that wouldn’t be turning over every rock, looking for this guy and they would have charged him. They wouldn’t leave him loose on the streets.” But this ignores the fact that sexual assault crimes are undercharged, that rapists do end up “loose on the streets,” all the time. Only about 30 percent of sexual assaults are ever reported to the police, according to the Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network, and fewer than 1 percent end in a conviction…

It’s not rare that 10-year-olds are assaulted, it’s rare that their attackers are actually caught and punished.

In this case, the doctor (actually two doctors) had mandatory reporting requirements. Also, in this case the girl was pregnant which meant police had the rapist’s DNA. That doesn’t guarantee an arrest or conviction but in fact there was an arrest and charges have been filed. So the attorney general was correct. The police did find the (alleged) rapist and he is almost certainly going to prison for his crime. It may be rare but in this case that’s what is happening. Hesse concludes:

A girl was assaulted, and then she was punished again by her government, and then she was doubted by journalists whose job it is to seek truth…

Sorry but seeking the truth often involves not placing too much credibility on an uncorroborated story. In this case the story panned out but we’ve seen many other cases over the past few years where the entire media ran with something that turned out to be completely false. Remember the Jussie Smollett hate hoax? Why, the poor man was beat up and had a noose put around his neck by violent racists…Well, not really. But this is far from the only hate hoax that has been widely reported in the media over the past few years.

Remember the way the media jumped on the Covington Catholic story? That turned out to be a complete misread of the situation based on motivated reasoning. Several news outlets have already paid out in lawsuits over that one.

How about the media’s general consensus that Kyle Rittenhouse was headed to prison because he crossed state lines? It turned out he had a pretty good case for self-defense but you didn’t hear much about that until the trial was nearly over. Speaking of Rittenhouse, how about the claim that Jacob Blake was unarmed when he was shot? Blake himself later admitted that wasn’t true.

This sometimes works the other way too, such as when a story (not unlike the Ohio story) is reported to be a hoax but turns out to be true. That’s what happened in the Wi Spa case in Los Angeles.

We could go way back to the UVA gang rape story, taken at the time as the definitive proof of “rape culture” on campus. People who questioned that one were also initially considered monsters, at least until the whole thing fell apart.

How about the reporting on the accuracy of the Steele Dossier. We heard for years that was really credible and found out later it really wasn’t.

I could go on and on with this. The point is that the media frequently reports uncorroborated stories that fit nicely with a progressive agenda only to later admit (sometimes much later) that they got it wrong. So please don’t tell me that a measure of skepticism isn’t warranted. It’s always warranted and was perfectly reasonable in this case. Seeking the truth in a world where the media is overwhelmingly left wing often means doubting uncorroborated stories that fit a left-wing agenda, especially when everyone in the national media doesn’t think it’s necessary. In this case the story turned out to be true but there are many, many examples where that wasn’t the case.


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