Stylish Washington Post bias

Brent Bozell
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Posted: Apr 05, 2006 12:05 AM

The Washington Post isn't very good at hiding its feelings about abortion when it lets its political reporters profile the Washington elite in their Style section. The latest example was a star turn for Cecile Richards, the new leader of Planned Parenthood. By gum, she's a lovable, open, down-to-earth girl, the perfect soccer mom -- who also just happens to run a chain of abortion factories.

A few weeks back, reporter Darragh Johnson began her profile of the new CEO of the nation's leading abortion provider with sympathy for her personal life. Her mother, former Texas Gov. Ann Richards (the one who taunted President Bush in 1988, and then lost to his son in 1994), is undergoing cancer treatment, but she still had advice for her granddaughter's attire for an interview with CBS for a summer internship. She needs a "new spring suit." But Mom said she would just buy her a new shirt. Johnson also makes sure to mention she's following the NCAA basketball tournament so she can talk brackets with her husband.

The puff piece ends with Richards in a Planned Parenthood shelter for teenagers in the poor northeastern section of D.C., talking with girls as they make collages out of magazine pictures, and then "playing a serious game of foosball." The last sentence on Cecile: "'OK,' she said, still leaning intently over the game, 'we'll do one more, then I'm going home to feed my kids.'"

There was no space in this article for critics of Richards, or of Planned Parenthood.

It read a lot like a January Post profile of Kate Michelman, the retiring NARAL Pro-Choice America boss and new author. Reporter Linton Weeks recounted Michelman's standard story of spousal abandonment and how it inspired her hard-left career. Weeks played up her hobbies (cooking "authentically," and she loves doing the dishes) and her great compassion. As a teen, "Her idea of fun, she said, was organizing a Christmas tree sale to benefit Mexican farm workers in her community."

There were no critics, just former Clinton Secretary of State Madeleine Albright bizarrely claiming that Michelman had provided "a voice for those who didn't have a voice and a brain for those who didn't have a brain." It's probably not a good idea to tout someone who favors an annual assembly line of hundreds of thousands of abortions as speaking for the "voiceless."

Now, contrast this fawning with the contempt shown on a regular basis by the Post for pro-lifers. About 11 months ago, on April 18, 2005, Washington Post reporter Marc Leibovich profiled conservative Republican Sen. Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania by lining up an army of Democrats to say nasty things about him: "Bob Kerrey once wondered whether Santorum is 'Latin for [anus].' Teresa Heinz Kerry called him 'Forrest Gump with an attitude.' Howard Dean called him a liar."

Leibovich's profile routinely judged Santorum with disdain. "Santorum's voice acquires an exaggerated whine," his anti-Clinton antics on the Senate floor show an "egregious informality," and he has the "careening manner of a hyperactive boy." Leibovich found "Santorum's voice assumes a taunting edge," even as he protested he was unfairly caricatured as a "sort of nasty, mean, ideological kind of guy."

How predictable. If the public policy leader is a conservative, and even worse, pro-life, he must be by definition a nasty, mean, ideological kind of guy. But what about liberals who are pro-abortion?

Let's go back to that Cecile Richards piece for the answer. She was pitched as a plucky, sympathetic underdog, stuck in a "South Dakota bubble," as the plains state tries to outlaw abortion. If she's combative, that's a positive: "She is a veteran Democratic political operative with Annie Lennox hair and a steely, strategic core."

How does the Post navigate around the essence of something as controversial, and in the minds of so many millions, utterly offensive as Planned Parenthood? Easy. Ignore it. There is no mention of the $265 million (2003-2004) it drew from the federal government for its operation. The paper also ignored the primary focus of this conglomerate's business: their annual report admits performing 244,628 surgical abortions in that year -- compared to issuing 1,774 adoption referrals. (So much for making abortion safe, legal, and rare.)

Most egregiously, Post reporter Darragh Johnson couldn't even mention that seven women have died from the use of the RU-486 abortion-drug cocktail, four of them at Planned Parenthood clinics, as they spurned Food and Drug Administration orders on how to administer the drugs properly.

I guess the Post needed the room for those heart-warming foosball-before-dinner stories.

Post readers surely enjoy a well-written sketch of Washington figures, but these Style profiles go beyond the pale, abusing the privilege of artistic license. Ultimately, and sadly, they expose only a media elite that can find cuddliness in a culture of death.