Carly Fiorina had a lot to say about Planned Parenthood during Wednesday night’s Republican debate. What she did not have, however, was a single fact to support her disturbing claims.
Predictably, most of the 11 Republican candidates on stage Wednesday night took swipes at Planned Parenthood, which has come under renewed attack from the right since an anti-abortion group called the Center for Medical Progress began releasing a series of deceptively-edited video clips purporting to show Planned Parenthood officials discussing the illegal sale of fetal tissue donation. The videos in question – all of which have been thoroughly debunked by media, fact-checkers, and third-party investigative firms – led to several state level investigations that, unsurprisingly, also uncovered zero evidence of wrongdoing on Planned Parenthood’s behalf.
Fiorina, however, was undeterred by the complete lack of evidence. In her first appearance at a prime time presidential debate, she wasted no time jumping on the anti-Planned Parenthood bandwagon, even throwing her support behind the GOP’s plan to shut down the government if they can’t defund the women’s health care organization. But it was her graphic description of what she allegedly “saw” in the videos involving Planned Parenthood that made Fiorina’s performance one of the most talked-about moments of the night — and also the most egregiously dishonest.
“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.’ This is about the character of our nation. If we will not stand up and force President Obama to veto this bill, shame on us!” Fiorina said, to great applause from the conservative audience.
The moment will inevitably be played ad nauseam throughout the conservative echo chamber as the most triumphant moment in the right’s effort to defund Planned Parenthood — in fact, it already is. The primary problem with her statement? It’s a total lie. The scene she described does…not…exist, even in the creatively edited versions of the videotapes that were manipulated specifically to make Planned Parenthood look bad.
See, what Fiorina forgot is that we’re not all low-information voters like the ones she is hoping to win over. Despite her insinuations to the contrary, many people have, in fact, watched not just the widely-circulated edited videos, but the entire, unedited videos — and I happen to be one of them. Like others who’ve watched the footage in its entirety, I know that Fiorina’s grisly abortion tale is pure fiction.
As Vox’s Sarah Kliff wrote, “Either Fiorina hasn’t watched the Planned Parenthood videos or she is knowingly misrepresenting the footage. Because what Fiorina says happens in the Planned Parenthood videos simply does not exist.”
To be sure, Fiorina wasn’t the only person lying about Planned Parenthood on stage. The claim that Planned Parenthood sells fetal body parts was stated as fact by multiple candidates. It’s simply not true, and repeating it will not make it more true. But describing such a vivid and grisly scene that never happened—that’s taking it to another level.
Fiorina doubled down on Thursday in an appearance on Good Morning America, defending her statement and adamantly maintaining that she didn’t misspeak. She described the videos as “butchery” in her interview with George Stephanopoulos, giving him a lecture that went like this: “I’ve seen those images. I don’t know whether you’ve watched the tapes, George. Most people haven’t.”
But some of us have. And as one of them — who also happens to be a voter — I want to issue a dare right back to Fiorina: Show us that footage. Show us those scenes you’ve supposedly watched. Show us that disturbing image you described for millions of Americans on Wednesday night. Show it to us. Or else apologize for looking the country straight in the eye and lying to every single one of us.