A message to non-Democrats who dare target a cherished liberal group like Planned Parenthood.
The Democrat Attorney General Xavier Becerra of California has invented a new crime: Performing Undercover Video Journalism While Not a Democrat.
Of course, he didn’t call it that. Nor did his predecessor, now U.S. Senator Kamala Harris, when she launched an investigation of the undercover video operation to expose alleged fetal body part sales by Planned Parenthood.
That investigation resulted in 15 felony charges that were just announced, as we covered the other day, California’s AG Charges Undercover Reporters Who Exposed Planned Parenthood Baby Part Selling.
For the most part, the mainstream media that uses similar undercover video tactics — which is how 60 Minutes made its name — has remained silent about this abuse of the criminal laws to target undercover investigations against a cherished liberal group like Planned Parenthood.
The L.A. Times, to its credit, calls out the blatant politics behind the move, Felony charges are a disturbing overreach for the duo behind the Planned Parenthood sting videos:
There’s no question that anti-abortion activist David Daleiden surreptitiously recorded healthcare and biomedical services employees across the state of California with the intent of discrediting the healthcare provider, Planned Parenthood — something his heavily edited videos failed to do. There’s also no question that it’s against state law to record confidential conversations without the consent of all the parties involved.
But that doesn’t mean that California Atty. Gen. Xavier Becerra should have charged Daleiden and his co-conspirator, Susan Merritt, with 15 felony counts — one for each of the 14 people recorded, and a 15th for conspiracy. It’s disturbingly aggressive for Becerra to apply this criminal statute to people who were trying to influence a contested issue of public policy, regardless of how sound or popular that policy may be. Planned Parenthood and biomedical company StemExpress, which was also featured in the videos, have another remedy for the harm that was done to them: They can sue Daleiden and Merritt for damages. The state doesn’t need to threaten the pair with prison time….
In similar cases, we have denounced moves to criminalize such behavior, especially in the case of animal welfare investigators who have gone undercover at slaughterhouses and other agricultural businesses to secretly record horrific and illegal abuses of animals. That work, too, is aimed at revealing wrongdoing and changing public policy.
That’s why the state law forbidding recording of conversations should be applied narrowly, and to clear and egregious violations of privacy where the motive is personal gain.
The Wall Street Journal was more blunt:
If the videographers at the Center for Medical Progress had wanted to avoid prosecution, they should have secretly recorded conversations with Michael Flynn. But instead they chose to conduct guerrilla journalism against Planned Parenthood and its associates in the abortion industry. The result was the Tuesday announcement of 15 felony charges against activists David Daleiden and Sandra Merritt by California Attorney General Xavier Becerra. Much of the left is taking in stride the news that two people could go to prison for creating undercover videos that embarrassed a large national organization. But it turns out that at least some of our media brethren really meant it when they said they believe in a robust First Amendment.
Kevin Drum from left-wing Mother Jones recognizes the implications, California Should Leave Undercover Video Activists Alone:
I continue to have zero sympathy for these two. They edited their videos deceptively and basically lied about everything they did. Nevertheless, I don’t like the idea of prosecuting them. This was a legitimate investigation, and no level of government should be in the business of chilling it. The First Amendment doesn’t say anything one way or the other about how honest one’s speech has to be.
This also strikes me as political grandstanding. I imagine that if this were a couple of liberal activists secretly recording meetings with anti-immigration groups, Attorney General Xavier Becerra wouldn’t so eager to go after them.
I think you will see more such opinions emerge in the coming days, from left, right and center.
The political move draped in the criminal law by the California Attorney General is a threat to investigative journalism everywhere, and by everyone.DONATE
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