Planned Parenthood passes out these NDAs, even though it “has positioned itself as a bulwark against an administration that regularly attacks press credibility.”
Vice reporter Carter Sherman revealed that Planned Parenthood had asked her two times to sign an NDA (non-disclosure agreement) at a happy hour for the media.
The abortion organization asked her to sign one in 2018 when Sherman covered its Power of Pink volunteer training event.
This second NDA rightfully upset Sherman, who informed Planned Parenthood she planned to call them out on their agreements with reporters. Now the organization has scurried to clear up this apparent “misunderstanding.” (Please note the sarcasm)
After Sherman told her plans to Planned Parenthood, it quickly emailed journalists listed to attend the happy hour that they do not need to sign the NDA because an employee mistakenly sent it.
Not good enough for Sherman. She pointed out she had to sign one in 2018. It looks like Sherman caught Planned Parenthood in a few lies:
Planned Parenthood told VICE News it is not their policy to require NDAs of reporters covering the organization.
“Planned Parenthood is proud of the work we do to ensure that journalists and editors have access to the incredible staff, patients, services, and education that we provide,” Erica Sackin, senior director of communications for Planned Parenthood Federation of America, told VICE News in an email. “We pride ourselves on our transparency, and our support for freedom of the press as a pillar of our democracy.”
But she did concede that the organization had asked reporters for NDAs, but characterized those request as mistakes.
“That said, our interactions with reporters around this have been less than perfect,” Sackin said. “It is not — and has not been — our official policy to require any reporter to sign an NDA that would prevent them from reporting an event we’re asking them to cover, or for informal off-the-record events. In instances when we have asked reporters to do so, it has been the result of miscommunication and misunderstanding between staff, or of staff members out of an abundance of caution enforcing rules that should not apply to journalists.”
Sackin’s explanation contradicts what another employee told Sherman, who said she would not attend the happy hour:
The staffer promised to ask the legal team if I could get around it. But, they added, “Our policy is to have all people who enter our event spaces people sign an NDA (with allowances for journalists to report) so we would need sign off from our legal department to register you without one.”
What does “allowances for journalists to report” mean? I asked.
“I was just referring to the fact that [the] wording of the NDA doesn’t preclude journalists from speaking to folks on the record,” the staffer said. “It’s not written as such specifically for journalists, but there’s a section on rightfully receiving confidential information from a Third Party.”
When I asked VICE News’ lawyer for his help understanding the NDA’s restrictions, he told me that despite those reporting “allowances,” I would still likely not be able to report on any information I learned from Planned Parenthood staff or associates — a restriction that could drastically hinder my reporting. Both the NDA I saw in 2018 and the one this week include that language.
Non-journalists tend to receive the NDAs, which makes sense. I can understand why any organization would do that.
Reporters, even “bloggers” like us, will agree to talk to people off-the-record, but it is not the same as agreeing to a legal document. That document can ruin a person’s career (emphasis mine):
“It’s easier to punish someone,” Culver said of NDAs. “A reporter thinks, ‘Ugh, I signed that NDA; I’ve gotta be extra careful, I’ve gotta be on the watch.’ It’s someone saying, ‘I have a tool of enforcement,’ and then that may make you less courageous.”
Jane Kirtley, director of the Silha Center for the Study of Media Ethics and Law at the University of Minnesota, agreed.
“Whether it’s an association like Planned Parenthood or a corporation, it’s just giving them the ability to essentially control the narrative,” Kirtley told me of asking journalists to sign NDAs. “Putting aside the legitimate concerns that they may have about subterfuge and so forth, for me, the bottom line is organizations like this cannot expect the news media to essentially be an extension of their public relations arm.”
Executive Director of the Freedom of the Press Foundation Trevor Timm echoed Kirtley’s sentiments, basically saying the NDAs intimidate the journalists (emphasis mine):
“You wouldn’t know for sure if the information you heard from some third party, at this party, was covered. You’re going to have to spend [time] with your legal counsel,” Timm said. “It’s going to be very stressful for you, and, you know, for a lot of people they’re just going to be like, ‘They’re not worth it.’ And that’s what these legal instruments often are used for, for those kind of grey-area situations where the company is not going to sue you but they know just by having you sign this, it will potentially keep you quiet.”
Sherman noted that Planned Parenthood passes out these NDAs, even though it “has positioned itself as a bulwark against an administration that regularly attacks press credibility.”
President Donald Trump is not always wrong about the media. I mean, look at what CNN’s Chris Cuomo did yesterday. We have seen a 180 change in the press from President Barack Obama to Trump. I would not mind the intense reporting on the Trump administration if reporters applied that same effort to Democrats.
Anyway, Sherman is correct. While the First Amendment only applies to the government, the NDAs displays another layer of Planned Parenthood hypocrisy. You cannot call out the president for stifling free press while trying to oppress it yourself.
Then again, it is not a shock that Planned Parenthood wants to control the narrative. We know the organization survives on infanticide. We all know the organization could survive without the help of our tax money.
Planned Parenthood does not want its dirty secrets getting out. Can you blame them? The pro-life side grows as more people learn about how a baby dies in an abortion.DONATE
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