Undercover Journalist Hits Planned Parenthood with Defamation Lawsuit

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September 18, 2020

Undercover journalist David Daleiden filed a defamation lawsuit against Planned Parenthood, alleging that a communications officer gave false statements to a publication regarding organ harvesting operations.

Attorneys for Daleiden at the Thomas More Society said that the nation's largest abortion organization orchestrated a smear campaign to distract from the content of his work, which featured candid conversations with Planned Parenthood executives about the trade of baby body parts.

"We have not been surprised over their campaign to smear the reputation of Mr. Daleiden, but they are not allowed to falsely besmirch his reputation for exposing the truth," Thomas More Society president Tom Brejcha said in a statement.

The complaint cites a quote given by a communications officer from Planned Parenthood to Rewire News that accused Daleiden and his organization, the Center for Medical Progress, of having "manufacture[d] a fake smear campaign against Planned Parenthood." It also cites a tweet from November 2019 that claimed Daleiden, who posed as a prospective buyer of fetal organs, distorted the truth in his videos.

"In reality, as PPFA and its representatives recorded on the Videos readily admit in other fora, Plaintiffs’ videos accurately record Planned Parenthood officials' own shocking words spoken in real life," the complaint says.

Planned Parenthood spokeswoman Melanie Newman dismissed the lawsuit as "baseless" and another chapter in a "multi-year, malicious campaign to advance [Daleiden's] goals of banning safe, legal abortion in this country."

"These baseless claims are not new. They are just another desperate attempt by a discredited source to get publicity," Newman said in an email.

The suit marks the latest in a years-long legal struggle between Daleiden and Planned Parenthood. In December 2019, Daleiden sued an individual Planned Parenthood employee for defamation who was recorded on video discussing the sale of fetal organs.

Abortion supporters have waged a legal battle targeting the pro-life activist in recent years, successfully blocking the release of additional footage and winning a $2 million jury verdict over his undercover tactics. Vice-presidential candidate Kamala Harris also launched an investigation into Daleiden during her tenure as California's attorney general. Her office, which coordinated with top Planned Parenthood officials during the course of the probe, eventually filed criminal charges against the undercover videographer.

Peter Breen, vice president and senior counsel for the Thomas More Society, said that the aggressive response from abortion supporters was intended to silence and intimidate other journalists and whistleblowers.

"Instead of coming clean about its ruthless pursuit of profit from selling the remains of aborted children, Planned Parenthood tried to smear David Daleiden, the man who blew the whistle on its dirty secret," Breen said in a statement.

Daleiden is asking the court to grant him relief in excess of $75,000 for damage caused to his reputation, as well as for Planned Parenthood to retract its false statements against his undercover work.