What does the video show and where does it show it?
Those have been the question since Wednesday’s debate, when Carly Fiorina graphically described a scene she claimed appeared in those heavily-edited Planned Parenthood “sting” videos.
But pressed to identify which video contains the gruesome scene Fiorina described, neither her campaign nor the anti-abortion group who produced the sting videos have not been able to do so.
We’ve watched the clips they did send along, and here’s what they show. But first a reminder of what Fiorina said.
During the debate, Fiorina said that Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton could 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.”
No such scene was present in the hours of sting videos released in recent months. When asked by TPM to defend Fiorina’s comments, the Center for Medical Progress, which produced the videos, pointed to a section of the third episode of its “documentary” series “Human Capital,” a spin-off of the initial “sting” videos.
“The footage in question was from Grantham Collection & Center for Bio-Ethical Reform used to illustrate the first person eye witness testimony of Holly O’Donnell of the barbaric acts committed inside Planned Parenthood abortion facilities,” David Daleiden — leader of the project — said in a statement.
(The footage they reference starts at 4:39)
The video cuts between three separate interviews: two with representatives from two different procurement companies and a third with Planned Parenthood official Deborah Nucatola.
The first interviewee says that there are times after a procedure that the heart is still beating; the second interviewee says sometimes a chemical known as digoxin is used in certain abortions but would not be in the tissue samples the actor posing as a buyer is seeking; the third interviewee, the Planned Parenthood official, explains that digoxin is used by some providers, “so that they have no risk of violating the Federal Abortion Ban.”
“If you induce the demise before you do the procedure, nobody’s going to say you did a ‘live’ — whatever the federal government calls it — ‘partial birth abortion,” she says.
It is none other than Daleiden himself — in the next cut of the video, appearing on CNN — who then makes the claim that that digoxin and other chemicals used to “kill” fetuses before a procedure are not used in when the tissue is going procured, because “that poisons the organs and the tissues.”
The video then jumps to O’Donnell, an ex-staffer at yet another tissue procurement company, who describes being asked to procure a brain tissue from an aborted fetus, but such footage is never shown.
While she is describing the incident, footage is shown of a fetus in a tray, footage Center for Medical Progress is now admitting it did not film itself, but rather obtained from anti-abortion groups. The Center for Medical Progress itself came under fire for a separate image used in one of the videos that was not an aborted fetus, as suggested, but in fact a stillborn. The photo was taken without the mother’s permission from a Daily Mail article about the woman’s miscarriage.
Furthermore, there is no point in the scene where someone is overheard saying, “we have to keep it alive to harvest its brain.”
While Fiorina has continued to defend her debate remarks, her campaign has complicated things by offering a video separate from the Center for Medical Progress series to show what inspired her. As Vox reported, the one-minute video was a uploaded by a group called “Save Babies” (not by Center for Medical Progress) and is a mish-mash of some footage from the sting campaign, but also other footage not from those particular videos.
As Vox noted, the scene Fiorina described is not there either.
When Vox asked for follow-up, the campaign then pointed to an article by The Federalist that referenced the “Human Capital” episode cited by Center for Medical Progress.