There is a reason that I held off writing about mainstream news coverage of Rep. Brian Sims and his online activism against people praying at his local Planned Parenthood facility.
To be blunt: I was waiting for some mainstream media coverage of this digital drama. The fact that this took several days is really interesting — from a media-analysis point of view.
Let’s look at this through the “mirror image” device that your GetReligionistas have been using for years.
Let’s say that a group of LGBTQ demonstrators decided to stage protests outside the doors of the Family Research Council — peacefully reading selections from the latest version of the Book of Common Prayer. The protesters include teens and an older person who is silently using a rainbow rosary.
Then a politician approaches, perhaps a GOP leader who backs the FRC. Using his smartphone to capture the proceedings for online use, he begins berating the gay activists, using language that focuses on age, race and religious beliefs. This evangelical politico also offers to pay viewers $100 for information on the teen-agers, thus helping evangelical activists to “visit” their homes.
All of this is posted online by this member of the U.S. House of Representatives.
How quickly would this draw major coverage at CNN? How about the New York Times? Note: We’re seeking serious, original coverage, not short Associated Press stories or aggregation reports built on clips from online chatter (see this Washington Post item).
Eventually, The Philadelphia Inquirer — to its credit — followed up on the explosion of Twitter activity on this topic. The lede did use a mild version of the “Republicans pounce!” theme, but took the issue seriously. Here is a key chunk of that breakthrough mainstream-news media report:
In one video, Sims approaches a woman and three girls who appear to be in their teens outside the Planned Parenthood clinic at 12th and Locust Streets and refers to them as “pseudo-Christian protesters who’ve been out here shaming young girls for being here.”
“I’ve got $100 to anyone who will identify any of these three,” Sims says in the video, adding that he is raising money for Planned Parenthood.
The unidentified woman responds, “We’re actually here just praying for the babies.”
The video was recorded on April 18 and posted to his Facebook page. It was brought up on Twitter late Monday by the founder of an antiabortion group called Live Action, and quickly went viral. Soon after, the state GOP accused Sims, a three-term incumbent, of harassment. Other prominent conservatives also questioned his conduct.
The basic report offered by the Associated Press opens with the “Republicans pounce” angle, but then — right up top — adds some solid information about the contents of the video. This focuses on a different Sims video.
Eventually, AP editors tossed in one of the oldest rosary cliches in the book.
PHILADELPHIA — A Democratic Pennsylvania state lawmaker is drawing criticism for recording himself berating a woman demonstrator at length outside an abortion clinic in Philadelphia, calling her an "old white lady" and her protest "grotesque."
State Rep. Brian Sims posted an eight-minute-plus video on social media that showed him peppering the woman with questions and criticism.
"Shame on you. What you're doing here is disgusting. This is wrong. You have no business being out here," he told the unidentified woman.
The video was apparently shot several days ago at a Planned Parenthood health center in his district.
As she studiously ignored him, Sims told viewers the woman had been confronting the people who were walking into the clinic. The woman said little in response as Sims attacked her protest as "racist" and "shameful." At one point she took a rosary from her bag and clutched it.
That’s right: She “clutched” that rosary.
Interesting, to me it looked like this woman was quietly walking in circles praying, while attempting to ignore the fired-up congressman. Also, did I miss a video that showed her confronting Planned Parenthood patients or staff? But here is the big issue: This report missed the effort by Sims to “dox” the teens.
I’m old enough to remember when the entire national media was seized up with outrage over what a group of Catholic high school boys allegedly did to harass a Native American protester. (They were, of course, falsely accused.) But here we have a gay Democratic pro-choicer bullying an older woman silently praying the rosary outside an abortion clinic, and doxxing teenage girls.
Where is the national media on this story?
Meanwhile, this unimportant story has rolled on — in part because Planned Parenthood gently dissed Sims for his actions. See this item at The Hill, with the headline, “Planned Parenthood: 'We do not condone' state lawmaker approaching anti-abortion protesters.”
Planned Parenthood said … it does not condone a Pennsylvania state lawmaker confronting anti-abortion protesters outside its facility.
The organization's comments come after state Rep. Brian Sims (D) faced backlash this week for posting videos of himself rebuking protesters outside of the Planned Parenthood of Southeastern Pennsylvania in his Philadelphia district.
Dayle Steinberg, president and CEO of Planned Parenthood Southeastern Pennsylvania, said in a statement to The Hill that the organization has a “strict non-engagement policy” with protesters.
Odds are, the reactions of Planned Parenthood leaders may have helped inspire the following follow-up video from Sims.
So what’s the next angle for journalists to investigate, if this story is going to be taken seriously?
Well, here’s some charges from the cultural right that appear to be based on public documents. It would help, of course, if mainstream journalists could verify whether this damning information is solid or not. This is a topic worthy of coverage — period.
However, in terms of potential news value, it may be significant that this post was circulated by a major Hollywood star, actress Patricia Heaton — the honorary chairwoman of the national organization Feminists for Life.