By Dan Kennedy • The press, politics, technology, culture and other passions

After the shootings, speculation ran ahead of the facts

It’s now becoming clear that Robert Lewis Dear Jr., the suspect in the Planned Parenthood shootings in Colorado Springs, was motivated by opposition to abortion. NBC News, citing “sources,”  was the first to report that Dear used the phrase “no more baby parts,” and both The Washington Post (citing “a law enforcement official”) and The New York Times (“a senior law enforcement official”) say they’ve confirmed it.

This is not surprising, of course. Planned Parenthood has been under siege for months following the release by anti-abortion-rights activists of what Vox properly calls “deceptively edited videos” that make it appear Planned Parenthood is “selling baby parts” for profit. Republican presidential candidate Carly Fiorina’s lies upped the ante.

Still, it’s important for journalists and, frankly, anyone who cares about the facts not to get ahead of the story. Since Friday evening, I’ve been appalled at the number of people who’ve taken to Twitter to condemn the anti-Planned Parenthood campaign on the assumption that the shooter’s motivations were political. It wasn’t until Saturday night that proof began to emerge.

The Colorado Springs tragedy, which claimed the lives of three people, hits several toxic cultural touchstones — abortion rights, gun rights, and irresponsible behavior by politicians (to be clear: Republican politicians) that can put people’s lives in danger. The last thing we need is to leap to conclusions before the facts become known.

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  1. “it’s important for journalists and, frankly, anyone who cares about the facts not to get ahead of the story”
    The problem is – where’s the money in that? It may be important in a moral sense, but nowadays the money is in creating a narrative and grabbing audience. Clio (“The Proclaimer!”) drinks heavily, according to Pierce.

  2. Peter Sullivan

    Dan, I think to be fair, Planned Parenthood has been under siege for YEARS from the religious right wing. To try and casually pin this on the Republican Presidential candidates is in my opinion a partisan cheap shot…..

    • Dan Kennedy

      @Peter: Surely you’ve noticed that the Republican Congress has been calling for a cutoff of funding for Planned Parenthood ever since the videos were released. None has been as irresponsible as Carly Fiorina. I’m not sure why it’s a partisan cheap shot given that we’re talking about Republicans, who overlap heavily with the religious right.

  3. Bill Duncliffe

    Deceptively edited? Try googling Coalfire Systems Planned Parenthood.

  4. Al Quint… but, yes, some people did speculate.

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