6 Things You Need To Know About the Komen Foundation/Planned Parenthood Controversy (Updated: Komen Reverses Decision)
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(Updated 2/3/2012 11:40 am)
By now, unless you're living on Mars, your newspaper reports, radio waves, Facebook and Twitter streams are being swamped with stories, images and chattering about the shocking decision of Susan G. Komen for the Cure, the nation's most ubiquitous breast cancer awareness foundation, to essentially sever financial ties with Planned Parenthood.
Within a few short days, Komen's "choice" went from being a heavy blow against women's health to a heavy blow against them--and victory for Planned Parenthood supporters. On Friday morning, February 3rd, Komen issued a (weak) apology and agreed to keep funding to Planned Parenthood--although pro-choicers remained dubious that full funding would be restored without pressure. But it was too late for their brand; once people started investigating Komen, its non-partisan, mainstream image was tarnished by some unpleasant revelations.
The initial, disheartening move to end funding, ostensibly due to the latter's being "under investigation" (a bogus congressional investigation spurred by the right wing) was clearly politically motivated, despite weak denials from Komen officials. It's unleashed a hail of criticism and controversy that seems as large, if not even larger, than when Planned Parenthood was under threat of being defunded by the federal government. Whether Americans were suspicious of Komen to begin with or just fed up with the politicization of women's health, this feels like the last straw.
The reality is that between the backlash and the uncomfortable facts that have been bubbling to the surface about Komen's way of conducting business, the story has shifted from the war on Planned Parenthood to the campaign against the truth being waged by "Big Pink." Here are the key facts and context you need to know about this story, which tore through the news cycle for several days, the most decisive pro-choice victory in a while.
1. Although it started off as a blow, this ended up as a PR disaster for Komen--and a win for Planned Parenthood.
When the decision was announced over the Planned Parenthood email list (it had initially been broken a short while earlier), it felt like a crippling blow to women's healthcare--and in some ways it still is. But the big story is actually how furious many Komen supporters are, how many have taken to the Internet, to petitions, and more to declare the end of their support and donations to Komen.
This is a big change, considering the fact that Komen was a beloved, celebrity-endorsed brand -- and Planned Parenthood was increasingly under attack. But something shifted after this announcement: immediate analyses from social media in fact show that the number of angry comments against Komen and in favor Planned Parenthood vastly outnumbered the comments that applauded the decision -- even as Komen began to frantically erase them on its Facebook page.
Marketing expert Kivi Leroux Miller calls Komen's actions a "communications debacle unfolding before us," writing, "At one point last night, I did a quick count and found the ratio of anti-Komen decisions to pro-Komen decisions to be about 80 to 1 on Twitter." Miller has a blow-by-blow post on how the news broke and essentially how the Komen foundation utterly failed at every step to anticipate and properly deal with the outrage.
Meanwhile, Planned Parenthood, in a few short days, nearly raised the entire amount of money lost from Komen -- $650,000 has been pledged as of February 1. On Thursday, NYC Mayor Michael Bloomberg announced a $250,000 donation, and Facebook has been flooded by loyal supporters posting, "I still stand with Planned Parenthood" graphics on their pages.
This video of Susan G. Komen CEO Nancy Brinker with Andrea Mitchell shows how poorly this has been thought through. She's hedging, speaking in jargon, and denying any political motivation to the decision. It's a disaster of an interview: