The firm behind the dossier on President-elect Donald Trump’s ties to Russia, which Trump dismissed as “fake news” and a “complete fabrication,” also defended Planned Parenthood in 2015 against sting videos demonstrating the abortion giant’s attempt to profit from the sale of baby parts.
According to a New York Times exposé, a wealthy Republican donor strongly opposed to Trump hired Fusion GPS, a Washington research firm run by former journalists, to dig into Trump’s past scandals and weaknesses in September 2015. After Trump secured the GOP nomination, the Republican donor backed out, leaving Democrats to continue to fund the effort. Fusion GPS produced the dossier, which Trump has flatly denied (and which has already been disproven, at least in part).
While the Times‘ source remained anonymous, Fusion GPS has a history of attacking conservative causes.
In 2012, the firm aimed its guns on donors to Republican nominee Mitt Romney and socially conservative donors. Idaho businessman Frank VanderSloot was targeted in a smear campaign after it was disclosed he had donated $1 million to a super PAC supporting Romney. President Obama’s campaign website attacked him as a “bitter foe of the gay rights movement” because his wife donated to one of the many anti-gay-marriage campaigns across the country in recent years.
The Wall Street Journal‘s Kimberley Strassel traced these malicious attacks back to Michael Wolf, a former Democrat Senate staffer who had the temerity to call the courthouse in VanderSloot’s hometown of Idaho Falls, seeking his divorce records. Wolf’s employer? Fusion GPS.
The firm, founded in 2010 by former Wall Street Journal reporter Glenn Simpson, did not only attack VanderSloot, however. In 2015, when the Center for Medical Progress (CMP) released sting videos showing Planned Parenthood staffers agreeing to sell aborted babies for profit, Fusion GPS compiled a misleading report inferring the videos to be false.
Planned Parenthood produced a “forensic report” attempting to discredit the videos as manipulations, selectively edited clips that twisted the Planned Parenthood staff out of context. This report came from none other than Fusion GPS.
Perhaps ironically, buried in the depths of Fusion GPS’s Planned Parenthood report is the concession that there was no “widespread evidence of substantive video manipulation.”
Nevertheless, the report earned its weight in gold. Many media outlets bought the insinuations. Politico‘s story: “Report for Planned Parenthood finds sting videos manipulated.” The New York Times went with “Planned Parenthood Videos Were Altered, Analysis Finds.”
Even if Fusion GPS was originally hired by a Republican donor to dig up dirt on Trump, its Democratic links could not be more clear. It is a travesty that the Trump-Russia dossier gained so much credit in the eyes of the intelligence community that it was passed around and leaked to many media outlets. Thankfully, only Mother Jones reported on it early, and BuzzFeed received a great deal of flack for publishing the entire report.
Trump likely spoke too glibly in dismissing CNN’s report as “fake news.” While the dossier itself may be entirely false, the fact that intelligence organizations took it seriously makes it worthy of reporting, if not in its salacious details as BuzzFeed reported.
Trump’s famous battle with the media notwithstanding, it is important to protect the dignity of the press and the meaning of “fake news” as opposed to biased reporting. The dossier itself may qualify as a fabrication, as “fake news.” Reports on such a document, when taken seriously by the intelligence community, may be slanted, but should not be so dismissed.
While the report may have weakened Trump’s incoming administration, and his claims of “fake news” may have weakened the media, let us hope that the organization most hurt in this scandal is Fusion GPS itself. Should the dossier be entirely disproven, this liberal firm with ties to Planned Parenthood should lose all credibility.