Dissecting the dishonesty of Vanity Fair’s Kurt Eichenwald (UPDATED w/ Kurt’s new temper tantrum)

Kurt EichenwaldLast time, we dispatched Vanity Fair writer Kurt Eichenwald’s deranged assertion that to oppose Planned Parenthood is to support death by breast cancer.

That was more than enough to establish that Eichenwald’s word is not to be trusted, but he gave his piece a veneer of credibility by cramming it with a laundry list of  “scientific nonsense and bogus assertions” supposedly committed by Texas pro-life politicians:

What is scary here is not that kind of silliness, but what it shows about a scientific debate devoid of science: the advocates just don’t care. Like a boy trying to justify what he wants to believe, rather than forming belief around demonstrable facts, the Texas legislators and their mostly G.O.P. counterparts around the country aren’t making arguments. They’re just saying things based on a woeful ignorance of the issues involved.

This sort of narrative fodder is like catnip for pro-abortion bloggers, so let’s take some time to see how many “demonstrable facts” Eichenwald really has in his corner.

First, he bashes SB5 sponsor and Texas state GOP Rep. Jodie Laubenberg for saying:

In the emergency room they have what’s called rape kits where a woman can get cleaned out. The woman had five months to make that decision, at this point we are looking at a baby that is very far along in its development.

Eichenwald characterizes this as Laubenberg thinking rape kits “can prevent pregnancy.” Her words were certainly clumsy and confusing. But riddle me this: if she really intended to convey that rape kits abort on the spot, why would she have mentioned a five-month decision window in the same breath?

Laubenberg clarified to PolitiFact that she simply meant that victims are often given morning-after pills roughly around the time a rape kit is administered, which became jumbled due to “trying to get your words out as fast as you can” in the heat of debate. This is a textbook example of making a mountain out of a molehill.

Next, Eichenwald denies that fetuses feel pain at 20 weeks, citing a statement by the American College of Obstetricians & Gynecologists (whom he condemns lawmakers for ignoring), which itself cites an article from the Journal of the American Medical Association.

However, the statement says only that fetal pain is “unlikely” before the third trimester, not “impossible,” and sound ethics demand that humane people err on the side of caution. Pro-lifers didn’t fabricate the 20-week number; credible medical experts attest to it, and they find the aforementioned JAMA article severely wanting. And the ACOG and AMA are hardly the unquestionable idols Eichenwald’s “Kneel Before Science” mantra need them to be – see, for instance, here, here, here, and here for their records of distorting science on behalf of abortion politics.

Outrage Number Three is the following remark by Rep. Michael Burgess, a former OB/GYN:

The fact of the matter is, I argue with the chairman because I thought the date was far too late. We should be setting this at 15 weeks, 16 weeks […] Watch a sonogram of a 15-week baby, and they have movements that are purposeful. They stroke their face. If they’re a male baby, they may have their hand between their legs. If they feel pleasure, why is it so hard to think that they could feel pain?

An odd, distracting example? Sure. But Eichenwald, who lacks the very medical training he chastises Laubenberg and co. for not having, gives no reason to justify calling out Burgess, M.D. on “scientific nonsense.” According to David Graham at The Atlantic, this is something doctors have observed, but not researched in detail.

He next bashes the claims “that the American economic crisis was caused by abortions,” and “that an abortionist distributed ineffective birth control to teenagers so he could make millions of dollars performing the procedure,” which turn out to be…RH Reality Check’s paraphrasing of things allegedly said by witnesses at the Texas House State Affairs Committee hearing. No names, no quotes, nothing we can truly judge the merits of. And we all know how fair the RH crew is with context.

That said, it’s not exactly going out on a limb to say that slaughtering over 50 million people before they get a chance to become workers, buyers, and taxpayers has a price. And anyone who makes his living by killing babies is, by definition, capable of anything.

Then we learn that the admitting privileges requirement is a bad idea because the Texas Hospital Association says so. That would be the same THA whose expert witness, Stacy Wilson, got her facts wrong:

Ms. Wilson falsely argued that hospitals would not grant admitting privileges to doctors who perform elective abortions outside the hospital because the hospital wouldn’t allow elective abortions within the hospital: “If you have a physician that is only practicing in a clinic . . . the hospital is unlikely to give privileges.”

Ms. Wilson is apparently unaware that the reason a doctor would have admitting privileges would be to treat complications of the abortion, including hemorrhage, uterine and bowel perforations, and infections after the abortion. There is no reason to claim that the purpose of those privileges would be to allow performing the abortion itself within the hospital walls.

He also accuses Rep. Cindy Burkett of being unable to even define “admitting privileges” when asked, which is how the Dallas News’s Claire Cardona reports it, albeit again without direct quotes. If true and fairly characterized, this would admittedly be an inexcusable blunder. Then again, it would also be the first one Eichenwald has actually found. One politician’s lack of preparation hardly demonstrates the culture of willful ignorance he’s so desperate to convince you dominates Texas.

So he channels the rest of his rage by returning to Rep. Laubenberg for an extended diatribe. To hear him tell it, she “was not only unable to answer questions, but she seemed unfamiliar with the legislation,” “didn’t comprehend how doctors receive admitting privileges,” and “simply refused to respond” to anything that was too tough for her.

His source?

A “Twitter record,” because “there is no official transcript of what was said.”

Forgive me for opting to retain a bit of skepticism as to whether Laubenberg really acquitted herself that badly.

In the final analysis, Kurt Eichenwald falls well short of the evidence necessary to prove the pro-lifers he scorns “deserve not only our contempt, but the contempt of every decent human being.” In fact, “contemptible” might be a pretty apt description for the lies, exaggerations, half-truths, and omissions he needed to pad this farce with.

UPDATE: For what it’s worth, in response to getting called out for his demagoguery on Twitter, Eichenwald completely lost it (language warning) (all typos preserved from original):

Excuse what will be my furious response, but like MOST F*CKING conservatives, u have NO F*CKING clue about this topic, and as a result are KILLING people from ur smug, ignorant arrogance. Yes, doctors know more that u, u POS. Planned Parenthood does breast exams and is part of a referral netwrok into providers who offer free mammo/surgery/path/chemo. AND THEY CANT FIND THE F*CKING PATIENTS ANYMORE because STUPID, ARROGANT sons of bitches like u who dont care one F*CK about poor women smile and sneer in ur ARROGANCE that u know more than the people IN THE F*CKING BUSINESS OF TREATING THESE WOMEN! this is the problem with modern conservs. U know longer know the difference between what u want to believe and reality. So yes, the medical providers who treat and diagnose breast cancer in women say u are FULL OF SHIT and are the CAUSE of ppl dying, but that is an uncomfortable reality for u, so like most modern consers, u’ll do some google search looking 4 some political BULLSHIT website that will back up your STUPID arrogance, based on bits and pieces of fact and NO reality. Talk to ppl, you arropgant SOB. And if ur religious, pray to God to forgive u for murdering women out of ur own smug ignorance.

For my other followers, I apologize for losing it just now. I have seen more cancer pts in last 3 weeks than I can say, and have watched their bravery & their challenges. And when some smug SOB barfs up BS conserv talking points, which I KNOW are killing ppl, I lose it now.

Vanity Fair professionalism, ladies and gentlemen.

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