A tale of two journalists - How California selectively prosecutes investigative journalism
Analysis

A tale of two journalists – How California selectively prosecutes investigative journalism

investigative journalism

It’s a familiar story to the pro-life community: a reporter goes undercover in a facility used by the public and secretly tapes illegal acts, then exposes it on video so people can see wrongdoing and justice can be done. But unlike The Center for Medical Progress‘ undercover saga, this time the investigative journalism did not result in charges against the reporter or his organization. He received only applause.

In February 2017, CBS News reporter David Goldstein went undercover with his producer in a Los Angeles chiropractor’s office. Secretly, he taped Dr. Leon Weathersby. The chiropractor was willing to sell Goldstein’s producer a letter certifying her dog as an Emotional Support Animal (ESA). On tape, the doctor tells the producer he does ESA letters for various emotional and physical conditions in which an animal could bring comfort, and he asks her if she has any conditions that would qualify her. She tells him, “I want to take my dog on the plane. Um, when you do that, can you take your dog? I want to take my dog for free on the plane.”

Weatherby says he needs to confirm she has a disorder qualifying her, and then he can write her a letter. He says, “If you’re having stress, depression, anxiety, headaches, neck pain, back pain.” And fishing for a manufactured medical condition is all it took for Weathersby to produce a letter for the woman to fly for free with her dog.

Weathersby was also exposed by Goldstein and his producer a week later for selling handicap placard verification letters — for $250 every six months or $1500 for a lifetime permit. Weathersby told Goldstein’s producer what ailments would qualify her for the signed DMV letter that would allow her that cherished placard to find special parking privileges on Los Angeles’ crowded streets.

Goldstein is a revered journalist in the City of Angels, and many are grateful to him for exposing corruption and injustice that costs the citizens money. The California Attorney General has already closed down a pet rescue operation exposed by Goldstein’s investigation. And he’s not facing charges for his undercover work, despite the fact that California is a two-party consent state when it comes to recording. The Digital Media Law Project explains:

California’s wiretapping law is a “two-party consent” law. California makes it a crime to record or eavesdrop on any confidential communication, including a private conversation or telephone call, without the consent of all parties to the conversation. See Cal. Penal Code § 632. …

If you are recording someone without their knowledge in a public or semi-public place like a street or restaurant, the person whom you’re recording may or may not have “an objectively reasonable expectation that no one is listening in or overhearing the conversation,” and the reasonableness of the expectation would depend on the particular factual circumstances.  Therefore, you cannot necessarily assume that you are in the clear simply because you are in a public place.

And that explanation leads to another David who did secret recordings in the same city with very different results. David Daleiden and Sandra Merritt from The Center for Medical Progress did their secret taping in restaurants and conventions, not Los Angeles medical offices. Recording in such public places does not come with the same reasonable expectation of privacy. Yet Daleiden, Merritt, and CMP have been in a firestorm of accusations and charges since their first undercover video was released in 2015.

They have seen felony charges come from the state of California. CMP became a target for Kamala Harris, the former California Attorney General who then ran for U.S. Senate and won a seat. She investigated Daleiden and Merrit — going so far as to search the head investigative journalist’s home. She flatly refused to conduct an investigation of Planned Parenthood, despite the hours of verified evidence CMP produced and the law-breaking and life-taking by the abortion chain documented on video.

When Harris went to D.C., her replacement, Xavier Becerra, continued the government’s pursuit of the CMP investigators. The group has been met with fines and sanctions, and even a gag order from a federal judge who has been shown to have intimate ties with Planned Parenthood. Daleiden’s attorneys were held in contempt of court for releasing videos Orrick had refused to release to the public or the media.

Over and over, CMP’s critics and political opponents have called the videos a violation of California’s two-party consent law. They have asserted that the videos were deceptive and edited. Yet CBS News and Goldstein have used the same tools, disregarded the same two-party consent law to bring about justice, and yet are being honored for the same work that has landed Daleiden in federal and state court. A 2011 Slate article noted:

There are some exceptions to the two-party consent rules. In California, for example, you can record a conversation without the other person knowing if you believe it will collect evidence of a serious crime.

Investigative journalism is an appropriate and needed exercise of free speech, but California only recognizes this when chiropractors and pet shelters are being exposed — not when it’s the government’s beloved Planned Parenthood.

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If CBS News gets an exception for exposing crimes, how much more should the valid exception apply to crimes the abortion industry continues to perpetrate with taxpayer money? CMP’s videos show what a U.S. Congressional committee believes to be numerous violations of federal laws. Yet, because abortion is big, government-supported business in California — where it’s covered by massive taxpayer funding throughout the state — prosecutors went after the investigators, rather than the criminals. California may think its widespread government support of abortion is secret, but its clear hypocrisy and double standard on investigative journalism lays bare the real motives of the state: support the abortion industry at all costs, no matter what.

This is a tale of two undercover journalists, both doing the right thing to expose injustice. Yet the disparity in their treatment could not be more obvious. This is particularly shameful since real human lives are at stake in Daleiden’s investigation. One of his videos was recorded with a woman who worked at a California Planned Parenthood and revealed the grisly details of an infant she said she saw born alive and killed after his birth. Other recordings from Daleiden and CMP detail the gruesome killings of preborn children and the parceling out of their body parts. Yet the outcomes of the two investigations have been very different. Daleiden could not have been treated more differently than Goldstein was.

While Goldstein continues to be free to expose corruption in the City of Angels, Daleiden is awaiting his next court hearing Thursday morning. It all comes down to who is untouchable in California: Planned Parenthood and the abortion industry, no matter how many lives they take or how many crimes they commit.

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