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Erik Wemple
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Posted at 12:25 PM ET, 02/07/2012

Karen Handel, Komen and a ‘political’ position


The apolotical Karen Handel. (John Bazemore - Associated Press)
The news: Karen Handel has resigned from her job as vice president of public policy at the Susan G. Komen foundation.

The statement: Handel issued a resignation memo that addresses the ill-fated decision of the Komen foundation to pull funding from organizations — like Planned Parenthood — that were subject to congressional investigations. Here, Handel tries to distance the original decision from the whole “political” charge:

Neither the decision nor the changes themselves were based on anyone’s political beliefs or ideology. Rather, both were based on Komen’s mission and how to better serve women, as well as a realization of the need to distance Komen from controversy.

The media implications: Handel’s “no-politics-here” protestations bear on critiques of how the media handled last week’s high-profile brawl. First, Ross Douthat and now Howard Kurtz are arguing that the media swallowed Planned Parenthood’s argument that the Komen foundation’s initial cutoff was a “political” move. The argument here is that media outlet after media outlet repeated claims from Komen opponents that the whole thing was “political” without . . . well, here’s how Kurtz explains it:

When you look at the media’s conduct here and you look at the way it was framed, this is what I mean: If the Komen foundation were to continue funding Planned Parenthood, well, that’s not political. But if the foundation were to take money away from Planned Parenthood, well, that’s a blatantly political act.

Here’s the blatantly political act: tying the grantee decisions to the existence of a congressional “investigation.” That linkage, combined with the track record of how such investigations often begin, mean that, despite Handel’s disavowal, the Komen foundation’s very policy was, to borrow her words, “based on . . . political beliefs or ideology.”

A report from the Associated Press adds more heft to the case.

A person with direct knowledge of decision-making at Komen’s headquarters in Dallas said the grant-making criteria were adopted with the deliberate intention of targeting Planned Parenthood. The criteria’s impact on Planned Parenthood and its status as the focus of government investigations were highlighted in a memo distributed to Komen affiliates in December.

So: Characterizing what Komen attempted to do last week as a “political” move seems as fair as fair gets.

By  |  12:25 PM ET, 02/07/2012

Tags:  karen handel, ross douthat, associated press, susan g. komen, planned parenthood

 
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