Over at Vox, Sarah Kliff asks the Fiorina campaign to back up Carly’s claim that the Planned Parenthood sting videos show “a fully formed fetus on the table, its heart beating, its legs kicking while someone says we have to keep it alive to harvest its brain.” On the first try, they emailed her a YouTube video that doesn’t show any legs kicking and isn’t one of the sting videos anyway. So Kliff asked again. On the second try, they did send her one of the sting videos, but it also doesn’t show any legs kicking or hearts beating. There’s a former organ harvester on the video who claims to have seen this, but no actual footage to prove it. As Kliff says, “there’s no moment to ‘watch,’ as Fiorina urged debate viewers.”
But here’s an interesting thing. A long time ago I posted my personal guideline for gauging how misleading a statement is. I can’t dig it up at the moment, but it was basically this: How easy is to fix the offending statement? And how badly does this change its meaning? If it’s easy and doesn’t change much, then it’s not really all that misleading.
So let’s try that with Carly. Here it is, with my additions in italics: “I dare Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama to watch these tapes. Watch a former organ harvester describe a fully formed fetus on the table, its heart beating, its legs kicking while someone says we have to keep it alive to harvest its brain.”
I hate to say it, but that’s a pretty easy change, and it doesn’t change the impact of her statement very much. This kinda kills me, but I have to conclude that although Fiorina’s statement is clearly wrong, it’s only mildly misleading. She should have just gone with the more accurate version in the first place. She wouldn’t be in hot water now, and it wouldn’t have weakened her debate statement by more than a smidgen. Unfortunately, not only did she not do this, but she doubled down the next day by assuring George Stephanopoulos that she had seen the “images” she talked about.
Bad move, Carly. You just made a bad situation worse even though there was no need to do it. But I guess that’s no surprise. I gather this is one of your signature MOs.