Republican presidential candidates Donald Trump, Carly Fiorina, and Mike Huckabeee responded to the deadly shooting at a Colorado Planned Parenthood Sunday by reiterating false claims that the organization sells babies’ body parts.
Trump said the attack was “terrible” and that Robert Lewis Dear, who allegedly killed two civilians and one police officer, was a “maniac.” But he didn’t directly comment on the potential political motives of the shooter, who, according to multiple outlets, said “no more baby parts” to law enforcement officials after the shooting.
Instead, he referenced claims that Planned Parenthood sells fetal tissue.
“I will tell you, there is a tremendous group of people that think it’s terrible, the videos that they’ve seen, with some of these people from Planned Parenthood talking about it like you’re selling parts to a car,” Trump said on NBC’s Meet the Press. “Now I know some of the tapes were perhaps not pertinent. I know a couple of people that were running for office or are running for office on the Republican side were commenting on tapes that weren’t appropriate. But there were many tapes that are appropriate… and there are people that are extremely upset about it.”
The claims that Planned Parenthood is selling parts of aborted babies emerged over the summer, when a video of Planned Parenthood’s senior director of medical services was published online by a group that has close ties to an anti-abortion organization. In the video, Planned Parenthood’s Dr. Deborah Nucatola explains — without the knowledge that she’s being filmed — how her organization deals with the donation of fetal tissue for research purposes. Anti-abortion activists and politicians have jumped on the video, saying it proves that Planned Parenthood is selling fetal tissue. But in the video, Nucatola says the organization is involved in “tissue donation.” And in a scene that didn’t make the cut in the published, five-minute video, Nucatola says “Nobody should be ‘selling’ tissue. That’s just not the goal here.”
Fiorina also responded to the shooting Sunday, calling the attack a “tragedy.” But she denied that rhetoric about Planned Parenthood selling babies’ body parts could have contributed to violence towards the organization.
Fox News Sunday host Chris Wallace asked Sunday whether language by Fiorina, who Wallace called “one of the toughest critics… of Planned Parenthood’s alleged harvesting of body parts,” could have incited violence against the organization. Fiorina brushed off the idea and reiterated claims that Planned Parenthood sells baby parts.
“First, it is not alleged,” she said. “Planned Parenthood acknowledged several weeks ago they would no longer take compensation for body parts, which sounds like an admission they were doing so.”
Fiorina has been hugely critical of Planned Parenthood during her campaign, calling for the organization to be defunded and using graphic language to describe abortions. But she reiterated Sunday that she doesn’t think that’s contributed to violence towards Planned Parenthood.
“This is so typical of the left to immediately demonize the messenger, because they don’t agree with the message,” she said. “What I would say to anyone who tries to link this terrible tragedy to anyone who opposes abortion or opposes the sale of body parts is, this is typical left-wing tactics.”
Mike Huckabee also commented on the attack Sunday. On CNN’s State of the Union, Huckabee called the shooting “mass murder” and “absolutely unfathomable.” But, like Fiorina, he also brought up claims that Planned Parenthood is selling body parts.
“I think that’s a little bit disingenuous on the part of Planned Parenthood to blame people, who have a strong philosophical disagreement with the dismembering of human babies and with the selling of body parts, to say that we would like to retaliate by sending some mad man into a clinic to kill people,” he said.
Details are still coming out about the attack and about its alleged shooter, Dear. But Planned Parenthood responded to updates on the political motives of Dear on Saturday.
“We’ve seen an alarming increase in hateful rhetoric and smear campaigns against abortion providers and patients over the last few months,” Vicki Cowart, President and CEO of Planned Parenthood Rocky Mountains, said. “That environment breeds acts of violence. Americans reject the hatred and vitriol that fueled this tragedy. We do not accept this environment as normal. We should not have to live in a world where accessing health care includes safe rooms and bullet proof glass.”