Analysis Politics

Ted Cruz: I Would Pardon David Daleiden

Jodi Jacobson

If elected president, Sen. Ted Cruz said in a Wednesday night appearance on The Kelly File, he would have the U.S. Department of Justice open an investigation into Planned Parenthood.

On Wednesday night, in a special edition of Fox News’ The Kelly File, host Megyn Kelly interviewed GOP presidential candidates, including Texas Sen. Ted Cruz.

During a question-and-answer period with the audience, Kelly gave the microphone to Lauren Day, whom Kelly identified as a “big backer of religious freedom.” Day asked Cruz, “If David Daleiden’s case became a federal one, would you pardon him?”

Cruz replied, “Lauren, thank you for asking that question. The answer is yes.”

David Daleiden is an anti-choice activist and the head of the front group Center for Medical Progress (CMP). CMP began publishing videos in July of last year, featuring actors posing as officers of a fake tissue procurement company called BioMax. The videos, widely circulated to the press, show what appear to be conversations with Planned Parenthood representatives about purchasing fetal tissue, the sale of which is against the law. The videos were later found to be highly doctored.

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Despite this fact, anti-choice leaders in the House and Senate and at the state level called for investigations into Planned Parenthood. Not one of these has revealed any illegal behavior on the part of the organization. A grand jury convened in Houston to consider evidence of alleged wrongdoing by Planned Parenthood not only exonerated the reproductive health-care provider, but instead indicted Daleiden and an associate.

As Rewire Senior Legal Analyst Imani Gandy wrote at the time:

Daleiden … and Sandra Merritt, another individual involved in the video sting operation, were both indicted Monday on a felony charge of tampering with a governmental record …. The charge accused Daleiden and Merritt … of making and presenting false California driver’s licenses. Daleiden was additionally charged with a misdemeanor count related to the purchase or sale of human organs.

The grand jury was convened by Harris County District Attorney Devon Anderson, a self-described pro-life attorney. When the grand jury failed to indict Planned Parenthood and instead charged Daleiden and Merritt, the anti-choice movement began attacking Anderson with charges of cronyism and corruption. She spoke out to defend the jury’s decision:

“We were called upon to investigate allegations of criminal conduct by Planned Parenthood Gulf Coast,” Harris County District Attorney Devon Anderson said in a statement. “As I stated at the outset of this investigation, we must go where the evidence leads us. All the evidence uncovered in the course of this investigation was presented to the grand jury. I respect their decision on this difficult case.”

Officials in 11 other states have concluded investigations into claims that Planned Parenthood profited from fetal tissue donation, and each has cleared the organization. In January, Planned Parenthood filed a lawsuit in a California federal court against Daleiden and CMP, calling CMP “a complex criminal enterprise conceived and executed by anti-abortion extremists.”

Despite the failures of multiple lengthy and costly investigations, and the findings of a grand jury, the anti-choice movement has continued to make a martyr out of Daleiden and to claim, as Cruz did this evening, that in fact Planned Parenthood is guilty of wrongdoing.

The entire exchange on The Kelly File appears to have been scripted. Kelly, in handing the microphone to Day, gave this introduction:

And our next question is really interesting. Less than a month ago, a grand jury right here in Houston, Texas, was investigating criminal allegations of misconduct against Planned Parenthood, captured in a series of undercover videos. Instead of indicting Planned Parenthood for anything that was in those videos, they decided to indict two of the pro-life activists who shot the footage. David Daleiden, founder of the Center for Medical Progress, was handed felony charges of tampering with a government record and a misdemeanor account related to purchasing human organs. He wasn’t actually trying to purchase them, but he was acting the part. Lauren Day is a big backer of religious freedom. She just drove two hours so she could stand here and ask this question. Lauren, you have the floor.

Watching the video below, it’s clear that in both tone and content, Kelly has set up the question with an introduction sympathetic to Daleiden and his cause and appearing to imply lingering doubt that Planned Parenthood has done nothing wrong.

In his response, Cruz says:

Listen, as a Texan, as a Houstonian, I was deeply dismayed and disappointed to see the Harris County district attorney bringing criminal charges against someone who went undercover to expose what appears to be vast criminal conduct by Planned Parenthood. I think he performed an incredible public service and I’ll tell you this. I’ve pledged if I’m elected president, on the very first day in office, I intend to instruct the U.S. Department of Justice to open an investigation into Planned Parenthood and to prosecute any and all criminal conduct by that organization.

It appears that for Cruz, the “rule of law” matters when it suits his political agenda. In responding to former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush’s suggestion in 2014 that the United States should consider the conditions under which many undocumented immigrants come to the country, for example, Cruz stated on CNN, “We’re a nation of immigrants, we need to celebrate that, but at the same time, rule of law matters.”

Yet when it comes to recognizing the findings of 11 state investigations and one grand jury, it is clear that Cruz and others in the anti-choice movement rather quickly forgo any notion of the “rule of law,” and instead happily perpetuate slander and falsehoods—no matter how many women lose access to essential health care.

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