Kudos to the Susan G. Komen Foundation, one of the world's leading organizations aimed at fighting breast cancer, for giving aspiring public relations and marketing students a lesson in how to capsize your brand in less than one week. And to Karen Handel, the former Georgia secretary of state and GOP gubernatorial candidate who on Tuesday resigned as the foundation's public policy vice president, who walked out of the wreckage with her national profile enhanced.
In late January, news broke that the foundation would no longer award grants to organizations that were under investigation by government entities. Conveniently enough, that included Planned Parenthood, the reproductive health care provider and advocate that abortion opponents have tried to defund out of existence for years — and which, in late September, became the target of an audit by Congressman Cliff Stearns, R-Fla. The Komen grants in question — which were used to connect women in mostly rural areas with breast cancer screenings, not abortions — had irked abortion opponents for years.
Social media catapulted the story into the national spotlight. Both sides took advantage of the controversy for fundraising. Bloggers noticed Handel's anti-abortion rhetoric during her 2010 gubernatorial campaign. Not to mention her retweet of a message (later deleted) saying Planned Parenthood supporters outraged by the decision should "cry me a freaking river." People started digging.
Sources told the Huffington Post's Laura Bassett that Handel had spent as many as six months amplifying the Komen-Planned Parenthood issue in an effort to convince leadership that the grants had become a political liability. According to her source, "Handel submitted a final version of the new grant criteria to Komen leadership in November, and the board approved it in December." According to the Atlantic's Jeffrey Goldberg, one of Komen's top public-health officials then resigned in protest over the rule change, which, another source claimed, was created to take advantage of Stearns' probe.
"It was apparent to everyone in the organization that Karen was doing everything in her power to defund Planned Parenthood," Bassett's source said. If true, then Komen, which has done commendable work over the years for breast-cancer research, shouldn't be embarrassed it was linked with Planned Parenthood. It should be embarrassed that it got involved with Handel.
(Handel's resignation letter, released on Tuesday, skillfully shifts blame for the policy change to the Komen board while taking credit for pushing the measure forward — and criticizes pundits for seeing politics behind the former politician's actions.)
Maybe Handel hoped to please abortion opponents who, during her gubernatorial campaign, cast doubt on her pro-life credentials. Perhaps she wanted to act on her beliefs and finally rid Komen of any possible Planned Parenthood baggage, despite the fact that the money wasn't going to providing abortions but actually helping to save lives. Regardless, Handel rides out of this arrangement with newfound political cache among pro-lifers. Which is shameful.
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ok this my limit, i will be dragged no deeper.
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