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The Komen Fiasco – a Timeline

February 5, 2012

December 2010:

Ari Fleischer, former press secretary to George W. Bush and long-time friend of Nancy Brinker, CEO of the Susan B. Komen Foundation, personally interviews candidates for the position of Komen’s “Senior Vice President for Communications and External Relations.”  During those interviews, “Fleischer drilled prospective candidates during their interviews on how they would handle the controversy about Komen’s relationship with Planned Parenthood.”  In at least one interview, “Fleischer indicated that he had discussed the Planned Parenthood issue with Komen’s CEO, Nancy Brinker, and that she was at her wits end about how to proceed.”

April 2011:

Karen Handel is appointed to the Komen VP position.  Handel is a former Georgia Secretary of State and a former Republican candidate for Governor of Georgia, having lost a heated runoff election for the Republican nomination by about 2,500 votes.  In endorsing Handel, RedState.com described her as  a “pro-life, pro-entrepreneur Secretary of State.”  Her bio at komen.org states that she is a former member of the staff of Vice President Dan and Marilyn Quayle.  One might argue that Handel’s resumé and life’s work is characterized by dedication to Republican political causes.    During her candidacy for governor, Handel “pledged to eliminate Georgia’s grants for Planned Parenthood to provide breast and cervical cancer screenings.”

February 1, 2012:

Komen informs Planned Parenthood that it will not be eligible for future Komen grants.  “Komen spokeswoman Leslie Aun said the cutoff results from the charity’s newly adopted criteria barring grants to organizations that are under investigation by local, state or federal authorities. According to Komen, this applies to Planned Parenthood because it’s the focus of an inquiry launched by Rep. Cliff Stearns, R-Fla., seeking to determine whether public money was improperly spent on abortions.”

Komen shows no similar reluctance over continuing to accept money from Bank of America as “corporate partner.”  (Isn’t B of A under investigation for something?  Yeah – I think so.)

Nor has Komen indicated any intent to end grants to Penn State (under investigation for its football child abuse scandal).  Or grants to Harvard as a result of investigations there into 1) alleged admissions discrimination against Asian-Americans and 2) alleged mistreatment of primates used in Harvard medical experiments.

The new Komen policy also would deny any funding for cancer research that uses embryonic stem cells. The statement said that Komen will only fund stem cell research “derived without creating a human embryo or destroying a human life.” This is a more restrictive policy than the one instituted by the Bush Administration and later modified by the Obama administration. (The statement has since been “disappeared” from the Komen website.)

February 2, 2012:

Komen changes its story about the motivation for the policy change.  It tells the Washington Post that “First and foremost, it doesn’t really have anything to do with (the investigation).”  The new story:  “We have decided not to fund, whereever possible, pass-through grants. We were giving them money, they were sending women out for mammograms. What we would like to have are clinics where we can directly fund mammograms.”

February 3, 2012:

Komen backs down – sort of.  Koman CEO Nancy Brinker issues a statement that includes the following:

“We have been distressed at the presumption that the changes made to our funding criteria were done for political reasons or to specifically penalize Planned Parenthood. They were not.

“Our original desire was to fulfill our fiduciary duty to our donors by not funding grant applications made by organizations under investigation. We will amend the criteria to make clear that disqualifying investigations must be criminal and conclusive in nature and not political. That is what is right and fair.”

(Is this a tacit admission that the ongoing House investigation of Planned Parenthood headed by Rep. Cliff Stearns (R-FL) is “political”?)

Also on February 3, CEO Brinker appeared on MSNBC’s “Andrea Mitchell Reports,” where she continued to waffle and double-talk about the real intent of their “new” policies.  She said something about doing away with pass-through grants and education grants to Planned Parenthood, although these kinds of grants make up a majority of their funding to other grantees.

Nothing political about any of this, is there?  Shouldn’t everyone just move along?

No, it isn’t going to be that easy for Komen.  They have spent 30 years building a very successful brand, and they destroyed it in a matter of days.  Pro-choice donors (and many participants in their annual and well-publicized “Race For the Cure©”) will never trust Komen again.  If inclined to donate to prevention and cure of breast cancer, they will donate to other charities – perhaps even to Planned Parenthood, where donations are flooding in designated for breast cancer screening.

Meanwhile, at the other end of the spectrum, there are millions of pro-life people who didn’t know last week that Komen sends money to every right-winger’s favorite bogyman, Planned Parenthood.  Today – they know.  And they’re not happy about it.  Nor about Koman’s ridiculous cave-in to the backlash.

And what about corporate sponsors?  Koman used to be the perfect place for a megacorporation to send the money in its feel-good public relations budget.  Who could possibly get anything but warm fuzzies from supporting an organization fighting breast cancer?  But today, Koman is radioactive.  Watch Koman’s corporate sponsorships melt away like a snowman in April.

One interesting point:  in all this furor, where is the aforementioned Karen Handel, Komen’s “Senior Vice President for Communications and External Relations”?   She’s invisible!  In hiding or something.

After this “communications and external relations” fiasco, I expect Ms. Handel to be leaving Komen after a decent interval.  There won’t be a public firing – just a new position where she will be “pursuing other opportunities.”  Of course her moving on will have nothing to do with the Planned Parenthood kerfuffle.  Nothing at all.

I wonder if the Quayles are hiring.

Update – 2/7/2012 10:00 AM

Karen Handel has resigned from her position at Komen.  Her resignation letter is here.

That didn’t take as long as I expected.  I won’t worry about her future employment.  Any number of “pro-life” organizations will be happy to snap her up.  Her past membership in the Log Cabin Republicans shouldn’t be an obstacle at all.


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5 comments

  1. “Watch Koman’s corporate sponsorships melt away like a snowman in April”

    Yep.. they are tanked. These HUGE non profit charities got the message loud and clear.


    • I love your avatar!


  2. More on Karen Handel’s maneuverings inside Komen to get PP defunded:

    http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/02/05/karen-handel-susan-g-komen-decision-defund-planned-parenthood_n_1255948.html

    Also, I neglected to mention that Handel became a Sarah Palin “Mama Grizzly” when she was running for governor in Georgia in 2010. Make of it what you will.

    http://www.weeklystandard.com/blogs/palin-plays-politics-georgia


  3. I’ve made this comment several places on the net. The first thing Planned Parenthood needs to do in 2012 is change its friggin name. Call itself Women’s Health Services or something like that.

    The name Planned Parenthood simply screams BIRTH CONTROL (and secondarily abortion). If they want to be taken seriously as a diversified provider of health services … change the name!


    • Rutherford, you’ve got a good point there. But do you really think that a name change will make PP’s image problem with the far right go away?

      And after all, PP’s primary mission still is… yes, BIRTH CONTROL. Why shouldn’t their name scream BIRTH CONTROL? It only says “abortion” if that’s what you want it to say. And you can’t get an abortion at the vast majority of Planned Parenthood facilities. For that, you might have to get out the Yellow Pages.

      While PP has the woman’s attention for BIRTH CONTROL, there’s no harm in offering her other health services related to her reproductive organs. How about a subtitle for PP’s name – something like “PP and Reproductive Health Services”? (The only problem with that might be that the primary abortion provider in the Tulsa OK market is named “Reproductive Services.” What’s in a name anyway?)



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