Pro-life journalist David Daleiden is demanding the Planned Parenthood Federation of America (PPFA) pay him and his organization damages for allegedly defaming both in their responses to his explosive undercover videos.
The complaint highlights statements in which the nation's largest abortion provider accused Daleiden and his Center for Medical Progress of conducting a false smear campaign. Filed in New York's Southern District Thursday, the suit came months after Daleiden started releasing videos of depositions in his civil suit with PPFA, arguing that they verified the troubling content of his footage and claims.
Among them is the claim that PPFA violated federal law by altering abortion procedures in order to sell fetal tissue -- something PPFA has emphatically denied.
“Planned Parenthood admits my videos are true when under oath in federal court, but when speaking to the public, Planned Parenthood lies and calls the videos fake," he said in a press release.
"I have put my life on hold for five years to report, with video evidence, the trafficking of aborted infants that I and others witnessed at the highest levels of Planned Parenthood and the abortion industry. It is time for Planned Parenthood to face the truth.”
The complaint alleges Daleiden suffered reputational damages, personal humiliation and mental anguish and suffering from PPFA's actions. Daleiden's attorneys, which include Trump campaign adviser Harmeet Dhillon, initially told the court they would seek more than $75,000 in damages. That's the amount required for a district court to take on the case, although Daleiden says that the actual amount will be much larger.
In September of 2019, Rewire News published a story in which PPFA Vice President of Communication and Culture Melanie Newman alleged that Daleiden and his co-investigator Sandra Merrit “manufacture[d] a fake smear campaign against Planned Parenthood.” A tweet from November made a similar claim.
In a statement provided to Fox News, Newman called the lawsuit a desperate attempt to get publicity. “These baseless claims are not new. They are just another desperate attempt by a discredited source to get publicity," she said.
"Last fall, a jury — with all of the facts fully presented to it — decided that David Daleiden and the Center for Medical Progress intentionally broke the law in a multi-year, malicious campaign to advance their goals of banning safe, legal abortion in this country, and preventing Planned Parenthood from serving the patients who depend on us. The result: Daleiden was ordered to pay millions of dollars in damages. And, he still faces criminal charges.”
The abortion provider successfully sued Daleiden in a civil trial, alleging that he committed fraud, trespassing and illegal video recording. In 2019, Daleiden was ordered to pay $2 million in damages but was not found guilty of defaming the organization since it didn't claim that in the first place.
Daleiden, who defends his actions as citizen journalism, argues that omitting a defamation charge indicated that Planned Parenthood had no justification for accusing him of lying in his videos. His complaint also points to PPFA's agreement in the suit that his videos of the group's employees contained words "spoken by those persons.”
While PPFA's initial complaint included language accusing Daleiden of "defamatory" acts, defamation was not included in its causes of action.
PPFA has repeatedly claimed it doesn't sell fetal tissue. That claim came under scrutiny earlier this year when unsealed invoices showed PPFA's affiliate charging a tissue procurement company a fee per fetal body part -- culminating in nearly $25,000 over two months of invoices.
In May, Daleiden also released testimony that appeared to confirm his organization's portrayal of PPFA leadership discussing how their practices are tailored to obtain intact fetal tissue -- a clear violation of the law, according to Daleiden. PPFA's Mary Gatter has claimed she alters her "techniques" rather than the "procedure" itself, but critics have effectively argued she's offering a distinction without a difference in relation to federal law.
His latest video from August also raised questions about PPFA's compliance with partial-birth abortion laws.
The original videos themselves have been branded as inaccurate by Fusion GPS, the controversial D.C. firm involved in the notorious "Steele dossier" during the Trump-Russia probe. But last year, an appeals court contradicted Planned Parenthood's narrative, arguing the videos were "not deceptively edited."
Daleiden is pursuing a similar defamation claim in Colorado against one of PPFA's former doctors. He's also the subject of criminal and unprecedented eavesdropping charges brought by then-California Attorney General Kamala Harris. He later sued Harris, who is now a senator and running for vice president, for conspiring to violate his civil rights.