Pro-Abortion Web Site Runs Hit Piece Attacking Holly O’Donnell, Posting Private Personal Information

National   |   Matthew Balan   |   Aug 21, 2015   |   2:55PM   |   Washington, DC

Radical feminist website RH Reality Check published a hit piece on Thursday against Holly O’Donnell, a whistleblower featured in several of the undercover videos exposing Planned Parenthood’s harvesting of unborn babies’ organs and tissue. Sharona Coutts – a former reporter at ProPublica and the site’s vice president for “investigations and research” – revealed O’Donnell’s alleged sexual preferences, after finding her profile on the OKCupid dating website, as well as posts on other sites.

Coutts’s hatchet job actually sparked a backlash among many liberals on Twitter and other online outlets, who accused the author of “slut shaming” the former StemExpress employee. The pro-abortion website quietly removed the article mere hours after they posted it due to the outcry. However, it is still available on Google’s cache, as of early Friday afternoon.

On Friday, “Another angry woman” blog slammed RH Reality Check for their “misogynistic attack on O’Donnell.” The moderator of the blog attacked the site from the left: “Coutts identified O’Donnell on dating websites through her pictures. This is pretty much the kind of creepy stalkerish behaviour we expect from the anti-choice lobby….Coutts even published the usernames O’Donnell was using on various dating websites, exposing her to online harassment.” The author added that “you claim that you’re exposing hypocrisy, but it is you who are the hypocrites here. You’re sex-shaming a woman.”

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When “Another angry woman” noticed that RH Reality Check took down the article, she responded, “this is not good enough. They need to address the issue and apologise to Ms O’Donnell for their misogynistic, sex-shaming harassment.”

The response on Twitter to Coutts’s hit piece was just as brutal. Australian feminist Jackie McMillian replied to the RH Reality Check vice president’s personal Twitter account: “Your article today on @rhrealitycheck is highly abhorrent journalism. You bring shame upon yourself for writing it.” Amy Dentata Tweeted, “I’m sorry @rhrealitycheck but the only thing your creepy article does is make me feel bad for a pro-lifer. Probably not what you intended.” One Twitter user also pointed out that the article violated “several parts of [your] own code of ethics.”

On Friday morning, RH Reality Check’s editor in chief, Jodi Jacobson, posted a note on Coutts’s article. Jacobson admitted that the “piece, which has now been taken down, was controversial and upset a number of our colleagues and allies. Indeed, there was vociferous internal disagreement even on our staff about the piece.” She continued that she took “full responsibility for what was an ill-considered decision to publish this article.”

However, as conservative Twitter user Jay Caruso pointed out, Jacobson’s “‘apology’…is just a rehash of their original smear but without photos & salacious details.” Caruso has a point, given these paragraphs from the editor in chief’s post:

We believed answers to the question, “Who is Holly O’Donnell,” were germane to the political debate in which she has placed herself front and center, and from which she has never sought to recuse herself in the weeks since the videos including her came out.

That said, our piece clearly crossed a line by providing far too much information about her personal life, which in turn made it seem like we were engaging in the same practice of shaming someone for sex we decry on the right. Targeting O’Donnell’s personal life is, unlike, say, Josh Duggar, unlikely to influence public perceptions of the anti-choice movement as a whole. To target her and open her up to harassment based on her sexual preferences was wrong.

It was also a mistake to include these preferences framed in a similar light as her apparent fascination on public social media accounts with Adolf Hitler, as if all of those behaviors were equal.

Jacobson again took “full responsibility for these mistakes” near the end of the article, but never made an actual apology to O’Donnell. Note: Matthew Balan is a news analyst at Media Research Center. He graduated from the University of Delaware in 2003, and worked for the Heritage Foundation from 2003 until 2006, and for Human Life International in 2006. This post originally appeared at MRC’s NewsBusters web site and is reprinted with permission.