ATLANTA -- Jon Ossoff and Karen Handel are trading ads about a controversy involving Handel during her days at the Susan B. Komen Foundation. But are their claims true?
Let's start with the claim itself. It comes from Jon Ossoff's campaign in this new ad about Karen Handel:
"Part of a normal exam is screening for breast and cervical cancer. When we catch it early, we save lives. But Karen Handel cut off funding for Planned Parenthood cancer screenings when she was an executive at Susan G. Komen."
The ad is called "Unforgivable." It refers to a very real decision back in late 2011. The Komen Foundation, known for its advocacy against breast cancer, cut off an annual grant to Planned Parenthood. Handel was at the time a Komen senior vice president. The ensuing controversy caused the foundation to reverse its decision. Handel, a few days later, resigned.
Here's Handel's response ad:
"I'm Anne. I'm currently fighting cancer. When I see ads attacking Karen Handel, they make me sick. Karen is one of the strongest advocates for women's health I know."
Now this ad is a plea of emotion. There's not a single fact offered to dispute Ossoff's claim. But we wanted to dig deeper. We checked annual reports from the Komen Foundation and Planned Parenthood. We looked at Handel's own book about the controversy. And we reached out to Handel's campaign, which responded with this statement:
"The Komen Board, not Karen Handel, made the decision. In addition, it is dishonest to say Karen cut funding for Planned Parenthood cancer screenings because Planned Parenthood does not perform mammograms."
So let's tackle those arguments. First, who made the decision? At the time, Komen CEO Nancy Brinker backed up Handel's claim.
"Karen did not have anything to do with this decision. This was decided by the board level and by our mission," Brinker said.
But Handel certainly defends the decision in her book, "Planned Bullyhood". She also writes that as part of (her) job with Komen, "I was tasked with identifying options to disengage from Planned Parenthood."
But was that money for cancer screening? Planned Parenthood has, of course, been a political lightning rod for years for its assistance with abortions. Its offices don't provide mammograms. They do provide referrals to those who need them.
They also annually conduct hundreds of thousands of breast exams and this where it gets tricky. The National Cancer Institute says a breast exam is a method of cancer screening. They also say "it is not known if having an exam decreases the chance of dying from breast cancer".
This is why political ads can be difficult to judge. So often the claims never give the full context. Handel, at the very least, supported the decision and that decision did remove funds for some form of breast cancer education or prevention.
Ossoff's campaign, however, defends the claim, attributing to reports from The Atlantic and the Huffington Post. Both reports cite anonymous sources from within the organization claiming Handel was a driving force behind the decision.
So, did Handel personally cut funds specifically for cancer screening? We will label that claim unclear.
- Handel campaign spokesperson Charlie Harper
- Planned Bullyhood: The Truth Behind the Headlines about the Planned Parenthood Funding Battle with Susan G. Komen for the Cure
- Karen Handel YouTube Channel
- Jon Ossoff YouTube Channel
- Planned Parenthood’s 2014-2015 annual report
- Susan G. Komen Foundation 2010-11 report
- MSNBC interview with Susan G. Komen Foundation CEO Nancy Brinker
- The Atlantic: Top Susan G. Komen official resigned over Planned Parenthood cave-in
- Huffington Post: Karen Handel, Susan G. Komen’s Anti-Abortion VP, Drove Decision To Defund Planned Parenthood
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