At Wednesday's second Republican debate, Carly Fiorina described a secretly recorded video from an anti-abortion group, part of a series that includes Planned Parenthood executives, as showing "a fully formed fetus on the table, its heart beating, its legs kicking, while someone says, 'We have to keep it alive to harvest its brain.'" She challenged Democratic front-runner Hillary Clinton and President Barack Obama to watch the tapes for themselves.
One problem: No such video exists.
What does exist is a video interview of a former employee of StemExpress, a tissue procurement agency like the fictitious group represented by the anti-abortion activists behind the video. In it, she claims she saw a fetus with a heartbeat, and says her supervisor planned to procure the fetus's brain for medical research. The video also includes unrelated stock footage of a fetus outside the womb that purports to be from an abortion, although the Center for Medical Progress, the group behind the videos, was also caught using, without attribution or permission, a photo from a woman's stillbirth as if it showed an aborted fetus. No one in the videos has even alleged that a fetus was kept alive to harvest a brain, nor is there footage of it.
On Wednesday night, this was pointed out by numerous sources, including The Washington Post's fact checker, who wrote, "No video has surfaced showing the scene Fiorina describes taking place inside a Planned Parenthood facility." Politifact rated the statement "mostly false," and a Vox reporter, Sarah Kliff, who watched all twelve hours of the footage, wrote, "What she says happens in the Planned Parenthood videos simply does not exist." Planned Parenthood sent out a memo, headlined simply, "Carly Fiorina lied."
Fiorina has refused to back away from the claim. "Rest assure, I have seen the images I talked about last night," she told ABC News. "Rest assure, human lives are being harvested."
In a statement provided to NBC News, Fiorina's campaign didn't directly address the fact that the images she described don't exist. "Planned Parenthood wants to keep spending taxpayer dollars and hide the truth about their business," the statement said. "Unfortunately for them, Americans can go watch these videos for themselves and are horrified. Carly dared President Obama and Hillary Clinton to watch them. We hope they will and we hope they will tell us how they can justify sending taxpayer dollars to an organization that traffics in babies' organs."
Planned Parenthood has said it participates in legal fetal tissue donation at a small number of clinics and is only reimbursed for expenses. A House vote to strip the organization of women's health funding unless it stops performing abortions is scheduled for Friday.