When America’s highest court ruled in favor of Hobby, it inadvertently sent the liberal news media chasing after some way to discredit the corporation in the court of public opinion. Not a few liberal news commentators dug up old news, turning to an article published on the website of Mother Jones on April 1.
Writing for that feminist publication last spring, Molly Redden claimed that “while it is suing the government, Hobby Lobby spent millions of dollars on an employee retirement plan that invested in the manufacturers of the same contraceptive products the firm’s owners cite in their lawsuit.” In other words, the corporation is closely held by hypocrites who benefit from investments in the same companies and products to which they claimed conscientious objections.
It didn’t take long before major news websites, like the Huffington Post and others, started buzzing about that article, effectively boosting its credibility. In the wake of the high court’s ruling last week, the liberal news media rolled that same article out once again, making Redden’s argument the foundation of its smear campaign.
Redden’s claim would be disparaging, if it were true. But, it isn’t. As a matter of fact, it’s mendacious and vapid. As Redden’s article unfolds, it becomes clear that ideological commitments guide her “news gathering and coverage.” Given the editorial stance of Mother Jones, that’s no surprise.
Redden writes in order to indict Hobby Lobby; and, she marshals her evidence toward that end, seeking to expose the company’s hypocrisy. Mother Jones readers don’t like hypocrites, especially if they’re faith-based businesses.
The case to be made? Against its stated beliefs, “the Hobby Lobby 401(k) employee retirement plan held more than $73 million in mutual funds with investments in companies that produce emergency contraceptive pills, intrauterine devices, and drugs commonly used in abortions.” Redden asserts that “Several of the mutual funds in Hobby Lobby’s retirement plan have holdings in companies that manufacture the specific drugs and devices that the Green family, which owns Hobby Lobby, is fighting to keep out of Hobby Lobby’s health care policies.” The substance of the criticism is that Hobby Lobby itself invests in the same medications to which the lawsuit objects: That is, “the emergency contraceptive pills Plan B and Ella, and copper and hormonal intrauterine devices.”
But, that reading of things relies on editorial liberties, not disinterested journalism. It misstates crucial financial facts and blurs important distinctions. Those signs indicate either ignorance about financial undertakings or a radical ideology that has little interest in cold hard facts, not informed and objective reporting.
In actual fact, the Greens aren’t backing the manufacture of abortifacients and contraceptives. Rather, they’re investing in mutual funds for the benefit of their workers. And, those mutual funds’ managers are investing in other businesses and companies. Those investments or securities include some firms that manufacture pharmaceutical products, which include abortifacients and contraceptives, among others. Bottom line: There’s a considerable difference between the facts and how Redden reports them.
But, Redden’s editorializing masquerades as journalism in still other ways.
She claims that “Other holdings in the mutual funds selected by Hobby Lobby include … AstraZeneca, which has an Indian subsidiary that manufactures Prostodin, Cerviprime, and Partocin, three drugs commonly used in abortions.”
Once again, Redden gets the financial facts wrong. Managers of mutual funds, not individual investors, select their mutual funds’ holdings. Regardless, the mutual funds at issue invest in businesses that subsidize other firms, which make substances used in abortion. There’s no direct investment there.
But, notice that the subsidized firm is involved in the manufacture of substances used in abortions. It doesn’t make abortifacients themselves. As a matter of fact, the three “maternal healthcare” substances the firm makes are used in order to induce “labor in pregnant women at term or near term,” according to drugs.com, an on-line storehouse of comprehensive pharmaceutical information. In some cases, those substances are used to induce labor in an abortion. But, the Greens’ investment practices don’t dictate whether the drugs are used that way.
Redden cites one more class of mutual fund investments as evidence of Hobby Lobby’s hypocrisy. She claims the Greens “also invested in Aetna and Humana, two health insurance companies that cover surgical abortions, abortion drugs, and emergency contraception in many of the health care policies they sell.”
Again, she misunderstands the various financial actors’ roles. But, more tellingly, she fails to note the distinction between investing in insurance companies, which might engage in questionable practices, and being forced against one’s conscience to engage in those questionable practices directly–exactly the issue decided by the Supreme Court.
Clearly, Redden has been seized by the editorial commitments of Mother Jones, not the requirements of dispassionate objective journalism. Evidently, she’s not one to let facts get in the way of a good story. If Redden prizes objective journalism, she should retract her original accusation against the Greens and take a refresher course in journalistic ethics. After all, even the US Supreme Court itself stated that the “Greens have a sincere religious belief” and that no one in the briefs or on the court “has disputed the sincerity of their religious beliefs.”