David Zurawik

ABC News shows hidden video of gay 'counseling' at Bachmann clinic

ABC News, which has been making its own news this week with Diane Sawyer's Jaycee Dugard interview, kept the ball rolling Monday night with a report on the Christian counseling clinics run by the husband of GOP candidate Michele Bachmann. She refers to the practice owned by her and husband, Marcus, as the "family business."

Monday night's report by ABC investigative reporter Brian Ross shows the Bachmann family business, which has received $137,000 in Medicaid money, practicing a widely discredited form of Christian "therapy" that promises to turn homosexuals into heterosexuals through prayer. The American Psychological Association has denounced such "therapy" in 2009 as not only ineffective but potentially harmful to patients.


This is not the first report of what's going on at the Bachmann clinics, but this is the first I saw that included videotape of a counseling session. The videotape had been cited in at least one article.

It is a powerful document, and I am glad Bachmann is being investigated this way and that such information is coming to light. Potential viewers need to know such facts about this candidate.


But I also have to express some concern about video shot with a hidden camera by someone not working for and bound by the rules of ABC News being used this way. The video shown here is from the gay advocacy group Truth Wins Out.

Again, I am glad such information about what the Bachamnns are up to in this clinic in Lake Elmo, Minnesota, is being brought to a national audience. I wouldn't publish the video here if I didn't think everyone should see it, especially since tax dollars are going into the Bachmanns' pockets for this discredited ":therapy."

But, as a media critic, I have to question the methods of getting the video on principle -- and of ABC News using it this way. How is this different than James O'Keefe going undercover at the Baltimore Acorn clinics? And what do we know about the editing of this video. Remember the debate about how O'Keefe edited his NPR sting video?

I wish Ross and ABC News would have given the viewer a better sense of the particulars of obtaining this tape -- along with an explanation as to how it was edited and why they believe it should be journalistically trusted. Big questions left unanswered.

Here's the tape. I think it rightfully raises serious questions about Bachmann as a credible mainstream candidate. But I worry about the expanding use of hidden video by the nation's most trusted news organizations.

If you are having trouble viewing the video, here is a link to it ABC.