David Daleiden has been trying to destroy Planned Parenthood for nearly his entire life. Yesterday, some thought he succeeded.
Daleiden lists himself as the founder of the California-based Center for Medical Progress (CMP). He is also the man behind the camera in yesterday’s Planned Parenthood sting video, which purportedly showed a Planned Parenthood doctor discussing the sale of fetal body parts until the full video revealed that it was, in fact, a discussion of legal forms of fetal tissue donation.
But Daleiden, who did not respond to comment for this article, is fairly young for his job title.
He is 26 years old, he graduated from Claremont McKenna College a few years ago, and he has been involved with the pro-life movement since he was 15. In that short time, his life has become a veritable who’s who of pro-life extremists and Twitter trolls.
According to a cached version of a now-deleted bio that appeared on the website for Live Action Films—affiliated with a youth-focused anti-abortion organization that was led then, as it is now, by current Live Action president and noted undercover activist Lila Rose—Daleiden was a speech and debate enthusiast who started a pro-life club at his high school.
His bio reveals a fixation on anti-abortion activism that started early in life when he saw graphic images like those found in the Genocide Awareness Project, a display of images of aborted fetuses that has been shown in public spaces, such as college campuses, since the late 1990s.
In the early 2000s, when Daleiden would still have been in middle school, the Genocide Awareness Project was not just displaying these photographs on college campuses—they were also printing them seven feet high, placing them on trucks, and driving them around in public.
“David points to such images as the original impetus for his work in the pro-life movement,” his bio reads.
According to the bio, David went on to participate in the Genocide Awareness project himself and “helped bring pro-life debater Scott Klusendorf to his hometown.” Klusendorf is a Christian pro-life speaker and the founder of the Life Training Institute.
It was in high school, too, that Daleiden met Lila Rose, a pro-life activist who has often used similar undercover video tactics to attack Planned Parenthood, once in conjunction with James O’Keefe, the conservative activist who produced the 2009 ACORN videos, whom she met when she was a freshman at UCLA, according to Newsweek.
But before O’Keefe entered the picture, Daleiden and Rose reportedly met through Junior State of America (JSA), a nonprofit youth leadership organization. According to the bio, Daleiden then became involved with Rose’s organization, Live Action, which she founded in 2004 when she was 15 years old. Rose did not respond to a request for comment for this article.
After Daleiden graduated from high school, he began attending Claremont McKenna College in 2007, where he ran a chapter of Live Action and became the organization’s director of research “during the early stages of the Mona Lisa Project,” the deleted bio says.
The Mona Lisa Project was an undercover video series produced by Live Action in which Rose posed as a 13-year-old girl who had supposedly been impregnated by an adult and spoke with a nurse’s aide at a Bloomington, Indiana, Planned Parenthood clinic. The nurse appeared to coach her on how to get an abortion while avoiding mandatory reporting laws, which would have required the clinic to report statutory rape. The aide was later fired.
It may also be one of the only sting videos Rose made that captured any actual wrongdoing.
Rose has gone on to release several videos inside Planned Parenthood clinics that closely resemble the style of yesterday’s video release from the CMP: heavily-edited and full of misdirection. In 2011, for instance, when Daleiden was still with the organization, Live Action actors went undercover as a pimp and a sex worker asking Planned Parenthood workers about abortion access for underage sex workers. The FBI looked into the video and did not prosecute.
In 2013, Live Action claimed to have video footage of a clinician at a women’s health center admitting that they would kill a baby that survived an abortion procedure but the footage was later found to have been specifically edited to produce this interpretation. However, by the time that fact came to light, conservative outlets had already latched onto the claim—a situation that should be familiar to anyone who watched coverage of the CMC video unfold yesterday.
Before Daleiden produced yesterday’s video, he had lengthy behind-the scenes experience in college working under the direction of Rose at Live Action through 2011.
Daleiden has since removed any mention of Live Action from his CMP bio but one of his author pages for a Live Action website remains online and the media is already reporting on what now seems to be an obvious connection.
Daleiden also made another friend in his college years: then-classmate, Charles C. Johnson, a notorious conservative journalist who was permanently suspended from Twitter for—among many other things—publicly asking for money to “take out” DeRay McKesson, a prominent black activist.
In several posts on The Claremont Conservative, Johnson gushes about Daleiden’s work on campus, referring to him once as a “friend” and a “great example.” In 2008, the two apparently took a weekend trip together to attend a pro-life conference “up in Northern California.” Nearer graduation, Johnson described how he first met Daleiden:
“David, dear readers, was one of the first people I met when I came to campus. We both lived in Stark, we were both night owls, and we both were very broadly speaking conservatives. Over time, he won me over on many—though not all—of his pro-life arguments. And as I celebrate [David’s] victory, I can feel a small part of it.”
A 2009 post from Johnson refers to James O’Keefe, the undercover activist behind the 2009 ACORN videos—which seemed to show community organizers condoning prostitution and tax evasion, until investigators found that the “tape had been edited to meet [an agenda]” and subsequently cleared ACORN—as “a friend of David Daleiden’s.” O’Keefe has been publicly supporting Daleiden’s recent sting on Twitter:
Neither Johnson nor O’Keefe responded to requests for comment about their friendships with Daleiden.
But the event that appears to have truly earned Daleiden a place in Johnson’s heart came in 2009, when Daleiden and another classmate named Kyle Kinneberg traveled to nearby Pomona College to confront and videotape Planned Parenthood of Los Angeles public affairs manager Serena Josel, who was giving a presentation at the school.
In two videos on YouTube uploaded in 2009, Daleiden’s distinctive voice from yesterday’s Planned Parenthood video can be heard hijacking the Q&A session with Josel:
At one point, another student identifies his affiliation with Live Action.
“Ah, now I get it,” Josel says, before telling him she’s no longer interested in talking with him— but Daleiden goes on to suggest that Planned Parenthood has “an institutional tolerance for adult-child sexual relationships.”
Daleiden was briefly banned from Pomona’s campus, supposedly for violating a recording policy, but after pressure from supporters—and from Charles Johnson—the ban was lifted.
Kyle Kinneberg, who accompanied Daleiden to Pomona, told The Daily Beast that the event was a “Women’s Union event” and that the ban was “in place for only a few days.” Kinneberg also said that Daleiden was “already very passionate about pro-life issues when he came to college.”
But passion, for Daleiden, appears to have become something greater.
Since graduating from Claremont McKenna all of his public activities have been related to pro-life activism. He has written one article for The Weekly Standard about “abortion workers [who] have turned pro-life.” His CMP bio also claims that he has also written for The Human Life Review but, according to that publication’s index, his only article there is the same one that appeared in The Weekly Standard.
In addition to writing that single article, Daleiden has supposedly been operating the Center for Medical Progress since 2013, where he has been conducting a “30-month-long investigative journalism study” into an activity that has already been confirmed to be legal.
As part of the sting operation, Daleiden also created a fake limited liability corporation (LLC) called Biomax Procurement Services in California, first filing paperwork in October 2013, so that he could pose as a biotech company interested in acquiring fetal tissue. The Planned Parenthood operation appears to have been years in the making.
In the meantime, there is no indication that Daleiden has another form of employment. He has no public LinkedIn profile and his Facebook profile does not list any work information. His only Facebook post, incidentally, is a collection of three photos of aborted first-trimester fetuses, posted when he was in college (warning: images are graphic).
Daleiden’s family did not immediately respond to a request for comment.