David Daleiden said he doesn’t take it personally that state law enforcement agents searched his Orange County home earlier this month. But the seizure of equipment and footage he used to produce a controversial series of undercover videos about Planned Parenthood seems to have fired up the now famous anti-abortion activist for a fight.
Greeted like a celebrity by picture-seeking fans, Daleiden, who grew up in Davis, protested Saturday outside an affiliate clinic in midtown Sacramento. It marked his first public appearance in his hometown region since he released the videos last summer that sparked a national outcry over whether Planned Parenthood was selling aborted fetuses.
Daleiden said he has teamed up with a familiar foe of Attorney General Kamala Harris to contest any charges that may be forthcoming from her office.
“We’ve retained Steve Cooley, who actually ran against her in 2010 for attorney general and it was a very, very close, hard-fought race,” he said.
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Harris agreed last summer to investigate claims that Daleiden and his organization, the Irvine-based Center for Medical Progress, violated state law by recording people without their permission and filing paperwork to form a phony company. In the videos, actors posing as representatives from a biotech firm discuss the price and delivery of fetal body parts with officials from Planned Parenthood.
At a congressional hearing last year, Planned Parenthood President Cecile Richards called the claims that her organization was selling fetal tissue for profit “offensive and categorically untrue.” The group has said it only accepted reimbursements for the costs of providing fetal tissue for medical research and that Daleiden’s footage was edited in a misleading manner.
Federal law prohibits selling fetal tissue for profit, but allows organizations to recoup costs for transporting, storing and processing that tissue when it goes toward research purposes.
The search of Daleiden’s home less than three weeks ago was a prominent subject at Saturday’s rather muted rally, part of a national day of protest against Planned Parenthood that drew about 80 attendees to the organization’s B Street Health Center. One protester wore a “Kamala gets blood $$$ from Planned Parenthood” shirt, and Daleiden opened his remarks with a joke that if he rambled on, they should call Harris’ office, which could send “11 DOJ agents to carry me away.”
Daleiden said he was “disappointed,” but not surprised, that agents raided his home rather than the offices of Planned Parenthood and StemExpress, a Placerville-based company that collected fetal material for medical research and was mentioned in his video.
“It’s not personal, it’s professional,” he said. “Her campaign has taken a lot of money from Planned Parenthood. That’s a fact.”
During her two campaigns for attorney general and current run for U.S. Senate, Harris has reported about $22,500 in contributions from employees of and political action committees affiliated with Planned Parenthood, according to public filings.
Representatives for Harris and Planned Parenthood did not respond to requests for comment Saturday.
As the clinic blasted throwback rap hits by the Notorious B.I.G. and Outkast to drown out the rally, Daleiden shared how he relied upon his faith throughout his undercover operation and asked attendees to donate to his legal defense fund. Though happy to be back in Sacramento, he said Saturday’s protest held no special resonance for him, and he declined to discuss his personal life or family, who still live locally.
Daleiden took credit for Planned Parenthood’s decision last October to stop accepting reimbursements for the cost of providing fetal tissue to medical researchers, which he called “a really clear admission of guilt” that the organization was profiting off the sales. But he dismissed any connection to other activists who have taken his work to more extreme ends, like a man who may have referenced the videos after killing three people and injuring nine others during a shooting at a Colorado Planned Parenthood last December.
“He’s a really insane person,” Daleiden said. “The videos carry a very strong and very clear message of nonviolence.”