Whatever You Do, Do Not Tell That Story!

Pam and TimTebow There's a saying in politics that goes, "If your enemy is committing political suicide, get out of the way." The idea is, if you let him reveal who he really is and what he stands for, the populace will see it and be appalled. Last year, during the leadup to Super Bowl XLIV, a media brouhaha played out over a planned Super Bowl ad that showed the abortion politico-industrial machine for what it is.  

It all started when a reporter for the Colorado Springs Independent, a local weekly, got wind of a menacing plan across town. “I’m not kidding about this –” began Rich Tosches in the story dated December 24th, 2009. “During the telecast, mixed in among all the hilarious, watch-my-wife-Susie-blow-beer-our-of-her-nose commercials, there may be a 30-second, anti-abortion ad from our very own Focus on the Family.”

Perish the thought! There “may be” an ad featuring Heisman Trophy winner Tim Tebow and his mother, Pam. Tosches went on to give the essential details about the Tebows' story. Pam and her husband Bob had been missionaries in the Philippines when Pam became ill during pregnancy. Doctors advised her to terminate the pregnancy, but she declined and Tim was born. Tosches had called Focus for confirmation, but media relations director Gary Schneeberger had opted not to comment. That would turn out to be a brilliant decision.

A week later, the Huffington Post picked up the scoop, and cyberspace lit up like a New Year’s Eve fireworks display. “Word on the street is that the intended ad will feature Tebow and his mother telling the story about how she chose to continue her pregnancy despite a doctor’s advice that her life was endangered,” wrote Alex DiBranco in an article titled, “Anti-Choice Tim Tebow Super Bowl Ad Must Go.” An increasingly shrill chorus of women’s groups urged CBS not to air the ad. Gloria Allred, a prominent feminist attorney, threatened to lodge a complaint with the FCC and the FTC if the ad failed to meet her requirements concerning abortion law disclosures.

When it became clear that CBS was maintaining course, Planned Parenthood released an advance counter-ad featuring athletes Sean James and Al Joyner. “There’s a lot of talk leading up to this Super Bowl about an ad,” James warned, and went on to discuss yet again the Tebows’ “difficult medical decision.” The spot concluded with the athletes affirming their celebration of families by trusting women to make their own decisions. NARAL Pro-Choice America also issued a counter ad and created a webpage for Super Bowl viewers to visit during the Tebow ad. “Plan to focus on … something else when the ad airs,” advised president Nancy Keenan.

Focus remained largely silent throughout the drama until mid January, when the organization announced a planned ad centered on the theme of "Celebrate Family, Celebrate Life." Several days later, CBS quoted Schneeberger, musing that he was “a little surprised” at the furor over the story. “The heated nature of what they're describing, well, that’s not the ad I’ve got on my laptop,” he said. “There’s nothing political and controversial about it.”

And he was right.


Schneeberger was speaking in all honesty, but wherever abortion is condoned, “Life” will inevitably be controversial. It only takes a spark to get a fire going, and it only took a hint of a rumor (“There may be an ad …”) to set off an explosion of spring-loaded opposition.

The jump-the-gun reaction is telling. It was a chaotic mix, some of it nearly violent with emotion, and I offer my take on what really drove it all in the current issue of American Life League's Celebrate Life magazine, which you can read by clicking here.

And the amusing irony that can only be seen in hindsight is that it was all those anti-life Choice-meisters who didn't want the Tebows' story told that ended up telling the story. Over and over and over again.

Sometimes silence is golden.