Xavier Becerra Nomination: Disingenuous Answer on Prosecuting Pro-Life Activists

Xavier Becerra, nominee for Secretary of Health and Human Services, answers questions during his Senate Finance Committee nomination hearing on Capitol Hill, February 24, 2021. (Greg Nash/Pool via Reuters)

In 2017, California attorney general Xavier Becerra — who is now Joe Biden’s pick to run the Department of Health and Human Services — filed felony charges against pro-life activists who had gone undercover to film videos documenting Planned Parenthood’s practice of selling the body parts of aborted babies to biotech companies. 

Becerra faced strong criticism — even from the Left — for his overzealous prosecution. As a National Review editorial noted:

California is a ‘two-party consent’ state for audio recordings, but the progressive L.A. Times editorial board called Becerra’s decision to file criminal charges a ‘disturbing overreach.’ The law had not been similarly enforced against animal-rights activists who recorded undercover videos. One writer at Mother Jones called the Planned Parenthood videos ‘a legitimate investigation, and no level of government should be in the business of chilling it.’

At Becerra’s confirmation hearing on Wednesday, Nebraska GOP senator Ben Sasse asked Becerra about the prosecution of pro-life activists.

“California has privacy laws, and we enforce privacy laws,” Becerra said. “My job is to follow the law.”

Finance Committee chairman Ron Wyden then tried to cut off Sasse, who had used up most of his allotted five minutes questioning Becerra about Becerra’s legal battle against the Little Sisters of the Poor.

Sasse asked a GOP colleague for 45 more seconds, and his colleague agreed. “Sure, 45 seconds and that’s it,” Wyden said.

“In 2014 and 2015, California poultry farms were recorded secretly showing inhumane treatment of animals in California,” Sasse said. “Did you investigate the filmmakers of the poultry farm filmings?”

“In what years?” 

“2014 and 2015.”

“Senator, I was not the attorney general at that time,” Becerra replied.

Wyden then slammed his gavel and said that Sasse’s time had expired.

Becerra smirked, for good reason. 

His answer made no sense: The Planned Parenthood undercover videos were also filmed in 2015 — two years before Becerra took office as attorney general. 

Wyden had actually cut off Sasse about 20 seconds into his additional 45 seconds. That saved Becerra from having to answer an obvious follow-up question about his blatant double standard of prosecuting pro-life activists but not prosecuting animal-rights activists for doing the exact same thing in the same year.

You can watch a video of Wyden bailing out Becerra here.

Previous articleDaily Kos Elections presents our comprehensive guide to the 117th Congress’ members and districts
Next articleUnited Nations — Antony Blinken Announces U.S. Will Seek U.N. Human Rights Council Membership