October 1, 2010

Inside "Right On The Edge"

Posted: 10:10 AM ET

By Scott Zamost
Senior Investigative Producer

(Programming note: "Right On The Edge" airs Saturday and Sunday at 8 and 11 p.m. ET).

It started with a tip about someone who was going undercover in Planned Parenthood clinics. She was about to release a new video showing what happened during that operation. Her name was Lila Rose, a 22-year-old anti-abortion activist. While she had made multiple appearances on Fox News the last several years, she had never been on CNN.

Around the same time, we learned that 21-year-old Hannah Giles, who posed as a prostitute to take down ACORN, would be speaking at a Tea Party rally in Searchlight, Nevada. Hannah also had never done an interview with CNN.

Two young activists. Both conservative and part of a growing movement that they say had been largely ignored by the mainstream media.

Investigative Correspondent Abbie Boudreau and I talked about the idea of following these young activists around. If we could gain their trust, it would be a fascinating story to follow for a documentary. It would not be easy.

Hannah was our first interview. Or at least we thought. I set it up through Levi Russell, a spokesman for the Tea Party Express. But the night before we were leaving for Nevada, Levi called with bad news. He said Hannah's attorney had cancelled the interview because of a pending lawsuit connected to one of the ACORN workers caught on hidden camera. I tried to explain our idea for the project to the attorney, but he would not change his mind.

However, when we got to Searchlight and met Hannah, she decided to do the interview anyway. Abbie asked her for the names of other young conservative activists. And then our project began.

We ended up following Lila Rose, Jason Mattera, Christian Hartsock and Ryan Sorba. Even though Abbie and I are investigative journalists, we kept telling them this documentary was not an investigation. We simply wanted to document their activism. But their distrust of mainstream media kept returning to nearly every conversation. At varying times, I thought the project was in jeopardy. Finally, I think they accepted that we would portray them fairly. But they were still skeptical.

During an interview outside a Planned Parenthood clinic that Lila and her team were protesting, she and I talked about the mainstream media.
"Some of the mainstream media has ignored our message, but some of it definitely has been covered," Lila told me.
"Would we be considered the mainstream media?" I asked.
"Yeah, you definitely would be," she said. "Well, a little bit fringed on the liberal side."

I assured her, as I had done over the past several months, that we weren’t taking sides. The documentary was to be a glimpse into a world we hadn't seen before - at least not in an in-depth way - and because of that, it was a story worth telling.

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