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ABC Source Denies Contraception Question Was A Plant

The sudden prominence of the issue provoked questions on the right.

Posted on February 14, 2012, at 3:35 p.m. ET

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When George Stephanopolous asked Mitt Romney last month whether he'd support a state ban on contraception, the candidate reacted with incredulity.

Now, the sudden eruption of a partisan battle over contraception and religious freedom this month has prompted some conservatives to claim the question was a set-up from a reporter who still sometimes provokes suspicion for his former career as a Democratic operative.

"In light of the recent religious liberties assault from the White House, it's only natural to question former Clinton White House advisor and 'journalist' George Stephanopoulos' random question on contraception during the GOP debates weeks before the policy was announced," said Ric Grenell, a former Bush administration official who was spokesman for the United States Mission to the United Nations, and who now supports Mitt Romney.

BuzzFeed asked an ABC official about the suggestion that Stephanopolous had a heads-up about a coming Obama Administration rule.

"He definitely didn't know about it in advance," the ABC source said. "He had no idea that was coming."

UPDATE: In fact, ABC's Jake Tapper had pressed Rick Santorum on the question of state birth control regulation in early January, which offers some context for Stephanopolous's question.

A BuzzFeed News investigation, in partnership with the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists, based on thousands of documents the government didn't want you to see.