Missouri Media Exhibits News Bias in Human Cloning Ban Reporting

Bioethics   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Aug 23, 2007   |   9:00AM   |   WASHINGTON, DC

Missouri Media Exhibits News Bias in Human Cloning Ban Reporting Email this article
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by Rodney Albert
August 23, 2007

LifeNews.com Note: Rodney Albert is a blogger based in Hallsville, Missouri.

Missouri’s leading newspapers had some trouble reporting fairly the press conference held yesterday by Cures Without Cloning.

The Springfield News Leader headlined a story by Associated Press writer David Lieb: “Proposal seeks to ban type of cell research.” The St. Louis Post-Dispatch, also using Lieb’s piece bannered the article with “Cell transfer procedure is targeted.” And the Joplin Globe, also parroting the AP article used “New proposal seeks to ban certain embryonic stem-cell research.” Jason Rosenbaum of the Columbia Tribune (or more accurately, his editors) came pretty close to fairness with the headline “Stem cell research opponents launch cloning ban effort.”

But the fairness award on the issue of headlines, goes to Kit Wagar and the Kansas City Star. The article was titled “Cloning opponents seek initiative toward 2008 Missouri ballot.” Just when I thought Missouri reporters didn’t know the word “cloning” existed or that “cloning” is at the heart of the petition filed with the Secretary of State, a liberal newspaper restores my confidence in fairness.

If you remember anything at all in the next 14 months, remember this. This movement is about cloning.

David Lieb didn’t mention anything about the cloning process this petition seeks to ban calling it only “a particular research method.” Wagar and Rosenbaum both give details of this “particular research method” though they omit some significant information like the fact that nearly every objective scientist and credible scientific organization describes somatic cell nuclear transfer (SCNT) as a cloning process.

For instance, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) far from a radical right-wing organization of “anti-abortion” zealots has a glossary page defining terms including somatic cell nuclear transfer. The NIH definition reads:

Somatic cell nuclear transfer (SCNT)—A technique that combines an enucleated egg (nucleus removed) and the nucleus of a somatic cell to make an embryo. SCNT is the scientific term for cloning. SCNT can be used for therapeutic or reproductive purposes, but the initial stage that combines an enucleated egg and a somatic cell nucleus is the same. See also therapeutic cloning and reproductive cloning.

So, despite all the smoke and mirrors with which the good folks over at Stowers, Inc. want to mesmerize Missourians, and despite the complicit participation of Missouri’s media establishment in skewing the issue, it’s pretty simple. SCNT is cloning. Missouri, do you want cloning?

Another issue that disappointed me in reading the press coverage was the tipping of the hat to the Missouri Coalition for Lifesaving Cures (MCLC). I understand the need for a response from “the opposition” that adds balance to the story being reported. But the AP story gave only one quote to Cures Without Cloning chairwoman Dr. Lori Buffa. It was 45 words long. The AP also gave Donn Rubins, chief propagandist of Missouri’s pro-cloning movement a quote. His was 39 words in length, just 6 words fewer than the head of the organization that hosted the press conference.

Kit Wagar was the worst offender on this issue. The first direct quote from Buffa (23 words) was offset by quoting 3 opponents: party-crasher Dan Rice, who just happened to be “on his way” to the library, got 42 words of print media; while the Missouri Coalition for Lifesaving Cures got both its spokeswoman Connie Farrow (34 words) and its chairman Donn Rubins (29 words) quoted. Wagar did give another Buffa quote (27 words) toward the end of the report, bringing the total word count of direct quotations to 50-103. So much for holding a press conference!

The quackiest quote from all the print coverage had to come from Jason Rosenbaum’s piece quoting Connie Farrow, spokeswoman for MCLC, who said: “There’s never been a human life created that didn’t come from a womb.” Wesley Smith blogged on this quote saying “if given on a test, [it] would have caused her to flunk high school biology” and goes on to remind us many humans were created in a lab dish through in vitro fertilization, a truth the propagandists want to forget.

I had to smile at Kit Wagar’s description of Cures Without Cloning as “a fledgling political group.” It reminded me of a dialogue from the 1993 version of the movie Gettysburg between Union Calvary officers Col. William Gamble (played by Buck Taylor) and Gen. John Buford (played by western icon Sam Elliott). The dialogue goes as follows: (spanish speaking readers may want to access the movie clip here).

Buford: That’s infantry, all right.
Gamble: At least a whole brigade.
Buford: Any sign of cavalry?
Gamble: Not a lick, sir.
Buford: That’s strange. Infantry moving alone in enemy country, blind.
Gamble: Very strange, sir. What do you make of that?
Buford: He’s headed this way.
Gamble: Sir?
Buford: Lee’s turned. That’s the main body.
Gamble: You think so? I thought they were going to Harrisburg. Buford: He was. That’s too many troops to be a raiding party. There’s power behind it.

Cures Without Cloning “a fledgling political group”? I think not. There’s power behind it.

No doubt the petition will be slowed by the Secretary of State and others of the political establishment. It was be mischaracterized by Missouri’s media, who are continuously dishonest about cloning. It will be assaulted by the progranda machine of Stowers Inc. But there’s power behind it. In poll after poll, Missourians are opposed to cloning. Soon, the measure will be on the 2008 ballot for Missourians to decide. Do we want legalized cloning?