FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE APRIL 6, 2004
SEATTLE, APRIL 6 — CNN is being urged to correct the record after airing a false report about proposed legislation in Missouri it claimed "would fire teachers who refused to teach alternatives to evolution." In fact, the provision cited by CNN is no longer part of the Missouri bill.
"Its whole story about legislation to fire teachers was bogus," says Dr. John West, Associate Director of the Center for Science and Culture at Discovery Institute. "Unfortunately, CNN ran its story without checking the facts first. There is no such legislation currently under consideration in Missouri, let alone any other states as CNN reported."
West was one of the people interviewed by CNN for its report, which was presented during the "CNN Sunday Morning" show on April 4 by reporter Denise Belgrave. No mention of the reporter's real subject was made in the interview at Discovery Institute's office.
Belgrave on air asked viewers to: "Imagine a law that would fire teachers who refused to teach alternatives to evolution theory, alternatives that have not yet been widely accepted by the scientific community. That's what Missouri's considering, but Missouri isn't alone."
Viewers were then shown a map of the United States with nine states highlighted as places where measures similar to Missouri's were being considered. The main alternative to evolution identified by Belgrave was "intelligent design," which proposes that some features of the natural world are best explained by an intelligent cause rather than an undirected process such as natural selection.
Most of the information presented by Belgrave was in fact false. Ms. Belgrave and CNN officials refused to return calls or comment on the report.
A bill that would have penalized teachers for not teaching intelligent design was introduced in Missouri in January, but the bill was later revised to eliminate the penalty on teachers after criticism by Discovery Institute and others.
Not only that, the revised bill is no longer under active consideration by the Missouri legislature. The bill's sponsor, Rep. Wayne Cooper, confirmed on Monday that he plans to let the bill die during the current session without a vote.
According to Rep. Cooper, CNN never contacted him about the current status of his bill.
CNN also got wrong the claim that nine states are considering legislation similar to Missouri's.
"None of the nine states identified by CNN are considering legislation that would punish teachers for failing to teach alternatives to evolution," said West. "Not one."
"This sort of shoddy journalism is inexcusable. CNN manufactured a controversy that doesn't in fact exist. There is no movement in America to fire teachers who won't teach 'alternatives to evolution.' The teachers who are really facing threats to their academic freedom today are those who want to present scientific criticisms of evolutionary theory."
This is the second time in less than a year that CNN has been caught playing fast and loose with the facts on a story about evolution. Last summer, a CNN reporter was caught fabricating testimony before a Texas State Board of Education textbook hearing. Click here to read: CNN Fabricates Texas Textbook Story, July 10, 2003.
Press Contact: Rob Crowther