Bogus Story Aired by CNN: TV journalist does report on evolution bill, mischaracterizes what legislation would do
April 7, 2004
CNN is being urged to run a correction after it aired a story about a piece of evolution-related legislation – a story that was full of inaccuracies.
The report, which was aired Sunday during "CNN Sunday Morning," said the state of Missouri is considering legislation reporter Denise Belgrave claimed "would fire teachers who refused to teach alternatives to evolution." The provision she mentioned, however, is no longer a part of the bill.
"Its whole story about legislation to fire teachers was bogus," said Dr. John West, associate director of the Center for Science and Culture at Discovery Institute, in a statement. "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 says CNN interviewed him for the story, but did not mention the Missouri legislation.
In the broadcast story, Belgrave urged viewers: "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."
According to Discovery Institute, 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 Belgrave identified 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.
A bill that would have penalized teachers for not teaching an evolution alternative was introduced in Missouri in January, but the bill was later revised to eliminate the penalty on teachers.
Furthermore, the revised bill is no longer under active consideration by the Missouri Legislature. The bill's sponsor, Rep. Wayne Cooper, confirmed to Discovery Institute 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's contention that nine other states are considering legislation similar to Missouri's is also under question.
"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."
WND and at least one other news outlet attempted unsuccessfully to reach Belgrave. West says she hung up on a journalist from American Family Radio who attempted to talk to her about the story.
Related WND story:
Taxpayers fund site pushing religious Darwinism
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