CNN's Facts Seem to Evolve

Terry Phillips
April 8, 2004
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Conservative group says network got it wrong in reporting on challenges to the exclusive teaching of Darwinian evolution in schools.

CNN has been accused of distorting a conservative think-tank's position on how children should be taught about the origins of life. At issue is a recent report suggesting there's a national movement under way to fire teachers who refuse to teach alternatives to Darwinian evolution.

A bill introduced in the Missouri Legislature, which initially proposed penalties for teachers who refused to present alternative theories to evolution, formed the basis of the CNN report, which also made reference to eight or nine states considering similar measures.

But Rob Crowther of the Discovery Institute, which proposes Intelligent Design as an alternative to the randomness of Darwin's evolution, said the cable network's assertion is "a pure fabrication."

Besides, he added, "the way we were quoted in the story and the way we were positioned, they implied we were supportive of that legislation, which we were not."

The bill's sponsor, Missouri Rep. Wayne Cooper, confirmed the Discovery Institute's position.

"In fact," he said, "they opposed the legislative approach from the very beginning."

By the time the report hit the air, Cooper had already removed penalties for teachers from the bill - but CNN didn't call him.

"Had they contacted me and asked me about the status of the bill," he said, "they could have got the correct information."

Cooper speculated that CNN may only have checked his bill through Missouri's legislative Web site, which doesn't immediately update changes. As for the charge that other states are planning to fire teachers who won't offer alternatives to Darwin, Cooper said he wasn't aware of any considering such a bill.

CNN, in a written statement, denied any inaccuracies in its report.

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