CNN Defends False Report with Spin and Half-Truths
April 13, 2004
Doesn't anyone at CNN care about accuracy?
Bogus Story Aired by CNN, Worldnetdaily.com
CNN Facts Seem to Evolve, CitizenLink
Transcript of CNN Sunday Morning report on Missouri legislation
On April 6, Discovery Institute pointed out that CNN got its fact wrong when it reported on April 4 that Missouri and other states are considering legislation that would fire teachers who refuse to teach alternatives to evolution. Discovery Institute highlighted two big errors in CNN's report: (1) Contrary to CNN, the teacher penalty proposal is no longer under active consideration in Missouri. The sponsor of the Missouri bill cited by CNN submitted a revised version of his bill in February that dropped the teacher penalty provision altogether. (2) Contrary to CNN, no other state is considering any bill that would penalize teachers for not teaching alternatives to evolution.
Rather than admit its mistake and issue a correction, CNN decided to compound the problem by issuing a press statement on April 7 that defended the errors of its original story with spin and half-truths. According to CNN's press statement, the "claim that CNN's reporting on the debate over teaching evolutionary theory and "intelligent design" in Missouri public schools was "bogus" is, itself, without merit. Legislation was introduced, and later amended, in the Missouri legislature that would have allowed public school teachers to be fired for failing to teach both evolution and intelligent design in the classroom. The provision for firing teachers remains to this date on the bill displayed on Rep. Wayne Cooper's official website, from which CNN obtained its information. The bill has not been withdrawn, according to Rep. Cooper himself."
CNN's statement evades the most relevant fact, namely that the "amended" version of Rep. Cooper's bill does not contain any provision for teacher penalties--contrary to CNN's news report. Because CNN had not contacted Rep. Cooper before it ran its story, CNN's initial error about this fact might have been explained away as sloppy reporting. But the above statement was issued by CNN after being informed by Rep. Cooper on April 6 that the amended bill being considered by the legislature does not contain teacher penalty provision. This isn't just sloppy reporting--it's dishonesty.
CNN further responds that its "report did not say other states were all considering legislation, rather it stated "local school boards like this one are voting on how evolution should or should not be taught in public schools. Nine states are now grappling with the debate through legislation or local school boards, with others like to join the ranks soon."
CNN again evades the real issue, which is CNN's false claim that other states are considering proposals to fire teachers for not teaching alternatives to evolution. According to CNN's own transcript, its anchor stated: "Can a teacher be fired for refusing to teach alternatives to the evolution theory? That might become a reality in some STATES." (emphasis added) Again, reporter Denise Belgrave stated: "Imagine a law that would fire teachers... That's what Missouri's considering, but Missouri ISN'T ALONE." (emphasis added) These two statements clearly make the claim that additional states are considering the same proposal as Missouri. But this claim is absolutely false, and CNN has yet to provide any documentation to prove otherwise.
Misleading use of interview
Discovery Institute also faulted CNN for its misleading use of a clip from Dr. John West of Discovery Institute. Although Dr. West's comments were quoted accurately, their insertion in a story about efforts to fire teachers for not teaching alternatives to evolution was highly misleading. Given the context, viewers may well have assumed that Discovery Institute supported the proposed Missouri legislation, when in fact it has publicly opposed it. Discovery Institute pointed out that CNN did not even raise the subject of theMissouri legislation in its interviews with Dr. West, despite the fact that this turned out to be the major focus of its story. CNN responds to this criticism with still more evasions: “Mr. West was fully aware from his half-hour long telephone conversation with the reporter that CNN's story would focus on this debate. Any claim otherwise is as false as his other charges against this network. CNN has no agenda on this or any other story we report and any suggestion to the contrary is just plain wrong.”
What "debate" was Dr. West supposed to be aware of? Of course he knew that the story would be about the general topic of the controversy over teaching evolution. But he was not asked any questions about the Missouri bill, nor about the topic of whether teachers should be fired for not teaching alternatives to evolution. This is despite the fact that the CNN story focused on these topics.
Doesn’t anyone at CNN cares enough about its reputation to correct the record here?
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