ABC Promotes Times Pact with Left-Wing Advocacy Group

ABC Promotes Times Pact with Left-Wing Advocacy Group

By Dan Gainor

     Its common for the major TV networks to run news stories that rewrite those that appeared in that days New York Times. Its rarer to see a major news show resort to running press releases for advocacy organizations. Friday, ABCs World News Tonight managed to do both.

     Peter Jennings led the ABC broadcast talking about the importance of full disclosure and how the FDA had recommended that a whole class of painkillers used by millions of people should be kept on the market. He continued: This week, the Center for Science and The Public Interest, which is an advocacy group in Washington, has revealed that nine out of 32 people on the FDA advisory board have some professional financial relationship with the pharmaceutical companies that make the drugs. The report made it clear that those drug approvals wouldnt have happened without the votes of those CSPI criticized.

     Readers of the Media Research Centers TimesWatch already knew that there was something funny about this story even before Jennings said a word. According to Clay Waters of TimesWatch: The Times teams up with a left-wing health advocacy group for Friday's front-page story from Gardiner Harris and Alex Berenson, 10 Voters on Panel Backing Pain Pills Had Industry Ties.

     As TimesWatch explained, the Times had actually asked CSPI for help on the story without telling its readers that CSPI is a left-wing, anti-food industry group. In fact, you had to read another article in the Times to notice that same group has just sued the federal government demanding regulation of salt content in food. The Center for Science in the Public Interest, an advocacy group in Washington that maintains a large database of scientists' industry ties culled from disclosures in medical journals and other public documents, analyzed the panel members' affiliations at the request of The New York Times, explained the Times.

     The CSPI press release is just as bad. After mentioning that it had researched the experts at the request of the Times, CSPI then cited the Times for saying how the vote would have turned out if none of those experts had voted. Two groups working together, citing one another. Then ABC came on the scene and added to the foolishness by citing the CSPI analysis (not the Times), but coming up with its own total nine instead of 10. Nowhere in the ABC story did they explain the difference since both CSPI and the Times used 10.

     ABCs John Mckenzie followed the tracks left by the Times. If those doctors with a conflict of interest had abstained from voting, both drugs would have been banned. Even the Times story was more honest. It pointed out that Several of the panel members flagged with conflicts said most or all of the money went not to themselves but to their universities or institutions. In addition, it quoted Dr. John Farrar, a panel member and neurologist at the University of Pennsylvania. I think F.D.A. would have a hard time finding people who are good at what they do who never spoke to a pharmaceutical company.

     ABC continued the report with words from its own Medical Editor, Tim Johnson and anchor Peter Jennings. Johnson blamed the FDA for violating the spirit of the new and open transparency the new commissioner is talking about. Jennings added that, Some of us think this is a pretty big problem.

     This was the top news on ABC Friday -- more important than the arrest of Saddam Husseins half brother. More important than the health of the pope. Even more important than the first suicide bombing in Israel since a major ceasefire had been declared.

     World News Tonight would have made better use of its time if it had done a story on newspapers in bed with left-wing advocacy groups and the networks that love them.

For more information, here is the original TimesWatch article.