Biased KC Star Reporter Strikes Again
Well, my little blog entry of yesterday taking the MO Secretary of State to task for bias for the Orwellian language she is using to describe the proposed ballot initiative to enact a real cloning ban in Missouri made a political blog at the paper, byline Kit Wagar. Here is part of what Wagar wrote:
Curt Mercadante, the group's spokesman, said Carnahan's wording was unfair because it says that the initiative would "repeal the current ban on human cloning or attempted cloning."I have had dealings with Wagar in the past and find him biased and unreasonable in his reportage about this issue, bordering on being an advocate. This would be fine on an opinion page, but I think it is egregious in a beat reporter.
Mercadante said nothing in the proposal would repeal the current ban on trying to create a cloned human baby. Amendment 2, approved last year, made it a felony in Missouri to implant cloned cells into a woman's womb.
"We're not repealing the current ban, we're adding to it,"Mercadante said. "The constitution currently bans some cloning, ours bans all of it. People can argue about whether it affects stem cell research, but to say that it would repeal a ban on human cloning is obviously not what we're doing."
Mercadante's point set off a firestorm among his own supporters, many of whom consider such a statement heresy. Hardcore opponents claim that as soon as a cell is copied in a laboratory dish using the cloning process, a microscopic, cloned human being is created even if the cell is never implanted in a woman's uterus.
That position is summed up in a blog posting by Wesley Smith, a writer who opposes research on early stem cells and contributes frequently to the conservative Weekly Standard. Smith also has testified before the Missouri Senate in support of a ban on cloning research. The post, sent out by abortion opponent Mary Kay Culp of Kansans for Life, blasted Mercandante for straying from the party line.
"Proponents of the initiative don't have their act together," Smith wrote. "...CURT: The current law doesn't ban any cloning. It bans implantation. (Read the above repeatedly until it sinks in.) Language matters! If you are going to speak to the media, know what you are talking about. Otherwise, your cause loses."
In any event, I responded at the KC Star site. Here is what I wrote:
Well, at least Wagar reads Secondhand Smoke.
Kit: Your reporting continues to be biased and scientifically inaccurate. I am not trying to "define terms" to "fit my agenda" but in furtherance of my strong belief that integrity and respect for democracy require that the human cloning and embryonic stem cell debates be based on scientifically accurate lexicon. And it seems to me that the media has a crucial role to play in this regard, and you aren't playing it.
For example, your continued use of the advocacy term "early stem cells" in your stories and this blog entry is not one used in most of the scientific community--except occasionally, primarily in MO--when political operatives and their camp followers in the media are trying to persuade the public to allow human cloning research. The correct term is embryonic stem cells since they come from embryos. Moreover, somatic cell nuclear transfer is not a synonym for embryonic stem cell research. The former, creates a cloned embryo. The latter is one potential use for an embryo, whether created through fertilization or cloning. Also, ESCR has never been illegal in MO, nor was the legislation about which I testified aimed at making it against the law. It was aimed at banning all human cloning. Had it passed, ESCR could have been conducted in MO free of any legal impediment.
Somatic cell nuclear transfer would create--if it is ever done successfully--a cloned human embryo. This is acknowledged in science papers the world over, and in media where cloning is not controversial. Once the new organism comes into being through SCNT, cloning is over. There is no further cloning. After that, the question becomes what to do with the new human organism that has been created. That too, is the science.
Amendment 2's definition of human cloning is junk biology, by claiming that cloning is implantation. But that is wrong scientifically. Indeed, Amendment 2 banned implantation precisely because it could result theoretically in a pregnancy--which requires an embryo. You could implant a skin cell line, if that is all that SCNT creates, until the cows come home and never--not even theoretically--result in a pregnancy.
You also failed to quote the part where I said implantation of a cloned embryo is no more cloning than implanting an IVF embryo is fertilization. Typical.
As I stated, my concern in writing my blog entry was to promote scientific accuracy in advocacy. As an aside, I nudged the good people who want a true cloning ban to make sure they communicate their important message accurately and robustly since it is hard to break through the biased news blockade of the KC Star.
Wesley J. Smith
Labels: Kit Wagar. KC Star Bias