Margaret Carlson’s Ignorant Statement on Mad Cow Disease

Happened to be flipping through channels this Saturday to see Margaret Carlson display her complete ignorance about Mad Cow disease on CNN’s The Capitol Gang talking about Mad Cow Disease. From the transcript (emphasis added),

But the United States has a lot of information that Britain didn’t have when they had their outbreak of mad cow disease and the government kept saying, Don’t worry about it, and thousands of people contracted the disease. And while the system of branding and numbers and all that isn’t what it should be, it’s a lot better than it used to be, better than it is in Britain. And the testing is so much better. So it might be contained, and then there’ll be very little political fallout.

In fact, from 1996 through 2001, there were only 111 “probable cases” of vCJD — the human form of Mad Cow disease — in Great Britain. The total number of people who will eventually die from vCJD in the United Kingdom is likely to be somewhere between 200-400.

The “thousands of people contracted the disease” claim is sheer nonsense — i.e. vintage Margaret Carlson.

Update: One minor thing I want to point out — it is conceivable that thousands of people were exposed to Mad Cow diesase but will never contract a life-threatening case of the disease. Why? Because a leading hypothesis is that in most people the incubation period for the disease is several times longer than human life span. So there are people alive today who might die from vCJD if they live to be 250 but otherwise will never even know they have been exposed to the disease. But that is quite a bit different from Carlson’s claim that thousands of Britons “contracted” the disease.


CJD deaths ‘may have peaked’. The BBC, November 23, 2001.

CNN Plants Questions at Debate

Although I am still not much of a fan of Fox News, one of the things that is admirable about the network is its spontaneity. On CNN or MSNBC, frankly you pretty much know what the talking head is going to say next. This is in marked contrast to Fox News which, at least to me, seems far more free wheeling.

Apparently CNN takes it scripted appearance very seriously, going so far as to plant questions in a presidential candidate debate (and make an apparently smart young woman look like an airhead),

Alexandra Trustman said yesterday that a CNN producer called her on the morning of the Boston forum and suggested she ask about the Democratic presidential candidates’ computer preferences. Puzzled by the request, she writes in Brown University’s Daily Herald, she drafted a more complicated question about how the candidates would use technology.

But in Boston, Trustman said, she was handed a notecard with the digital-age equivalent of the boxers-or-briefs choice put to Bill Clinton. She wrote that she told the producer “I didn’t see the question’s relevance,” but that he rejected her proposed query “because it wasn’t light-hearted enough and they wanted to modulate the event with various types of questions.”


‘Light’ Not Quite Right for This Forum. Howard Kurtz, Washington Post, November 11, 2003.

CNN vs. Fox on Breaking News Coverage

Henry Hanks links to this story noting that CNN beat Fox for a change during the coverage of the Space Shuttle Columbia disaster.

The weird part is that the story itself dwells on the location of the anchors. For people who haven’t heard this extreme inside baseball story, CNN anchor Aaron Brown was at a golf tournament and couldn’t make it back to CNN until late in the evening. Tom Brokaw and other anchors managed to drop what they were doing to make it on the airwaves.

This might come as a shock to media analysts, but people watch the news, well … to watch news, and on CNN kicked Fox’s butt when it came to shuttle coverage.

I flipped back and forth between the two for awhile, but it was no contest — Fox was about 20 to 30 minutes behind CNN. Fox’s anchors and reporters were offering uninformed speculation on matters that CNN had already provided uptodate information on. CNN was airing the infamous contrail footage while Fox anchors were still on the air describing second hand reports of the apparent breakup of the shuttle. In fact I found myself thinking, “Aren’t they monitoring CNN?”

Frankly, I’ve never been impressed by Fox’s abilities at covering news events as they happen. They’re much more interesting for their political commentary and analysis after all the facts have been settled, but they really need to improve their ability to handle breaking news.

Ah, the Advantages of Objective Media

Over the past few weeks it seemed like Roger Ailes memo to George W. Bush was getting as much attention on CNN as the DC sniper’s tarot card did. As far as I’m concerned, all broadcast news is nothing but entertainment and should be treated as such, but CNN set out a clear standard of objectivity in its relentless reporting and criticism of Ailes’ memo.

So how come I wake up this morning and see this running across their news ticker,

Woman who wrote riot-inciting Miss World story resigns

So even CNN thinks the Nigerian riots were all the fault of some uppity woman reporter who didn’t know her place. Presumably we will soon see headlines like, “Woman dressed in high skirt and low-cut top gets raped.”

Maybe if they’d grow a spine down in Atlanta, they might be able to stop the ass kicking they’re receiving from Fox.

Did CNN Use 10-Year Old Footage of Palestinians Celebrating? No

Among other rumors that spread like wildfire on the Internet after the 9/11 attacks was that CNN’s footage of Palestinians in East Jerusalem celebrating the attacks was actually 10-year old footage of an unrelated event.

The footage actually came from Reuters, and CNN has a brief statement debunking the claim that the footage was not genuine which tracks the origins of the rumor to an e-mail post made by a student in Brazil.

Meanwhile, there’s been only limited coverage of the fact that after the initial broadcast of Reuters’ footage of the Palestinian celebration was aired, that other camera crews received thinly veiled threats that the Palestinian Authority would not be able to guarantee their safety if the footage ever made it onto American telvision news stations, which is why CNN kept showing the same footage over and over again, though there were in fact a number of similar celebrations in areas controlled by the Palestinian Authority.

CNN Uses Florida Math in Reporting on Michigan Case

CNN correspondent Ed Garston wrote a story about the contest for township supervisor in the Michigan township of Fire Lake that simply doesn’t add up. According to Garston, “Two candidates for the office, incumbent Dave Stremlow and challenger Toni Larson, were tied at 600 votes each,” but then near the end of the story Garston reports that, “There are 1,038 registered voters in this town about 30 miles southeast of the northern Michigan resort of Traverse City.”

Huh? I’m not quite sure how 1,038 voters could cause a 600-600 tie unless there are multiple township supervisor seats, which doesn’t seem to be the case from the context of story.