Witch hunt continues: Fox goes after Sunstein with false smears

››› ››› ADAM SHAH & JOCELYN FONG

Continuing Fox News' witch hunt against Obama administration nominees and officials whom they have labeled "czars," Glenn Beck falsely claimed that Cass Sunstein, President Obama's nominee to head the White House Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs, has said "you must be an organ donor" and "you should not be able to remove rats from your home if it causes them any pain," and Fox News reporter James Rosen also distorted Sunstein's writings about organ donation and animal rights. In fact, Sunstein advocated for reforms to the organ donation system, but not for mandatory donation, and he did not advocate against rat removal.

Beck falsely claimed Sunstein "believes that everyone must be an organ donor"

From the September 9 edition of Fox News' Glenn Beck:

BECK: Here's what the regulatory czar does, in case you don't know. This is the most powerful man around. He is the most powerful invisible man you'll ever see. He regulates laws -- past, present, and future.

What does he do? What does that mean? It means he can take a law -- he doesn't have to pass anything, he just takes the law -- imagine all of the laws on a big board and they're just nothing but dials and knobs. He just tweaks them.

Now, what does that mean for you? Well, from a man who doesn't believe we should be eating meat, from a man who believes that animals should be provided attorneys in the courts of law, a man who believes that everyone must be an organ donor, a man that believes that you should not be able to remove rats from your home if it causes them any pain.

In fact, Sunstein recommended organ donor policies that would save lives while "preserving freedom"

Sunstein said states should consider either presumed consent or mandated choices. In Nudge: Improving Decisions about Health, Wealth and Happiness, Sunstein and Richard Thaler wrote that in order to save more lives through organ donation, "[w]e think that states should give considerable thought to presumed consent or mandated choice, on the grounds that either approach would be likely to save many lives while also preserving freedom" (Page 180).

Under "presumed consent" policy, citizens "would be presumed to be consenting donors," and could "easily" opt-out. From Nudge:

A policy that can pass libertarian muster by our standards is called presumed consent. Presumed consent preserves freedom of choice, but it is different from explicit consent because it shifts the default rule. Under this policy, all citizens would be presumed to be consenting donors, but they would have the opportunity to register their unwillingness to donate, and they could do so easily. We want to underline the word easily, because the harder it is to register your unwillingness to participate, the less libertarian the policy becomes. (Page 177)

Under a "mandated choice" policy, individuals could be required to make their preference known in order to renew driver's license. From Nudge:

Although presumed consent is an extremely effective way to increase the supply of organs available for transplant, it may not be an easy sell politically. Some will object to the idea of "presuming" anything when it comes to such a sensitive matter. We are not sure that these objections are convincing, but this is surely a domain in which forced choosing, or what is referred to in this domain as mandated choice, has considerable appeal.

Mandated choice could be implemented through a simple addition to the driver's license registration scheme used in many states. With mandated choice, renewal of your driver's license would be accompanied by a requirement that you check a box stating your organ donation preferences. Your application would not be accepted unless you had checked one of the boxes. The options might include "yes, willing to donate" and "no, unwilling to donate." (Page 180)

Rosen misrepresents Sunstein's position on "routine removal" of organs

Rosen selectively quoted Sunstein's comments from Nudge on "routine removal." From the September 9 edition of Special Report:

ROSEN: [T]he professor said it was, quote, "not impossible to defend" the routine removal of organs even from living patients with "certain hopeless conditions" on the basis that the state "own the organs. But Sunstein was willing to settle for "presumed consent," which would force citizens to opt out of organ donation.

In fact, Sunstein said "routine removal" "violates a generally accepted principle" that people "should be able to decide what happens to their bodies

Rosen ignored Sunstein's comment about personal choice in the passage on "routine removal." In Nudge, Sunstein and Thaler did say it is "not impossible to defend the routine removal of organs even from living patients with certain hopeless conditions on the basis that the state owns the organs." However, in the next paragraph, they stated: "Such an approach violates a generally accepted principle, which is that within broad limits, individuals should be able to decide what is to be done with and to their bodies." From Nudge (emphasis added):

The most aggressive approach, which is more than a default rule, is called routine removal. Under this regime, the state owns the rights to body parts of people who are dead or in certain hopeless conditions, and it can remove their organs without asking anyone's permission. Though it may sound grotesque, routine removal is not impossible to defend. In theory, it would save lives, and it would do so without intruding on anyone who has any prospect for life.

Although this approach is not used comprehensively by any state, many states do use the rule for corneas (which can be transplanted to give some blind patients sight). In some states, medical examiners performing autopsies are permitted to remove corneas without asking anyone's permission. Where this rule has been used, the supply of corneal transplants has increased dramatically. In Georgia, routine removal increased the number of corneal transplants from twenty-five in 1978 to more than one thousand in 1984. The widespread practice of routine removal of kidneys would undoubtedly prevent thousands of premature deaths, but many people would object to a law that allows government to take parts of people's bodies when they have not agreed, in advance to the taking. Such an approach violates a generally accepted principle, which is that within broad limits, individuals should be able to decide what is to be done with and to their bodies. (Page 177).

Beck, Rosen distort Sunstein's comments about removing rats

Beck falsely claimed Sunstein said "you should not be able to remove rats from your home if it causes them any pain." From Glenn Beck:

BECK: Now, what does that mean for you? Well, from a man who doesn't believe we should be eating meat, from a man who believes that animals should be provided attorneys in the courts of law, a man who believes that everyone must be an organ donor, a man that believes that you should not be able to remove rats from your home if it causes them any pain.

I mean, I'm fond -- you know, when I was 8 -- of the Michael Jackson song "Ben," I mean, just as much as any 8-year-old kid was. But do you really want a police officer, you know, telling Ben, who's just shown up in your home, "Ben, you have a right to remain silent. If they try to remove you from the home, you have the right to an attorney. And if you can't afford an attorney, Ben, one will be provided for you."

Rosen: "Rats could attack us in the sewers and court systems if all of Cass Sunstein's writings became law." Rosen also referred to Sunstein's writing on rats. From Special Report:

ROSEN: Rats could attack us in the sewer and court systems if all of Cass Sunstein's writings became law. The Harvard Law professor and Obama choice to lead the OMB's Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs argued in 2004 that animals represented by human beings should be able to sue human beings and has even questioned whether humans can legally expel rats from our homes if doing so causes the rat's distress.

In fact, Sunstein weighed animal rights against "strong justification" for "eliminating" rats

Sunstein: "At the very least, people should kill rats in a way that minimizes distress and suffering." In the introduction to a book of essays he co-edited, Sunstein discussed the argument that rats may have a right against being expelled from a house. However, he did not assert that rats do, in fact, have such a right. Indeed, he noted that from a utilitarian perspective, "[i]f human beings are at risk of illness and disease from mosquitoes and rats, they have a strong justification, perhaps even one of self-defense, for eliminating or relocating them." From the introductory chapter to Animal Rights: Current Debates and New Directions, titled "Introduction: What Are Animal Rights?"

WHICH ANIMALS HAVE RIGHTS?

There is an obvious question in the background. We have seen that animals might have rights in a minimal sense or in a much larger sense. But people do not see all animals in the same way. They might agree that human beings should protect the interests of dogs, cats and dolphins; they are unlikely to think the same about ants, mosquitoes, and cockroaches; rats, mice, and squirrels seem to be an intermediate case. It is often objected, to those who believe in animal rights, that their position would lead to truly ludicrous conclusions -- to the (ridiculous?) suggestion that people cannot kill ants or mosquitoes, or rid their houses of rats and cockroaches.

Those who emphasize suffering have a simple answer to this objection: Everything depends on whether and to what extent the animal in question is capable of suffering. If rats are able to suffer, then their interests are relevant to the question of how, and perhaps even whether, they can be expelled from houses. At the very least, people should kill rats in a way that minimizes distress and suffering. These claims should not be taken as radical or extreme; many people already take steps in just this direction. On this view, if ants and mosquitoes have no claim to human concern -- if they can be killed at our whim -- it is because they suffer little or not at all. Here we have some empirical questions about the capacities of creatures of various sorts. And utilitarians should certainly be willing to engage in a degree of balancing. If human beings are at risk of illness and disease from mosquitoes and rats, they have a strong justification, perhaps even one of self-defense, for eliminating or relocating them. (Page 12)

Attacks against Sunstein part of Fox witch hunt for "czars"

Fox has led charge against Obama administration officials they have called "czars." As Media Matters for America has documented, Fox News personalities have been leading the charge against Sunstein, Van Jones, John Holdren, and other Obama administration officials and nominees they have described as "czars" -- often by unearthing and criticizing statements the officials had made in the past rather than critiquing their job performance or credentials for those positions -- with Sean Hannity, for example, declaring that "my job starting tomorrow night is to get rid of every other ['czar']."

Following Van Jones resignation, Beck and Fox Business' Eric Bolling listed Sunstein, others as targets. On his twitter feed, Beck urged followers to "Find everything you can on Cass Sunstein, Mark Lloyd, and Carol Browner." Similarly, Bolling stated: "Van Jones resigns. ... How about J Holdren Science Czar (mass sterilization) and Cass Susstein [sic]."

Transcripts

From the September 9 edition of Fox News' Glenn Beck:

BECK: Here's what the regulatory czar does, in case you don't know. This is the most powerful man around. He is the most powerful invisible man you'll ever see. He regulates laws -- past, present, and future.

What does he do? What does that mean? It means he can take a law -- he doesn't have to pass anything, he just takes the law -- imagine all of the laws on a big board and they're just nothing but dials and knobs. He just tweaks them.

Now, what does that mean for you? Well, from a man who doesn't believe we should be eating meat, from a man who believes that animals should be provided attorneys in the courts of law, a man who believes that everyone must be an organ donor, a man that believes that you should not be able to remove rats from your home if it causes them any pain.

I mean, I'm fond -- you know, when I was 8 -- of the Michael Jackson song "Ben," I mean, just as much as any 8-year-old kid was. But do you really want a police officer, you know, telling Ben, who's just shown up in your home, "Ben, you have a right to remain silent. If they try to remove you from the home, you have the right to an attorney. And if you can't afford an attorney, Ben, one will be provided for you." The world is upside down.

From the September 9 edition of Fox News' Special Report with Bret Baier:

BRET BAIER (host): Just days after the resignation of the president's green jobs czar, the administration's nominee to head the White House Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs has just cleared a major hurdle to move closer to confirmation by the Senate. But as correspondent James Rosen reports, a lengthy trail of theoretical writings and speeches is providing critics with some serious ammo.

[begin video clip]

ROSEN: Rats could attack us in the sewer and court systems if all of Cass Sunstein's writings became law. The Harvard Law professor and Obama choice to lead the OMB's Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs argued in 2004 that animals represented by human beings should be able to sue human beings and has even questioned whether humans can legally expel rats from our homes if doing so causes the rat's distress.

Later Sunstein, who has also urged the abolition of hunting, said he wouldn't use his White House post to advance animal rights. In another book, the professor said it was, quote, "not impossible to defend" the routine removal of organs even from living patients with "certain hopeless conditions" on the basis that the state "own the organs. But Sunstein was willing to settle for "presumed consent," which would force citizens to opt out of organ donation.

[end video clip]

Posted In
Government, Cabinet & Agencies
Network/Outlet
Fox News Channel
Person
Glenn Beck, James Rosen
Show/Publication
Glenn Beck show, Special Report with Bret Baier
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