A new poll last week revealed disturbing trends about the increasingly dire media coverage of the Ebola story in the United States. Measuring the rising anxiety among news consumers, a Rutgers-Eagleton poll of New Jersey residents found that 69 percent are at least somewhat concerned about the deadly disease spreading in the U.S.
The truly strange finding was that people who said they were following the story most closely were the ones with the most inaccurate information about Ebola. The more information they consumed about the dangerous disease, the less they knew about it. How is that even possible?
Poll director David Redlawsk cast an eye of blame on the news media. "The tone of the coverage seems to be increasing fear while not improving understanding," Redlawsk told a reporter. "You just have to turn on the TV to see the hysteria of the "talking heads" media. It's really wall to wall. The crawls at the bottom of the screen are really about fear. And in all the fear and all the talking, there's not a lot of information."
While the Rutgers-Eagleton poll was a statewide survey, not a national one, it's reasonable to assume that the Ebola information phenomena documented in New Jersey is happening elsewhere, as a series of nationwide polls have highlighted just how little Americans understand about the rare virus.
"Reporters can be part of the problem or part of the solution," Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings announced at press conference on October 2, as the city began to deal with its local health crisis following the disclosure that an Ebola victim was being treated in a city hospital.
Two weeks later, what's the verdict?
CNN Tonight turned to ophthalmologist and fiction writer Dr. Robin Cook to hype unsubstantiated fears about the transmission of the Ebola Virus and the CDC's grasp on the situation.
Presenting Cook as "The Man Who Wrote The Book On Ebola," host Don Lemon called Cook's 1987 fiction thriller Outbreak, which details an Ebola outbreak in the U.S.," prophetic." Lemon allowed Cook to speculate that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) cannot adequately protect Americans from Ebola, and that despite the CDC's assertions to the contrary, the virus may live in the air or mutate into a form that can spread as an aerosol.
Cook's theories on the transmission of Ebola are out of step with nearly every expert from international health agencies and the CDC. As Vox reported, "basically every health agency in the world agrees" that Ebola cannot be transmitted through the air. The CDC definitively says: "Ebola is not spread through the air or by water, or in general, by food."
Medical experts further agree that it's highly unlikely Ebola could mutate into a form that alters its mode of transmission. That type of mutation would be unprecedented according to Columbia University virologist Vincent Racaniello, who wrote: "We have been studying viruses for over 100 years, and we've never seen a human virus change the way it is transmitted," and that "There is no reason to believe that Ebola virus is any different from any of the viruses that infect humans and have not changed the way that they are spread."
CNN host Chris Cuomo argued that professor of religion and author Reza Aslan's heated arguments against anti-Muslim bigotry on CNN recently demonstrated "what people are fearful of when they think of" Islam.
On September 29, Aslan was a guest on CNN Tonight, where hosts Alisyn Camerota and Don Lemon discussed what they called the "primitive treatment in Muslim countries of women and other minorities" while on-air graphics asked, "Does Islam promote violence?" Aslan responded saying he felt CNN was over-generalizing, arguing "you're talking about a religion about 1.5 billion people and certainly it becomes easy to just simply paint them all with a single brush":
ASLAN: You know, this is the problem, is that these conversations that we're having aren't really being had in any kind of legitimate way. We're not talking about women in the Muslim world, we're using two or three examples to justify a generalization. That's actually the definition of bigotry.
On a follow-up segment on the October 2 edition of CNN Tonight, which noted that the network had taken criticism& for the original interview, Camerota and Lemon acknowledged Aslan's argument but defended the premise of their original segment, saying it was important to "ask the question." CNN host Chris Cuomo agreed. He argued that while the hosts shouldn't generalize, and should distinguish the practice of the religion from the practice of individual nations, Aslan's "tone was angry," so he "wound up kind of demonstrating what people are fearful about when they think of the faith, which is the hostility of it":
CUOMO: Also, his tone was angry. He wound up kind of demonstrating what people are fearful about when they think of the faith in the first place, which is the hostility of it. Look, here's what you guys were exposing yourself to. This is the state of play in journalism today. The Muslim world is responsible for a really big part of religious extremism right now. And they are unusually violent. They're unusually barbaric in the places where it is happening. And it's happening there more there than it is in other places. Do you therefore want to generalize? Of course not. But you do want to call a situation what it is. It's not a coincidence that ISIS begins with an I. I mean, that's what's going on in that part of the world. Doesn't mean other faiths can't be violent and other cultures can't be violent, but you shouldn't be afraid of the question.
Watch the original CNN Tonight interview with Aslan here:
From the September 29 edition of CNN's CNN Tonight:
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CNN gave a platform to "toxic and divisive" Marc Morano to dismiss global warming on its new program, The 11th Hour. But the network did not disclose that Morano, who has no scientific expertise, is paid by fossil fuel companies to cast doubt on the scientific consensus on climate change, as he did on CNN.
On December 10, The 11th Hour host Don Lemon tweeted a preview of the show: "Is #climatechange real? We discuss tonight on @The11thHour on #CNN." Such a "debate" over verifiable facts is often counter-productive, but if CNN is going to air it, the network needs to at least disclose if any of its guests have a financial incentive to deny the facts on climate change.
The CNN segment featured Marc Morano, who currently runs a climate skeptic website paid for by a fossil fuel-funded lobbying group, alongside the Sierra Club's Michael Brune and Earth Echo International's Philippe Cousteau. However, Morano commandeered the majority of the segment -- at one point Lemon joked to Cousteau, "Philippe, you've got to be aggressive if you want to get in on these guys because they're really fired up about this." Morano, who previously made a living by feeding misleading talking points on global warming to Rush Limbaugh and Senator James Inhofe, used his CNN airtime to claim that the "most pro-child thing you can do" in poverty-stricken areas is to build coal plants -- despite the fact that many countries are struggling with fatal levels of air pollution from those plants. After Morano rattled off his usual talking points, dismissing any trend of increasing extreme weather events, Lemon said, "We get your point. You don't think [climate change] is real." Morano responded, "Scientific journals don't think it's real."
To which scientific journals might Morano have been referring? Currently, 97 percent of all papers that take a stance on climate change have found that human activities contribute to global warming.
From the April 21 edition of CNN's CNN Newsroom:
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From the 10 pm ET hour of the August 15 edition of CNN Newsroom:
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This morning, CNN's Don Lemon ran a report by correspondent Allan Chernoff on the expiration of the Bush tax cuts and how, by not extending them, President Obama would supposedly be violating a campaign promise not to raise taxes on the middle class. Lemon and the subsequent report glazed over the fact that Obama and the Democratic leadership in Congress have advocated for an extension of the Bush tax cuts to families who make less than $250,000 a year.
Lemon introduced the report by claiming that "a campaign promise by President Obama could get a big test soon" because "President Obama promised if you earn less than $250,000 a year, you won't see a tax hike," but "middle class families face one of the largest tax increases in American history" because the Bush tax cuts are scheduled to expire at the end of the year.
Chertoff's entire segment is premised on the likelihood of taxes on middle class families are increasing. Chernoff warns viewers, "brace yourself, there's a very good chance your family also may soon face the same tough choices to find extra money to pay Uncle Sam" because "tax rates are scheduled to rise once the year ends." He also interviews an accountant who "figures he'll soon need an extra $350 a month to pay more federal taxes."
Much of the segment features the caption "Middle class faces big tax increase; Bush-era tax cuts set to expire."
Chertoff later adds that "President Obama pledged to let taxes rise only on families making over $250,000 per year, but as things stand right now, tens of millions of Americans are about to get whacked by new higher tax rates." He also says that "in planning to let taxes rise, President Obama hopes to chop the budget deficit."
After more than three minutes of fearmongering by Chertoff and Lemon, Shawn Tully of Fortune magazine finally undermines the entire story, pointing out that Obama has said that he supports retaining the tax cuts for the middle class.
Indeed, President Obama's FY 2011 budget proposal includes a provision stating that "tax cuts that affect families earning more than $250,000 a year" would be allowed to expire, but that such an expiration would "have no effect on the 98% of all household who make less than $250,000." Both Majority Leader Harry Reid and Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi support, and plan to bring legislation to the floor to extend, the Bush tax cuts for middle-class families.
Despite passage of health care reform bills in House and Senate committees and the endorsement by major medical organizations of congressional Democrats' reform efforts, numerous television pundits have suggested that President Obama's health care plan is in serious jeopardy.
A Media Matters analysis found that since the day after President Obama's inauguration, broadcast and cable news figures have been stating that Obama's "honeymoon" is "over" or questioning whether it is, rendering the cliché all but meaningless. During this period, media figures have suggested Obama's "honeymoon" is "over" with respect to "some ... die-hard Republicans," the media, African-Americans, Cuban President Fidel Castro, "Republican critics of his economic recovery plan," and economists.
CNN anchor Don Lemon teased Drew Griffin's report about Sen. Barack Obama's 1996 run for the Illinois state Senate by asserting, "[I]f his very first political campaign is any indication, the Illinois senator isn't opposed to getting a little dirty." But Griffin, whose report detailed the 1996 Obama campaign's successful tactic of challenging the petitions for other candidates to appear on the ballot, failed to note that a Chicago Tribune article he cited had reported that the former Obama opponent he interviewed "now suspects" some of the signatures on his petition were forged.