UPDATED: Erickson Misrepresents Media Matters To Bolster His CDC Conspiracy Theory

Blog ››› ››› JOCELYN FONG

Erick Erickson claims Media Matters has bolstered his allegation that the Obama administration suppressed an annual CDC report on abortion statistics because we posted an email showing that the abortion report was submitted to CDC's scientific publication for review and editing in November. According to Erickson, the fact that the report was not published promptly after it was submitted for review is evidence that CDC "suppress[ed]" the report. That's some pretty strained reasoning. (SEE UPDATE BELOW: Editor of the publication explains why Erickson's claim is false.) Moreover, it's clear that Erickson didn't read our item.

For one thing, he's still claiming that "each year since 1969 the Centers for Disease Control has published its 'Abortion Surveillance System' the week after Thanksgiving," which we showed was simply not true. Either Erickson is deliberately misleading people about this, or he didn't read our item, which noted that while the report was published in November during most of the Bush administration, the publication date has varied greatly in the past.

Erickson further claims:

Today, our "friends" at Media Matters confirm for us the CDC did cover up the abortion data and try to avoid publishing it. Media Matters obtained an internal CDC memo showing "that the report was submitted for review and editing on November 12."

That would be exactly when one would expect the report to go for editing with a publication date the week after Thanskgiving.

Again, the CDC first told us that it had no plans of releasing the report. Then the CDC told us it was awaiting data. Thanks to Media Matters, we now know the report was actually done and submitted on November 12, 2010, completely contrary to everything the CDC has said both to RedState and publicly in response to our story.

Regardless of when Erickson "would expect the report to go to editing with a publication date the week after Thanksgiving," CDC itself said that the report went to editing months later than in years when the publication date was the week after Thanksgiving. From our item:

CDC spokesperson Karen Hunter told Media Matters that "the reason [the report] didn't come out the last weekend in November is that they were waiting for some data that was delayed," which caused the report to be submitted to the MMWR (Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report) staff on November 12, months later than in previous years. MMWR reviews, edits, schedules and publishes the annual Abortion Surveillance Report (ASR). Hunter added that the White House was not involved in the delay and said that the report is tentatively scheduled to be published in late February. [emphasis added]

It's not complicated: the delayed data caused the report to be completed later than it has been in recent years, which caused it to be published later. But Erickson can't accept the most reasonable explanation. Instead, he's dug himself into a hole.

First, he claimed that the Obama administration "deep-sixed" the report because they are "afraid of the truth." (Keep in mind that the data in the report will reflect 2007, not any year of the Obama administration.) Then, when he was informed that the report was delayed but would be published, he claimed that they were only going to publish it because some right-wing blog -- his -- had "brought attention to it." And after we showed that the report has been in the works for months, he claims that this is evidence that it was suppressed. CDC says the annual abortion report "is used by many in the field of public health," but Erickson seems to think they were going to kill the report and hope nobody noticed?

As for the CDC media relations official who Erickson cites for the claim that "CDC first told us that it had no plans of releasing the report" -- she told Media Matters that she did not have the correct information when she spoke to RedState a couple weeks ago; that she tried to connect RedState to an expert on the subject matter; and that Erickson's claim that she confirmed "the report has been buried indefinitely" is "totally false."


Ronald Moolenaar, the editor-in-chief of the Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (MMWR), CDC's primary scientific publication, writes to explain the process involved in producing the Abortion Surveillance report:

Typically MMWR publishes the Abortion Surveillance Summary in November after receiving the draft from the Program during the summer. This year we were informed that it would be arriving late; it arrived in our office on November 12, 2011.

Each submission to MMWR goes through multiple rounds of scientific and editorial review. This involves a back and forth exchange between MMWR and the authors to revise the draft to improve its clarity, readability and accuracy. That is followed by contributions from our Desktop publishing team, who use Adobe End Design to arrange the tables, graphics and pages of text so that they most effectively communicate the information. Our usual turnaround time for publications such as this is 12-16 weeks, but this interval can be longer especially if includes the holidays or winter storms.

This issue on Abortion Surveillance is scheduled to be posted on-line on February 24th with a February 25, 2011 publication date. At this point, we are not aware of any delays expected in the next report, which is therefore tentatively scheduled for November.

Posted In
Government, Cabinet & Agencies, Health Care, Reproductive Rights
Erick Erickson
Red State
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