Ed Schultz Falsely Credits Medical Research 'Change' to Obama

Say, how 'bout the news of President Obama lifting the ban on embryonic stem cell research imposed by his predecessor?

What, you haven't heard? With good reason. Former president Bush did not impose this, making it all but impossible for Obama to reverse it.

None of which prevented radio host Ed Schultz from repeatedly claiming on Friday that Obama, all of three days after taking office, had lifted a "ban" on embryonic stem cell research. 

Lost on Schultz was what Bush actually did -- prohibited federal funding for embryonic stem cell research, which did not affect privately funded research -- and what Obama has yet to do -- reverse Bush's ban.

Still, it made for provocative fodder to Schultz, all the better to feed the meme of Obama bringing transformative change that includes paraplegics soon shedding their wheelchairs.

Schultz's interest was piqued by news of the FDA approving an application for Geron Corporation to inject embryonic stem cells into patients with injured spinal cords.

Here's how Schultz described it --

I've talked about this from time to time on the program over the years, but this is a red-letter day for many Americans who are in wheelchairs. And when you hear about hope and when you hear about change, this is about both of them. Embryonic, human embryonic stem cells, are going to be used on eight to 10 people who have recent spinal cord injuries. This is a 180 from the way it was. They're going to inject embryonic stem cells into the spinal cord (sic) of paraplegic people and, of course, we all know that embryonic stem cell research, the ban has been there, that has now been lifted. And this is fabulous news.

Even after Sen. Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, spoke with Schultz on Friday and accurately described Bush's actions concerning stem cell research, Schultz repeated the bogus claim later in the show. Here's what Harkin said --

I am under the impression that very soon, maybe as early as next week, President Obama  will sign an executive order overturning the Bush executive order that he signed on August the 9th of 2001 which prohibits any federal funding from going for this research.  

In the following hour of the show, Schultz made the same bogus claim twice --

Embryonic stem cell research -- this ban has been lifted. There is no defense for the archaic thinking of the conservative movement in this country.

And again while introducing a CNN medical reporter --

The ban, the embryonic stem cell ban, has been lifted. For more on this, CNN medical correspondent Elizabeth Cohen.

Cohen described her interview with Dr. Tom Okarma, president and CEO of Geron Corporation, before diplomatically pointing out -- lest it call attention to Schultz's error -- that she expects Obama to left "restrictions" on federal funding of embryonic stem cell research --

COHEN: The Geron Corporation has spent millions and millions, tens of millions of dollars, to get to the point where they are today. Now, interestingly, they say they did not use federal funding, they used their own funding to get to where they are today. Now if the restrictions that Bush put in place on federal funding for embryonic stem cells, if those restrictions are listed or lessened, you're going to see more money going into this area of research.

After hearing this twice from his guests, Schultz apparently got the message and stopped making his earlier claim.

On Saturday, the Los Angeles Times reported this about FDA approval coming shortly after Obama took office --

Dr. Thomas Okarma, Geron's chief executive, said the timing of the FDA's decision -- made late Wednesday but announced Friday by the company -- had nothing to do with the change of administrations in Washington.

"We have no evidence that there was any political shadow over this process," Okarma said in a conference call with reporters and corporate analysts.

Possible explanations for Schultz's repeated error? I'll give him the benefit of a doubt that it wasn't deceit but, instead, inattention to detail and the belief that if something isn't being done by government, it can't get done at all. What fitting irony that Geron reached this point without federal funding, the merits and drawbacks to Bush's executive order aside.

Accompanying Schultz's dubious assertions were expressions of hope for people whose dire conditions may be cured by stem cells. But refuting Schultz's alleged empathy was a remark he made Monday about former Vice President Cheney attending Obama's inauguration in a wheelchair --

It was almost fitting that he was in the wheelchair. He's been diminished to insignificant.

You know, like that "insignificant" scientist Stephen Hawking. And "insignificant" former senator Max Cleland, whose military service cost him four limbs. And the "insignificant" Franklin Roosevelt, role model for the abundantly "significant" -- as in, fully ambulatory -- Barack Obama.

Schultz can only hope that changes wrought by stem cell research finally end the scourge known as voluntary cognitive impairment.

Jack Coleman
Liberated ex-liberal from the People's Republic of Massachusetts