The Early Show's false balance on embryonic stem research

<p>CBS's <i>The Early Show</i> this week offered balance in its treatment of embryonic stem cell research in its two part series, &quot;Two Faces of Hope,&quot; but came short of fully delivering. Monday's installment by Hattie Kauffman centered on Cody Unser, a paralyzed stem cell research advocate, with no critics allowed talking head time to cast doubt on the promise of embryonic stem cell research. Tuesday's mostly positive portrayal of frozen embryo adoption by correspondent Tracy Smith, however, featured a critic of embryo adoption, as well as Smith asking her story's subjects, J.J. and Tracy Jones, if they had allowed their adopted son to be used as a &quot;political pawn&quot; at a White House event they attended in May which encouraged embryo adoption. </p><!--break--><p><br />Kauffman's piece on Monday's <i>Early Show</i> focused on Cody Unser, an 18-year-old transverse myelitis patient who advocates more federal funding for stem cell research, hoping it will yield the medical breakthrough which may one day enable her to walk again. </p><p>Aside from Unser and her parents, both of whom are also advocates of lifting the ban on federal funding for embryonic stem cell research, Kauffman gave time to a scientist who backs more federal funding, but didn't include any scientific critics, leaving the impression that the science behind the controvesial method is all but certain to yield the breakthrough if only federal spending is increased:</p><p /><blockquote>Dr. Douglas Kerr, embryonic stem cell researcher, Johns Hopkins University: &quot;Cody has had such an injury in her spinal cord that the only way we are going to rewire that spinal cord and to get her to walk is through the use of stem cells, and even specifically embryonic stem cells.&quot;<br /><br />Kauffman: &quot;Doctor Douglas Kerr of Johns Hopkins University is Cody's doctor and a researcher of embryonic stem cells.&quot;<br /><br />Kerr: &quot;This is simply a cluster of cells. There are no tissues, there's no organs, there's no beating heart.&quot;<br /><br />Kauffman: &quot;Embryonic stem cells are valuable because they hold the blueprint for every cell in the body. The hope for Cody is to direct these cells to become the neurons missing in her spine. But Doctor Kerr's research has been stymied by federal restrictions.&quot;</blockquote><p /><p /><blockquote>Kerr: &quot;It's very frustrating to see this, because as a physician, I grieve with these patients.&quot;</blockquote><p /><p /><p>Kauffman later allowed Unser the time to give her rebuttal to ethical concerns from critics of embryonic stem cell research, although again, she never showed any critics on camera:</p><blockquote><blockquote><p>Kauffman: &quot;To those who say it would be morally wrong to conduct stem cell research, Cody has an answer.&quot;<br /><br />Cody Unser: &quot;You know, I've heard a lot of morals and ethics with this whole issue, and my whole thing is that, it'd be morally wrong to deny hope. It'd be morally wrong to say, 'no, you have to be like this for the rest of your life.'</p></blockquote></blockquote><p>Concluding her reporting in studio with co-anchor Julie Chen, Kauffman laid blame for the slow progress in clinical trials of embryonic stem cell therapies on President Bush's restrictions on federal funding:</p><blockquote><blockquote>Julie Chen, anchor: &quot;How soon can a therapy help patients like Cody?&quot;<br /><br />Kauffman: &quot;Well, Doctor Kerr says that clinical trials in humans are three to five years away, but he says if there had not been a ban on stem cell research, these trials would be underway right now.&quot;</blockquote></blockquote><p>So a piece this biased surely would be balanced by a piece equally biased towards embryo adoption, right? Wrong. Tracy Smith's report on embryo adoption was generally positive, but wasn't as one-sided as Kauffman's plug for more federal funding for embryonic stem cell research. Smith found time to air the concerns of a critic of embryo adoption:</p><blockquote><blockquote>Linda Applegarth, New York Presbyterian Center for Reproductive Medicine and Infertility: &quot;For most couples, they really are not comfortable donating their embryos, donating their genetic material to another family.&quot;<br /><br />Smith: &quot;Infertility counselor Doctor Linda Applegarth says many couples prefer to donate extra embryos to medical research.&quot;<br /><br />Applegarth: &quot;I think that there are couples who feel that this has great benefits for humankind. That this may be a way for them to do a greater good in terms of helping us learn more about diseases and how many serious long-term crippling diseases could be cured.&quot;</blockquote><p /></blockquote><p>And just before showing Applegarth, Smith asked a question Kauffman never raised with Cody Unser, or her parents:</p><blockquote><blockquote><p>Smith: &quot;He also became a political symbol. In May, the Joneses brought Trey to the White House, where he was literally held up by President Bush as a reason against using embryos for stem cell research.&quot;<br /><br />President Bush, from May: &quot;The children here today are reminders that every human life is a precious gift of matchless value.&quot;<br /><br />Tracy Smith: &quot;Did you have any hesitation about that, that you put your baby in the middle of this political debate? That he became a pawn in this?&quot;</p></blockquote></blockquote><p>The Smith piece was capped off with emotional footage of the genetic and adoptive parents meeting for the first time and talking about how glad they all were in having made their decision.</p><p>In the end, however, the viewer gets the feeling that the &quot;choice&quot; to adopt, not the miracle of life itself, was celebrated by Smith.</p><blockquote><p>###</p></blockquote><p>Below are the entire transcripts for the Kauffman and Smith pieces respectively:</p><blockquote><p /><blockquote><br />CBS<br />The Early Show<br />1 August 2005 (Monday)<br />saved as Ckau0801<br /><br /><br />Julie Chen, co-host @ 0730 EDT, teasing story: &quot;Cody Unser, the daughter of auto racing champ Al Unser, Jr., is in her own personal race against time. A rare disease left her confined to a wheelchair and turned her into an advocate for controversial embryonic stem cell research, the one thing she believes can help her walk again some day. We'll have her remarkable story ahead in our special series, ‘Two Faces of Hope.'&quot;<br /><br />...<br /><br />Rene Syler, co-host, teasing the story: &quot;Up next, putting a face on the stem cell controversy. We're going to talk with a woman who says the treatment could be her last chance to walk again.&quot;<br /><p>...<br /><br />Julie Chen, co-host @ 0740 EDT: &quot;The stem cell controversy became the talk of Washington last week when Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist announced he wants to remove government limitations on that research. The move puts him at odds with President Bush but is welcome news for scientists and patients. Early Show national correspondent Hattie Kauffman has the storyof one woman counting on a stem cell miracle in our special series, 'Two Faces of Hope.' Good morning, Hattie.<br /><br />Hattie Kauffman, correspondent, live in studio with Chen: &quot;Good morning, Julie, she's quite a girl. Cody Unser was in the sixth grade when she collapsed at school. Doctors at the hospital thought it was the flu and sent her home. Well, it turns out it was much more than that.&quot;<br /><br />[begin videotaped segment]<br /><br />Cody Unser, paralyzed at age 12: &quot;In twenty minutes, my legs were paralyzed, I had no idea what was going on.&quot;<br /><br />Kauffman: &quot;Now 18, Cody Unsur was 12 years old and playing basketball when a blinding headache left her breathless.&quot;<br /><br />Cody Unser: &quot;I woke up the next morning, my legs couldn't move, and I couldn't go to the bathroom. So it just kind of snowballed from there.&quot;<br /><br />Kauffman: &quot;She was diagnosed with a rare neurological disorder: transverse myelitis, her own immune system attacked her spinal cord. Cody would never walk again. It was devastating news to her family. Cody is the daughter of two-time Indy 500 winner Al Unser, Jr.&quot;<br /><br />Al Unser, Jr., Cody's father: &quot;I go out and I drive 230, 240 miles per hour, it should be me that's there. And it's just not fair to grab a little girl like this who's got her whole life in front of her.&quot;<br /><br />Shelley Unser, Cody's mother: &quot;When I was, when we were initially in it, I just thought, how does a mother, how does a family get through something like this.&quot;<br /><br />Kauffman: &quot;But Cody refused to be defeated. At 13, she started her own foundation, and today Cody fights hard for a cure in embryonic stem cells.&quot;<br /><br />Kauffman: &quot;How could stem cell research help you?&quot;<br /><br />Cody Unser: &quot;I think stem cell research could help me by, you know, um, maybe one day making me walk. Making me be able to put my feet on the sand and be able to feel what sand feels like again.&quot;<br /><br />Dr. Douglas Kerr, embryonic stem cell researcher, Johns Hopkins University: &quot;Cody has had such an injury in her spinal cord that the only way we are going to rewire that spinal cord and to get her to walk is through the use of stem cells, and even specifically embryonic stem cells.&quot;<br /><br />Kauffman: &quot;Doctor Douglas Kerr of Johns Hopkins University is Cody's doctor and a researcher of embryonic stem cells.&quot;<br /><br />Kerr: &quot;This is simply a cluster of cells. There are no tissues, there's no organs, there's no beating heart.&quot;<br /><br />Kauffman: &quot;Embryonic stem cells are valuable because they hold the blueprint for every cell in the body. The hope for Cody is to direct these cells to become the neurons missing in her spine. But Doctor Kerr's research has been stymied by federal restrictions.&quot;<br /><br />Kerr: &quot;It's very frustrating to see this, because as a physician, I grieve with these patients.&quot;<br /><br />Unser: &quot;Even though I may be paralyzed, my voice is not.&quot;<br /><br />Kauffman: &quot;Cody has urged Congress to lift the ban on embryonic stem cell research, and she's met President Bush.&quot;<br /><br />Shelley Unser, Cody's mother: &quot;I look at this picture of her and the President, and I wonder, what would he do if it was his daughter?&quot;<br /><br />Kauffman: &quot;Cody exercises to keep her body ready for the day she'll walk again, an optimism she learned from Christopher Reeve, who fought for stem cell research until the day he died.&quot;<br /><br />Cody Unser: &quot;That was really tough for me. He inspired everyone to, you know, continue with this. There's no way that we're going to let him down.&quot;<br /><br />Kauffman: &quot;She wears a Superman pendant, and writes positive messages all over her walls.&quot;<br /><br />Kauffman reading something on her wall: &quot;You have to stand up for something...&quot;<br /><br />Cody Unser: &quot;Or fall for anything. And then I say, 'I will for love, however, I would fall for anything as well. You only live once, right?'&quot;<br /><br />Kauffman: &quot;When Cody became paralyzed six years ago, she set one goal that has remained unfulfilled.&quot;<br /><br />Cody Unser: &quot;That was my first initial dream, was to walk dancing at my senior prom.&quot;<br /><br />Shelley Unser, crying: &quot;It's weird moments like the prom. Sorry, yeah. Sorry.&quot;<br /><br />Kauffman: &quot;Yeah. Every girl's prom.&quot;<br /><br />Shelley Unser: &quot;She had a blast, they looked great, she'll make the best of everything, but I cry because I know that it hurts her and she doesn't let anybody know.&quot;<br /><br />Kauffman: &quot;Do you ever get depressed?&quot;<br /><br />Cody Unser: &quot;Sometimes I do get depressed, but its my friends and my family that really pull me out of it.&quot;<br /><br />Kauffman: &quot;To those who say it would be morally wrong to conduct stem cell research, Cody has an answer.&quot;<br /><br />Cody Unser: &quot;You know, I've heard a lot of morals and ethics with this whole issue, and my whole thing is that, it'd be morally wrong to deny hope. It'd be morally wrong to say, 'no, you have to be like this for the rest of your life.'<br /><br />Kauffman: &quot;As the debate plays out, this daughter of a race car driver is confident she'll some day leave her wheels behind and walk again.&quot;<br /><br />Unser: &quot;There's just so much out there right now that, you know, the world has so much to offer, and I can't wait to go out and grab it and experience everything and live life to the fullest.&quot;<br /><br />[end videotaped segment]<br /><br />Kauffman, live in studio: &quot;Cody Unser. President Bush says he would veto any bill overturning his ban on stem cell research. Julie?&quot;<br /><br />Julie Chen: &quot;How soon can a therapy help patients like Cody?&quot;<br /><br />Kauffman: &quot;Well, Doctor Kerr says that clinical trials in humans are three to five years away, but he says if there had not been a ban on stem cell research, these trials would be underway right now.&quot;<br /><br />Chen: &quot;Wow. And what's next for Cody.&quot;<br /><br />Kauffman: &quot;Well, she plans to work with paralyzed soldiers coming back from war. You think about this, it's a teenager helping soldiers. So, she's quite a girl.&quot;<br /><br />Chen: &quot;She is that. Thanks so much, Hattie, great story. And tomorrow, we'll meet a couple who is opposed to stem cell research. They chose to donate their embryo to another couple who wanted a baby.&quot;<br /><br />###<br /><br /><br />CBS<br />The Early Show<br />2 August 2005 (Tuesday)<br /><br />@ 0740 EDT<br /><br />Harry Smith, anchor: &quot;A bill to lift federal limits on embryonic stem cell research has pitted Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist against President Bush. Yesterday, we heard from a paralyzed woman who believes the cells could help her walk. But in the second part of our series, 'Two Faces of Hope,' Early Show correspondent Tracy Smith has another side of the story. Tracy?&quot;<br /><br />Tracy Smith, correspondent, live in studio: &quot;Good morning, Harry. You're about to meet some people who made an unusual choice on what to do with their embryos. Donation. Or as they call it, embryo adoption. It's based on their belief that embryos should only be used for one thing: making babies.&quot;<br /><br />[begin videotaped segment]<br /><br />Smith: &quot;Tracy and J.J. Jones shared the same dreams so many couples have: fall in love, get married, and start a family. But several years of trying and infertility treatments didn't work.&quot;<br /><br />Tracy Jones, adopted embryo: &quot;It's heartbreaking, I mean, every month, I cried, every time my period came, I cried.&quot;<br /><br />Smith: &quot;Meanwhile, another couple who lived thousands of miles away was wrestling with their own dilemma. Heather and David Wright had twins via in vitro fertilization, and a third child less than a year later. They felt their family was complete, but wondered what to do with their ten frozen embryos left over from IVF.&quot;<br /><br />Heather Wright, donated extra embryos: &quot;We could help somebody else that wanted a family as bad as we had wanted our family and couldn't, and we could give these embryos, these little children to somebody else, there was no doubt in our minds.&quot;<br /><br />Smith: &quot;So the Wrights donated their embryos to a program called Snowflakes. Run by NIghtlight Christian Adoptions, Snowflakes matches couples who have extra embryos, like the Wrights, with couples desperate to have a baby, like the Joneses. They call it embryo adoption.&quot;<br /><br />J.J. Jones, supports embryo adoption: &quot;As kind of far-fetched as it seemed, the idea of being able to be both adoptive and birth parents was just a miracle to us.&quot;<br /><br />Smith: &quot;The Joneses hoped that their embryo implantation, seen here, would work, but the success rate for the procedure is low, less than thirty percent. Of the ten embryos the Wrights gave the Joneses, seven did not survive the thaw, the remaining three were implanted in Tracy's uterus. One gave them the news they'd been waiting for.&quot;<br /><br />Smith, to Tracy Jones: &quot;So what was it like when the doctor said to you, 'Tracy, you're pregnant'?&quot;<br /><br />Tracy Jones: &quot;I didn't believe the doctor. I didn't feel pregnant.&quot;<br /><br />J.J. Jones: &quot;We went through probably two dozen pregnancy tests, all the different brands, every kind you can imagine, three or four times a day.&quot;<br /><br />Smith: &quot;Nine months later, Trey was born.&quot;<br /><br />Tracy Jones: &quot;He's such a sweet baby. It doesn't make any difference at all that he's been adopted or there's no genetic connection. He's, he's our son and we just love him.&quot;<br /><br />Smith: &quot;He also became a political symbol. In May, the Joneses brought Trey to the White House, where he was literally held up by President Bush as a reason against using embryos for stem cell research.&quot;<br /><br />President Bush, from May: &quot;The children here today are reminders that every human life is a precious gift of matchless value.&quot;<br /><br />Tracy Smith: &quot;Did you have any hesitation about that, that you put your baby in the middle of this political debate? That he became a pawn in this?&quot;<br /><br />J.J. Jones: &quot;I think we'd say that he's the point. He was a miracle born because a genetic family decided he wasn't research or garbage. Uh, we have him today because of that decision.&quot;<br /><br />Linda Applegarth, New York Presbyterian Center for Reproductive Medicine and Infertility: &quot;For most couples, they really are not comfortable donating their embryos, donating their genetic material to another family.&quot;<br /><br />Smith: &quot;Infertility counselor Doctor Linda Applegarth says many couples prefer to donate extra embryos to medical research.&quot;<br /><br />Applegarth: &quot;I think that there are couples who feel that this has great benefits for humankind. That this may be a way for them to do a greater good in terms of helping us learn more about diseases and how many serious long-term crippling diseases could be cured.&quot;<br /><br />Smith: &quot;Truth is, out of the more than 400,000 frozen embryos stored in clinics around the U.S., only two percent are donated to other couples. Complicating matters is whether any relationship between donor and adoptee will exist. <br /><br />Smith: &quot;J.J. and Tracy Jones want their baby to know his genetic parents, so not long ago, we brought them together for the very first time.&quot;<br /><br />Smith, to Tracy Jones: &quot;Were you worried at all that if you start this relationship, they might want him back?&quot;<br /><br />Tracy Jones: &quot;Yeah, I wondered, would they feel this connection and regret their decision? And that was my big fear, and I still fear that they might. You know, when they see him.&quot;<br /><br />Heather Wright: &quot;My biggest worry was once I saw that baby, that I'd want that baby.&quot;<br /><br />Heather Wright: &quot;You can tell that he's in our family, was part of our family, but he's not ours. And I'm just so happy that we could do this for J.J. and Tracy.&quot;<br /><br />Tracy Jones: &quot;You know, one of my biggest fears was that they would regret their decision when they saw him. So it just, it made me feel so relieved that she said that she thought they were ours, he was ours.&quot;<br /><br />Smith: &quot;So, what happens next, where do we go from here, besides Trey crying a little bit.&quot;<br /><br />Heather Wright: &quot;Trey goes back to mama.&quot;<br /><br />[end videotaped piece]<br /><br />Tracy Smith, live in studio: &quot;Now, J.J. and Tracy Jones plan to tell their son the full story of his unusual birth and both couples have agreed he'll call the Wrights Aunt Heather and Uncle David.&quot;<br /><br />Harry Smith: &quot;Amazing story, thanks, Tracy.&quot;</p><p /></blockquote><p /><p /><p /><p /><p /><p /><p>
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Ken Shepherd
Ken Shepherd
Ken Shepherd is the Managing Editor for NewsBusters