CBS Claims Obama Overturned Stem Cell ‘Ban’; Makes Correction

Maggie Rodriguez, CBS At the top of Monday’s CBS Early Show, co-host Julie Chen incorrectly declared: "Reversing course. President Obama lifts the ban on embryonic stem cell research today...But is the President going far enough?" During the later segment, co-host Maggie Rodriguez had to offer a correction: "And we should say, this under President Bush was not banned or illegal, except now we're getting federal funding."

The segment began with a report by correspondent Bill Plante: "...for those who believe that stem cells bring healing, there's no debate...Henry Strongin-Goldberg was sick with a rare blood disease that took his life when he was just 7...Henry's parents, Laurie Strongin and Allen Goldberg, believe their son's chance of survival ended when President George W. Bush signed an executive order in August, 2001 banning the federal government from funding embryonic stem cell research." Plante’s over 300-word report only gave only 21 of those words to critics, allowing David Prentice of the Family Research Council to mention: "In terms of scientific advances, I don't think we're going to see anything from this. This is more an ideological move."

Following Plante’s report, Rodriguez spoke with CBS News contributor Dr. Holly Phillips about the President’s decision: "In what kinds of diseases or ailments, specifically, do you think we may see advancements?" Phillips replied: "People are most excited about the neurologic illnesses, things like Parkinson's Disease and Alzheimer's...hopefully cure spinal cell injuries...hope in treating diabetes, heart disease, and even stroke. So really millions of people could be -- could be affected by this research." Phillips left out a recent case of embryonic stem cells causing cancer in an Israeli teenage boy.

Earlier, Phillips argued: "...what President Obama is saying, is that we need to support our scientists. Many of the scientists for the last eight years have been complaining that they're spending more time trying to find funding for their research than actually doing their research. So for them this will really have a profound effect." Rodriguez later echoed that sentiment: "I wonder if we'll see progress more quickly now that these scientists have less red tape to work through." Phillips replied: "I think so. And certainly the scientific and medical community is thinking so as well. Certainly on an international level, in medicine, we're so excited about this research and the potential for healing that it has. So I think less red tape will have a profound effect."

Here is the full transcript of the segment:

7:00AM TEASE:

JULIE CHEN: Reversing course. President Obama lifts the ban on embryonic stem cell research today.

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN: This is something huge. This is going to affect lives.

CHEN: But is the President going far enough?

7:02AM SEGMENT:

MAGGIE RODRIGUEZ: But first, President Obama's plans to undo another Bush policy, and this one is stirring up a lot of controversy. CBS News senior White House correspondent Bill Plante joins us with that. Good morning, Bill.

BILL PLANTE: Morning, Maggie. The stem cell issue has deep moral and political implications. It's the first issue of that kind that President Obama has undertaken. The order that he will sign today is a kind of compromise. It allows scientists to use tax dollars to study existing stem cell lines beyond those approved by President Bush back in 2001. But it leaves to Congress the fraught question of whether new stem cell lines can be created with tax dollars. But for those who believe that stem cells bring healing, there's no debate.

LAURIE STRONGIN: He didn't ever think of himself as being sick, and we didn't treat him like he was sick.

Henry Strongin-Goldberg, CBS PLANTE: But Henry Strongin-Goldberg was sick with a rare blood disease that took his life when he was just 7.

ALLEN GOLDBERG: To have your child die before you do is devastating beyond words.

PLANTE: Henry's parents, Laurie Strongin and Allen Goldberg, believe their son's chance of survival ended when President George W. Bush signed an executive order in August, 2001 banning the federal government from funding embryonic stem cell research. The controversy? The embryos are destroyed when harvested, and opponents equate that to the destruction of human life.

DAVID PRENTICE [FAMILY RESEARCH COUNCIL]: In terms of scientific advances, I don't think we're going to see anything from this. This is more an ideological move.

PLANTE: Today's change of policy is something that Lori and Allen have been advocating for years, so that other parents don't have to go through what they did.

STRONGIN: And it is too late for us to have -- to help Henry, obviously, at this point, but it is not too late for us to stand up by the President's side and applaud this incredibly wonderful thing.

PLANTE: And they'll have a chance to do that today. Lori and Allen will be here at the White House when President Obama signs that executive order later today. As for the research itself, that will take some time. There will be at least four months before protocols can be approved and guidelines written, and research can get under way. Maggie.

RODRIGUEZ: Bill Plante at the White House, thank you, Bill. Joining us now, Early Show contributor and WBS-TV medical reporter Dr. Holly Phillips. Good morning, Holly.

HOLLY PHILLIPS: Good morning, Maggie.

RODRIGUEZ: For people who have any doubt, explain in a nutshell what is embryonic stem cell research?

PHILLIPS: Essentially it's using cells from an embryo to hopefully regrow cells damaged in certain diseases.

RODRIGUEZ: And we should say, this under President Bush was not banned or illegal, except now we're getting federal funding.

PHILLIPS: Right. That's really an essential issue that we have to clear up. This research was never, as you said, banned or illegal. The question that we're addressing today is what role, if any, federal funding should have is using -- in this research.

RODRIGUEZ: What do you think?

PHILLIPS: Well, you know, it's not really so much what I think, it's more that what President Obama is saying, is that we need to support our scientists. Many of the scientists for the last eight years have been complaining that they're spending more time trying to find funding for their research than actually doing their research. So for them this will really have a profound effect.

RODRIGUEZ: In what kinds of diseases or ailments, specifically, do you think we may see advancements?

PHILLIPS: People are most excited about the neurologic illnesses, things like Parkinson's Disease and Alzheimer's. This summer a private research group out of California is actually going to start using embryonic stem cells in humans to hopefully cure spinal cell injuries for people who've been paralyzed from the waist down. We're also seeing some hope in treating diabetes, heart disease, and even stroke. So really millions of people could be -- could be affected by this research.

RODRIGUEZ: I wonder if we'll see progress more quickly now that these scientists have less red tape to work through.

PHILLIPS: I think so. And certainly the scientific and medical community is thinking so as well. Certainly on an international level, in medicine, we're so excited about this research and the potential for healing that it has. So I think less red tape will have a profound effect.

RODRIGUEZ: Alright. Dr. Holly Phillips, welcome back from maternity leave.

PHILLIPS: Thank you, Maggie.

RODRIGUEZ: Showing off pictures of Olivia, who's beautiful.

PHILLIPS: Very exciting.

RODRIGUEZ: Thank you.

Kyle Drennen
Kyle Drennen
Kyle Drennen is a News Analyst for MRC