ABC Champions President Obama's Embryo-Destroying Stem Cell Decision

Correspondent Lisa Stark’s report on ABC’s World News on Sunday almost completely slanted in favor of President Obama’s decision to overturn the ban on federal funding of stem cell research which destroys human embryos. Stark minimized the controversial nature of the research, devoting only one sound bite out of four to a critic of the president’s move.

Anchor Dan Harris introduced Stark’s report by selling the apparent promise of embryonic stem cell research: “President Obama is going to fulfill one of his campaign promises by ending restrictions on federally-funded research using embryonic stem cells. This could lead to better treatments and possibly cures for many diseases. But it will not end a visceral debate.” Despite this mention of the “visceral debate,” the report almost entirely focused on the hype from supporters of the research.

The ABC correspondent began by introducing Roman Reed, a paralyzed man who gushed over the president’s support for embryonic stem cell research: “President Obama cares. He’s taking a stance on suffering. He’s taking a stand for cures.” The graphic on the screen merely labeled Reed as a “research advocate,” and Stark added the word “tireless” to describe the disabled man and his parents. Reed gave an additional plug for the research in a second sound bite: “I have held in my hand a rat that can -- completely paralyzed -- embryonic stem cells were put in, and that rat is walking again. Embryonic stem cells are the key. This is huge.”

Stark then gave an additional plug for the research, playing up the potential cures that could result: “Researchers believe they may produce the next revolution in medicine, including treatments for conditions such as spinal cord injuries, Parkinson’s Disease, diabetes, and Alzheimer’s.” After describing that the embryonic stem cells “come from discarded human embryos, which are destroyed in the process,” she played the sole clip from an opponent of the research, William May of the typically liberal Catholics for the Common Good.

As she introduced Dr. George Daley, another supporter of the embryo-destroying research, Stark underlined how the previous ban on the research led to scientists having to “segregate their labs.” Dr. Daley, in his sound bite, used the Obama administration’s talking points about ending the ban on federal funding for the research: “The new Obama decision is really putting patients first. It’s putting patients over ideology. It’s going to allow the science to move forward as quickly as possible.” Is this an ABC News report or a paid political advertisement in support of embryonic stem cell research?

The full transcript of Stark’s report from ABC’s World News Sunday program:

DAN HARRIS: President Obama is going to fulfill one of his campaign promises by ending restrictions on federally-funded research using embryonic stem cells. This could lead to better treatments and possibly cures for many diseases. But it will not end a visceral debate. Here’s Lisa Stark.

ROMAN REED, RESEARCH ADVOCATE: President Obama cares. He’s taking a stance on suffering. He’s taking a stand for cures --

LISA STARK (voice-over) Roman Reed was paralyzed playing college football. He and his parents have been tireless advocates for embryonic stem cell research, and will be with the president when he opens the door to federal funding.

REED (on-camera): I have held in my hand a rat that can -- completely paralyzed -- embryonic stem cells were put in, and that rat is walking again. Embryonic stem cells are the key. This is huge.

STARK (voice-over): Embryonic stem cells can develop into any cell in the body. Researchers believe they may produce the next revolution in medicine, including treatments for conditions such as spinal cord injuries, Parkinson’s Disease, diabetes, and Alzheimer’s. The cells come from discarded human embryos, which are destroyed in the process.

WILLIAM MAY, CHAIRMAN, CATHOLICS FOR THE COMMON GOOD (on-camera): This decision to push the kind of stem cell research that involves killing innocent human beings is -- is embracing the culture of death.

STARK (voice-over): That’s the argument that swayed President Bush to limit federal funding, forcing researchers to find private dollars.

DR. GEORGE DALEY, CHILDREN’S HOSPITAL, BOSTON: So all of this has been purchased with private money --

STARK (voice-over): Scientists, such as Dr. George Daley, have had to segregate their labs. “NP” means “non-presidential.”  Not a drop of federal money can be used here. Now, that will change.

DALEY (on-camera): The new Obama decision is really putting patients first. It’s putting patients over ideology. It’s going to allow the science to move forward as quickly as possible.

STARK (on-camera): But not overnight -- it will take the government a couple of months to draw the ethical guidelines necessary to cover this sensitive research.

STARK (voice-over): Roman Reed is convinced, one day, that stem cell research will allow him to walk again. The first step, he says, will come tomorrow at the White House. Lisa Stark, ABC News, Washington.

Matthew Balan
Matthew Balan
Matthew Balan is a news analyst at Media Research Center