Lying for Jesus (Again)

Sometimes I wonder if fundies worship the god Ironicus, they sure seem to do his bidding a lot. Take this recent “report” in the Agape Press.

The problem is that even though a bill was introduced in January in Missouri that would have penalized teachers for not teaching an evolution alternative, the measure was later revised and the teacher penalty was eliminated. In addition, the revised bill is no longer under active consideration by the Missouri Legislature, according to the bill’s sponsor.

Dr. John West with the Seattle-based Discovery Institute says the whole report filed by Belgrave was false and amounted to “shoddy journalism.”

“Denise Belgrave apparently got some information from a pro-evolution group and simply parroted it; she apparently didn’t try to verify it herself. I was interviewed for the report and actually appeared briefly on screen, and the amazing thing to me is that she didn’t even ever ask me about the Missouri bill – or even about the subject of teachers being fired for not teaching alternatives to evolution. Even though that turned out to be what her whole report was about.”

The problem with Agape Press’s reporting is that the bill that was introduced in January was never revised. (See the activity report for HB911 from the Missouri General Assembly. Here is the current text of the bill; section 7 is still there.) Jim Brown and Jody Brown apparently got some information from an anti-evolutionary group and simply parroted it; they apparently didn’t try to verify it themselves.

A new bill (HB1722 was introduced in the Missouri Legislature on April 7th, and that bill doesn’t include the teacher penalty. However, CNN story ran on April 4th, a full three days before the new bill was introduced. In their effort to discredit accurate reporting, the anti-evolutionists and their sheep expect CNN to have reported on something a full three days before it happened. A notice to anti-evolutionists, CNN does not mean “Clairvoyant News Network.”

Perhaps they think CNN could do this since the Discovery Institute appears to be able to. On April 6th, the day before the new bill was introduced and while the old bill, complete with the section that would terminate teachers, was the only anti-evolution bill in the Missouri House, the Discovery Institute issued a press release whining about false reporting on CNN. The only false reporting was that coming out of the Discovery Institute and their parrots. Where have we seen that before?

It seems that DI had this new bill in mind when they were criticizing CNN. This of course leaves me wondering how DI knew about the new bill before it is submitted? The only conclusion that I can think of is that they played a roll in its creation, by directing the original bill’s sponser to remove the sections that were an embarrassment or that didn’t follow the aideeist party line, like complaints about radiometric dating.

But if DI only heard about the proposed changes through the anti-evolution grapevine, then they still demonstrate their usual level of shoddy scholarship by not checking the official records of the Missouri General Assembly to see if the bill had actually been changed. So they are still left doing the bidding of Ironicus, by simply parroting with out doing research the claims of anti-evolutionists. Buisness as usual, I guess.

I would ask for the parties involved in this witch hunt against CNN to retract their stories and press releases, but I don’t stay awake at night expecting them to be consistent.

(Thanx to Jason at EvolutionBlog for the heads up on the Agape Press story.)

Here is another summary of events from a pal of mine.

1. Beginning of 2004: HB911 introduced in Missouri house. Bill includes numerous pro-ID/creo micromanaging requirements for teachers, textbooks, and tests.

http://www.house.state.mo.us/bills041/action/aHB…

Absolutely no action is taken on the bill after the first and second readings. No action was taken as of last Monday, nor as of today.

2. Last Sunday, April 4. CNN Sunday morning (according to the DI) does a news story on the Missouri bill, mentions that it would punish
teachers for not teaching ID, and says something about antievolution legislation in other states (none of us has seen the show yet, and I can’t find the transcript)

3. On Tuesday, April 6, the DI puts out a press release, “CNN Airs False Report Claiming Teachers will be Fired”, which according to the DI, is false, needs to be corrected, etc., and saying in part (via West),

http://www.discovery.org/scripts/viewDB/index.ph…

“This sort of shoddy journalism is inexcusable. CNN manufactured a controversy that doesn’t in fact exist. There is no movement in
America to fire teachers who won’t teach ‘alternatives to evolution.’ The teachers who are really facing threats to their academic freedom
today are those who want to present scientific criticisms of evolutionary theory.”

Their claim is based on the idea that the Missouri bill 911, which did do exactly what CNN said, has been amended, is not under consideration, etc.

However:

(a) One can look at the official history of HB911, and it still hasn’t been amended, nor voted down. So they were wrong on that.

(b) The transcripts for CNN Sunday Morning, April 4, are up and I can’t even find the segment the DI is talking about. So perhaps the
DI even got the show wrong (this would be hard to believe, but we’re talking about the DI here). CNN Sunday Morning transcripts: http://www.cnn.com/TRANSCRIPTS/sm.html
(c) What the DI obviously had in mind was Rep. Cooper’s new bill, HB1722, which was only introduced to the Missouri House on Wednesday, April 7. (http://www.house.state.mo.us/bills041/bills/hb17…. So it didn’t even exist, officially, when the CNN story came out. In any case, HB911 was never amended, rather a new bill was introduced, HB1722 (although 29/42 paragraphs are identical between HB911/HB1722, and 7 were only moderate modifications). I’m not sure why the DI thinks CNN deserves blame for not knowing about a bill that hadn’t been introduced yet. (There is some chance that there is a technical legislative reason that one has to contact the bill sponsor to determine if the bill is officially “under consideration”, etc., but I doubt it).

4. These facts seem to have given even WingNut Daily a minor bit of intellectual dissonance. Watch how they cover for the DI:

————————————–
Worldnetdaily.com
[Wednesday] April 7, 2004
http://www.worldnetdaily.com/news/article.asp?AR…

http://www.discovery.org/scripts/viewDB/index.ph…

[…]
A bill that would have penalized teachers for not teaching an evolution alternative was introduced in Missouri in January, but the bill was later revised to eliminate the penalty on teachers.

Furthermore, the revised bill is no longer under active consideration by the Missouri Legislature. The bill’s sponsor, Rep. Wayne Cooper, confirmed to Discovery Institute on Monday that he plans to let the bill die during the current session without a vote.

According to Rep. Cooper, CNN never contacted him about the current status of his bill.
————————————–

5. An alternative interpretation of all this is:

a. CNN put out a damning news story on Sunday highlighting the embarrassing fact that the Missouri bill would fire teachers who didn’t teach ID

b. The DI went into damage control mode and contacted Cooper and either (a) got him to cut the teacher-firing provision and the
radiometric dating sections or (b) found out that he was “planning to real soon” introduce a revised version, and told him to hurry up.

c. The DI got Cooper on board, then issued a press release retrospectively slamming CNN for not knowing the bill “had been” revised.

d. On Wednesday the event that CNN didn’t report on on Sunday finally happened (although it was a new bill, not an amendment to the first
bill – the latter would require some actual action in a committee, which probably most committee chairs would not want to waste time with).

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Posted by Ed Darrell on April 17, 2004 11:28 PM

In any case, the original bill which calls for firing of teachers and administrators who teach evolution straight with no false chaser, remains in the hopper.

As I noted to Mr. West at Discovery Institute, that means it’s still alive. He said that anyone who is familiar with legislatures knows when a bill has been amended.

I spent nearly 15 years working with legislatures, including many years as staff to the then-busiest committee in Congress, the Senate Labor and Human Resources Committee. Any bill in the hopper is still alive, unless the sponsors take it out. The Missouri Assembly accurately notes the bills.

The bill that requires firing of teachers who teach evolution has as much chance of a hearing as any other anti-evolution bill in Missouri this year. There is no chance for any of them.

I also note that no news outlet outside the radical right-wing, Christian fundamentalist press, has given the time of day to the Discovery Institute claim. They are so far out of reality that they can’t even get press for their press releases any more.