Or so said PBS’s Gwen Ifill yesterday, in its flagship PBS Newshour show.
“State lawmakers in California moved today to impose one of the nation’s strictest vaccination laws,” she reported. “The state assembly voted to require that nearly all public schoolchildren get their shots, or be homeschooled. The bill gained momentum after a measles outbreak that started at Disneyland and killed more than 100 people.”
Ifill’s figure of 100 is off — by 100. Not a single person died as a result of the Disneyland scare, although she can be forgiven for not knowing any better, given the hype that the mainstream media heaped on the public for weeks on end over a story that had not a single casualty. This non-story became the single-biggest domestic story in the United States.
Ifill, as anyone who follows politics knows, is no newbie who through some accident found herself reading the evening news. She is the PBS NewsHour’s co-anchor and managing editor as well as the moderator and managing editor of “Washington Week.” Yet amazingly, she read those lines from a script without choking, an indication that she has been unquestioningly swallowing the media hype over vaccines as much as any incredulous viewer.
Worse, that script also appears on the PBS NewsHour website, indicating that her staff is as ignorant as she is about the seriousness — or lack thereof — of the Disneyland story.
A glaring factual error of this proportion is rare in premier broadcast media. That the error was not corrected many hours after the broadcast is unheard of. Something is seriously amiss at PBS NewsHour (@NewsHour) and with Gwen Ifill (@gwenifill). Six Band-Aids, and a hope that this lapse of professionalism will serve as a wakeup call at one of America’s premier news shows.