New Study Dismisses Bush's "Junk Lawsuit" Link

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

New Study Dismisses Bush's "Junk Lawsuit" Link

One year ago tomorrow, President Bush and John Kerry squared off in a nationally televised debate over homeland security and other domestic issues. Remember this question?
BOB SCHIEFFER: "We are talking about protecting ourselves from the unexpected, but the flu season is suddenly upon us. Flu kills thousands of people every year. Suddenly we find ourselves with a severe shortage of flu vaccine. How did that happen?"

PRESIDENT BUSH: "Bob, we relied upon a company out of England to provide about half of the flu vaccines for the United States citizen, and it turned out that the vaccine they were producing was contaminated. And so we took the right action and didn't allow contaminated medicine into our country...."
Then Bush took a detour to one of the GOP's favorite themes -- the need for "tort reform."
PRESIDENT BUSH: "... We have a problem with litigation in the United States of America. Vaccine manufacturers are worried about getting sued, and therefore they have backed off from providing this kind of vaccine.

"One of the reasons I'm such a strong believer in legal reform is so that people aren't afraid of producing a product that is necessary for the health of our citizens and then end up getting sued in a court of law."
Weeks after Bush's remarks, the conservative Club for Growth (CG) began running newspaper ads making the same assertion. Said CG President Stephen Moore: "Can't get your flu shot? Thank the trial lawyers and their two best friends in Congress: John Kerry and John Edwards."

If, at the time, you suspected that Bush and Moore were making a flimsy and baseless link, your suspicions were justified. The current issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association (subscribers only) reports on a new study that finds no credible link between manufacturers' supposed fear of "junk lawsuits" and the vaccine shortage that the U.S. experienced last year.

NPR reported on the study this morning, but I haven't seen anything on MSNBC or CNN. The Washington Post managed to publish this story about a "new study in the American Journal of Epidemiology suggest[ing] that 3- and 4-year-olds drive flu epidemics," but I've seen nothing in the Post about the JAMA study on last year's flu vaccine shortage.

It's a classic case of the media dropping the ball, allowing an errant accusation to go unchallenged or unclarified, and eventually to be accepted by the public as fact.

I can just hear the editors and news directors offering their bullshit excuses for ignoring the study: "There's plenty of flu vaccine now so nobody's gonna care -- that was last year's story." Is it any wonder why many voters accept myths as facts?

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