The Sciences

Oprah: Shame on you.

Bad AstronomyBy Phil PlaitJun 7, 2009 10:41 PM


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So last week, Newsweek printed a heroic front-page article detailing the antiscientific medical swill Oprah Winfrey has been routinely doling out to her audiences. This nonsense includes, of course, Jenny McCarthy, as well as dangerous quackery by Suzanne Somers and others. The article really slams Oprah hard, as well it should. Unsurprisingly, Oprah has released a statement about this, and it's full to the brim of fail. I wouldn't call it a lie, but it's spinning like a newborn pulsar:

For 23 years, my show has presented thousands of topics that reflect the human experience, including doctors' medical advice and personal health stories that have prompted conversations between our audience members and their health care providers. I trust the viewers, and I know that they are smart and discerning enough to seek out medical opinions to determine what may be best for them.

That, to be blunt, is baloney. First off, it's wrong. She pounds home the New Age nonsense from Somers and McCarthy, giving them a platform to relentlessly mislead and misinform people millions at a time, and on those shows rarely gives more than very brief lip service to actual medical research. Second, it's at best a cop-out to say that her viewers will do more research. She has to know that's almost certainly not true! The Oprah imprimatur can rocket a book up the best-selling list, as it has for Somers and McCarthy, as well as many others. Clearly, a vast horde of people will go out and buy what she tells them to because she's the one who told them to. And what she's telling them to buy is dangerous medical nonsense. The only good news coming out of this is that the mainstream media are taking notice. Besides Newsweek itself, other venues are writing about it too. Of course, the blogs are all over it as well (the Newsweek blog has links to more). Oprah: shame on you. You had a chance to look this situation over carefully, investigate your methods and ideas, and make this right. Instead you resort to defensive posturing and spin. It makes me sick to my stomach. But how many people will your credulous platform literally make sick?

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