Editing of CDC director’s comment on COVID deaths causes backlash

NEW YORK (AP) – ABC News is being criticized for its editing of a “Good Morning America” ​​interview with CDC Director Rochelle Walensky, which created uncertainty that is being exploited by vaccine critics.

During the interview, Walensky discussed a study that found that most vaccinated people who die from coronavirus also get sick for other reasons. But the way she edited the interview, it’s not clear she was talking about vaccinated people – and widely circulated references online imply she’s talking about all COVID-19 victims .

The interview was solicited by figures like Donald Trump Jr., Tucker Carlson and Laura Ingraham to suggest that the Biden administration lied to the public about the importance of vaccines.

The network still commented on Thursday on the controversy. However, experts say ABC News has a responsibility to talk to viewers about what happened and why, to prevent misinformation from spreading further.

During Friday’s interview, Cecilia Vega asked Walensky about “encouraging headlines” around a study showing how effective vaccines are at preventing severe illness. The director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention began by summarizing some of the findings.

But ABC edited the summary, about 20 seconds into her answer. That prompted Walensky to start by saying: “The overwhelming number of deaths, more than 75%, occur in people with at least four comorbidities, so these are really people who are unwell in the first place. ”

Besides making what she said unclear, the edit also made it easier for people to spread the exchange so that it looks like Walensky is talking about all dead COVID-19 patients, not just survivors vaccination.

Carol Marin, a veteran broadcaster and director of the Center for Journalism Integrity and Excellence at DePaul University, said ABC’s editing was a mistake.

In such a situation, the carrier should quickly fix it and clearly explain to viewers why it was done, Marin said on Wednesday.

“It happens,” she said. “Sometimes we edit so quickly that we don’t pay enough attention to the context.”

If you don’t get the situation under control, “people will write you stories,” said Kelly McBride, chair of the Craig Newmark Center for Ethics and Leadership at the Poynter Institute, a journalism think-tank.

“I understand that you can’t spend every minute on the defensive, but people are demanding more and more transparency,” McBride said.

Through a spokeswoman, Walensky had no comment on the edit.

Both Carlson and Ingraham aired Walensky’s quote on Fox News Channel without making it clear that she was talking about people being vaccinated, as part of the segments suggests the administration is lying about the importance of the vaccine. Vaccine.

Political commentator and Outkick founder Clay Travis wrote on Twitter: “The director of CDC just said more than 75% of ‘covid deaths’ occur in people with at least four comorbidities. Since Biden couldn’t shut down covid, suddenly all this data was shared publicly. “

Twitter labeled the message as out of context and blocked it from being shared.

Donald Trump Jr. tweeted Walensky’s quote, adding “how many people have two-thirds of what’s likely to kill them or have terminal cancer?” His tweet was shared more than 1,600 times before being deleted.

Maybe ABC News believes there’s nothing wrong with its edit. When asked, the network would not comment on Thursday.

On Monday, ABC posted a version of Vega’s interview on its “GMA” website to restore the section that was cut. The only indication of any discrepancies appeared in a note at the end of the nearly four-minute clip that said the video had been updated.

“A shorter, time-edited version aired on Friday, January 7th,” the note said.

The network did not say anything on the matter.

Tom Bettag, a longtime ABC television series “Nightline” producer who now teaches journalism at the University of Maryland, says many television news producers don’t like editing. While the press generally covers the article, when a broadcaster has to discuss it, in the case of television it effectively makes the front page.

In this case, it wasn’t ABC News spreading the misinformation but a false photo that was allowed to be kept because of their own error or decision to edit, said Yotam Ophir, a University at Buffalo professor who studies disinformation. in health and science said.

Given the way Walensky’s statement was used on social media, it was ABC News’ responsibility to discuss its editorial decision, he said.

Failure to do so, “they provide fuel for conspiracy theorists who have found an opportunity in an unfortunate mistake to spread more misinformation,” Ophir said.

“Keeping quiet here does not benefit both ABC and science.”

https://www.westernslopenow.com/news/editing-of-cdc-directors-comments-on-covid-deaths-causes-backlash/ Editing of CDC director’s comment on COVID deaths causes backlash

Charles Jones

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