The following is Sharyl Attkisson's complete response to questions posed by The Washington Post's Paul Farhi as prompted by a Media Matters propaganda blog. Please excuse our typos.
Farhi: Hello, Sharyl...I'm writing a story about Sinclair's coverage and commentary about the coronavirus and would like to talk to you about what you've been reporting on your show. I'm specifically interested in your thoughts about hydroxychloroquine, especially given your many years of skepticism about vaccines. Would you have a few minutes to spell out your thinking about this? I would appreciate it. Many thanks...Paul Farhi, Washington Post.
Attkisson: Hi Paul. Yes but if you are copying Media Matters, please take a look at my stories they reference and then we can talk! (Also, with respect, I do not have "many years of skepticism" about vaccines. I have reported on vaccine safety as I have reported on tire safety, charity fraud, etc. For example, I am not skeptical of tires just because I uncovered news about the Ford/Firestone rollover. But it is true that Media Matters and pharmaceutical interests have portrayed it that way and many have parroted that narrative. (that I am anti-vaccine etc) which is entirely false.
Read Attkisson's medical and vaccine reporting here.
Farhi: Fair enough. How *would* you prefer to be described, relative your vaccine reporting? Maybe: “SA has reported critically about vaccines,” or “who has raised doubts about the safety of vaccines,” or what?
Attkisson: Thank you for asking. I have reported on vaccines safety issues. My vaccine reporting has been cited as a reference in the New England Journal of Medicine and has been part of a group of medical stories receiving a finalist award from Investigative Reporters and Editors (IRE). I'm fully vaccinated, and then some, as is my daughter. The "anti=vaccine" name... narrative... is the thinnest of narratives yet successful and widely accepted among some... As you may know, Media Matters and its interests are a major driver of all of that. Wonder why. 😉
Farhi: So, the most neutral way into this is, “Sharyl Attkisson has reported extensively on vaccine-safety issues...” Except that suggests there ARE safety issues, especially (in terms of your reporting) the connections between vaccines and autism—which most in the medical establishment reject. Wouldn’t that kind of shorthand be defaulting to a skeptical position, one that is widely rejected by experts?
Attkisson: Well first, there is no dispute that there are vaccine safety issues; there is an entire court and compensation fund set up that has paid out billions of dollars to vaccine patients/victims... that's not the dispute. It doesn't mean all vaccines are dangerous (any more than all medicine is dangerous or safe). I certainly haven't suggested any such thing. Ever. And I think it's hard to accurately call me a vaccine skeptic having been fully vaccinated with a fully vaccinated child. And many stories I've reported are on the opposite side of a group. Firestone, Ford and NHTSA said the tires were safe. The govt. and many others insisted guns were never walked. That's how truth is often ultimately revealed or new facts come to light. As they have. What is your professional view of the govt.'s top pro-vaccine expert in court, a world renowned pediatric neurologist, who told DOJ that vaccines can and do cause autism in rare cases, after all? Newsworthy? Especially when he says (in a sworn affidavit) that DOJ misrepresented and covered up his findings? And names names? Whether you believe him or not, it's hard to argue that's not noteworthy. I wonder why so few reported that. Why shouldn't people hear his scientific views along with the other ones so widely pushed on them by so many interests? Also, do you think it's noteworthy that CDC's top immunization official acknowledges that certain conditions in children may make them susceptible to autism, and that a that should be investigated? (only the govt won't fund such studies for some reason). Also CDC's top immunization official acknowledges that's apparently what happened (vaccines triggered autism in a child with predisposition) in one landmark court case years ago... that the govt. secretly paid and had sealed so nobody else would know-- only it leaked out. Newsworthy? I think so.
Farhi: Well, I’m not looking for an argument; I’m looking for a description!
Attkisson: I'm not trying to argue. But people who make statements and cover this stuff often lack basic knowledge, they rely on what media matters and others have put out there without knowing the fundamental facts themselves so it's a difficult starting point. So the fairest thing might be to say the false defamatory things that critics say, you know, I'm anti-vaccine etc, but least least balance it with something about none of my stories ever being corrected or retracted, being cited in NEJM, finalist award, and if you get into vaccines and autism (interesting how it keeps coming back to that even when it has nothing to do with that)... that there certainly are many scientific experts and authorities who do not consider that a closed case. Including CDC head of immunization DeStefano and the govt's own one time pro vaccine expert who says vaccines can cause autism, after all. Or just leave it out. 😉 You might also recognize that I have covered many medical stories but mostly from safety/corruption/coverup etc rather than as a medical reporter, and broken news-- that was against the grain. Such as the diabetes drug rezulin that eventually got pulled from the market. I believe I was the first report who broke the story of Viagra's link to blindness which of course was soundly denied by most every medical authority initially. I reported on cholesterol drugs (statin) side effects that the experts and drugmakers denied but not appear as warnings on the label. now appear as warnings on the label.... I reported on ephedra before it was taken from the market. My track record is reporting accurately and responsibly on many medical safety issues.
Farhi: I want to contrast your vaccine reporting with your programs (yes, highlighted by Media Matters) on hydroxychloroquine. Again, not looking for an argument , just a way to fairly and accurately describe your approach. Whatever anyone thinks of HCQ, the science on it is far from settled. The fact is, we don’t really know if its reliable, safe or effective. You did two programs that, on balance, were favorable toward it. Given your reporting on vaccines—which are *overwhelmingly* safe—how do you square your relatively positive attitude toward a drug that people a lot smarter than both of us aren’t certain about? Further: Did Trump’s promotion of HCQ affect your approach? If so, how?
Attkisson: First of all, your premise that vaccines are overwhelmingly safe, shows (with respect) lack of understanding. That's like saying "medicine is safe." Certainly because one medicine is dangerous for some isn't an argument for stopping all medicine, nor does it make one anti-medicine. This is not in dispute: some vaccines are safer than others. Some are more effective than others. Some are considered more necessary than others.Some work well in some people but are harmful to others. You are implying, perhaps unintentionally, that there is an all or nothing proposition: one must say vaccines are overwhelmingly safe therefore do not look into any safety issues? Or if you do, then you are anti-vaccine? Tires are overwhelmingly safe, but dangerous or faulty tires should not be sold. It seems pretty simple. But when the narratives and interests enter the picture it becomes distorted. I deny being anti-car or anti-tire. This statement you made makes you, in the eyes of MM and the likes, a science denier: "Whatever anyone thinks of HCQ, the science on it is far from settled. The fact is, we don’t really know if its reliable, safe or effective." I agree with your statement and have not reported to the contrary. I have reported various scientific views and tried to report those which in today's narrative driven environment, come from credible sources but are not widely reported (or are actually avoided) by other media in their one-sided stories where they claim or imply (unlike your position) that the science is settled because hydroxycholorquine (they say) kills you. Whether it's this topic or any other, I am against the notion that we in the news should "censor" information that is in dispute or as yet unknowable, no matter how many people pretend or claim to know it... or how many don't want the information reported. Did you read my stories BTW? You are implying I said the science was settled and we shoudl all take hydroxycholorquine...?
Farhi: Unfortunately, Sharyl, I cant really get into a debate with you on this because 1) You know more than I do about this topic. 2. I have neither the time nor space to play out the subtleties. So...I will settle for being as fair and as accurate as I can be in the three or four paragraphs I’m going to devote to this part of the story. So, back to my question: How should I describe your reporting on vaccines? And how should I describe your recent reporting about HCQ? You have the floor...
Attkisson: I'm still not sure what one has to do with the other except that the pharma interests always want to link vaccine stuff to anything they can controversialize. But bear with me for one more moment and then I'll try to succinctly answer. I'm pointing out that my article did not take the position you seem to be representing... so here are a few points I said: "Two divergent views of the drug, hydroxychloroquine, have emerged: the negative one widely reported in the press and another side you’ve probably heard less about." "Camps largely divided along political lines. Many right-leaning media figures sided with hydroxychloroquine while the left-leaning press backed remdesivir. Each accusing the other of ignoring real science." "On May 1, the FDA seemed to give remdesivir the edge, allowing emergency use for severely ill coronavirus patients at the same time, stepping up cautions against hydroxychloroquine and its sister drug saying they should only be taken in the hospital or as part of a formal study due to reports of “serious heart rhythm problems.” Dr. O’Neill is now leading a study to find out if hydroxychloroquine can serve a critical role as a medicine to prevent coronavirus. But he says the bad press is making it difficult." Question I asked in the piece: "How do you account for the difference in medical and scientific opinion about this drug? Because some people seem so certain that it can be a positive benefit to coronavirus patients, maybe even crucial in the early days, whereas some people are convinced it should absolutely not be used." And finally... "In the end, politics and money aside, at least some scientists aren’t ready to count hydroxychloroquine out of the coronavirus equation. Even if others already have. Sharyl: Is it possible that it's not one or the other— that hydroxychloroquine could be used in a certain setting, maybe for preventive if you find out that works, and the other drug could be used in other settings? Dr. O’Neill: No, Absolutely. I think, I think that it's just still very early in this disease process that we're going to learn lot. There's 600 studies that are being done in the United States right now on Covid to see all sorts of different kinds of infections and combinations. We're going to be a lot smarter at the end of the summer. So I think what I would just say to everybody, just hold your powder." That's hardly some kind of one-sided personal endorsement saying I know the end game. Quite the opposite. Please let me know when you've read the whole story, and I will work on a short response. http://fullmeasure.news/news/cover-story/hydroxychloroquine
Farhi: I’ve read the whole story. Please give me a short response.
Attkisson: Considering all the background I've provided, please be fair. As always, I strive to report on underreported topics and views being censored or ignored by much of the media, allowing viewers to have information and make up their own minds. My reporting on vaccine safety issues has been off the narrative of Media Matters and pharmaceutical interests (but I repeat myself…); yet represents views of credible government and scientific experts. It has been factual, fair and cited by a medical authority in the New England Journal of Medicine. My recent reporting on hydroxycholoroquine has also been factual and fair. It is only controversial in the annals of the Media Matters and pharmaceutical interests (and their disciples), but not from a journalistic or factual standpoint. As I reported, there are two divergent views of this medicine that have tended to fall along political lines, and the jury is still out. This is in contrast to the widespread reports that stated or implied the scientific case on hydroxycholoroquine as a potential treatment or preventive measure had been closed, even as mutliple studies on it— including by the government— were actively underway. Ironically, powerful interests are able to successfully direct media attention so that the scrutiny falls on the accurate reporting rather than the many false and misleading reports. The simple version of the takeaway in my report from well respected experts is, as my story stated: “politics and money aside, at least some scientists aren’t ready to count hydroxychloroquine out of the coronavirus equation. Even if others already have.” The idea that certain interests are working so hard to censor this information should be a red flag that leads all of us to ask why.
Farhi: Yep. Got it. Thanks.