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The Media’s War on Business – and Science – Gets Personal

The opinions expressed by columnists are their own and do not necessarily represent the views of Townhall.com.

For several years the hysterical, ratings-seeking media has waged a war on businesses that use bisphenol A (also known as BPA), a chemical found in water bottles, canned foods and even thermal cash-register tape. The media has succeeded in ignoring the science and instead stoked the public’s irrational fears by simply proving that traces of BPA can be found in your food. However, numerous studies by the FDA, CDC, World Health Organization, and European Food Safety Authority have found that BPA is easily and quickly metabolized, with no discernible human harm ever being identified.

With feigned outrage, the hysterical media points out that many studies on the safety of BPA are funded by companies who benefit from its production. But how would the media react if companies didn’t conduct studies on the safety of their products? Like their cohorts on the Left, the media is committed to painting businesses as evil and greedy. One researcher from the University of Missouri smugly told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, “They are simply protecting their product.”

Let’s assume greed is the motivator. Sure, a business could make a quick buck from an unsafe product before the FDA steps in, but they could make even more from a safe product they could sell for decades that also protects consumers from diseases like botulism and salmonella contamination, as BPA does. The profit-from-safe-products route also ensures they won’t be getting sued by consumers and fined by regulators.

What is the FDA’s motivation when it identifies BPA as safe? In 2010 in its second report affirming the safety of BPA, the agency’s Deputy Commissioner Joshua Sharfstein, M.D. said, “The FDA is not saying that it's unsafe to use a baby bottle with BPA. ...FDA does support the use of bottles with BPA because the benefit of nutrition outweighs the potential risk of BPA. ...If we thought it was unsafe, we would be taking strong regulatory action.”

When faced with an independent report that didn’t support their grandstanding against the BPA industry, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel put a spin on the FDA’s latest report saying it was an “about face” even though the second report simply affirmed the first.

The media only asserts its role as watchdog when it reiterates stereotypes they’ve created. Meanwhile, they ignore that the small number of studies that claim to find enigmatic “links” to BPA consumption and a host of problems also profit from their findings. It’s to researchers’ advantage to report a link, no matter how miniscule, so their funding doesn’t dry up. Yet we don’t see special reports from the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel on the millions of taxpayer dollars funding studies for bogus reasons.

We also don’t see many reports on how the media profits from their grandstanding against business. The media uses scare tactics to garner viewers, readers, advertising dollars and awards from one another.

When reporters have an agenda, the end product suffers. The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel went after BPA in a series of reports that assumed every “independent” study was true and every industry and FDA study was false. In fact, Susanne Rust, the reporter in the paper’s BPA investigation, later went on to work for the environmental advocacy group, California Watch, where she still employs the same biased reporting on BPA’s safety despite her past reports being investigated for ethics complaints. Her bio notes that she and a fellow reporter “were finalists in 2009 for the Pulitzer Prize in investigative reporting.” This is akin to Jose Canseco putting “nominated for Baseball Hall of Fame” in his bio.

The Huffington Post’s John Entine noted, “The ‘BPA is harmful’ thesis never gained mainstream acceptance among scientists -- no regulatory panel in the world has recommended restricting BPA based on the evidence, although political bodies have imposed restrictions, in part because of public perceptions stirred by articles in the Journal Sentinel and other publications.”

Since the media and the Left have used far less evidence to say the “science is settled” they must now attack those who disagree with their objective to take down the BPA industry. When Entine reported on the ethics charges being levied against the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel and his own findings, he was quickly dismissed by readers who tried to paint him as a right-winger tied to the industry, labeling him as “suspect” and “a person with an agenda.” In fact, Entine says he voted for Barack Obama and believes global warming is caused by humans. So much for that stereotype.

Similarly, last week in an op-ed piece in the Bangor Daily News, Dr. Mitchell Cheeseman, a former FDA official, responded to a piece that once again incorrectly characterized the FDA as changing its position on the safety on BPA. The FDA has been just as consistent on this issue as those who hurl insults at those reporting on the safety of BPA. One commenter said Cheeseman was “a toaddie for the chemical industry.” Another wrote, “I am continually shocked by the extent to which highly paid lobbyists like Cheeseman will blatantly lie.”

In her New York Times bestseller, Slander, Ann Coulter wrote, “Liberals dispute slight reductions in the marginal tax rates as if they are trying to prevent Charles Manson from slaughtering baby seals. Progress cannot be made on serious issues because one side is making arguments and the other side is throwing eggs – both figuratively and literally.”

The Left’s motive in promoting the bad science of “BPA contamination” is clear: It allows them access to every business that produces BPA and every product that contains BPA. The media is complicit in grandstanding on this issue in order to stoke fears and chase meaningless awards. Both the Left and the media see business as the target. When personal attacks and baseless insinuation are their arrows, their quiver is always full.

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