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Media, Left Try to Put Their Hands on Your Shopping Cart

News outlets hype fears of chemical often found in food items, while lefty eco-, PR groups call for ban.

Scare tactics are one of the many tools of the left, and the environmental left particularly loves to spread fear of chemicals and “toxins” among consumers. But that phobia also taints media coverage, and has resulted in attacks on food-packaging chemicals like BPA.

The media, along with the help of left-wing green groups and one infamous liberal PR company, have attacked that chemical, commonly found in plastics, liners of cans and many other ordinary products, for more more than a decade.

Activist groups and scientists have repeatedly claimed it is “a threat to human health,” despite government agencies that have found it “harmless” even in baby bottles. But instead of relying on major studies done by government researchers, the liberal media have embraced the junk science from green groups, hyping it over and over again.

One of those liberal environmental groups, Breast Cancer Fund, sounds innocuous enough. Media coverage often labels BCF an “advocacy” or simply a “cancer group.” By name only, it appears to be a $3 million charity devoted to fighting breast cancer, but a closer look reveals it’s just another extreme environmental group cloaked in pink and media outlets have helped maintain the group’s facade. The Los Angeles Times listed BCF among the “top breast cancer charities” in 2010. Unsurprisingly, BCF threw its support behind Rep. Markey’s BPA ban in 2011.

Fenton Communications, the same PR group that helped a client get the EPA to ban Alar in the 1980s (following the unjustified apple scare), has in recent years also been working against BPA and for clients with BPA-free products. Its client in the Alar case, the Natural Resources Defense Council, filed a petition with the FDA to try and compel the agency to ban BPA in food and beverage packaging. A lawsuit filed later, forced the FDA to respond by March 31, 2012.

The Media Research Center’s Business & Media Institute analyzed ABC, CBS and NBC news reports as well as The New York Times, Washington Post, USA Today, Los Angeles Times and Wall Street Journal mentions of BPA between Jan. 1, 2010 and Dec. 31, 2011. BMI excluded casual mentions of products that happened to have a BPA-free label, because the stories were not actually about the chemical. Here are some of BMI’s findings:

  • Overwhelming Majority of Stories Focus on ‘Threat’ of BPA: Ninety-seven percent of two years’ worth of newspaper and TV news stories that discussed BPA were about the supposed danger or potential threat of the chemical. This was the case in spite of an Institute of Medicine study (funded by Komen) and government agencies’ findings about the chemical. Just two of the 87 stories focused on research that found BPA wasn’t the risk the left claims it is.

  • Media label BPA ‘Carcinogenic,’ Despite Science: In just the past two years, the three broadcast networks and top five national newspapers have continued to report on the “hidden danger” of BPA, labeling it “carcinogenic” and “toxic” often with small or flawed reports from anti-chemical activists.

  • Komen Attacked by Left for Failing to Recommend BPA Avoidance: An Institute of Medicine study funded by Susan G. Komen said (of BPA and a couple other chemicals) that “evidence of danger is too scant to recommend avoidance.” This provoked media criticism of the findings and left-wing attacks on the cancer charity before the left went after Komen on behalf of Planned Parenthood.

  • Fenton Communications Pushing BPA Ban: The same left-wing public relations firm that helped the Natural Resources Defense Council get Alar banned in the 1980s, has been working to dissuade consumers from using products with BPA in them. Fenton Communications also brags of its connections to the mainstream media, and represented Born Free, a BPA-free baby bottle company.

 

Recommendations

 

  • Don’t Always Take the Activists Side: It is a journalist’s responsibility to give balanced treatment to a subject, rather than siding with one view over another. In the case of BPA, the media have been squarely on the side of anti-chemical zealots. This needs to change.

  • Stop the ‘Everything is going to kill us’ Stories: The news media often resemble the boy who cried ‘wolf,’ with incessant claims that things will make us sick. By trying to scare people into action the media abdicate their responsibility, but they also leave the audience tone deaf to their warnings.

  • Find Victims of Regulation Too: Reporters always seem to be able to find victims of the “problem” they are reporting on, but in their haste to advocate regulation they rarely consider that individuals and business can be victimized by regulation and government interference as well. If the media insist on portraying people as victims, they need the victims of both sides -- not just one.

 

Read the report

Part 1: Ignoring Science, 97% of Stories Hype BPA as Health Threat

Part 2: Lefty Group Uses Pink to Camouflage Green Activism, Attack Business

Part 3: Behind the Scenes: The Lefty PR Group that Stokes Consumer Fear of BPA