Is Katie Couric the Next Jenny McCarthy? Couric Responds

The TV-show host responds to criticism that she sensationalized concerns over the HPV vaccine

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Katie Couric

Following a segment of her daily show Katie that called the HPV vaccine “controversial,” Katie Couric, journalist and host, defended — and acknowledged problems with — her coverage.

The segment, which aired on Dec. 4, was titled “The HPV-vaccine controversy” and focused on two mothers who believed the vaccine for human papillomavirus (HPV) harmed their daughters. The women are understandably concerned parents, but critics of Couric (including myself) argued she should know better. There’s no scientific evidence confirming that the HPV vaccine causes deaths, and the risks of the vaccine are the same as other vaccines. Public-health officials say the immunization is the best way to protect against cervical cancer and genital warts.

Prior to the show, Couric was criticized for being alarmist and for creating a debate that didn’t exist by focusing on extremely rare (and unfounded) side effects of the vaccine. In her more than 1,000-word essay that appeared on the Huffington Post site, Couric explains that as a journalist she felt she could not ignore the adverse-event reports, but that she does support the HPV vaccine, and has had both her daughters vaccinated.

(MORE: Is Katie Couric the Next Jenny McCarthy?)

Although Couric never apologizes for the segment outright, she acknowledges that the coverage may have been one-sided, writing:

Following the show, and in fact before it even aired, there was criticism that the program was too anti-vaccine and anti-science, and in retrospect, some of that criticism was valid. We simply spent too much time on the serious adverse events that have been reported in very rare cases following the vaccine. More emphasis should have been given to the safety and efficacy of the HPV vaccines.

Couric goes on to say, “There is no definitive proof that these two situations were related to the vaccine … However, the time spent telling these stories was disproportionate to the statistical risk attendant to the vaccines and greater perspective is needed.” Read Couric’s full essay here.

15 comments
TimothySpencer
TimothySpencer

So now you get called a "loon" for simply reporting more than one viewpoint about a topic.  It's HIGHLY concerning how the mainstream media AND the government are handling our free speech rights.  The average person doesn't know but, the Former Soviet Union used to put political dissidents into "mental hospitals" for exposing facts that the government didn't like.  


Folks, just because you 'trust' the scientific rhetoric backing a corrupt govt relationship with vaccine manufacturers doesn't mean you should attempt to "silence" people who are critical of vaccines.   There are many disturbing facts about the relationship between the government and vaccine corporations.   Just because you disagree with a point of view, doesn't mean you should go around calling everyone 'crazy' and attempting to silence them.

Sarah_A
Sarah_A

Agreed  DoritReiss and lilady - its not enough to spread misinformation on a daytime TV show and then apologize on a website.  She "couldn't ignore" the parents' stories, but she was okay with ignoring the evidence that the young woman who died had a pre-existing heart condition?  I know I keep harping on that, but I think its important, because of the way she and her defenders are trying to frame the issue as "Ok, *maybe* I / she gave a disproportionate amount of time to rare adverse events."  No: she presented horrifying stories that were probably completely unrelated to the vaccine AS IF there was some reason to think that they were related.  Not just "there's no evidence they're related," but "there's actually evidence that they're not related that I'm not going to tell you."  

ranhoder
ranhoder

Bottom line: Both her daughters were vaccinated. In other words, pro-vaccine for her family; anti-vaccine for ratings!

DoritReiss
DoritReiss

I am grateful to Ms. Couric for having the courage and probity to acknowledge the problems with her show and for speaking up and admitting some of the inaccuracies. But I, too, feel she has not done enough to make up for the damage caused. I hope she will devote segments of her show to work on fixing the damage by highlighting the large scale studies showing the vaccine's safety, the harms from HPV infection, and the damage the attacks on this vaccines and other produce. 


Some damage will be left by her show, but I think she owes the public - and potential HPV victims left exposed because of her misleading coverage - a real effort to mitigate it and help protect victims of HPV caused cancers. 

lilady
lilady

Katie Couric issued a nonpology at the Huffington Post.  Why did she chose the Ho-Po and not issue a real apology on her own show, where she could reach her listening audience?


She could have actually announced plans to have scientists and doctors explain the safety profile seen during the clinical trials which Dr. Harper participated in and the safety profile that has emerged during the  post marketing intensive monitoring.


She could also invite young women who are undergoing cervical cancer treatment and the loved ones of young women who have died (4,000 every year in the United States) from cervical cancer.


Couric's nonpology is discussed here:


http://scienceblogs.com/insolence/2013/12/11/the-katie-couric-apology-about-her-segment-on-hpv-and-hpv-vaccines/

CharlesBoyer
CharlesBoyer

That's okay, Katie, you got some ratings for your sensationalized coverage and that's all you were ever after.


Don't hide behind being a journalist.  You were a newsreader and a chat show host...not a modern Edward R. Murrow.

SmoothEdward1
SmoothEdward1

Is Katie Couric becoming the next Jenny McCarthy? More like Maury Povich. She's been on a real winning streak lately hasn't she?

chokingkojak
chokingkojak

Sifferlin, if you were Hillary Clinton, you might be a big enough woman to criticize Couric and come out on top.  


Right now, though, you're just head-butting Couric's ankles with these little Time-blog beefs.

Suomi
Suomi

It appears some folks just never learn. How is it possible that to attract audiences this journalist plays with the lives of people? There will be plenty of parents who watched her nonsense and who will not vaccinate their children and by so doing put them at risk. It's incredible how egotistic people can be. The only way she'll learn is if somebody manages to sue her

Sarah_A
Sarah_A

@TimothySpencer 


You have a strange idea of what it means to "silence" someone.  If anything, some might argue that all of the criticism has given Katie Couric's deceptive and manipulative "reporting" far more attention than it deserves.  But I'm a believer in the "sunlight is the best disinfectant" school of thought: I think its better to expose deception for what it is rather than try and ignore it.   

KellyM.Bray
KellyM.Bray

So? Many people think they have been kidnapped by aliens or President Obama was born in Kenya. Nice thing about science and evidence based medicine is that it's not based on an opinion poll.

KellyM.Bray
KellyM.Bray

If she is head butting KC's heels it is because KC is laying down on the job. The condemnation of her ridiculous show has been universal among scientists and medical professionals.

DeweySayenoff
DeweySayenoff

"Put them at risk"?  No, the sad truth is that her one-sided coverage will result in the deaths of people, from tens to thousands.  HPV causes cancer.  It's often treatable, but in the cases where it isn't caught in time, it's fatal.  My step-sister died from cervical cancer, caused by HPV.

The responsibility of presenting an accurate picture of news stories was once understood by journalists.  The biased opinions of a few malcontents should always be offset by the EVIDENCE.  Just because they THOUGHT something, doesn't mean that something was real or valid.

News used to be about information.  Today, it's about entertainment.  In the transition, the responsibility to the public good was utterly lost.  Couric should end her career now, before she does further damage.  As should everyone at Fox, MSNBC and other biased news organizations who try to actually mold public opinion.

It's not their JOB to try to persuade.  It's their JOB to INFORM.  It would be nice if they actually did their jobs responsibly for a change.

Suomi
Suomi

I work for the NIH, where we spend lots of money and effort to develop vaccines to protect the population against deadly diseases. What Couric or Sifferlin could do is to pay us a visit and learn about the rigorous methods we use to test the safety of any vaccine. In light of these methods anecdotal cases like the ones presented by Couric as "evidence" are what they are, folks who develop illnesses unrelated to the vaccine, which one is bound to have if the vaccinated population is big enough. This is what we call statistical significance. This is the exact problem we have with vaccination and autism, a relationship that has never been proven correct when scientific methods are used. The sad thing is that some people not familiar with the method are not convinced and continue to believe in conspiracy theories promulgated by those who should know better. In the meantime they refuse to vaccinate their children with all the negative consequences that that decision carries.

So the invitation is open, you want to learn what real science does come and we will share with you these methods so that perhaps you can in turn share what you learned with the public in an unbiased way