Cognitive Dissonance: Nets Cause Confusion, Unease With Conflicting COVID Reports

Listen to the Article!

What makes a crisis, such as the one we’re all living through, worse is when the public gets mixed and/or conflicting messages about what to expect. This causes confusion and anxiety. And that’s exactly what the broadcast networks of ABC, CBS, and NBC have been creating with the cognitive dissonance plaguing their evening news reports, which reach millions of people.

Throughout the crisis (and most notably in recent days), they would bounce back and forth between what they wanted their viewers to feel. They would go from pitying the unemployed who couldn’t feed their kids, to decrying efforts to reopening the economy. Or chide President Trump for promoting and unproven treatment, while they did the exact same thing. But Thursday night’s newscasts could cause rhetorical whiplash.

Arguably, the CBS Evening News was the most blatant. In their opening report, they fawned for the congressional testimony from Dr. Rick Bright, an HHS scientist who claimed he was fired for opposing hydroxychloroquine, and that his warnings were ignored (both claims have already been disproven).

“Bright told lawmakers he was ousted last month after refusing to embrace the drug chloroquine as a possible COVID cure,” announced senior congressional correspondent Nancy Cordes. She also noted that while Trump touts the drug, “recent studies have shown the drug could cause fatal heart problems.” The tone of the report was that Trump was promoting something that could kill people.

But just a few minutes later, anchor Norah O’Donnell became an ally of the drug when leading into their “Race to a Cure” segment. Reporting: “Tonight, the NIH is testing a potential coronavirus treatment that combines hydroxychloroquine with an antibiotic that fights infections like pinkeye.”

 

 

The network also flipped-flopped between feeling sorry for people out of work and going broke, while at the same time chiding efforts to reopen.

Reporter Mark Strassmann spoke with a mother of two who often went hungry “two” or sometimes “three” times a week, and she was down to her last $9. But that was followed up with a report huffing about people wanting to get back to work. Here was O'Donnell's lead-in:

O’DONNELL: Tonight, there are new conflicts over ending stay-at-home orders. Armed protesters again marched on Michigan's capitol. It was a very different scene in Wisconsin where a controversial court ruling led to some to celebrate at the bar.

Correspondent Adriana Diaz spoke with one Wisconsin restaurant owner who was opening despite his worries about the virus. “Why not then just keep your doors shut if you have a little bit of trepidation,” she pressed him. “Because I can't afford to. My thing is we can't stay locked down forever,” he replied. And in her closing comments, Diaz whined about different counties having different reopening rules.

Over on NBC Nightly News, they too pounced on Bright’s testimony. “Dr. Bright also casting doubt on the administration's timeline for a coronavirus vaccine,” reported Geoff Bennett. “Adding: that even if a vaccine is available soon, the federal government doesn't have a plan to distribute it.

Just 10 minutes later, anchor Lester Holt looked to Dr. John Torrez for the latest good news for the future of a vaccine from a study of monkeys: “[I]t found, after four weeks of vaccine produced antibodies to COVID-19 in all of the monkeys and prevented them from getting pneumonia when they were exposed to the virus. The control group that didn't get the vaccine got sick so this is certainly promising.

As for Bright’s testimony about not having the ability to distribute doses, NBC spent a portion of their Tuesday night newscast crediting Trump with funding a groundbreaking manufacturing technique that would allow syringes for vaccines to be produced faster, in greater number (in the millions), and domestically.

With ABC’s World News Tonight, they’ve repeatedly done reports boasting about the progress made on vaccine research. But Thursday’s show saw them latch onto Bright’s doom and gloom:

MARY BRUCE (senior congressional correspondent): We heard from Dr. Anthony Fauci earlier this week saying that he’s hoping they will know if any vaccine can be successful by late fall or early winter. But Dr. Bright today said that 12-18 month timeline that we’re hearing so much about, is an aggressive schedule and he says he thinks it is going to take longer than that.

This schizophrenic reporting does nothing but hurt the public and keeps them in a state of hysteria.

The transcripts are below, click "expand" to read:

ABC’s World News Tonight
May 14, 2020
6:35:20 p.m. Eastern

(…)

MARY BRUCE: But Bright, whose life's work has been developing vaccines, threw cold water on any hope for a COVID vaccine any time soon.

DR. RICK BRIGHT: A lot of optimism is swirling around a 12 to 18-month time frame, in everything goes perfectly. We've never seen everything go perfectly.

BRUCE: And once a vaccine is approved, Bright warns of shortages.

BRIGHT: We need to have a strategy and plan in place now to make sure that we can not only fill that vaccine, make it, distribute it, but administer it in a fair and equitable plan.

(…)

DAVID MUIR: And Mary, setting aside the politics here, which is becoming increasingly difficult to do, for folks at home who simply want to know here, what's the bottom line here on any hope for a vaccine. Because there seemed to be a bit of a reality check again today on this front.

BRUCE: And David, that is the big x-factor here. We heard from Dr. Anthony Fauci earlier this week saying that he’s hoping they will know if any vaccine can be successful by late fall or early winter. But Dr. Bright today said that 12-18 month timeline that we’re hearing so much about, is an aggressive schedule and he says he thinks it is going to take longer than that.

(…)

 

CBS Evening News
May 14, 2020
6:33:38 p.m. Eastern

(…)

NANCY CORDES: Bright told lawmakers he was ousted last month after refusing to embrace the drug chloroquine as a possible COVID cure.

DR. RICK BRIGHT: When I spoke outside of our government and shared my concerns for the American public, that I believe is the straw that broke the camel's back.

CORDES: The President has repeatedly touted hydroxychloroquine.

PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: It could be a game changer.

CORDES: And did so again, today.

TRUMP: We’ve had tremendous response to the hydroxy.

CORDES: But recent studies have shown the drug could cause fatal heart problems.

REP. BEN RAY LUJAN (D-NM): Did the President's obsession with this issue distract you and others on your team from your mission of saving lives?

BRIGHT: The directive we received was to put prioritize put an expanded access protocol in place in 48 hours was extremely distracting to dozens of federal scientists.

CORDES: President Trump rejected Bright's claims.

(…)

6:38:36 p.m. Eastern

NORAH O’DONNELL: We turn now to the economy. Nearly three million more Americans filed for unemployment benefits last week. That's more than 36 million people in two months. But the real number is expected to be higher because many people can't get through overloaded state systems. CBS's Mark Strassmann has our report.

[Cuts to video]

MARK STRASSMANN: Free groceries drew this line of cars a mile long in Dallas today. Across America, food insecurity spreads like a virus.

How are you fixed for food?

TIFFANY ANDREWS: Very low.

STRASSMANN: Tiffany Andrews lives outside Atlanta.

How many days a week would you say you go hungry?

ANDREWS: Maybe twice, three times.

STRASSMANN: Until mid-march, this jobless single mother of two drove a hotel shuttle bus. She made $12 an hour.

How much money do you have left?

ANDREWS: I have $9.

STRASSMANN: You have $9?

ANDRES: Uh-huh.

(…)

6:41:06 p.m. Eastern

O’DONNELL: Tonight, there are new conflicts over ending stay-at-home orders. Armed protesters again marched on Michigan's capitol. It was a very different scene in Wisconsin where a controversial court ruling led to some to celebrate at the bar. CBS's Adriana Diaz reports from Waukesha, Wisconsin.

[Cuts to video]

ADRIANA DIAZ: A number of local bars swung open their doors hours after the state Supreme Court said they could. Today, food is flying out of the kitchen at the neighbor's bar and grill. The tables are spread out, but servers aren't wearing masks or gloves. Owner Chris Potrats:

CHRIS POTRATS: I'm feeling all kinds of different things, worried because my main concern is the safety of everybody.

DIAZ: Why not then just keep your doors shut if you have a little bit of trepidation?

POTRATS: Because I can't afford to. My thing is we can't stay locked down forever.

(…)

[Cuts back to live]

DIAZ: Back here in Wisconsin, there are no statewide rules on how to safely reopen, and some local jurisdictions have rushed to reinstate stay-at-home orders. So, for example, here in Waukesha County, all businesses can reopen, but less than ten miles away in Milwaukee County, there are still restrictions.

(…)

6:44:33 p.m. Eastern

O’DONNELL: Tonight, the NIH is testing a potential coronavirus treatment that combines hydroxychloroquine with an antibiotic that fights infections like pinkeye. CBS’s chief medical correspondent Dr. Jon Lapook reports testing on another blend of drugs, a so-called cocktail, has entered a new phase as we continue our series, "Racing to a cure."

(…)

 

NBC Nightly News
May 14, 2020
7:05:59 p.m. Eastern

(…)

GEOFF BENNETT: Dr. Bright also casting doubt on the administration's timeline for a coronavirus vaccine.

DR. RICK BRIGHT: I still think 12 to 18 months is an aggressive schedule, and I think it's going to take longer than that to do so.

BENNETT: Adding: that even if a vaccine is available soon, the federal government doesn't have a plan to distribute it.

BRIGHT: There is no one company that can produce enough for our country or for the world. It's going to be a limited supplies. We need to have a strategy and plan in place now to make sure that we cannot only fill that vaccine, make it, distribute it, but administer it in a fair and equitable plan.

(…)

7:16:07 p.m. Eastern

LESTER HOLT: There is encouraging news tonight in the race for a vaccine. With that, let's bring in Dr. John Torres. John, what can you tell us?

DR. JOHN TORRES: Lester, Oxford University just released results from a study involving six monkeys so it's small and preliminary. But it found, after four weeks of vaccine produced antibodies to COVID-19 in all of the monkeys and prevented them from getting pneumonia when they were exposed to the virus. The control group that didn't get the vaccine got sick so this is certainly promising.

Of course, people may respond differently than monkeys so this vaccine is also currently being tested in more than 1,000 people and the first results are expected in June. Lester.

HOLT: All right. Dr. John, thanks.

NB Daily Health Care Coronavirus Bias by Omission Conspiracy Theories Broadcast Television ABC World News Tonight CBS CBS Evening News NBC NBC Nightly News Video Mary Bruce Norah O'Donnell Adriana Diaz Nancy Cordes Mark Strassmann Lester Holt Donald Trump