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Fact-Checking the Sunday Shows: October 12
The Sunday shows were in full Ebola panic mode today, stoking fears that it could spread further in the United States. PunditFact checks the talking heads against the record.
By Lauren Carroll and Aaron Sharockman
News that a Texas hospital worker has Ebola dominated the news shows Sunday, with networks stoking fears that the virus could continue to spread in the United States.
On CNN’s State of the Union, Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., told viewers that the latest developments directly contradict the assurances of President Barack Obama and his administration.
"We were told there would never be a case of Ebola in the United States,” McCain said.
In this case, it’s McCain putting words in the mouth of Obama and top government health officials.
We searched the public comments both of Obama and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and found no such matter-of-fact assurances. What officials and Obama have repeatedly said is that while there’s a chance an Ebola case could appear in the United States, the possibility of an outbreak is extremely low.
For instance, CDC official Beth Bell testified before Congress on Sept. 17, saying: “We do not view Ebola as a significant public health threat to the United States. … It is possible that infected travelers may arrive in the United States, despite all efforts to prevent this; therefore we need to ensure the United States' public health and health care systems are prepared to rapidly manage cases to avoid further transmission.”
A day earlier Obama said that “the chances of an Ebola outbreak here in the United States are extremely low.”
All the statements we found spoke of the unlikelihood that the disease would spread rapidly in the United States, not that it would never make it to the United States.
McCain’s claim rates False.
Aside from Ebola, Fox News Sunday discussed the Supreme Court’s decision not to hear appeals in a handful of states that struck down same-sex marriage bans. The decision allows same-sex marriages to proceed in those states and increases the likelihood that same-sex marriage will be allowed elsewhere.
Ted Olson, a prominent conservative who supports the idea of same-sex marriage, debated the developments with Tony Perkins of the conservative Family Research Council.
“We know from the social science that children do best with a mom and a dad,” Perkins claimed at one point. “That’s why our policies have preferred marriage and given benefit to it.”
Perkins’ Family Research Council has a Web page devoted to 10 social science arguments against same-sex marriage. Of the 10, only four have to with the welfare of children.
Of those four, one piece of research looked at children in single-parent households, not same-sex households, and another isn’t an academic study.
The final two points from the Family Research Council address the data on children of same-sex households. You can find many research papers that claim that growing up in same-sex such households does no harm. But the council cited the court affidavit of a University of Virginia professor who said that not one of those studies “was conducted according to generally accepted standards of scientific research."
That testimony has been critiqued on two scores: It came in 2001 and research has passed it by, and it overlooked a range of studies. But even if the methodological critique were correct, it wouldn’t prove that growing up in an opposite-sex household is better.
The council then cited the work of New York University sociologist Judith Stacey to make the point that children raised in same-sex households “are more likely to experience gender and sexual disorders.”
Stacey, however, says this represents a ”complete misuse of the research” and says the differences she described, such as these children being more open to same-sex relationships, need not be seen as deficits. Stacey accused the Family Research Council of cherry-picking her findings.
In contrast, we found several research projects that compared much larger numbers of children in same and opposite-sex households. One published in 2012 looked at 78 children -- about half boys and half girls -- raised by lesbian parents. The mothers joined the research project as far back as 1986, long before their children were born. The children were assessed over time and those results were matched to children from heterosexual couples.
When asked about how they felt about themselves, their relations with their parents and with their peers, the children of lesbians responded similarly as the children of straight parents.
However, they were more likely to report being teased at school because of their parents.
The American Psychological Association also produced a comprehensive review of studies going back three decades. The most relevant section focuses on research that compares the children of lesbian or gay parents. The studies looked at children in terms of their school performance, their relations with their peers, intelligence, self-esteem and a number of other variables.
According to this review, “the belief that children of lesbian and gay parents suffer deficits in personal development has no empirical foundation.”
Perkins’ claim that social science shows “that children do best with a mom and a dad” rates False.
Jon Greenberg and Nai Issa contributed to this report. Read the full fact-checks at PunditFact.com.