What happened to Katie Couric? The need for ratings?

We posted a few links in leftover about this story but it has mushroomed into something huge. It’s not news that a celebrity-hosted TV show talks about important medical topics in misleading, woo-ey ways but something hit a nerve with this piece as a backlash is occurring. Did she just create the controversy to boost her shows ratings? It’s made medical professionals and vaccination advocates furious. As it should.

Katie Couric’s HPV vaccine segment controversy – CBS News.

Katie Couric’s talk show “Katie” has drawn ire from doctors and journalists for a recent segment on the HPV vaccine that presented what it called “both sides” of the “HPV controversy.”

The segment included personal stories from two moms who claim their daughters suffered serious harm from the vaccine (one of them died). In addition, the show featured two physicians: one who researched the vaccine and thinks its long-term protection benefits are oversold, and one who recommends it to her patients, in line with recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the American Academy of Pediatrics.

Dr. Arthur Caplan, director of the division of medical ethics at NYU Langone Medical Center in New York City, spoke about this piece saying it was inappropriate to use anecdotal stories against sound medical evidence.

“The show was kind of inexcusable in terms of damage done versus positive contribution,” he told CBS News.

Kind of? That’s the way it’s typically done. Anecdotes are powerful stuff to viewers who are lacking the background for the case.

Orac has heaped it on Couric:

Katie Couric on the HPV vaccine: Antivaccine or irresponsible journalist? You be the judge! – Respectful Insolence.

[…]when it comes to medicine, Katie Couric has done a fair amount of good. After the tragic death of her husband at a young age from colon cancer, she became an activist and spokesperson for colorectal cancer awareness, even famously undergoing her very own on-air colonoscopy in 2000. Then, in 2005, as part of Breast Cancer Awareness Month, she similarly underwent mammography on the air on the Today Show. She was even one of the co-founders of Stand Up To Cancer (SU2C). Indeed, I saw her accept the AACR Award for Distinguished Public Service earlier this year. In brief, Katie Couric was supposed to be one of the good guys, and usually she is.

But her long-standing acceptance of anti-vaccination quackery was a cloud over her good work. Orac reviews the show:

It was even worse than I thought it was going to be, and I knew it was going to be bad when it was advertised as having a mother who thought that Gardasil killed her daughter. And so it did. What I didn’t realize is that Couric also had one of the founders of the anti-HPV vaccine crank blog SaneVax on her show, Rosemary Mathis, and her daughter Lauren. If you want to get an idea of just how much quackery and pseudoscience is promoted by SaneVax, just search this blog for the term.

She totally went with the manufacturoversy theme, hyping up the supposed side effects and not weighing them adequately against the tons of positive effects. You can read the blow by blow against responsible reporting on his blog – long but thorough and IMPORTANT, as usual.

When he notes that he thinks Dr. Oz wouldn’t have touched this, that makes you say “ewwww”:

It’s amazing how, in one fell swoop, Couric has called into question her dedication to science-based medicine after having done yeoman work promoting it with respect to colon cancer and other cancers. When asked in the title whether Couric is antivaccine or irresponsible journalist, I didn’t actually think that Couric is antivaccine. However, she is irresponsible. By giving voice to the crankiest of the antivaccine cranks with such an obvious biasing of the segment towards them, Couric has demonstrated irresponsibility on a massive scale. For shame.

The LA Times has a piece on the Wednesday show’s controversy. They also pan Couric as being a promoter of junk medical science. Pulling BS into the mainstream and exposing it to her audience is not something to be proud of. It’s something for which to be disgraced.

Katie Couric puts the anti-vaccination movement into the mainstream – latimes.com.

Finally, Dr. Jen Gunter gives readers a glimpse of the real effect of this false balance on a television show:Impact of Katie Couric’s misinformation on HPV vaccine in one image | Dr. Jen Gunter.

Screen Shot 2013-12-06 at 1.59.00 PM

Dr. Jen notes that daytime TV marketed to women has a disgusting tendency to promote “real Moms” as those who “know” the secrets they don’t want you to know about, that by using their own networks the information gathered can trump what the medical establishment and your own doctors say.

I say that’s CRAP. Real (responsible) Moms (of which I am one) get sound information and aren’t taken in by pathetic ratings-driven, consumer oriented, fake outrage daytime TV hosts. Real Moms don’t buy into this bullshit, we should see right through it.


Anti-Vaccine: Katie Couric program gives false balance to dangerous quackery. (Phil Plait on Slate)
Katie Couric Promotes Anticancer Vaccine Alarmism – Forbes.

Katie Couric doubles down on the Gardasil false balance reporting.

Her awful and worrisome reply about “continuing the conversation” (that should never have been framed this way to begin with). HPV Conversation Continued – Katie Couric.

  2 comments for “What happened to Katie Couric? The need for ratings?

  1. December 8, 2013 at 2:34 AM

    Someone should ask to come on her show to debate routine colonoscopy. or too soon?

  2. December 8, 2013 at 11:35 AM

    The real HPV controversy from Katie Couric’s show, her expert http://drjengunter.wordpress.com/2013/12/07/the-real-hpv-controversy-from-katie-courics-show-her-expert/
    Oops. Caught in a lie.

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