Peter Klein is executive director of the Global Reporting Center and a professor at the University of British Columbia.
This week Fox News commentator Lara Logan went on air to criticize the US response to the COVID-19 pandemic, which is being led by President Biden’s chief medical adviser, Dr. Anthony Fauci. Fair enough – we should certainly debate those policies in an open forum.
She then shared this gem: “What you see on Dr. Fauci – that’s what people tell me, that he doesn’t represent science to them. He represents Josef Mengele,” referring to the Nazi doctor who It was used on Jews during World War II.
As the child of Holocaust survivors whose cousins, aunts, and uncles died in Auschwitz—the camp where Mengele worked—I can’t help but take offense to such comparisons. The notion that a physician who has helped millions through his role as director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, as well as an advisor to seven US presidents, was a torturer who promoted eugenics and pseudoscience. The same would be, of course, ridiculous.
But I also come to this as Lara’s former producer 60 minutes, where we worked on stories about national security and war, and my first reaction, followed by eye-popping disbelief, was what I often said to them in the newsroom: Show me the facts. “I’m talking about what people all over the world are saying,” she said on the Fox program. What are these sources widely comparing Fauci to Mengele?
Of course, there are no such sources, perhaps beyond a small circle of far-right activists she might be connected to these days.
My phone and inbox are flooded with questions from friends, coworkers, and strangers, asking if Lara had always been like this. Let me set the record straight: No.
It’s true that Lara sometimes tries to push the envelope, but reputable news organizations have a system that keeps journalists in check. I remember a heated argument with him in the editing room, in which he insisted on calling the Iraq-based terrorist group Tanzeem Quaidt al-Jihad fi Bilad al-Rafidan shorthand “Al Qaeda”. I pointed out that this group, often referred to as “Al Qaeda in Iraq”, is not a group founded by Osama bin Laden. The union of Al Qaeda in Afghanistan with Sunni terrorists in Iraq is exactly what we, as journalists, had a responsibility to establish directly with the public and policy makers. While the group’s founder had pledged allegiance to Al Qaeda in 2004, I said that telling them the same thing would amount to Beatles and Wings being the same band. He changed the script.
The Lara I worked with was a good reporter. She was brave and inquisitive, she listened during interviews, and she knew good storytelling. While she did her part glorifying the US military, she was also open to criticism, as in our 2007 story differences in ranks, which saw service members refusing to redeploy to Iraq over their concerns about how the war was being run by the Bush administration.
This is not the Lara we saw emerging two years ago. After she was put on leave by CBS News over a discredited report on the Benghazi attack, she moved on to a vaguely right-wing podcast run by a retired Navy SEAL that she previously perceived to have liberal bias, to enthuse the media. for. I called her over the comments privately, and she listened respectfully — but, nonetheless, she persisted. She has gone on to host a streaming show with the ironic title Lara Logan has no agenda, and she occasionally comes out with controversial comments that keep her relevant.
The risks of these comments go beyond destroying his reputation. It fosters doubts in scientifically sound health policies, and it feeds on attacks on Anthony Fauci, whose life is in constant danger because of such propaganda.
The other question I get is – does Lara really believe the drivel she drives? These days, she strikes me more like Sasha Baron Cohen playing Borat when she got a bar in Arizona. sing Also “throw the Jew into the well.” Or like in his recent movie, when he got a crowd at a pro-Trump rally sing “Dr. Fauci, what are we going to do? Give him the Wuhan flu injection!” Playing for a gullible audience.
It is this radical populism that has rocked Lara’s crowd, and kept her career alive. But when it comes to her credibility as a fact-based journalist – she is dead.
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