Time magazine, byline Michael D. Lemonick, has published a pretty good description of the fall of the House of Hwang. But when it gets into the import of the scandal, the reporter inexplicably enters the cloning spin zone. Lemonick speculates that despite there being no evidence that Hwang actually did succeed in creating patient-specific cloned stem cell lines: He really did! But time pressures caused him to “cut corners” after the cells were killed by fungi. Yea, that’s the ticket.
Here are a few choice quotes from this ridiculous drivel:
“By all accounts, the tales of Hwang’s dedication and personal discipline are all true. Hwang was one of the first to arrive in the lab, at 5 a.m., and rarely left before midnight. He rejected the role of aloof, inaccessible scientist to become a father-like figure for his young charges. And he introduced some genuine innovations into the science of cloning–gently squeezing the nucleus out of a donor egg rather than sucking it out violently and inserting the entire adult cell, not just its nucleus, into the hollowed-out recipient egg. Hwang insisted he had no interest in profiting from his discoveries; indeed, he turned over his patent rights to the university and the government.
That being the case, it seems unlikely that Hwang set out to perpetrate fraud.”
But he may not have introduced those “innovations.” He may not have cloned at all. At the very least, it now appears certain–absent the vast conspiracy to ruin him that is Hwang’s current line of defense–that there were never any cloned embryonic stem cells made at all for 2005 paper. And photographs of the supposed cloned embryonic stem cells published in the 2004 Science paper were plagiarized from an earlier journal article about stem cells obtained from natural embryos.
The Time spin continues. The cause of the stretching of the truth may have been fungi that destroyed the cloned ES cells, it reports. “Hwang claims it took six months to recover from the disaster. But it also might be that Hwang’s team couldn’t recover quickly enough and began taking shortcuts to fill the gap. Under pressure from the government and the university, and with a deadline looming for publication in one of the world’s most prestigious journals, the temptation to stretch the truth [!!!] might have been irresistible…
“In Hwang’s case, it may be that mistakes were made or frauds committed without his knowledge, but as head of the research team and lead author of the published results, he’s stuck with the responsibility.”
Puhleese. The man is an outright charlatan. But, according to Lemonick, he is in trouble merely because he was the head of the team and has to take the fall.
As I keep saying, many in the mainstream media play Ginger Rodgers on this beat to the cloning proponents’ Fred Astaire. But it won’t work. The truth is a hard commodity to suppress.