Media Blog

Typical Headline Bias: New York Times

It’s a little thing, but a typical thing. Saturday’s New York Times contains this headline: “Obama reversing stem cell limits imposed by Bush.”
One of the great myths of the Bush administration is that the president blocked stem-cell research as part of an anti-science jihad. The facts, of course, are the opposite: Bush actually liberalized the rules for stem-cell research. Before the Bush administration, no federal funds were available for embryonic stem-cell research. Bush changed the rules to make some funds available. (And, of course, there never has been a ban on stem-cell research, or a ban on funding for stem-cell research, nor a ban on embryonic stem-cell research, though there restrictions against federal funding for embryonic stem-cell research, and Bush relaxed those rules.)

The Times headline is wrong. Regardless of how one feels about embryonic stem-cell research and federal funding of it, the facts are that there were no federal funds available for those projects before Bush, and there were federal funds available for them after his 2001 executive order spelling out the conditions under which such funds would be made available. The original ban on federal funding for embryonic stem-cell research was signed into law by Bill Clinton, not George W. Bush. But don’t tell it to the Times’s headline writers; they need their nap time.