Area fact checker makes heroic effort to prop up false story | National Review

(Chris Aluka Berry/Reuters)

After Rolling Stone, Rachel Maddow and many progressives and well-known media brands and personalities advanced a ludicrous story deriving from a doctor in Oklahoma who said multiple hospitals in his area were being overwhelmed with patients who had taken ivermectin overdoses, CNN’s Daniel Dale rode to the rescue of the Left, to whom it is very important to believe that lots of dumb people are overdosing on ivermectin.

In a series of tweets, Dale mildly criticized the outlets who advanced this false story but suggested that those who pointed out that the story was unsupported by any evidence should do a little soul-searching because our gotchas lacked the full and proper context.

What is that context? Well, one Oklahoma hospital that the doctor in question, Jason McElyea, deals with, INTEGRIS Grove Hospital, said in a statement that “We have seen a handful of ivermectin patients in our emergency rooms” but “our hospitals are not filled with people who have taken ivermectin.”

What is a “handful”? Three? Four? Five? If five patients, spread out over some indeterminate period of time over multiple hospitals, overdosed on ivermectin, that would hardly be a story. The whole point of the original story was that it asserted a very large number of people in Oklahoma had overdosed on ivermectin. If the truth is that a very small number of people in Oklahoma overdosed on ivermectin, it isn’t a story. It’s not even a local story, much less a national story. For all we know, a handful of people have been treated in Oklahoma ERs this summer for injuries related to making sandwiches.

Dale, who is very obviously a rank partisan who applies nearly all of his energies to attacking the right, just couldn’t bear to admit that critics of this story on Twitter and elsewhere were perfectly correct to mock and debunk it. (Rolling Stone appended a correction that amounted to a nullification of its version of the KFOR story, but the broadcaster’s story remains up and uncorrected.)

Dale, who sees himself as having salvaged some shred of truth to the story by quoting a statement from INTEGRIS hospital that “a handful” of ivermectin patients have come through the doors of Oklahoma hospitals, proceeds to wag a finger at “some critics on the right” who he says “could’ve done a better job pursuing facts/waiting for facts before coming to conclusions.” Dale is upset that some critics on the right said Dr. McElyea “made up the whole thing.”

Well. As far as I know, McElyea, five days after the story initially ran, has not accused KFOR of lying about what he told them. The headline on that story was “Patients overdosing on ivermectin backing up rural Oklahoma hospitals, ambulances.” According to the KFOR story, which mixes quotation and paraphrase from McElyea, and cites no other source or authority, McElyea said (paraphrase) that “patients are packing his eastern and southeastern Oklahoma hospitals after taking ivermectin doses meant for a full-sized horse, because they believed false claims the horse de-wormer could fight COVID-19.” The story represents the following as the result of the large number of patients overdosing on ivermectin (not merely the result of large numbers of COVID patients): “the ERs are so backed up that gunshot victims were having hard times getting to facilities where they can get definitive care and be treated….All of their ambulances are stuck at the hospital waiting for a bed to open so they can take the patient in and they don’t have any, that’s it. If there’s no ambulance to take the call, there’s no ambulance to come to the call.”

Dale is so bold as to say that there is a lesson here that applies equally to both sides!

Does Daniel Dale not accept that the burden of proof is on journalists who make shocking claims? There is no evidence to back up this headline: “Patients overdosing on ivermectin backing up rural Oklahoma hospitals, ambulances” or the many rewrites of that headline by Maddow and many others that appeared on social media. The lesson here is that journalists should get their facts straight before issuing reports, not that truth is an elusive thing. You’d think a guy who calls himself a fact-checker would grasp this.

What Dale is doing is deploying the classic motte-and-bailey fallacy to the  “fact-checking” game. Bailey: so many overdoses of ivermectin that multiple ERs overrun, gunshot victims must wait, no ambulances left. Motte: hey, all we claim is “a handful” of such cases over multiple hospitals over some unspecified period of time! We were kinda right!

Anyway, the real story is the pouncing of conservatives.

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About the Author

Tony Beasley
Tony Beasley writes for the Local News, US and the World Section of ANH.