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A shroud of incompetence at WUSA-TV

June 21st, 2011 · 9 Comments · Easy marks

WUSA-TV in Washington, DC, is the oldest CBS affiliate in the country, dating back to 1949 when the station’s call letters were WOIC.  Since 1985, it has been owned by the Gannett Company, the largest newspaper publisher in the country

If you didn’t know this, and just happened to tune into yesterday’s 5 pm broadcast, you might think you had stumbled onto a small market news outlet, where the reporter doubles as camera operator and green screen technician.

The story was Dr. Mark Geier’s appearance before a state administrative law board, where he is fighting to keep his license to practice medicine in Maryland. The state’s medical board suspended his license last month for medical malpractice, and allowing his son to practice medicine without a license.

WUSA’s report ignored these details. According to general assignment reporter Scott Broom, Geier’s license suspension “has all gone unexplained.” You see, the Maryland Board of Physicians “has no obligation to make its proceedings public, and they’re not doing it now.” When Broom tried to attend today’s hearing, he was asked to “vacate the room”, such was the shroud of secrecy.

Here’s what Broom doesn’t know, but should:

  • Physician disciplinary hearings are held behind closed doors in order to protect patient privacy.
  • The charges against Geier were laid out two months ago in this court document .

Geier’s medical malpractice is hardly breaking news. The Chicago Tribune wrote about it here on May 4. The next day, the Washington Post ran a story which said:

The Geiers’s views, spelled out in papers and by the state Board of Physicians that suspended Mark Geier, have been discredited by the Institute of Medicine and mainstream medical science. They connect autism to the mercury in vaccines. Among the treatments the Geiers say they’ve developed is one that uses Lupron — a drug that many autism experts have called dangerous for children.

How did Broom miss that? It’s in the Washington Post, which is delivered daily to the doorstep of WUSA! And if WUSA’s weather mascot chewed up the paper that day, Broom could have Googled Geier’s name and found the same article online.

But who needs court documents and mainstream medical science when a spokesperson for the Autism Society of America is camera ready? Jeff Sell, ASA’s VP , told WUSA that Geier’s theories “hold water”, and he has no idea if they are accepted by mainstream medicine, telling the credulous Broom “Whether their treatment protocol has been worked out in a scientific way that meets the rigorous criteria of medical boards I just don’t know.”

Sell is a Texas trial lawyer whose firm worked on legal cases linking autism with vaccines, another fact that either escaped Broom or not considered important enough to mention. As a trial lawyer, Sell knows that Mark Geier’s testimony is routinely blocked by judges in vaccine cases, and that chemical castration is not the standard of care for autism in the US or any other civilized nation.

“The Geier name at one time had a lot of credibility,” Broom says in the closing minute. “(Mark Geier’s) son, David, until recently served on the state’s autism commission. But he was removed as this all unfolded in the last couple of months.” Broom has no idea why. “It’s hard to say what information we may be able to pry out of this,” says Broom, referring to Geier’s court hearing, “Because they’re closed.”

David Geier was removed from the state autism commission because the medical board says he was practicing medicine without a license, a story factually covered in the Baltimore Sun and elsewhere. The state autism commission went along with the conceit for two years, listing Geier fils as “Dr. David Geier, diagnostician” on its website.

“If there is research to back up (Geier’s) treatment, that would be valuable for the public arena,” says news anchor/ health reporter Anita Brikman.

“Yes, it’s hard to understand why the state doesn’t want this information out there.” says Broom, “on the doctor’s side or not.”

If chemical castration is a viable treatment for autism, the proof would not be found in an administrative law hearing. It would be published in numerous peer reviewed journals. And if Washington, DC residents want to know why a Maryland physician is about to lose his medical license, the answer is not to be found in a Washington, DC, CBS affiliate’s newscast about the administrative law hearing. For that you’d have to change channels.

 

UPDATE

WUSA removed the video of its newscast, and ran a correction and its mea culpa here. The money quote:

In Maryland’s Administrative Hearing process, judges have the discretion to open hearings.  In this case, a request by Geier’s attorneys to open the hearing was denied.

However, to suggest the reasons for the Board’s findings against Geier are a “secret” is not accurate.

In addition, WUSA failed to completely report that Geier’s son David was removed from the State’s Autism Commission because he has been charged with practicing medicine without a license.

Kudos to Scott Broom and the editors at WUSA for coming clean.

WUSA general assignment reporter Scott Broom

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9 responses so far ↓

  • 1 Sullivan // Jun 21, 2011 at 3:45 pm

    Wow. What a bad news story. Why not present any of the facts that are public? Why present this as some secret proceeding rather than discuss the charges which are in the document linked above (a document from the Maryland state government’s website).

    Will Mark Geier follow the example laid out by Andrew Wakefield and take his case to whatever person will give him air time? Wakefield quickly moved to Mercola, then to UFO/conspiracy theorists (the Art Bell Show) and is now on the lecture circuit with 911 truthers.

  • 2 Rene Najera // Jun 21, 2011 at 6:37 pm

    He has a twitter account (@ScottBroom). Maybe a little twitter carpet-bombing is called for?

    https://twitter.com/#!/scottbroom

  • 3 Liz Ditz // Jun 21, 2011 at 6:58 pm

    Just for fun, I Googled

    1. Mark Geier (no quotation marks), 3rd hit =theness.com/neurologicablog/index…/mark-geiers-license-suspended/
    2. “Mark Geier” 3rd hit = http://www.neurodiversity.com/weblog/article/109
    3. David Geier (no quotation marks), 4th hit http://www.neurodiversity.com/weblog/article/109

    The Wikipedia article on Mark Geier is pretty damning, too:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mark_Geier

  • 4 autblog // Jun 21, 2011 at 7:14 pm

    From WUSA9.com:

    “Scott is among 9NEWS NOW’s and WUSA9.com’s digital correspondents, a new kind of journalist tasked with accelerating our industry’s shift from traditional television news broadcasting to high-volume web-based, video and text communications.”

  • 5 Liz Ditz // Jun 21, 2011 at 7:32 pm

    According to http://www.whendidyoujointwitter.com/, Broom joined twitter November 2 2008 but he has produced a whopping 208 tweets.

    From http://onemansband.wordpress.com/about/

    Scott is an expert in how digital media are changing the local TV news landscape.

    “The crew is gone,” Scott explains, “I work alone, shooting and editing my own video. I write and deliver content on all platforms all the time. I file text, video, and photo updates to the Internet throughout the day via wireless broadband. I twitter my followers when anything new occurs to drive traffic. That’s why a lot of old media colleagues call me a “One Man Band.”

  • 6 autblog // Jun 21, 2011 at 7:33 pm

    His last Tweet was June 15 – six days ago.

  • 7 Scott Broom // Jun 22, 2011 at 3:50 pm

    An update on the story is now posted at: http://www.wusa9.com/news/local/story.aspx?storyid=155455 .
    I have immense respect for parents and families confronting Autism, and they should be first in line to receive complete information on the subject. I regret that my reporting fell short in this case.

  • 8 autblog // Jun 22, 2011 at 7:25 pm

    Thank you, Mr. Broom.

  • 9 Venna // Jul 1, 2011 at 1:23 pm

    Resources should be checked before a story is aired as ‘news’. A simple Google search could have provided anyone with the information regarding this case.

    Chemical castration of children with autism is about as unethical as you can get. There is no science behind the theory, but the Geiers go forward with it simply because they believe since it came out of their minds it must be correct and right.

    There is a huge difference and unfortunately a gap between those who follow along the lines of the Geiers and their theories and those other parents of children with autism who follow a more traditional, tested, fact based treatment schedule for their children. The Geiers are nothing short of con-men, preying on the hopes of parents who want to help their children, but who themselves are misinformed because they think they know what causes autism when science hasn’t even figured it out yet.

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