In what is becoming a blind quest to hype the nation’s fear of fat, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has reached (yet another) new low. Responding to our op-ed in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution calling on the CDC to retract its now-debunked obesity-death study, the agency’s Chief of Science, Dixie Snider, wrote in his own op-ed last Thursday: “we cannot and should not let this discussion of scientific methodology detract from the real issue.” You read that correctly. The CDC’s Chief of Science — whose primary job is “maintaining the integrity and productivity of CDC’s scientists by resolving controversial scientific issues” — believes that we shouldn’t let something as pesky as actual science inform our understanding of the issue.
Following Snider’s astounding comments, today the editorial board of the Washington Times joined us in calling on the CDC to publicly retract the flawed study. Describing Snider’s derision of science as “dangerous reasoning,” they wrote:
It’s clear that over the concerns of its own researchers the CDC shamefully pushed a scientifically flawed study to reach some politically correct end. Since then, it has not given contrary evidence publicity equal to the original report. Nothing less than a full retraction of the original study and an apology to the American people can amend these egregious mistakes.
This controversy began in March 2004, when the director of the CDC joined other top health officials at a press conference to announce that obesity would soon overtake tobacco as the nation’s leading cause of preventable deaths. The announcement led the next day’s headlines, and since then the idea that obesity kills 400,000 people a year has been an essential crutch for food cops and public health scaremongers. But now that the agency’s estimates have been thoroughly debunked by its own experts, Snider wants us to believe “we should not let the focus on deaths attributable to obesity distract us.” The CDC should pick one story and stick with it.