Washington — Tonight’s made-for-TV movie about Avian Influenza (AI), described by ABC as “one step ahead of the headlines,” is an irresponsible ratings ploy that’s light years from reality, the nonprofit Center for Consumer Freedom said today. The ABC movie, “Fatal Contact: Bird Flu in America,” depicts a pandemic of Asian bird flu that kills 20 million U.S. residents. In the real world, the AI virus has only infected 206 people worldwide, none of them Americans.

David Martosko, the Center for Consumer Freedom’s Director of Research, said: “This reckless fake-u-mentary ratings grab is a crass exploitation of current events, apparently designed to panic the public. This film is no more factual about bird flu than The Wizard of Oz is about tornadoes. Our only comfort is that most Americans will be watching the other AI—American Idol¬—instead of this one.”

Martosko continued: “Few Americans handle live chickens, and that’s the most common way to acquire bird flu. Even so, one British company is marketing a $5.50 hand spray that effectively kills the virus. This detail ended up on ABC’s cutting room floor. Washing your hands may actually be the smartest way to fight the flu, but common sense can seldom compete with surgical marks and hazmat suits during TV sweeps week.”