Warning: Denver talk-radio host Ken Clark tells me the following blog post is a "hit piece consisting of lies and deceit in order to continue to manipulate the public and your readers at the expense of an elected official who is simply trying to protect her constituents." If only this were true....
The elected official Clark refers to is Republican State Sen. Vicki Marble. At issue is a searing falsehood Marble delivered to Clark on his nooner Freedom 560 show on KLZ 560-AM Nov. 19:
Marble: "Those illegals infiltrate into the system, of the United States, and they bring the disease. They bring whatever from across the border -- things we haven't seen in decades and thought we eradicated. Our whole country is at risk."
A lengthy search for the factual basis of Marble's statemenbt yielded nothing, and I asked Clark why he didn't correct her on air:
Clark: The evidence is overwhelming that we are facing a health risk due to our administrations failure to protect our boarders and as a result are continuing to put our citizens at risk. Senator Marble is 100% correct when she states this fact and by failing to accept the truth and the evidence you are simply attempting to attack a public servant rather than seek the truth. She has been briefed by the Colorado Center for Disease Control as well and is privy to information that is not public, maybe you should try to get some information from them. [BigMedia emphasis]
I asked the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment if there was any evidence that undocumented immigrants are bringing any disease, much less ones that we thought were eradicated, into Colorado.
"CDPHE is not aware of any such evidence," was the simple answer from Mark Salley, CDPHE spokesperson.
If there were an outbreak of a previously eradicated disease in the United States it would be "all over the news," according to Dr. Michelle Barron in the infectious disease department of the University of Colorado School of Medicine. In other words, Tea-Party radio wouldn't be leading the media coverage of a polio resurgence in the United States.
But, I asked Barron, how do we know for sure? Clark provided me with numerous links, some with assertions and unnamed sources saying diseases (new polio strains, tuberculosis, measles) are being brought to America by undocumented immigrants.
"You have to assume that if [undocumented immigrants] get sick they are going to get medical care or die," Barron told me. "There is a long list of diseases that hospitals must report to the health department. Tuberculosis. Measles. Let's say you came to the emergency room after traveling in Russia, and you have measles. That's considered 24-hour-reportable. You would then be contacted by the health department and asked questions about vaccinations and where you've been. They would identify how big of a scope this would be."
"Public health departments actually report these things," Barron continued. "There's public reporting. The information wouldn't be hidden in the background because of a political agenda. It's part of the reporting that has to happen. If there is a trend, that would be investigated."
But what happens if we can't find the immigrants, I asked.
"The public health department has lots of experience hunting people down," she said. "They will go to your door. There are always the few people who won't talk or answer the door, but they have their networks of people who will talk, even in homeless communities. Homeless people don't want to get disease either. They will talk. The public health department is more savvy than people realize."
How to convince skeptics like Clark and Marble?
"Really and truly, you have to trust that the health care workers are doing the right thing," said Barron. "If you have already decided what you feel about this, no matter what evidence you are presented with, you are not going to believe it."
You can find Marble's comment at the 2:45 mark on this audio recording:
Marble's comment goes beyond the usual Tea-Party accusation that immigrants are bringing bed bugs and even measles. She's accusing them of introducing eradicated diseases, raising the specter of lepers, etc., and reflecting attacks on immigrants throughout American history.
This summer, Tea Party activists were up in arms about diseases allegedly being brought by migrant children crossing the border into the U.S. These concerns were shown to be basesless.
The New York Times reported in July:
Carrie Williams, a spokeswoman for the Texas Department of State Health Services, said there have been only three cases of tuberculosis reported among the undocumented children who have come into Texas. More than 1,000 cases are reported annually in Texas.
She also said that while there have been cases of scabies among the children, "it's not outside the norm of what we would expect and not exotic to the United States."
What does seem to spread in the United States is not diseases from immigrants but falsehoods from talk-radio hosts. KNUS host Peter Boyles broke the misinformation back in September that undocumented immigrants are spreading disease in Colorado. And now the rot has jumped to KLZ.
Maybe it's time to fumigate over at the talk-radio stations?
For more information, including Clark's full response, click here.