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Monday, May 21, 2007
Who Bought Into the False Leprosy Claim?
Topic: The ConWeb

We've previously written about "medical lawyer" Madeleine Cosman's anti-immigrant screed in the form of an article in the Journal of American Physicians and Surgeons where the incorrect assertion that "Suddenly, in the past three years America has more than 7,000 cases of leprosy" originated. Turns out there were only between 100 and 200 new cases of leprosy in "the past three years"; the 7,000 figure is the cumulative number of cases over the past 30 years.

Now that the claim of a massive increase in leprosy cases in the U.S. caused by illegal immigrants has been thoroughly debunked, we wondered: How much of the leprosy Kool-Aid did the ConWeb drink? came up empty. NewsBusters quoted an article citing a Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting report critical of Lou Dobbs' "consistently alarmist" tone on illegal immmigration, noting that leprosy is one way Dobbs has claimed that "the invasion of illegal aliens is threatening the health of many Americans."

NewsMax, meanwhile, took a big, long swig. At the front of the line was columnist George Putnam. A March 10, 2006, column praised Cosman as "a medical/legal genius," writing that " We can thank the late Dr. Madeleine Cosman for alerting us to what the illegal aliens bring to us as they cross our borders." Putnam then went on to doctor Cosman's statement to make it sound even more dire: "She cites leprosy: Suddenly, in the past three years, America has more than 7,000 cases. Illegal aliens brought leprosy from India, Brazil, the Caribbean and Mexico." Putnam deleted the part where Cosman somewhat qualifed her claim by adding "and other immigrants" after "illegal aliens."

And Putnam wasn't done. In an Aug. 26, 2005, column, he again claimed that "in three years, 7,000 new cases of leprosy have crossed over from Mexico, India and Brazil," and in a Nov. 10, 2006, column, he asserted that "Had Bush and Congress done their jobs," America "wouldn't have ... 7,000 cases of leprosy."

"Medicine Men" Michael Arnold Glueck and Robert J. Cihak -- as we've noted, associated with the Association of American Physicians  and Surgeons, publisher of the journal that printed Cosman's article -- cited Cosman's work in a Dec. 27, 2005, NewsMax column, though not the specific claim about leprosy. In a Feb. 8, 2005, column, Diane Alden wrote that "in excess of 7,000 new cases of leprosy have been diagnosed in the USA in the past three years."

WorldNetDaily, meanwhile, promoted upon its 2005 publication the article by Cosman that contained that claim, repeating the false statement that "Suddenly, in the past three years America has more than 7,000 cases of leprosy." WND then reduced it to a one-paragraph summary, "As WorldNetDaily reported last month, even leprosy is suddenly on the radar of health officials," and linked to that article from it in other WND articles. A May 22, 2005, article, with the alarmist headline "Are illegals making
U.S. a leper colony?" unquestioningly repeated a claim by Rep. J.D. Hayworth (R-Ariz.), who said "in the past three years, more than 7,000 cases have been presented."

WND and NewsMax were definitely all in on the leprosy claim. Will they report the real truth about it now?

Posted by Terry K. at 1:35 AM EDT
Updated: Monday, May 21, 2007 1:13 PM EDT

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