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Profile: Eric Kleefeld

Eric Kleefeld was a participant or observer in the following events:

On Fox News’s O’Reilly Factor, Christian activist and Republican strategist Christine O’Donnell says that scientists have succeeded in grafting functioning human brains onto mice. O’Donnell and medical researcher Dr. William Morrone are guests of host Bill O’Reilly, who discusses conservatives’ opposition to stem cell research. O’Reilly begins by noting that researchers in Oregon have succeeded in cloning monkey embryos, which he describes as the first step towards cloning human embryos for the harvesting of stem cells. Morrone favors cloning research because of “the pathology and… the pain” that people suffering from multiple sclerosis, Parkinson’s disease, Alzheimer’s disease, and other ailments are forced to endure. Morrone is not in favor of cloning human embryos, but he is optimistic that cloning research might lead to new ways to harvest stem cells without destroying existing embryos. O’Donnell has a different view: she says that the Oregon researchers “proudly stated” their intention to clone human beings, and says that human cloning is the real, secretive goal of all such research. O’Reilly then states that human cloning is possible now: “They can clone humans now if they wanted to.… Everybody knows that scientists have enough knowledge to clone a human being if they wanted to,” a statement to which O’Donnell agrees. She then adds: “They are—they are doing that here in the United States. American scientific companies are cross-breeding humans and animals and coming up with mice with fully functioning human brains. So they’re already into this experiment.” Morrone interjects, “That’s an exaggeration,” but his objections are overridden by O’Reilly asking him: “[D]o you understand her concern that there are people who are unethical who will do this kind of stuff for whatever reason? Do you understand her concern?” He gives O’Donnell the last word in his segment, and she concludes: “[I]t is inevitable. This really is about human cloning, about dignity versus commodity. And we already answered that question.” (Fox News 11/15/2007) O’Donnell’s assertions will receive little attention until almost three years later, when she wins the Republican primary for the US Senate in Delaware (see September 13, 2010) and the media begins recounting some of her less mainstream political and scientific views. That recounting will speculate that O’Donnell may be misremembering a 2005 report of scientists successfully growing human brain cells within mice; reporter Eric Kleefeld will write that it “is not the same as an actual functioning human brain, but a demonstration that human brain cells can be made from stem cells.” (Kleefeld 9/16/2007)

Former Alaska Governor Sarah Palin (R-AK) does not withdraw her accusations that Congressional Democrats are planning to institute “death panels” for elderly Americans as part of their health care reform proposal (see August 7, 2009), but she does call for civility at town hall debates over the reform proposals (see June 30, 2009, July 6, 2009, July 25, 2009, July 27, 2009, July 27, 2009, July 31, 2009, August 1, 2009, August 1, 2009, August 2, 2009, August 3, 2009, August 3, 2009, August 3, 2009, August 3, 2009, August 4, 2009, August 4, 2009, August 5, 2009, August 5, 2009, August 6, 2009, August 6, 2009, August 6-8, 2009, and August 8, 2009). On her Facebook page, Palin writes: “There are many disturbing details in the current bill that Washington is trying to rush through Congress, but we must stick to a discussion of the issues and not get sidetracked by tactics that can be accused of leading to intimidation or harassment. Such tactics diminish our nation’s civil discourse which we need now more than ever because the fine print in this outrageous health care proposal must be understood clearly and not get lost in conscientious voters’ passion to want to make elected officials hear what we are saying. Let’s not give the proponents of nationalized health care any reason to criticize us.” Talking Points Memo correspondent Eric Kleefeld notes: “It would be incorrect to say that Palin is backing off. Rather, she is calling for civility in the manner of the debate, so as to focus effectively on how evil and disturbing her opponents are.” (Smith 8/10/2009; Kleefeld 8/10/2009) MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow says of Palin’s apparent backtrack: “[I]n politics the price of cultivating the extremist fringe—the price of that is losing your support from absolutely everyone else who is not on the fringe. And that’s why politicians get caught saying, ‘Who me?’ They try to both cultivate the fringe and to deny that they are doing so. So you get Sarah Palin allying herself with the off-the-kook end fringe by denouncing mythical death panels in health care reform. And once those remarks draw wide attention, you get her trying to appear to be responsible by calling for civility.” (MSNBC 8/11/2009)

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