Washington, DC - Lynx scientists from state and federal wildlife agencies caught in a fur-flinging political brouhaha last winter have once again been vindicated-this time by a venerable scientific association. At the same time, the media coverage of the controversy has been clawed to pieces in a new report from a national media watchdog organization.
This week The Wildlife Society (TWS), an international association for wildlife professionals, concluded its investigation into whether members Tom McCall and Raymond Scharpf violated the Society's Code of Ethics when they submitted unauthorized hair samples to a government laboratory as part of a national lynx survey. TWS members are subject to the "highest standards of integrity and conduct, and...high standards of education, employment and performance."
Following a rigorous investigation, the TWS Board of Inquiry found that "neither McCall nor Scharpf acted in a manner suggesting they were trying to conceal the control-sample submission or influence the survey's outcome." In fact, the Society found that the biologists' intentions were fully "consistent with TWS Code." Both have been fully exonerated.
Last month Media watchdog group Fairness & Accuracy In Reporting (FAIR) issued an article titled, "The Washington Times' Hair-Raising Tall Tale: Lynx fur "hoax" story shows the power of right-wing media." In a scathing examination of the media coverage of this issue, FAIR's report is an article-by-article account of journalistic ethics gone awry. According to FAIR, The Washington Times' Audrey Hudson led the charge in a series of "one-sided" front-page articles that "repeatedly misstated the facts" to support a "conspiratorial storyline." This led to the Associated Press' unfortunate citation of "erroneous accusations.... help[ing] spread the myth that biologists had 'planted' fur in the forest..." Not to be left out of the fray, The Wall Street Journal, Rocky Mountain News, Weekly Standard and U.S. News and World Report headed a parade of respectable, widely circulated publications devoting space to politically-motivated, and ultimately, inaccurate commentary.
These findings come on the heels of a series of federal investigations vindicating the lynx biologists implicated in the in the faux-controversy, dubbed "lynxgate." The issue became the subject of Congressional and state legislative hearings and fueled numerous political attacks on the Endangered Species Act and federal wildlife researchers across the west.
"These reports mark the final chapter in a disgraceful saga of ugly politics fueled by shoddy journalism," stated Eric Wingerter, National Field Director for Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility, whose organization led the scientists' defense. "We hold faint hope that these vindications will be reported with the same fervor as the original false charges."
Copies of the Wildlife Society Release, the FAIR report and other lynx materials are available on request.