TOUCHED BY LYME: Why one Minnesota PBS station yanked UNDER OUR SKIN

3rd May 2011

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WDSE-WRPT, a PBS affiliate in Duluth, Minnesota, initially scheduled a May showing of the Lyme documentary. Learn why the station then changed its mind.

Two days ago, someone named Wayne posted a message on the CALDA website, saying that WDSE-WRPT (a PBS-affiliate in Duluth, Minnesota) had originally scheduled a showing of the Lyme documentary UNDER OUR SKIN this month but has since removed it from their lineup.

I called and spoke with station manager Al Harmon, who confirmed that. He said it was his own decision to pull the film. I asked him if he had been contacted by the IDSA asking him to remove the film. He said no. I asked him what prompted him to make the change. Here’s the story that emerged:

WDSE-WRPT initially scheduled the broadcast of UNDER OUR SKIN based on information provided by the film’s third party distributor. Once it was scheduled, Mr. Harmon was contacted by a local physician, who expressed “serious concerns” about the movie. (Says I: Was this an infectious diseases doctor? Says he: yes. Says I: A member of the IDSA? Says he: well, I suppose so. Says I: so you weren’t contacted by the IDSA? Says he: hmmmmm.)

The unnamed ID doctor pointed out that information in the film about the Connecticut Attorney General’s investigation of the IDSA is “out of date”—and that the IDSA’s position has since “been reviewed and affirmed by an independent panel.”

Station manager Harmon said he then watched the film in its entirety, saw “no updated information” about the AG’s settlement with the IDSA, and agreed with the local infectious diseases doctor that it would be “inappropriate” to show this movie. Harmon immediately pulled it from the station’s line-up.

Mr. Harmon and I discussed the matter for several minutes. He kept mentioning that the movie is “two years old,” that it is “out of date.” He said that the IDSA had “settled” with the AG office and that an independent panel had found them not to be at fault. He seemed to feel that this supposed “independent panel” had cleared the IDSA of everything they’d been accused of in the movie.

I pointed out that the second panel wasn’t independent—it was also made up of IDSA members. This second panel didn’t address the issue of the financial accusations. It merely rubberstamped the Lyme recommendations made by the first IDSA panel.

Mr. Harmon said he feels UNDER OUR SKIN doesn’t offer a “complete picture” to the viewer. Says I: you’re going to prevent people from watching this movie because it isn’t as comprehensive as you think it might be? Says he: I’m not preventing anybody from watching this movie. They can download it on line.

Then he said the IDSA makes guidelines for many diseases, not just Lyme. “Isn’t that how it’s supposed to work? They make the guidelines?”

Well, Mr. Harmon, here’s how I think it’s supposed to work: PBS station managers shouldn’t allow a private medical society like the IDSA to unduly influence their programming decisions. Lyme disease is a growing threat to public health in this country. The IDSA’s role in restricting the diagnosis and treatment of this seriously debilitating illness is complex and highly controversial. UNDER OUR SKIN raises important information that deserves to be heard. Too bad the viewers of your station will have to find it elsewhere.

Contact blogger Dorothy Kupcha Leland at dleland@lymedisease.org.

Related posts:

  1. Will your PBS station be showing UNDER OUR SKIN?
  2. TOUCHED BY LYME: Citizen promotion of "Under Our Skin"
  3. TOUCHED BY LYME: "Under Our Skin" makers honor San Diego Lyme activist
  4. TOUCHED BY LYME: Oscar nominators DON’T pick Under Our Skin; let’s vow to keep reaching out with this film
  5. TOUCHED BY LYME:"Virtual theater party" for Under Our Skin–be there or be square
Comments

25 thoughts on “TOUCHED BY LYME: Why one Minnesota PBS station yanked UNDER OUR SKIN

  1. Dear Mr. Harmon,

    Good luck with your IDSA doctor when you contract Lyme Disease. Make sure you keep a copy of UOS around so that you will know what to do! I wish you the best of luck. Sorry, but the IDSA just happens to lie.

  2. Has no one ever listened to PBS pieces on Lyme? When they do one, which is rare, it is always slanted towards the IDSA. viewpoint. I got so angry, I stopped listening to, or watching PBS a long time ago over a piece they did that was so skewed it was unbelievable. I no longer donate to them either. This doesn't surprise me at all.11986

  3. WEDU in Tampa, Florida will not be showing the film, either. I called the station, and didn't even recieve a reply. I spoke with someone who at least got her call returned, and that's how I found out. I knew we were in trouble when they took Bill Moyers and the show, "NOW", of the air, abruptly and quietly. There is a force whos' been out to dismantle public television. Looks like they'll pull it off.

  4. The fact that a former IDSA doctor is more concerned about how he and the IDSA looks in the last ten minutes of the Under Our Skin Documentary film, tells us that they don't really care about the suffering patients in the first 90 minutes. In my opinion that sums up the IDSA in a nutshell.

  5. Do you have contact information for the station manager so that readers can express their great disappointment?

  6. Well Mr. Harmon, I hope this never happens but when you or someone in your family happens to get Lyme we'll see how fast you get your hands on a film that you wouldn't show to your audience.

    Do you always pull programs based on the opinion of one individual outside the station? I think not. If you do, I wouldn't want to be in your viewing area.

    I think that you WERE threatened by either the doctor, the IDSA or both. Someone like you shouldn't work for a PBS station. You should be at a commercial station where you can be the thought police and cave into private and public interests on a regular basis. You would do very well there.

  7. Get the REAL facts about Lyme Disease on your own …. AND THEN YOU CAN HAVE YOUR OWN OPINION. Most Doctor's have blinders on and ONLY SEE WHAT THEY WANT TO SEE !!!!!!!!!!! I hope the NEW generation of DOCS are not so NARROW MINDED !!!!! Peace

  8. I agree, when you or a loved one suffers a long & painful illness that steals your life, you will regret your decision. I have met many people of all ages, innocent children, (including myself) from MN with Lyme disease, Ehrlichiosis and Babesiosis, to name a few. Other countries have a grip on this. Don't you wonder why IDSA tries to intervene and not help our own country? If you get Lyme, good luck with that.

  9. Why are a sizeable chunk of people seriously ill–and ignored by the IDSA and the CDC? Because some people at the IDSA and the CDC are profiting off our misery.

    Where is the IDSA's and the CDC's responsibility, if not to try to identify a bad epidemic and help patients with what is known to help … and with finding better ways to help?

    The IDSA and the CDC need to help us, not hurt us.

  10. Sounds to me like station manager Al Harmon needs to grow a pair. How do people like him get into positions like that when they don't have the brains to see the obvious and stand up to the injustice. So much for public broadcasting.

  11. Regardless of Mr. Harmon's personal opinion, I did not know PBS stations practiced censorship. Doesn't PBS stand for "Public Broadcasting Station"? Isn't this station supported by the people?
    I think this bias act should effect donations.

  12. I guess PBS means Public… But Selective. And we just contributed to our local station. No more. You'll remember the movie, if you get Lyme disease, Mr. Harmon. You won't want an IDSA doc treating you then. In the meantime… stay out of the woods.

  13. dorothy, thx for the update on this MINN. fiasco! so glad you called him to get WHY he did this. yes, idsa, has their fingers in everything with their lobbyist activities with all 50 states' pbs stations! uffda.

    i got IOWA to air this, but it's on June 2, 3 times, decent hrs on PBS' "WORLD"; never watched that; don't know if folks WITHOUT DIGITAL can watch it or not; do YOU?

    BETTYG, iowa lyme activist
    http://www.mdjunction.com lyme board
    group leader :)

  14. Seems to me Mr Harmon may have been threatened? Normally all sides should be shown and let people make up their minds. That was not an independent panel that followed up, but rather one so connected with the IDSA stand-down that they whitewashed the weak guidelines based more on opinion than any facts. We do happen to know that no one will get decent medical treatment for Lyme by IDSA-affiliated people and that only serious Lyme-treating doctors will work out. The film shows a couple of Lyme doctor heros who are doing the right thing by patients. It is one of the most important films of our time and needs to be shown.

  15. Do MN public school systems (pre-K thru University)and health care systems use federal appropriations for Lyme/Assoc. tick-borne disease (awareness, education and prevention?)

    My children, and myself, w/tick bites, disdiagnoses, then and tick borne diseases, got none, with neurological, systemic, education, vocational, and financial long-term health consequences costing taxpayers' for commercial gain.

    And thus, Fraud and Money Laundering endangering public health for commercial interests?

    Dear PBS: Every US citizen has a right to public Lyme/Assoc. Disease Awareness, Education and Prevention, with right to make choices, by and thru freedom of speech, and freedom of expression under the lst Amendment.

    If (IDSA) members don't like "The Untold Story, Under Our Skin" don't watch it…take your DEET-SPRAY and go for a hike!

  16. Mr. Harmon,
    this disease spreads faster than AIDS.
    You are in the highly responsible position to inform the public on threads like these. So, how does it feel knowing that there may be just one single person. One single person suffering like the persons seen in the movie, just because you didn't do your best to serve the public, but gave in to some industry interest?

  17. I just started treatment for Lyme disease and the resources in this film were very important to me. I just saw it in my area (kudos to WITF) and am so grateful they don't have the cencorship of this station. A call from one doctor pulls the film? I agree, this station manager shouldn't be in public TV which is usually cutting edge and informative. Wait until he or someone he loves gets this disease – he'll be watching Under Our Skin pretty darn fast.

  18. I once had a med student who in 1960s told me he would go into ID because "we already know everything there is to know in that field." Watching Shapiro et al I realized that they were using their CLINICAL ID experience to make categorical negative statements without arguing their case or providing evidence. It's as if I said: "the defendant IS NOT innocent in my expert opinion." Because I used "not" and "opinion" I don't have to prove a thing, only he has to prove the affirmative: "I'm innocent."

    Sorry guys, I know too many ID guys who are nothing but glorified nurses speaking totally out of their experience, not out of scientific depth. And so, they become ventriloquist dummies for PHARMA.

    The main point is that MS licenses were at stake, not for hurting patients but for helping patients. Then the strings are pulled and the insurers get to say what's enough based on their $$$ considerations. Obamacare will only make it worst as we all become creatures of the insurers.

    Most ID guys are not updated on molecular biology and know their field by hit and miss clinical experience. That's not good enough. This documentary raised a serious issue of out tampering with the environment causing evolutionary changes. How many ID guys understand the molecular issues involved?

    In auto-care the guy with the clean white coat is the engineer who knows all the principles and designs of your engine based on the physics involved. The guy in the dirty jeans is the mechanic who fixes your car totally clinically, understanding very little.

    In medicine it's the other way around. The guy in the white coat is the mechanic who knows little of the principles at issue while the guy in the dirty genes is the molecular biology PhD who seeks to understand the spirochete in all its forms. Let's not trust our lives to mechanics as we trust our cars. We can always get another car but not another body.

  19. In 1960s I knew a med student who told me he was going into field of Infectious Diseases because "we already know everything there is to know in that field." Watching Shapiro et al from IDSA I realized that they were using their CLINICAL ID experience to make categorical negative statements without arguing their case or providing evidence. It's as if I said: "the defendent IS NOT innocent in my expert opinion." Because I used "not" and "opinion" I don't have to prove a thing, only he has to prove the affirmative: "I'm innocent."

    Sorry guys, I know too many ID guys who are nothing but glorified nurses speaking totally out of their experience, not out of scientific depth. And so, they become ventriloquist dummies for PHARMA.

    The main point is that MS licenses were at stake, not for hurting patients but for helping patients. Then the strings are pulled and the insurers get to say what's enough based on their $$$ considerations. Obamacare will only make it worst as we all become creatures of the insurers.

    Most ID guys are not updated on molecular biology and know their field by hit and miss clinical experience. That's not good enough. This documentary raised a serious issue of out tampering with the environment causing evolutionary changes. How many ID guys understand the molecular issues involved?

    In auto-care the guy with the clean white coat is the engineer who knows all the principles and designs of your engine based on the physics involved. The guy in the dirty jeans is the mechanic who fixes your car totally clinically, understanding very little.

    In medicine it's the other way around. The guy in the white coat is the mechanic who knows little of the principles at issue while the guy in the dirty genes is the moloecular biology PhD who seeks to understand the spirochete in all its forms. Let's not trust our lives to mechanics as we trust our cars. We can always get another car but not another body.

  20. I got Lyme in Northern MN in 1990 . Was mis diagnosed for a year. I was treat ed with IV anitibiotics on and off for a year. But when stopped them got worse again. I was on and off oral antibiotics for years. I went into third degree heart block,had seizures.and many neuro symptoms. Was fine for a few years. But then come 2004 I began getting sick again. Had to stop working 3 years ago. Have been DX with Chronic Fatigue,Epstein Barr, and I have Bio Film in my blood which has been causing skin lesions nor for 7 years. Had to stop my career In Nursing as the fatigue,pain,brain fog,pain,and lack of concentration. Move to MD as I have been wiped out finacially and moved in with a friend. I can barely function on my own. My heart is starting acting up again. May end up now with a pace maker. Moved here hoping to find a doctor who takes chronic Lyme patients. Only to find out NO ONE in Southern MD will take on chronic lyme

    • I was recently diagnosed with Lyme, Bartonella and Babesia. A Lyme friendly Dr. recommended a blood culture for Lyme and it came back positive. This, after numerous trips to GP’s and 2 ID Dr.’s and a rheumatologist. I had to hire another Dr. to work for me after illness resulted in my reduced work load to 14 hours a week. Three kinds of oral antibiotics were prescribed along with supplements. For the first time in 7 years, I no longer have foot pain (which had been diagnosed as Plantar Fasciitis. After 3 weeks on the antibiotics, I woke up one day and wanted to shout to the world that I FEEL GREAT! I continue to improve, with few setbacks from the Herx reactions. We need to improve our current medical system to help EVERYONE with tick borne diseases get the diagnosis and help they need.

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