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Morley Safer   Letter 7   21-Apr-1999   Does drinking wine promote longevity?

Morley Safer of 60 Minutes
Western Ukraine also has a long, dark history of blaming its poverty, its troubles, on others."
 
At bottom, then, I see little difference between your French Paradox story of 5Nov95 and your Ugly Face of Freedom story of 23Oct94 in each case, you ventured beyond your depth, giving superficial judgments on topics that you were unqualified to speak on, discussing questions that your education had given you no grounding in, and causing damage because your conclusions proved to be false.


April 21, 1999

Morley Safer
60 Minutes, CBS Television
51 W 52nd Street
New York, NY
USA       10019


Morley Safer:

I find your photograph.  Recently, I was searching the internet looking for a photograph of you that I could use on the Ukrainian Archive (UKAR), and I did manage to find an attractive one, and I did put it on UKAR, as you can see at:    http://www.ukar.org/safer.html

I attach to it a caption.  Underneath this photograph I selected from the many ill-considered things that you said in your 23Oct94 60 Minutes broadcast, The Ugly Face of Freedom, your statement "Western Ukraine also has a long, dark history of blaming its poverty, its troubles, on others."  A moment's reflection upon this statement must convince any objective observer that it is unlikely to be the case that some historian that you consulted had recommended to you the conclusion that Western Ukrainians were more predisposed than other people to blaming their troubles on others.  Rather, a moment's reflection must convince any objective observer that it is likely that this statement came off the top of your head without the least evidence to support it, and that you then had the temerity to pass it along to tens of millions of viewers as if it were a fact.  In making this statement, and in making the scores of other erroneous or unsupported statements that you also made on that broadcast, you were inflicting harm upon Ukraine, you were lowering the credibility of 60 Minutes, and you were undermining your standing as a journalist of competence and integrity.

What you are most famous for.  The reason that I am writing to you today, however, concerns The Ugly Face of Freedom only indirectly.  What concerns me today is a surprising discovery that I made while searching for your name on the Internet.  The discovery is that your name seems to be most closely connected to the conclusion that drinking three to five glasses of wine per day increases longevity, which conclusion you proposed on a 60 Minutes story broadcast on 5Nov95, apparently under the title The French Paradox.  It seems that you have become famous for this story, and that it may constitute the pinnacle of your career.

For example, a representative Internet article that is found upon an InfoSeek search for "Morley Safer, 60 Minutes" is written by Kim Marcus and appears on the Home Wine Spectator web site.  The article's headline announces that 60 Minutes Examines Stronger Evidence Linking Wine and Good Health, with the comparative "stronger" signifying that the evidence presented in the 5Nov95 broadcast was better than the evidence presented in a similar 60 Minutes broadcast four years earlier.  This Home Wine Spectator article viewed your broadcast as demonstrating the existence of a causal connection between (what some might judge a high volume of) wine consumption and longevity, underlined your own high credibility and the high authority of your sources, pointed out the vast audience to which your conclusions had been beamed, and suggested that wine consumption shot up as a result of at least the first French Paradox broadcast:

The study also found that the benefits of wine drinking extended to people who drank from three to five glasses of wine per day.  "What surprised us most was that wine intake signified much lower mortality rates," Safer said to the television show's audience.

Overall, the segment should prove a big boost to the argument that wine drinking in moderation can be a boon to one's health.  The segment was seen by more than 20 million people.  "It isn't just information," said John De Luca, president of California's Wine Institute, "it's the credibility that comes with Morley Safer interviewing the scientists."

After the first French Paradox episode aired in November 1991 the consumption of red wine shot up in the United States, and it has yet to dip.

The Kim Marcus article underlined your failure to question the conclusion that wine consumption increases life expectancy:

Throughout the episode, Safer didn't challenge the fact that wine is linked to longer life; rather, he was interested in what it was about wine that made it unique.  "The central question is what is it about wine, especially red wine, that promotes coronary health," he said.  Safer came to the conclusion that it is not only alcohol but other unnamed compounds in wine that contributed to higher levels of beneficial high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol.


I had already seen that French Paradox broadcast.  As a matter of fact, I had watched your French Paradox story when it was first broadcast on 5Nov95, and even while watching it I had immediately recognized that your conclusion attributing longer life to wine drinking was unjustified, and that you were causing harm in passing this conclusion along to a large audience almost all of whom would accept it as true.  At bottom, then, I see little difference between your French Paradox story of 5Nov95 and your Ugly Face of Freedom story of 23Oct94 in each case, you ventured beyond your depth, giving superficial judgments on topics that you were unqualified to speak on, discussing questions that your education had given you no grounding in, and causing damage because your conclusions proved to be false.

In the case of the Ugly Face of Freedom, the number of your errors was large, and the amount of data that needed to be examined to demonstrate your errors was large as well, as can be seen by the length of my rebuttal The Ugly Face of 60 Minutes.  In the case of the French Paradox, however, you make only one fundamental error which is to fail to grasp the difference between experimental and correlational data and my demonstration of your error can compactly be contained within the present letter.

The reason that I am able to assert with some confidence that your conclusion that wine drinking increases longevity is unjustified is as follows.  I have a Ph.D. in experimental psychology from Stanford, I taught in the Department of Psychology at the University of Western Ontario for eleven years, and my teaching and my interests fell largely into the areas of statistics, research methodology, and data interpretation.  Everyone with expertise in scientific method will agree with me that your conclusion in The French Paradox was unwarranted.  It is not necessary to read the original research papers on which you rely to arrive at this same judgment even the brief review of the research data in your broadcast, even the briefer review of your broadcast in the Kim Marcus quotations above is enough for someone who has studied scientific method to see that you were wrong.  Below is my explanation.

The French Paradox Research
Cannot Have Been Experimental

There are two ways in which data relating wine consumption to longevity could have been gathered either in an experiment, or in a correlational study.  If the data had been gathered in an experiment, then it would have been done something like this.  A number of subjects (by which I mean human experimental subjects) would have been randomly assigned to groups, let us say 11 different groups.  The benefit of random assignment is that it guarantees that the subjects in each group are initially equivalent in every conceivable respect equivalent in male-female ratio, in age, in health, in income, in diet, in smoking, in drug use, and so on.  That is the magic of random assignment, and we cannot pause to discuss it you will have to take my word for it.

To groups that enjoy pre-treatment equality, the experimenter administers his treatment.  After constituting his random groups, the experimenter would require the subjects in each group to drink different volumes of wine each day over many years let us say over the course of 30 years.  Subjects assigned to the zero-glass group would be required to drink no wine.  Subjects assigned to the 1-glass group would be required to drink one glass of wine each day.  Subjects assigned to the 2-glass group would be required to drink two glasses of wine each day.  And so on up to, say, a 10-glass group, which given that we started with a zero-glass group gives us the 11 groups that I started out positing that we would need.  As the experiment progressed, the number dying in each group as well as the cause of death, and the health of those still alive, would be monitored periodically.

There are many ways in which this simplest of all experiments could be refined or elaborated, but we need not pause to discuss such complications here what I have outlined above constitutes a simple experiment which in many circumstances would be all that is required to determine the effect of wine consumption on longevity.

Such an experiment has never been conducted

And so you can see from my outline of what an experiment would be like that such an experiment could never have been conducted.  We know this without doing a review of the literature, without having read a single paper on wine consumption and health.

Manipulating long-term alcohol consumption in an experiment is impracticable.  We know it because, in the first place, it would be impossible to get experimental subjects to comply with the particular wine-drinking regimen to which the experimenter had assigned them.  For example, many of the subjects who found themselves in the zero-glass condition would refuse to pass the next 30 years without drinking a drop of wine.  There is no conceivable inducement within the power of the experimenter to offer that would tempt these experimental subjects to become teetotallers for what could be the rest of their lives.  The same at the other end of the scale most people requested to drink large volumes of wine each day would refuse, and the experimenter would find that he had no resources available to him by means of which he could win compliance.

And even if the experimenter were able to offer such vast sums of money to his subjects that every last one of them agreed to comply with the required drinking regimen and no experimenter has such resources then two things would happen: (1) the subjects would cheat, as by many in the zero-glass group sneaking drinks whenever they could, and many in the many-glass groups drinking less than was required of them; and (2) subjects who found their drinking regimens uncomfortable would quit the experiment.  Subjects quitting the experiment constitutes a fatal blow to experimental validity because it transforms groups that started out randomly constituted (and thus equivalent in every conceivable respect) into groups that are naturally constituted (and which must be assumed to be probably different in many conceivable respects) a conclusion that I will not pause to explain in detail.

Manipulating long-term alcohol consumption in an experiment is unethical.  And we know that no such experiment has ever been conducted because it would be unethical to conduct it, and would inevitably lead to the experimenter being sued.  That is, it is unethical in scientific research to transform people's lives in possibly harmful ways.  Most specifically, it is unethical to transform people's lives by inducing them to drink substantial amounts of alcohol every day for several decades.  The potential harm is readily evident.

For example, drinking 10 glasses of wine per day, or even several glasses, will predispose a person to accidents.  A single experimental subject who consumed several glasses of wine and then was incapacitated in an automobile accident would be all that it would take to bring such research to a halt forever.  The accident victim might readily argue that the experiment requiring him to drink wine was responsible for his accident, and that the experimenter and the university at which he worked, and the granting agency that funded his research were liable for millions of dollars.  In anticipation of no more than the possibility of such a law suit, no granting agency would fund such research, and no university or research institution would allow it to be conducted under its roof.

Consuming substantial amounts of alcohol can not only cause accidents, but it can also ruin health, destroy careers, distort personalities, break up marriages for which reason no experiment will ever require subjects to consume substantial amounts of alcohol over extended periods of time.  The possibility of harm, and thus of law suits, can even be conceived at the low end of the alcohol-consumption continuum.  That is, a subject prohibited from drinking any alcohol might argue that this for him unnatural and unaccustomed regimen changed his personality, undermined his career, and ruined his marriage, and with this claim in hand, could readily find a lawyer willing to help him sue for damages.

And if such an experiment had ever been conducted, it would be invalid

Manipulating long-term alcohol consumption in an experiment would fail to meet the double-blind requirement.  And although we are certain that an experiment manipulating alcohol consumption over an extended period has never been conducted, even if it were conducted, it would nevertheless contain inescapable flaws which would stand in the way of permitting cause-effect conclusions.  For example, you may be aware that the best experiments are ones that are "double-blind."  A "blind" experiment is one in which the subjects do not know what experimental condition they are in they might not know, for example, whether the pill they are swallowing contains a curative drug, or only a placebo.  In our alcohol experiment, they would not know whether the liquid they were drinking was wine, or only some wine-colored and wine-flavored water that had been sealed in wine bottles.  Already, we see the impossibility of our wine experiment being even so much as blind.  Just about every subject in our wine experiment would immediately realize what it was that he was drinking.  Tinted water is clearly distinguishable by its appearance and taste and effect from wine.  A blind wine experiment, then, is an utter impossibility.  Most subjects would be able to quickly infer approximately what experimental condition they had been placed into.

A "double-blind" experiment would be one in which neither the subject nor the experimenter knew what experimental condition any particular subject was in.  For example, the experimenter hands the subject a capsule, but does not himself know until the experiment is over whether that capsule contains a curative drug or only a placebo.  In our alcohol experiment, a double-blind experiment would involve the experimenter monitoring the life and health of each subject, but only after the experiment was over opening up the sealed envelope to find out how much alcohol that subject had been consuming over the past 30 years.  Utterly impossible as well.

The reason that the double-blind requirement is essential is that without it, confounding factors appear that might be responsible for any observed longevity effects.  For example, subjects aware that they are in a large-alcohol-consumption group would also tend to realize that such alcohol consumption might harm them, and so they might attempt to compensate by taking vitamin pills, not smoking, upgrading their diets, exercising, and so on.  Or, they might start eating fats prior to drinking alcohol, in order to coat their stomachs and slow the absorption of the alcohol.  They might do a large number of things.  What is important is that the knowledge of one's experimental treatment can lead to one or more changes in behavior, and that it is these unintended changes, and not the wine consumption itself, that could affect longevity, either in one direction or the other.

Or, here is a particularly plausible confounding that might appear.  Imagine that the experiment attempts to control wine drinking, and no more than that, and that subjects do faithfully follow the wine regimen that is imposed on them.  Nevertheless, the less wine that they were allowed to drink, the more beer and hard alcohol they would probably end up drinking, but which would make the initially equal groups unequal on beer and hard-alcohol consumption.  And so then it would be impossible to tell if differences in longevity should be attributed to differences in wine consumption, or to differences in beer consumption, or to differences in hard-alcohol consumption.

But while we may choose to pause and speculate as to what confounding variables may appear, scientific method does not obligate us to do so.  We know that confounding variables are possible in non-double-blind experiments, and the number that we are able to imagine is limited only by the time that we allocate to trying.  If I cared to spend a few hours thinking about it, I could write several pages of possibilities.  If I chose to spend a few months thinking about it, I could write a book of possibilities.  I am able to imagine confounding variables either improving health or impairing it at the low end of the alcohol-consumption continuum, and as well either improving or impairing health at the high end of the alcohol-consumption continuum.  Scientific method does not require us to know for certain what and how many confounding variables may appear to destroy the validity of an experiment which is not double-blind; rather, scientific method assures us that it is so likely that one or more confounding variables will make their appearance in a non-double-blind experiment, that such an experiment must be considered to be fatally defective, and that no cause-effect conclusion can ever be drawn from it with confidence.

Thus, no valid experiment exists.  In short, we can be sure that no experiment has ever been conducted to ascertain the effect of long-term alcohol consumption on longevity, and that if such an experiment had ever been conducted, the impossibility of its being double-blind, or even blind, would render it inconclusive.

The French Paradox Research
Must Have Been Correlational

But if the data featured in your 60 Minutes broadcast was not experimental, then what was it?  It must, by default, have been correlational.  That is, rather than subjects being assigned randomly to groups and being required to drink a given volume of alcohol each day, it must have been merely observed what volume of alcohol they chose to drink each day.

Alcohol consumption would be measured by self-report.  Well, it is not quite true that the experimenter would observe what volume of alcohol his subjects drank daily.  It would be impractical to follow subjects around and actually see how much alcohol they consumed in restaurants, in bars, in their homes.  Much more likely is that every once in a long while, the subjects would be mailed a questionnaire asking them to report how much alcohol they had been drinking lately.  The inability to measure alcohol consumption directly is already a weakness subjects might not remember accurately how much they had been drinking, or they might experience some pressure to distort how much they had been drinking either upward or downward.  However, this is not at all the big weakness that I want to bring out, so let us get to that without further delay.

We have already seen that random assignment guarantees pre-treatment equality on all dimensions.  I first recapitulate that in the case of the random assignment of subjects to groups in an experiment, we were guaranteed that the subjects in each group would be initially equivalent on every conceivable dimension.  The larger the random groups, the closer to being precisely equal on every conceivable dimension would they become.  Thus, in a properly designed and executed double-blind experiment, any differences that subsequently arose between groups would have to be attributed to the different treatments that the experiment had administered to them for example, if some groups lived longer than others, nothing else would be able to explain this except that some groups had consumed a different volume of wine than others.

Natural assignment guarantees pre-treatment inequality on many dimensions.  But in a correlational study, subjects are not assigned to groups randomly, they assign themselves to groups naturally.  A subject who is in a no-wine group, for example, is one who has himself decided that he does not drink wine.  Thus, the groups are referred to not as randomly constituted, but as naturally constituted, as if nature had come along and assigned each subject to one of the groups.  Now here comes the really important part.  It is that experience teaches us that naturally-constituted groups are capable of differing from each other on every conceivable dimension, and are highly likely to differ from each other substantially on a number of dimensions.  In other words, people who drink no wine are likely to differ from people who drink several glasses of wine in many ways.  Perhaps the non-drinkers will have more females, and the drinkers will have more males or perhaps the opposite.  Perhaps the drinkers will be older or younger.  Perhaps the drinkers will be richer or poorer.  Perhaps the drinkers will tend to be single and the teetotallers tend to be married, or vice versa.  Differences may readily be discovered in height, in weight, in education.  Differences could quite plausibly be discovered in smoking, in drug use, in exposure to industrial pollutants, in diet.  People who drink will tend to live in different parts of the city from people who don't drink.  People who drink may watch more television, use microwave ovens more, spend more time breathing automobile exhaust or less.  As people of different ethnic backgrounds, or religions, or races drink different amounts, it follows that people who drink different amounts will differ in ethnic background, in religion, and in race.

One can speculate about thousands of ways in which drinkers could differ from teetotallers, and if one actually examined two such groups, one would find a few dimensions on which such extraneous differences were large, several dimensions on which such extraneous differences were moderate, and a large number of dimensions on which such extraneous differences were present but small.  The hurdle that the correlational researcher is never able to overleap is that given that he is unable to look for every conceivable difference, he will never know all the ways in which his naturally-constituted groups did indeed differ from each other.

Natural groups may eat different amounts of broccoli.   And so then, no cause-effect conclusion will ever be possible from a correlational study.  If the moderate drinkers happen to live longer, we will never be able to conclude that this is caused by their moderate drinking, because it might be caused by how close they live to high-voltage lines or how often they wash their hands or how far they drive to work or how much toothpaste they swallow or how much they salt their food or how close they sit to their televisions or how many pets they keep or whether they sleep with their windows open or whether they finish their broccoli.  In an experiment, random assignment of subjects to groups guarantees equality on all such extraneous dimensions, and this makes cause-effect conclusions possible.  In a correlational study, natural assignment of subjects to groups guarantees inequality on many such extraneous dimensions, and this makes cause-effect conclusions impossible.

Correlation does not imply causality.  Every textbook on statistics or research methodology underlines this same caveat, captured in the expression "correlation does not imply causality," which warns that from correlational data, it is impossible to tell what caused what.  Science has developed only a single method for determining what caused what and that method is the experiment.  No experiment, no cause effect conclusion it's that simple.  Given correlational data, furthermore, there is no way of extracting cause-effect conclusions by more subtle or more advanced analyses no way of equating the groups statistically, no way of matching subjects to achieve statistically the pre-treatment equality that is needed to arrive at cause-effect conclusions.  Advanced methods of analyzing correlational data do exist, and are used by naive researchers, and to the layman may appear to be effective, but the reality is that all are fatally flawed, all have been demonstrated in the literature to be ineffective and to lead to inconclusive results.  The bottom line is that there is no way to extract cause-effect conclusions from correlational data.

You overlooked that the causal direction might be reversed.  In the case of The French Paradox finding, I can readily see a plausible alternative interpretation as to how the observed data could have arisen.  The data do seem to show that as drinking declines from a high to a moderate level, longevity increases.  This accords with the notion that alcohol is toxic, and that its effects are deleterious.  What constitutes The French Paradox, however, is that when one goes even farther along the drinking continuum from moderate drinking all the way down to no drinking at all, instead of longevity increasing still higher, the opposite happens longevity shrinks.

What distinguishes the scientifically-trained mind from that of the layman in this case is that the layman thinks of a single interpretation, and seizing on that as the only one possible, stops thinking.  That is, the layman thinks "Drinking not at all is unhealthy, therefore I can improve my health by drinking."  The scientifically-trained mind, in contrast, recognizes that in correlational data a large number of interpretations is possible, acknowledges the first interpretation that springs to mind as one among the many that are possible, and keeps looking, and keeps finding, a number of alternative interpretations, and ultimately acknowledges the impossibility of choosing among them.

As illustrated in my own case.  Specifically, I happen to find myself in a naturally-constituted zero-alcohol group.  That is, I drink not at all, or very close to not at all.  There is a reason for this, and that is that the effects of alcohol upon me are toxic.  Mainly, I get splitting headaches, even from the ingestion of small amounts of alcohol, particularly if the alcohol comes in the form of wine.  I take this to mean that my constitution is weak, that I am unable to process alcohol efficiently, that I am unable to detoxify my body of alcohol the way that others can, that my body chemistry is not up to par.  In other words, I am unwell, and as a result I do not drink.

Please mark well what I have just done I have reversed the cause-effect conclusion that you had come to.  You concluded that not drinking causes deteriorated health, but what I am proposing to you at the moment is that deteriorated health can cause not drinking.  The insight that I offer you is that when we observe a correlation, we don't know what caused what, and one of the possibilities to be considered is that the causal direction may be the opposite of our first impression, that a situation in which we first conjectured that A causes B may prove upon more thoughtful examination to be a situation in which B really causes A.  In short, it may be the case that people who are destined not to live as long as others tend to find themselves unable to drink alcohol.  That's all that the French Paradox may have discovered, and that's not a very good reason for anybody to follow your recommendation to go out and start drinking.

Common sense alone invalidates The French Paradox conclusion.  In other contexts, a correlation being misinterpreted to mean that drinking promotes either health or longevity will be obviously laughable.  For example, a researcher who observes that hospitalized patients don't drink will not conclude that teetotalling causes hospitalization.  Or, a researcher who visits death row and discovers that the inmates don't drink and do have short life expectancies will not conclude that teetotalling shortens life.  In such examples, anyone with a modicum of common sense instantly recognizes that a correlation between zero wine intake and either poor health or short life does not mean that zero wine intake causes either poor health or short life.  All that is required to recognize the invalidity of your conclusion in The French Paradox is to apply this same common sense to an only slightly more subtle case.

Are there not other studies?  Undoubtedly there exist in the literature a large number of studies that have some less direct bearing on the question that we are discussing, and many of these studies will be genuine experiments which do permit cause effect conclusions.  I am thinking in particular of experiments that may demonstrate that ingredients found either in grapes or in wine have a certain physiological effect.  With respect to such other studies, I make the following observations:  (1) Your chief conclusion was based not on such experiments, but on one or more correlational studies.  (2) An experiment in which subjects ingest an ingredient of grapes or of wine may witness a certain effect, even while actually eating grapes or drinking wine produce a different or an opposite effect.  This could happen because in whole grapes or in real wine, the ingredient with the beneficial effect could be offset by some other ingredient which has a harmful effect, as by pesticides or nitrates that might be found in wine, or by the alcohol itself in wine.  Unless an experiment actually has subjects drinking wine, no conclusions concerning drinking wine are possible.  (3) An experiment demonstrating a physiological effect of something ingested is likely to be of short duration, and is not likely to measure the effect on longevity.  However, demonstrating a physiological effect that appears to be beneficial (say a heightened level of HDL, as mentioned by Kim Marcus above) is not the same as demonstrating increased longevity, since the relation between the observed effect and longevity is speculative.

In short, the only research that can prove that prolonged drinking of three to five glasses of wine per day can extend life is the non-feasible experiment that we have already discussed above in which subjects are required to drink different amounts of wine over an extended period of time, and the effects on longevity noted.

The Harm That You May Have Done.

What the above reasoning leads us to, then, is that you were without justification for promoting the conclusion that you did that drinking three to five glasses of wine each day extends life.  Quite possibly, your conclusion had the effect of increasing the consumption of alcoholic beverages, particularly wine, and possibly, the effects of this increased consumption have been uniformly bad.

These may be among the damaging effects of your advice.  The level of alcohol consumption that you advocate slows reaction times and interferes with coordination and impairs judgment, and therefore invites accidents.  Certainly no airline pilot would be permitted to consume a fraction of your recommended daily intake and still be allowed to fly, and certainly every driver should recognize that he is putting himself at risk drinking as much as you advocate.  We recognize the damage that your advice may have inflicted when we take into account that except for infants and the aging, accidents are the leading cause of death.

The level of alcohol consumption that you advocate interferes with, or makes quite impossible, difficult mental work.  Thus, a university student who follows your advice and has a couple of glasses of wine with his dinner is finished for the day he might as well head out to a pub after that, because he will find his calculus homework quite incomprehensible.  A chemistry professor who follows your advice and has a couple of glasses of wine with his lunch will find himself making mistakes as he tries to lay out the electron configuration of aluminum for his class he had better find some simpler topic to treat in that lecture if he doesn't want to embarrass himself in front of his students.  A lawyer arguing a complex case who follows your advice and has a couple of glasses of wine with his lunch will find himself losing the thread of his argument in court he had better let his junior take over that afternoon if he wants to maintain his reputation.

The level of alcohol consumption that you advocate may damage health.  The level of alcohol consumption that you advocate possibly saps energy and depletes motivation, possibly leads to more time spent in small talk and in television viewing, and less in productive work and creative effort.  Undoubtedly, the level of alcohol consumption that you advocate promotes outright alcoholism.  Yours has been a call based on pseudo-science to abandon sobriety and embrace intoxication hardly a direction that American culture needs to be pushed in.

The French Paradox and The Ugly Face of Freedom were equally flawed.  And to return to the comparison of your 23Oct94 broadcast The Ugly Face of Freedom to your 5Nov95 broadcast The French Paradox, I do see a striking parallel.  In both cases, you didn't know what you were talking about, but stepped forward and talked anyway.  Given that you had not studied the subjects to which you addressed yourself, given that you had not thought about them, given that you were capable of nothing better than passing along the most superficial, man-in-the-street, off-the-top-of-my-head conclusions, the truly remarkable thing is that you would have the arrogance to think yourself worthy of standing up in front of tens of millions of people and telling them what was your opinion.  Yet that is what you did, and in each case, you got it wrong.  Your many conclusions in these two broadcasts ranged from totally opposite to the truth to totally unsupported by the evidence.  The Ugly Face of Freedom for which you will always be remembered in the Ukrainian community was wrong and destructive.  The French Paradox which judging from its Internet prominence appears to be your best-remembered broadcast among your total audience was also wrong, and also destructive.

A word concerning self-help.  If you yourself subscribe to the prescription of drinking three to five glasses of wine each day, then I would recommend that you attempt to break yourself of the habit, and substitute for the many hours of inebriation thus avoided some sober study.  Had you substituted for many hours of inebriation the sober reading of history, you might have spared yourself the fiasco of The Ugly Face of Freedom.  Had you substituted for many hours of inebriation the sober study of scientific method, you might have spared yourself the fiasco of The French Paradox.  Perhaps you have no more than to look at these two pratfalls in your own career to see how damaging is the effect of making a habit of indulging in alcohol.

Disclosure would be a step toward restoring professional credibility.  As enthusiasm for your French Paradox broadcasts seems to have its source in the wine industry, and as your integrity has been brought into question on the matter of The Ugly Face of Freedom, I wonder if your professional standing would not be enhanced by your assuring 60 Minutes viewers that you have received no benefits from the wine industry in gratitude for the increased sales that your French Paradox broadcasts have brought it.  The absence of such an assurance will invite some 60 Minutes viewers to construe your French Paradox broadcasts more as infomercials than as investigative reporting.



Lubomyr Prytulak

cc: Ed Bradley, Jeffrey Fager, Don Hewitt, Steve Kroft, Andy Rooney, Lesley Stahl, Mike Wallace.


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