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Princeton Scholar Robert P. George Turns down 60 Minutes Interview

Princeton Scholar Robert P. George Turns down 60 Minutes Interview

Submitted by David W. Virtue, DD
May 3, 2021

Earlier this week I received an email message from a Producer at 60 Minutes requesting an interview for a segment they are working on concerning scientific developments in the area of embryo research. Here is my reply:

Dear Mr. _________:

Thanks for your note.

I have been a professor for thirty-six years. I have been involved in a serious way in public affairs for nearly thirty. I have been interviewed in various media hundreds--perhaps thousands--of times. Most of those experiences have been fine. Even hostile interviewers have permitted me to present the case for my perspective on an issue or set of issues and, in nearly every case, quoted or reported what I said accurately. There was, however, one major exception. It was the worst experience I've ever had with media. I regret to say it was with 60 Minutes. And there is not the slightest doubt in my mind that it was driven by ideological bias.

As it happens, the subject was the very one about which you have written to me--the biological and moral status of the developing human embryo. I had served (or was serving--I can't remember the timing) on the President's Council on Bioethics and we had done a major report on embryonic stem cell research. Things actually began well. I gave an hour long off-camera interview to someone associated with 60 Minutes (I've forgotten his name) who asked thoughtful, intelligent questions, listened carefully to my answers, and asked excellent follow-up questions that made clear that he understood my points. All this lulled me into thinking that this was a serious inquiry.

Then came the on-camera interview with Lesley Stahl. It was a series of "gotcha questions" which revealed not the slightest acquaintance with what I had said in the pre-interview. Trying to answer such questions for a format such as 60 Minutes is simply hopeless. Exposing the mistaken or tendentious assumptions built into the questions exhausts one's time and energy. I was stunned by the experience and, frankly, angered. The intensity of my anger increased when I saw the broadcast. The editing seemed designed to mislead viewers as to what my views and arguments were. I was appalled.

I said to myself then and there that I will never again have anything to do with 60 Minutes. The recent business with Ron DeSantis brought memories of my unhappy (to say the least) experience with the show flooding back. The subject you have asked about is an important one and, as you noted, there have been significant recent developments pertaining to it. I would love to participate in an effort accurately to inform the public of these developments. I lack confidence, however, in 60 Minutes, and for that reason must decline.

Yours sincerely,

Robert George

Robert Peter George is an American legal scholar, political philosopher, and public intellectual who serves as the sixth McCormick Professor of Jurisprudence and Director of the James Madison Program in American Ideals and Institutions at Princeton University.

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