Thursday, July 7, 2016

The Long Crawl-back, Part I: After being punk'd by my 96-year-old father, Cincinnati ABC-TV affiliate publishes decent update -- "health problems" prevent Dr. Maneuver from answering questions

Via veteran reporter Ben Kaufman's media column in the June 8, 2016 Cincinnati CityBeat, the Queen City's longtime newsweekly:
A recent Cincinnati Enquirer story went global, aided and abetted by the Associated Press. It was perfect click bait. The story said that at 96, Cincinnatian Henry Heimlich used his Maneuver for the first time to save a life (of a purported choking victim, 87-year-old Patty Ris, at the Deupree House senior residence*).
...After Peter Heimlich alerted The Enquirer and others to a similar claim (his father had made) years ago, the paper backed away from the novelty. It assigned a second reporter to redo the story, adding and explaining doubts about the “first” in the longest crawl-back I can remember.

Peter Heimlich told me that in addition to The Enquirer and AP, “these are some of the news outlets I filed corrections requests with last week: CNN, NBC News, The New York Daily News, and WCPO-TV. At this writing, none have corrected the errors.”
This is the first part of a series about my corrections requests.

* Reporters at McKnight's and Slate have questioned the veracity of the Deupree House story. So have I.


Since Spring 2003, my father has been thoroughly exposed as a medical charlatan, a serial liar, and a con man in scores of media reports, two of the first being these Sunday front-pagers in the Cincinnati Enquirer (based on research by my wife Karen and me).


Here's my point.

Could there be a veteran journalist in the 'Nati who'd take anything my father said at face value and report it?

Reporter Scott Wegener, WCPO-TV News (source)

According to his bio on the website of WCPO-TV (Cincinnati's ABC affiliate), reporter Scott Wegener has been working in the Queen City since 1986 and has won some journalism awards.

On May 27, WCPO aired Wegener's story, Heimlich maneuver inventor uses it for the first time... at age 96, based on this lie told by my father:

That day and again on June 1, I sent e-mails to Wegener about the error.

I received his confirmations of receipt but no reply.

Reporter Joe Rosemeyer, WCPO-TV (source)

On June 27 I took it to News Editor Mike Canan and the next day, Heimlich's first time using maneuver? Maybe not by Joe Rosemeyer, was published on the station's website.

It's tough to prove someone intentionally lied and Rosemeyer's story included some verbal acrobatics perhaps intended to step around that dead elephant in the room:
Maybe Henry Heimlich simply misremembered. Or maybe news reports from the early 2000s simply weren't true.

Either way, there's an irresolvable conflict: When did Dr. Heimlich first perform his namesake maneuver?

A month ago, just a few days before National Heimlich Maneuver Day, the Cincinnati doctor said he'd finally used it for the first time. He's 96 years old, and he invented the move to help choking victims more than 40 years ago.

Pretty incredible that he hadn't used it before then, right?

Except Heimlich apparently told the BBC in 2003 he'd performed it three years earlier, in 2000.

...Several other media outlets also covered that earlier story.

...The doctor's son, Phil Heimlich, said he, his sister and father have no recollection of the incident 16 years ago.
"It would have been a major news story, so we would have remembered," he said.
Presumably the "irresolvable conflict" could be resolved by asking my father, but the story didn't include any quotes from Dr. Maneuver or any indication that he'd been contacted, so I asked Rosemeyer about that.

He replied, "Phil said Henry had some health problems since last month, so he was calling me back instead."

Is this the first time Dr. Heimlich has ever used the maneuver to save a life?

“Yes, this is,” he said Friday. “I originally did my research studies that led to my developing it, which was in 1974, and I never considered that I would be doing it myself.”

The record is murky in that regard. A BBC article in 2003 quoted the doctor, then 83, describing a similar encounter where he tried the maneuver on a fellow diner, a man, although the story lacked details such as a precise date, location and name. A New Yorker article in 2006 made reference to a similar incident, also without details. But a son, Phil Heimlich, said his father had never mentioned any previous incidents to him. The doctor himself did not return a follow-up call.
Finally, if my father's ill, I wish him a speedy recovery.

And when he's better, I'd encourage reporters to interview him to perhaps resolve the "irresolvable conflict."

And if any reporters need someone on the record calling him a liar, I'm available.

This item has been slightly updated.