The scandal mongers at Fox News must be getting bored with Donald Trump’s bitching about how the GOP is conspiring against him and their utter failure to convince anyone that Hillary Clinton should be thrown in jail. The desperation is visible in their latest recycling of an ancient story that was a core part of their propaganda back in 2011.
The venerable tale of the “Shrimp on a Treadmill” was an audience favorite for the Fox cultists. It had all the components of classic rightist mythology: It portrayed government as wasteful and stupid; it elevated Republican whiners in Congress; it disparaged scientists as greedy perpetrators of hoaxes; and most importantly, it was completely made up. There was literally no truth to the story at all.
This morning on Fox News the Scampi-Scam was resurrected in conjunction with a story about the release of the annual “Pig Book,” a publication from Citizens Against Government Waste that details what they allege are unnecessary government expenditures. Perhaps their report should include the millions of dollars in unnecessary government expenditures on useless and spiteful shutdowns, dozens of fruitless, partisan hearings on Benghazi, and fifty-plus futile attempts to repeal ObamaCare. Fox’s Eric Shawn introduced the today’s segment saying…
“So last year we had the famous shrimp on the treadmill study. There it goes. There goes the little guy. This thing costs over a number of years three million dollars, they say, in taxpayer money. And this absurdity, I mean, continues now?”
Even this many years after the story had been debunked, Fox News is still propagating the lie that it cost millions of dollars. News Corpse documented this journalistic malpractice back in 2014 in an article that include the account of the professor responsible for the experiment. This seems like a good time to reprise that article. So here it is in full:
Back in May of 2011, Fox News assigned its crack investigative reporting team to expose a case of government malfeasance on a grand scale. They claimed to have uncovered wasteful spending on scientific research that served no purpose other than to line the pockets of academics engaged in questionable studies. At the top of the list was a now infamous project that involved the absurd but adorable image of a “shrimp on a treadmill.”
This story became emblematic of government’s incompetence and inability to exercise fiscal restraint. Fox News took it up in big way with hundreds of segments featuring the by now exhausted little sea creature. It was featured on nearly every Fox program with Neil Cavuto playing a prominent role in hyping it with a hefty dose of smugly delivered disgust.
Well, if you haven’t guessed yet, it turns out that this is just another fraudulent invention of the myth spinners at Fox News. David Scholnick is the professor of marine biology at Pacific University in Forest Grove, Oregon, where the notorious research was conducted. Earlier this week he published an article for the Chronicle of Higher Education that laid out for the umpteenth time what was actually being studied and the true costs involved.
On behalf of the National Science Foundation, Scholnick developed a project to ascertain “how recent changes in the oceans could potentially affect the ability of marine organisms to fight infections.” He justified the study by linking it to the very real risk of bacteria contamination to the food supply. But more to the point, he adamantly denied the accusations of any fiscal improprieties.
“Exactly how much taxpayer money did go into the now-famous shrimp treadmill? The treadmill was, in fact, made from spare parts—an old truck inner tube was used for the tread, the bearings were borrowed from a skateboard, and a used pump motor was salvaged to power the treadmill. The total price for the highly publicized icon of wasteful government research spending? Less than $50. (All of which I paid for out of my own pocket.)”
The truth is that the $3 million dollars attributed to the study was actually an aggregate sum that was used for a variety of NSF projects. It was not the amount spent on the shrimp experiment. And there is no evidence that any of the funds were misused or were not justifiable from a research perspective.
However, given the attitude of Fox News and conservative politicians toward science, it is not surprising to find them falsely accusing scientists of malfeasance. The wingnut community staunchly denies the existence of man-made climate change, evolution, and even the harmful effects of excessive sugar, salt, and tobacco. It’s only a matter of time before they begin to challenge the “theory” of gravity.
At the end of his article Scholnick takes a well deserved swipe at his right-wing critics by offering to sell his shrimp-sized NordicTrack for the bargain price of $1 million – a 67% discount on the bogusly reported cost. That’s the sort of special only found during the Black Friday sales after Thanksgiving. Some lucky buyer is going to get endless hours of satisfaction and be the envy of his friends and neighbors.
Stay tuned for the Fox News correction of their erroneous reporting, which I’m sure they will be broadcasting just as soon as they are finished spewing lies about Benghazi, IRS emails, executive amnesty, ObamaCare, the Keystone XL pipeline, voter fraud, Ebola, trickle-down economics, and – oh never mind. It may be better not to stay tuned after all.
How Fox News Deceives and Controls Their Flock:
Fox Nation vs. Reality: The Fox News Cult of Ignorance.
Available now at Amazon.