Rolling Stone magazine touts a big lie

One would think Rolling Stone had learned its lesson after the University of Virginia rape hoax.  The magazine had to pay $1.65 million to the Virginia Alpha Chapter of the Phi Kappa Psi fraternity for publishing a story about how members of the fraternity participated in a gang rape.  Rolling Stone published an account based on the ravings of a young woman identified only as Jackie without any of the basic steps real journalists take to verify their stories, and it cost them a pretty penny.

On the other hand, maybe Rolling Stone did learn their lesson.  Their latest debacle involves a pack of lies about ivermectin.  The magazine claimed that it is an unsafe horse medicine that people are overdosing on to the point that gunshot victims are not getting treatment.  Their source of information was one Dr. Jason McElyea, a doctor affiliated with a group that provides coverage for emergency rooms in Oklahoma.  At least this time they had the sense to publish lies about a medicine, which can't sue them, rather than human beings, who can collect damages against them.

It would have been very easy for Rolling Stone to check Dr. McElyea's claims.  William C. Campbell and Satoshi Ōmur won the Nobel Prize in 2015 for developing ivermectin.  It is indeed used on horses, but its primary purpose has been to treat parasitic infections in humans around the world.  A meta-analysis of ivermectin use in COVID patients found that using ivermectin early, before severe disease occurred, reduced COVID deaths.

As for Dr. McElyea, a hospital he has worked at, NHS Sequoyah, issued a statement that he has not worked there for the past two months.  Nor has the hospital treated any patients at all for ivermectin overdose, nor have any patients been turned away from the emergency room or neglected while waiting for care.  The National Poison Data System also has relevant information about ivermectin overdoses.  There were 459 reported cases of ivermectin overdose in the United States in August.  There are no precise figures for the state of Oklahoma.  Considering that there were only 459 ivermectin overdoses in the entire country, it is not likely that the few overdoses in Oklahoma overwhelmed any emergency rooms.

All this information is readily available, yet Rolling Stone made no effort to verify Dr. McElyea's claims.  The magazine published the story, which went viral.  NHS Sequoyah was irate enough to issue a public statement branding Dr. McElyea a liar.

Rolling Stone published an "update" to their original story.  The correct word would be "retraction," since nothing they had published was accurate.  However, since Rolling Stone had the good sense not to defame any identifiable people in this particular fantasy, there was no one to demand a retraction.  Nor will anyone be seeking damages, although, if ivermectin really is effective at preventing severe illness and/or death in COVID patients, Rolling Stone will have done plenty of damage by publishing lies about its efficacy.

Pandra Selivanov is the author of The Pardon, a story of forgiveness based on the thief on the cross in the Bible.

Image: Ivermectin tablet packaging by TajPharmaceuticalsLtd.  CC BY-SA 4.0.

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