War of words (over substance) continues on the Global Fund

Circle of money

Fox News has an “EXCLUSIVE” story written by its executive editor, George Russell, reporting that the “Global Fund Backed by Bill Gates to Launch Probe in Wake of Fraud.”

That’s funny, and sad, on all sorts of levels.

It’s funny because it’s not really news or exclusive at all, given that the Global Fund for AIDS, TB and Malaria identified these instances of fraud (perpetrated by recipients of funds) itself more than a year ago in its own “probe” and, finally, because FOX threw into the mix Bill Gates.

The Gates Foundation is certainly one of the backers of the Global Fund, but most of the money for this humanitarian initiative aimed at helping the poorest people on the planet has come from governments.

It’s sad because the media typically gives little attention to the good work and amazing progress of this international initiative aimed at helping fight the AIDS epidemic, tuberculosis and malaria worldwide.

The whole media flap started with a highly questionable story by the Associated Press, which implied that the news organization had discovered through its own investigation that two-thirds of the Global Fund’s billions of dollars have been wasted on fraud. Again, in fact, the Global Fund itself had identified the fraud, which amounted to about 0.3 percent of all grants.

Many have come to the defense of the Global Fund, and many have criticized the AP for its misleading reporting, such as in this recent column by Dr. Paul Zeitz of Global AIDS Alliance. Here’s a good analysis of the ‘scandal’ by the Washington Post’s Michael Gerson.

Unfortunately, as we learned from all the (false) news coverage of Saddam Hussein’s alleged involvement in the Sept. 11 attack and the presumed Iraqi cache of weapons of mass destruction leading up to the Iraq War, it doesn’t always matter if what the story says is true or not.

All that seems to matter is how often the story is repeated.

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Tom Paulson

Tom Paulson is founder and lead journalist at Humanosphere. Prior to operating this online news site, he reported on science,  medicine, health policy, aid and development for the Seattle Post-Intelligencer. Contact him at tom[at]humanosphere.org or follow him on Twitter @tompaulson.