NIH Director Regrets Taxpayer-Funded Hatchet Job Linking Tea Party to Big Tobacco



At a congressional hearing on Tuesday, Francis Collins, director of the National Institutes of Health, said he was "quite troubled" by a taxpayer-funded study that tarred the Tea Party movement as a pawn of Big Tobacco. Collins called the study, led by anti-smoking activist Stanton Glantz, "an unfortunate outcome," saying, "We thought we were funding a different kind of research when those grants were awarded." Science Insider reports that Collins was responding to concerns raised by Rep. Andy Harris (R-Md.) at a hearing before a subcommittee of the House Appropriations Committee:

"They allege that somehow the Tea Party had its origin in the 1980s with tobacco funding, which is pretty incredible," Harris said. "Because I mean, I'm a Tea Party guy. I was there when it was established in 2009. I know the origins. I find it incredible that NIH funding is funding this," Harris said, adding that the study reflects "a partisan political agenda."

When the study was published in the journal Tobacco Control last month, one of Glantz's co-authors declared, "The records indicate that the Tea Party has been shaped by the tobacco industry and is not a spontaneous grassroots movement at all." As I noted at the time, Glantz et al. tried to make the case that the Tea Party was funded and largely created by Philip Morris but ended up arguing that anyone who disagrees with them on issues such as ObamaCare, smoking bans, and cigarette taxes is carrying water for Big Tobacco, even if he does not realize it. 

Glantz told Science Insider he was "very troubled" by Collins' comments. After all, when Glantz said in his grant proposal that he planned to study the influence of "third parties" funded by cigarette manufacturers, the NIH should have realized that included political hatchet jobs aimed at discrediting supporters of limited government as shills or dupes of Big Tobacco. It's not his fault that the people he attacked happen to be critics of the current president, which makes it look like the Obama administration is using taxpayer money to pay for opposition research.

[Thanks to Christopher Snowdon for the tip.]