In ringing prose, President Barack Obama underscored his March 9, 2009, memorandum on scientific integrity with this promise: “Under my administration, the days of science taking a back seat to ideology are over….To undermine scientific integrity is to undermine our democracy.”
As luck would have it, Attorney General Eric Holder issued a statement a few months later designed to spotlight the issue of domestic violence. In Holder’s own words, “Disturbingly, intimate partner homicide is the leading cause of death for African-American women ages 15 to 45.”
Turns out this statement is not one-sided or misleading. It’s flat-out wrong.
Go to the website of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control. There you can fire up the WISQARS (“whiskers”) search engine to glean the leading causes of death for any age group, race, sex, geographical region, or year:
So I entered the data to match Holder’s proclamation — African-American women in the 15-45 year age range. In 2007, the women’s leading causes of death were:
2. Heart disease
3. Accidents (unintentional injuries)
Thinking something must be wrong, I fiddled with different years — same result. Domestic violence homicides didn’t make the list.
This factual boo-boo came to light in a February 4 USA Today column by Christina Hoff Sommers. Calling on Holder to remove the misstatement “immediately,” the essay enumerated the harms wrought by such wrongful assertions.
“Misinformation leads to misdirected policies that fail to target the true causes of violence,” Dr. Sommers declared. “Worse, those who promulgate false statistics about domestic violence, however well-meaning, promote prejudice. Most of the exaggerated claims implicate the average male in a social atrocity.”
What’s more, these claims are exploited by dictatorial regimes to buttress antiquated human rights policies. “In Europe almost 70% of housewives are beaten by their husbands,” Iranian President Ahmadinejad once asserted, absurdly.