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Byron Harris Called Out by Politifact.com for Sloppy Reporting

I’m a few days late in coming to this, but WFAA Channel 8 reporter Byron Harris has been singled out by Politifact.com for a bit of shoddy workmanship that has had some big consequences. Harris has broadcast a series of stories about unnecessary Medicaid-funded orthodontics performed in Texas. The highest-profile such story involved Dr. Richard Malouf, the dentist who is building a water park in his backyard. A refrain that Harris has hit in these stories goes something like this: “[Texas] now spends as much on braces for poor kids as the other 49 states combined.” Harris’ claim has created its own echo chamber.

Last fall, Rep. Lois Kolkhorst (R-Brenham), who chairs the House Committee on Public Health, said at the Texas Tribune Festival: “It’s unacceptable that the state of Texas spent more than all 49″ other “states combined, according to many, many reports and even our own data.” Those “many, many reports” and their “own data”? That would be Byron Harris’ reporting and a congressional report published in April 2012. Problem is, the congressional report (which wound up being cited in a Wall Street Journal story) also relied on Harris’ reporting — which was flawed. From Politifact.com:

Harris said that he and a producer contacted the states that, with Texas, comprise the nation’s 10 most populous: California, New York, Florida, Illinois, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Michigan, Georgia and North Carolina. Harris said letters sent to officials in each state inquired into how much the state had spent in 2010 on orthodontic procedures the station had zeroed in on in Texas. ..

Harris said the station did not research spending in the 40 other states, which would have drained too much time. Instead, he said, “we just guessed” at how much the other states spent. He also agreed that such spending in the other 40 states could push the total for all other states over the Texas total. “It could go either way,” he said.

Well, okay, but which way does it go? Harris should have found out before he asserted the “fact.”

P.S.: Do I have an ax to grind with Harris? Why yes. Yes, I do.

10 comments on “Byron Harris Called Out by Politifact.com for Sloppy Reporting

  1. Harris has beaten this dead horse to death. Story after story. Many seem to have taken little time or effort.
    He has made his point. Also, his constantly interviewing dentists who don’t take Medicaid patients about waste in government seems a little (make that very) hypocritical. Most kids who need dental care aren’t getting it. That is another part of the story Harris has ignored.

  2. Byron Harris and the rest of the talking idiots at WFAA aside, Medicaid dental fraud is way out of control.

  3. PPS – have Malouf or his business entities ever advertised in a D Magazine Partners publication or Web site?

  4. Isn’t Dr. Malouf suing the bejesus out of Byron Harris? And the Wilson boys mom? And that blogger Candy Tim bltchslapped a while back? I’m too lazy to google…

  5. Rereading the old Byron Harris stuff was infuriating again, but also a hard giggle. Especially because I remember you emerging from your office wide-eyed and yell-y: “WHY DID YOU LET ME DO THAT!?”

  6. This guy is way past his sell by date. I have never seen a direct link in his stories to how Dr. Malouf made his money. Can Byron prove it came from his dental practice? Did he inherit it or make it from other investments?
    Harassing him in the hallway of the courthouse when he was there on a family matter was also bush league.
    If Malouf is a crook I hope the government investigates and takes action.

  7. I am so THRILLED to read this! It has been an absolute outrage to watch the consequences of Byron Harris’ lies and sensationalism! It’s a modern day witch hunt! State and federal law makers are just regurgitating the bile that Byron Harris has presented as “fact” rather than performing their own investigations to find the truth. Meanwhile dozens of doctor’s across the state and right here in the metroplex have been forced out of business, leaving hundreds of people out of work and thousands of kids left with braces on with no place go. Good, honest doctors have suffered. One poor man in east Texas who was featured on a couple of the reports as one of the doctors that “collected more money than the entire state of…” Lost his wife to a heart attack just days after that report aired. I personally feel like Byron Harris should be held accountable for that. For all of it really, but a Second Degree murder charge sounds suitable to me for his crimes.

  8. I am so THRILLED to read this! It has been an absolute outrage to watch the consequences of Byron Harris’ lies and sensationalism! It’s a modern day witch hunt! State and federal law makers are just regurgitating the bile that Byron Harris has presented as “fact” rather than performing their own investigations to find the truth. Meanwhile dozens of doctor’s across the state and right here in the metroplex have been forced out of business, leaving hundreds of people out of work and thousands of kids left with braces on with no place go. Good, honest doctors have suffered. One poor man in east Texas who was featured on a couple of the reports as one of the doctors that “collected more money than the entire state of…” Lost his wife to a heart attack just days after that report aired. I personally feel like Byron Harris should be held accountable for that. For all of it really, but a Second Degree murder charge sounds suitable to me for his crimes.

  9. I am a Disabled Veteran of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars. Byron Harris pretty much USED me and my disabilities for a story to make himself look good. He interviewed me and one other Veteran. The government was/is screwing me on my disability checks. He sold me on the premise that he would do everything it took until he secured justice for me. He contacted me to set up an on camera interview, he then conducted the interview, one interview. The interview aired, I heard nothing further from him after that interview and not one thing has changed since, I’m still getting screwed over by the government. On the bright side, I DID get a nice tour of the television station….woohoo. Thank you, Chris.