Reality Check: Ad Focuses On Walker, Stem Cells

WISC-TV is continuing its We the People Wisconsin “Fact Finder” reports by looking at the hot-button issue of stem cell research from a recent ad.

Sue Fallon of Madison asked: “Is (Republican candidate for governor) Scott Walker opposed to all stem cell research or is it specifically embryonic stem cell research he would ban?”

The ad from Democratic candidate Tom Barrett tries to play on the emotions of parents and those living with chronic, incurable illnesses who are hoping for a cure from stem cells. But it distills Walker’s position down too far to be accurate, WISC-TV reported.

“When he was just 21 months old, our son Andrew was diagnosed with juvenile diabetes,” the ad begins, with mother Heidi Fallone speaking.

The mother appearing in the ad is not just your average mom. She is also a board member of Wisconsin Stem Cell Now, an advocacy group pushing support of both embryonic and adult stem cells.

“That’s why politicians like Scott Walker upset me so much,” Fallone says in the ad. “Scott Walker says he would ban stem cell research in Wisconsin.”

A WISC-TV analysis found this is misleading. Walker has not clearly said he would ban any stem cell research in Wisconsin, although he does not support funding for embryonic stem cell research.

Given the fact that the science works with live embryos, he and other anti-abortion advocates see the work as the destruction of human life. Walker is adamant that any state money should be directed to adult, rather than embryonic, stem cell research.

“Time and time again, scientists have shown us the greater possibilities, and the real science movement has been with adult stem cell research, it has not been with embryonic,” Walker said at a recent press event.

A WISC-TV analysis found this is also misleading. First, adult stem cells have been around for decades. They were first used as bone marrow transplants, which have helped saved countless people with blood diseases, and they have recently begun to show results in other areas.

But where some scientists would argue with this statement is in the “possibilities.” Many stem cell researchers, including those in Madison, have said that embryonic cells hold more promise because they aren’t limited to being one “type” of cells. They can become a skin cell, a bone cell, or a heart cell, for example. Plus, embryonic cells are in the first phases of human study. The first trial of embryonic stem cells began this week in California, with scientists injecting embryonic cells into patients with spinal cord injuries.

WISC-TV tried to seek further clarification as to whether Walker would ban embryonic research, given that he doesn’t want to fund it.

Walker’s said only that he wouldn’t initiate legislation banning embryonic research, but he didn’t say whether he’d sign legislation if it was initiated and supported by others.

Barrett supports funding and continuance of both embryonic and adult stem cell research.