Statement on Bodies the Exhibition from Douglass McDonald

From Cincinnati Enquirer: ‘Bodies’ settles with N.Y.

This is an interesting article because it is one of the few where Cincinnati Museum CEO Douglass McDonald actually makes a statement.  Usually, he’s hiding behind a statement from Premier.

“It’s a New York document. We talked to our lawyers and it applies only to New York, not Cincinnati,” said Douglass McDonald, president and CEO of the Museum Center. “Obviously, we’ll continue to watch the events and monitor changes, but at this juncture, it doesn’t change anything for us.

As a legal document, it definitely only applies to NY.  However, Premier’s own lawyer is quoted in saying that they would apply it to “operations worldwide”.

The Premier lawyer who negotiated the settlement, general counsel Brian Wainger, said, “We are happy to have this behind us.” Wainger said the settlement terms only applied to exhibits in the state of New York but that the company would “adopt practices that mirror New York’s requirements” in its operations worldwide.

But, it should be more than what the lawyers say.  The exhibit in NY is in South Street Seaport, an entertainment district.  The exhibit here in Cincinnati is at the Cincinnati Museum Center.  The Cincinnati Museum Center has a duty to the public as a learning center to provide both educational and ethical displays.  The ethics of this exhibit has been called into question.  Premier has made assertions about the source of the bodies, but are not able to back any of it up.  How can you trust what Premier or the Cincinnati Museum Center has to say about this?

“I’m not surprised, though. Cuomo announced his investigation the day before ABC announced the show, and that was a day before sweeps week began, so you knew something had to happen.

Oh, so blame it on the sweeps week.

“I’m still comfortable with the exhibit. What we know for sure is that it continues to be a spectacular, educational exhibit. We’ve been looking at hard facts and evidence since we started considering the exhibit, and the hard facts and evidence continue to support the positive information Premier gave us at the beginning.”

The hard facts are that Premier has settled with the NY Attorney General’s office and admit that they are unable to prove where the bodies come from. 

McDonald refers to a paragraph in Cuomo’s formal document that seems to support the claim that the bodies are not executed prisoners.

Paragraph 14 reads: “Premier has also affirmatively represented that it conducted its own internal due diligence and … independently concluded that the specimens currently on display in New York are not, and do not come from, Chinese prisoners who were subjected to execution, torture or other forms of physical abuse. … Premier’s ability to independently analyze the Whole Bodies is not at issue here. Premier, however, cannot independently confirm that any of the over 200 parts in the New York Exhibit were not taken from Chinese citizens or residents who were executed, tortured or subjected to other physical abuse.”

What McDonald neglects to say, is that paragraph 14 is Premier’s own statement.  Of course Premier’s statement is going to support what he believes in.

Paragraph 15, which he conveniently leaves out states this:

15. The Attorney General finds that, given the sensitive and controversial nature of Premier’s Bodies Exhibits, including the one in New York, and particularly given the history of human rights violations in China, the above-referenced representations made by or on behalf of Premier were overstated.

Premier does not deny the Attorney General’s findings.  When I see Douglass McDonald’s statements, I see someone who’s desperate to keep the money flowing no matter what the costs.   

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