Skeptics are asking talk show host Ellen Degeneres to stop promoting Theresa Caputo, the “Long Island Medium,” a charlatan who takes advantage of vulnerable, often grieving, individuals.
Theresa Caputo is a “psychic medium” in the tradition of Sylvia Browne, John Edward, and many other men and women claiming to get messages from dead people.
Caputo’s supposed paranormal performances are the result of age-old parlor tricks like the Forer effect and cold reading, as well as her subjects’ eagerness to believe. Many skilled magicians are able to perform similar feats, only they do not claim some “psychic power.”
Indeed, magician and skeptic James Randi has done great work through the James Randi Educational Association exposing charlatans like Caputo and others claiming psychic powers.
Rebecca Watson, popular feminist, atheist, and skeptic, recently released an “Open Letter to Ellen Degeneres” asking Degeneres to quit promoting Theresa Caputo. The following is an excerpt from the beginning of Watson’s letter:
We need to talk about Theresa Caputo. She’s the “Long Island Medium” who claims to be able to talk to the dead, and you’ve had her on your show in the past and you’re planning to have her on your show again.
Watson is correct, promoting psychic frauds like Caputo is dangerous and immoral. So-called “psychic mediums” like Caputo hustle vulnerable people who are in mourning, desperate for some contact with their dearly departed.
Anyone who claims to be in communication with the dead is a fraud, by definition. The only real question is whether or not such individuals are so deluded as to believe they are actually in communication with the dead, or they are simply cynical con artists taking advantage of the gullible.
Either way, by giving Caputo air-time Degeneres becomes a willing participant in a con that exploits the vulnerable and the gullible, and becomes a willing participant in a cruel hoax. Degeneres should know better. Exploiting the grieving while misinforming the public is wrong. Let’s hope Ellen gets the message, and does the right thing.