Jenny McCarthy gets Rickroll’d

As you may remember, the evening after the Hollywood face of the antivaccine P.R. machine Jenny McCarthy was scheduled to take part in a web chat. At the time, I suggested sending questions in to the Oprah website, to see if any would get through. I’m sure there was some serious screening and vetting of possible questions; so I suggested trying to word them in such a way as to indicate Jenny’s ignorance without triggering the censors. Apparently never was heard a discouraging word in the web chat (big surprise there), but apparently one rather clever wag did manage to get a question through:

Heh. Obviously a fan of cheesy 1980s pop music was behind this! In case you don’t know, this is what Rickrolling is.


  1. #1 notmercury
    October 6, 2008

    Hah! that’s awesome. Of course I now have that excellent song playing in my head.

  2. #2 Dedj
    October 6, 2008

    I must say that I found it funny, but not as funny as Jenny’s ultra-fake response.

    Come off it Jenny, you claim to speak to parents like this every week. If you’re still ‘wow!one1!’ after having all this time to get used to it, then there’s something seriously wrong with your ability to reflect and adapt.

  3. #3 Philip Morris
    October 6, 2008
  4. #4 Rev. BigDumbChimp, KoT, OM
    October 6, 2008

    That video sucks Phillip.

    Says they can now prove it in court.

    I can’t wait.

  5. #5 wfjag
    October 6, 2008

    Careful about mocking Jenny.

    Although Kathleen Seidel can get away with:

    “Please resist the efforts of vaccine-injury plaintiffs’ advocates to define themselves as representatives of “the autism community.” There are many people affected by autism spectrum conditions, many different theories of causation, and many different perspectives on appropriate ways to address the medical, cognitive, educational and social challenges faced by people on the autistic spectrum. There is no unified “autism community.” The IACC should therefore refrain from using the phrase “autism community” in its publications.”

    “Under the Wire to the IACC” (Sep 30, 2008),

    That’s because she’s willing to litigate and win (and is very careful at ensuring the accuracy of her blogs).

    However, this is becoming more frequent:

    “I can tell you I was subpoenaed for a discovery deposition about one of my posts on this blog. I was not named as a party in the suit occurring in Cook County Circuit Court here in Illinois, mind you. Rather, the plantiff thought for sure that I knew one of the anonymous commenters on my blog. I did not. They insisted that I take down the post on my blog. I have not. They asked that I remove the comments identifying individuals on my blog. I have not and will not. They wanted me to take down an image I posted on my blog. It still stands.

    After three trips for my lawyers before the Cook County Cicuit Court in late summer and fall of this year at considerable expense, my motion to quash the subpoena was rendered “moot” after the suit upon which it was based was dismissed in court.”

    Dr. Wes “Bloggers Beware” (Oct. 4, 2008)

  6. #6 Eric
    October 6, 2008


    That’s some good video there. I like the occasional ‘zoom for effect’ shots, and the very. slow. reading. of a plan. to sue people.

  7. #7 Phoenix Woman
    October 6, 2008


    Go look up NYT v. Sullivan, which was decided in 1964. It was done to prevent the Klan and other forms of organized bigotry from filing nuisance suits against media outlets that dared to report honestly on them.

    Furthermore, as the antivaxers lose more suits, the wall of precedent builds against them, making it cheaper and easier to make their suits go away.

  8. #8 storkdok
    October 6, 2008

    I knew that sounded familiar, being an ’80’s gal, but I couldn’t put my finger on the song until you posted this! Now I have that nostalgic song in my head, probably won’t be able to forget it for days! Thanks a lot! lol

  9. #9 wfjag
    October 6, 2008

    Dear Phoenix Woman:

    From your answer I must assume either you never went to law school, or, if you did, you slept through your Civil Procedure, Federal Civil Procedure, and Evidence Classes.

    NYT v. Sullivan has nothing to do with the situation Ms. Seidel and Dr. Wes confronted. Sullivan held that for entities covered by the 1st Amendment freedom of the press clause and sued for defamation, the plaintiff must plead and prove “actual malice” by the defendant.

    Neither Ms. Seidel nor Dr. Wes were named defendants in any suit. Rather, they were the subject of third-party discovery proceedings — that is, a party to a different suit sought discovery from them.

    Third-party discovery procedures under the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure and state rules based on the federal rules (which is nearly all of the states’ rules) are founded on the assumption that parties to a suit do not have the time, money or motivation to harass persons who are not parties to the suit (i.e., “third-parties”). When that isn’t true, people like Ms. Seidel and Dr. Wes face considerable time, cost and inconvenience in resisting abusive or harassing discovery requests. In some cases, like that directed against Ms. Seidel, the discovery requests are so obviously over the top that a court quickly dismisses it and orders sanctions against the attorney who propounded the discovery. This doesn’t happen often. As to Dr. Wes, since he didn’t post the discovery requests he received, it’s not possible to tell how abusive they were. All he has reported is that his attorneys went to court 3 times to quash the discovery requests, that (like the suit in which Ms. Seidel received abusive discovery requests) the underlying suit was dismissed so the discovery requests were dismissed “as moot”, and apparently he made a complaint to the FBI. In Ms. Seidel’s case, she wrote a pretty good opposition motion and memo proceeding “pro se” (i.e., representing herself), and then a non-profit group undertook her representation free of charge. As to Dr. Wes, it looks like he had to do things the old fashion way — he hired and paid attorneys to represent him. In Cook County, Ill. (Chicago), his attorneys were each charging him $250.00+ plus (likely a large “plus”) per hour. And, as noted, they went to court 3 times — which indicates that they also filed a number of motions and memos, and may have even have taken some discovery from the party seeking discovery from Dr. Wes.

    So, PW, if you’re astute, you’ve figured out what was really going on — in both cases someone had the time, money or motivation to want to force Ms. Seidel or Dr. Wes to spend a lot of time and money. However, NYT v. Sullivan has no applicability to this situation.

  10. #10 Carlie
    October 6, 2008

    I might not have caught it myself if I hadn’t been primed to notice it, but it’s funny. Really funny. Might have been a little more fair if the last part had been something like “but even though he runs around a lot, I’ve never deserted him”, but then it wouldn’t have been striking enough to get air play.

  11. #11 Liesl
    October 6, 2008


    There are penalties…..for posting….. silly and….. boring…………………………………………

    In Canada.

  12. #12 Kula
    October 6, 2008

    I like Jenny’s glasses.

    They make her look smart.

  13. #13 Phoenix Woman
    October 6, 2008

    Well, you certainly showed me a thing or two, Wfjag! And with such tact, grace, humility and concision.

    Be that as it may, Orac and several other Science Bloggers have been discussing Jenny McCarthy and anti-vax/thimerosal crusaders for quite some time now. Orac, at least, has yet to be hit with any type of legal action for doing so. Neither has P.Z. Myers.

    Furthermore, back in April when the SLAPP effort against Seidel was launched, they not only did NOT stop talking about the activities of Shoemaker and his associates, but gathered up a bunch of fellow bloggers and went to great lengths to shine a big fat light on what Shoemaker was doing. The subpoena was quashed shortly afterwards and no similar ones have since been attempted against any bloggers for what they themselves wrote on their own blogs.

    As for what happened to Dr. Wes, his situation is somewhat different in that he was being attacked not for what he wrote, but for what someone else wrote on his blog. Was Dr. Wes at all legally liable for what the anonymous commenters wrote? Probably not, as Section 230 (c) (1) of the 1996 Communications Decency Act states as follows: “No provider or user of an interactive computer service shall be treated as the publisher or speaker of any information provided by another information content provider.”

    Section 230 has been cited in three recent rulings that I know of: the case (decided in April of this year), the Fifth Circuit’s MySpace case (decided ), and the Barbara Bauer suit against Wikimedia (decided this summer).

    In the MySpace and Wikimedia cases, the immunity provision of Section 230 was found to protect the website owners in question. The case turned out somewhat differently: The Ninth Circuit ruled that an exception to the immunity provided by Section 230 would exist if the website “contributes materially to the alleged illegality of the conduct” of the persons visiting a website; however, the Ninth Circuit made it quite clear that this exception was not to be used as a license to harass website owners:

    [T]here will always be close cases where a clever lawyer could argue that something the website operator did encouraged the illegality. Such close cases, we believe, must be resolved in favor of immunity, lest we cut the heart out of section 230 by forcing websites to face death by ten thousand duck-bites, fighting off claims that they promoted or encouraged–or at least tacitly assented to–the illegality of third parties . . .. [I]n cases of enhancement by implication or development by inference–such as with respect to the “Additional Comments” here–section 230 must be interpreted to protect websites not merely from ultimate liability, but from having to fight costly and protracted legal battles.

    In other words: SLAPPers, you’d better think twice before trying to add the Ninth Circuit’s decision to your legal arsenal.

    (A list of Section 230 rulings can be found here.)

  14. #14 Dr. Wes
    October 7, 2008


    “In Cook County, Ill. (Chicago), his attorneys were each charging him $250.00+ plus (likely a large “plus”) per hour.”

    Unfortunately, $250 is a gross underestimation.

  15. #15 Kathleen Seidel
    October 7, 2008

    wfjag, Phoenix Woman may have mixed it up a bit by citing NYT v. Sullivan with respect to my subpoena situation, but she obviously understands the hidden agenda behind Shoemaker’s abuse of process — as Judge Muirhead put it, “to go on a ‘fishing trip’ for anything to support a new suit for defamation…” Under the circumstances, I thank Phoenix Woman for the comforting mention of NYT v. Sullivan.

    And thanks for your reasonably complimentary assessment of my motion to quash as “pretty good.” I consider that high praise, considering that I’m a rank Google-didact and was playing “fake it ’til you make it, or ’til you make it good enough.” I had to laugh at Shoemaker’s counsel’s suggestion that my claim to be representing myself was “questionable due to the quality of [my] motion for a protective order,” since I hadn’t filed a motion for a protective order — I didn’t know to do that, or how or when to specifically move for sanctions, or how to properly order my arguments (start with the rules and work up rather than going from the Constitution down). It’s a good thing the courts cut pro se parties a lot of slack (that is, so long as you don’t go all Jonathan Lee Riches on them).

  16. #16 Kassiane
    October 7, 2008


    Can’t stop laughing. That made my whole week.

  17. #17 Mrs.Schaarschmidt
    October 7, 2008


    Really? Vaccines are “causing the equivalent of strokes, not just to the brain, but to many organs in the body – leading to disease.”

    The equivalent of strokes?

  18. #18 borealys
    October 7, 2008

    The equivalent of strokes?

    Heart attacks? Pulmonary embolisms? Really?

    Or… wait… could it be that these people just don’t know what a stroke is?


  19. #19 Gerard
    October 7, 2008

    Dear Jenny,

    I was diagnosed with autism at the age of two, and neither spoke nor walked until I was six. The doctors all said I was hopeless but my parents had a plan they knew would work, and which I am willing to share with you and other parents out there.

    When I was a young boy my father took me into the city to see the marching band. He said son when you grow up will you be the savior of the broken the beaten and the damned.

  20. #20 Skwee
    October 7, 2008

    This is what the Internet was made for.

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