Stop Jenny McCarthy

There’s not much to add here, other than Jenny McCarthy needs to be stopped. Stopping her is even more important than stopping Sylvia Browne. As vile as Sylvia Browne is, at least she doesn’t endanger millions of children by self-righteously promoting antivaccinationist lies that have already started to lead to the return of formerly controlled vaccine-preventable diseases. Sylvia’s just a run-of-the-mill scam artist, but the road to hell is paved with good intentions.

Intentions like Jenny McCarthy’s.

Also, here’s a little something for a “friend” of the blog: A reader took the time to transcribe the introduction to Jenny’s newest book, Mother Warriors. It was written by Dr. Jay Gordon, and I was horrified when I read it. More another time.


  1. #1 geetha
    October 18, 2008

    Horrifying. Scared at the thought of the woo reaching India.
    keep up ur good work, dr.

  2. #2 Kelly
    October 18, 2008

    Do you know anything about who is behind the blog? I wasn’t able to identify and people or organization and I’m curious. Are they associated with any SBers?
    They do a good job of laying out the explanations in an accessible manner.

  3. #3 TexDoc
    October 18, 2008

    Here’s a take on Jenny McCarthy commensurate to her celebrity status.

  4. #4 HCN
    October 18, 2008

    Kelly, I saw them posting on Pharyngula when PZ Myers posted the notice, and I believe I saw something on the James Randi Education Foundation forum: … basically basing it on member’s success with a “StopKaz” site, and now very interesting “StopSyliviaBrowne” site.

  5. #5 Kathryn
    October 18, 2008

    I like their site too. We should all link to them to raise their Google ranking!

  6. #6 Joseph
    October 18, 2008

    It’s a good idea, but it’s a bit lacking in information at the moment. I’d like to see more clear refutations of McCarthy’s claims, with references. It’s possible to do this in a decisive way. I’d like to see more about parents who don’t buy McCarthy’s ideas, etc.

  7. #7 Elinor Cedilla
    October 18, 2008

    The site has some mistakes that need to be fixed because it might otherwise undermine the recommendation that people shouldn’t listen to Jenny McCarthy because she has no medical license, doesn’t understand what she is talking about etc.

    On the About Vaccines page:

    the preservative is an aluminum salt (the same kind used in antacids and cake mixes)

    Aren’t aluminum salts adjuvants rather than preservatives?

    I don’t understand what they were trying to say here apart from the fact that live vaccines such as MMR do not contain preservatives such as thimerosal.

    Vaccines like the MMR vaccine (Mumps, Measles, Rubella), are live vaccines. They never contain preservatives that would kill the microbe because the body won’t react to the dead forms of the viruses. These vaccines often must be refrigerated and have specific expiry dates. These viruses originally grow the best in warm bodies. If you grow the viruses in cold environments, only the viruses that survive the cold will live to make more of themselves. Put them in a warm human body, and they will be weak and unadjusted the warmth. Our bodies will have time to build up immunity before they have a chance to make more viruses that prefer the warmth. It can take up to 10 years to get a good stock of viruses that are safe to use as vaccination stock. The original viruses in current vaccines came from an infected living child in 1954. Nutrients (amino acids, sugar) are contained along with water in the vaccine to keep the viruses from dying, but they are unable to replicate. An antibiotic is used (neomycin) to prevent the growth of harmful microbes in the vaccine.

    The site is riddled with mistakes and swathes of it do not read well. In its present form, it looks like it might do more harm than good because it makes the argument look gauche and no more sensible than some of Jenny McCarthy’s own prouncements.

  8. #8 leigh
    October 18, 2008

    i saw her on the cover of some tabloid magazine at the grocery store this morning, the big cover story about how she saved her son from autism… what next?

  9. #9 Lora
    October 18, 2008

    Yeah, the alum is usually used as an adjuvant. Also, the nutrients are mostly there for buffering purposes–glycine and histidine are very good buffers for many viruses and proteins, sugars are good preservatives of tissue and proteins. The idea is really to keep the viral coat intact during shaking, accidental heating, etc. If you have a loose protein with a lot of water in its native structure, you can often stabilize it using sugar hydroxyl groups in lieu of water. We’d rather not have to ship cold liquids, as it’s expensive, the shelf life is short, and it limits distribution to countries that can guarantee cold chains. But some viruses are finicky and we can’t formulate them for lyophilization.

    On the whole, explaining formulation chemistry to a layperson isn’t easy and I think they did an OK job.

  10. #10 T. Bruce McNeely
    October 18, 2008

    I saw that magazine, too. It was US, and the headline read “A Mother’s Web of Lies”.

    Whoops, that was the headline from People magazine next to it in the rack, the cover story being about that missing child Casey. Oh well, wishful thinking, I guess.

  11. #11 anon
    October 18, 2008

    I think you should threaten to publish nude photos of Jenny McCarthy if she doesn’t retract her book.

  12. #12 Stop Jenny
    October 18, 2008

    Thanks for plugging the site, Orac!

    I am one of the skeptics responsible for the Stop Jenny site. The reason the site is so rough is because it just went up last week and was thought up a few days before that. Hopefully, in the coming weeks we’ll have the kinks worked out. If anyone would like to contribute in any way to the site out of the goodness of their hearts, feel free to contact us using one of the emails on the site.

  13. #13 Elinor Cedilla
    October 19, 2008

    Interesting set of rules on display here – one for people you agree with and another for those that you don’t.

    Sandy Szwarc uses a badly-thought out, extended analogy and Orac is comprehensive in his denunciation of her and what it says about her state of knowledge (Steve Novella was considerably more tempered in effectively likening it to a curate’s egg). Dr Jay Gould and vaccines-are-evil Dawn make mistakes like the one about aluminum and they are jumped over – but a site that you are promoting makes the aluminum error, along with some truly bad writing, and you are OK with it.

    This is not an “OK job” of explaining forumulation chemistry – I wonder if you are backfilling from your own knowledge stores. If you gave some of those explanations to a lay person they would have no idea what to make of them and they would not be accurate. Do Vaccines Cause That is the model for accessible explanations as is CHOP.

    I doubt that Jenny McCarthy and her supporters have the knowledge to fisk it appropriately, which is fortunate.

  14. #14 StopJenny
    October 19, 2008

    There are not two sets of rules. The author of the has been requesting critiques all along to make sure the information is accurate. The author then CHANGES the information when shown why any information is inaccurate. Others are not so willing to do so, and freely keep on spreading misinformation. As you can already see, the website has already been corrected, and linked to better sources. Unlike Jenny McCarthy, the website does not propose cures, does not offer medical advice, and does not profit in any way. We are laypersons attempting to undo the damage McCarthy et al are doing. It’s the laypersons that get hurt the most by McCarthy et al. We continue to ask for critiques, appreciate the feedback, and will continue to make any necessary changes to fulfill our purpose to educated and protect those that are being duped by people profiting off of laypersons with books and other products that are promising fake cures. We continue to hope to show why Jenny is wrong. Please email to help us with our purpose.

  15. #15 Andrew Leahey
    October 19, 2008

    Not looking to spam you here, just want to draw attention to a rally and push in NJ to allow for “conscientious exemption”.

  16. #16 Henry
    October 19, 2008

    Really, you guys are young Stalinists at heart — always trying to censor and browbeat dissenting points of view. I’m now gonna by Jenny’s book. Thanks for the reverse plug, Orac.

  17. #17 Orac
    October 19, 2008


    Henry either (1) would have bought Jenny’s book anyway or (2) is full of crap or (3) both.

  18. #18 Calli Arcale
    October 19, 2008

    Henry appears to be one of those who feels that expressing disagreement with a particular view is equivalent to censorship. How deliciously ironic.

    Henry, one thing you need to understand is that free speech goes both ways. If Jenny McCarthy is allowed to express her opinions, surely Orac is also? If someone such as McCarthy goes out and speaks her mind publicly, she needs to understand that other people get to express their opinion of her statements, even if those opinions are not flattering.

  19. #19 HCN
    October 20, 2008

    Henry whined “Really, you guys are young Stalinists at heart — always trying to censor and browbeat dissenting points of view.”

    Oh, the irony! I am willing to bet that Orac only censors very very few comments compared to Age of Autism! Henry, were you censored here? Good grief, you even got to say it twice!

    How many of us have posted comments at AoA, and not had them posted? Just last week some guy claimed that all rivers flow towards equator was a fact, along with the fact that the earth revolves around the sun once every 24 hours! They did not print my comment that the Nile, Seine, Rhine and a few other rivers do not flow towards the equator. Dissent is not allowed on AoA, or on JABS, or on most anti-vax websites.

  20. #20 Natalie
    October 20, 2008

    Dr Jay Gould and vaccines-are-evil Dawn make mistakes like the one about aluminum and they are jumped over – but a site that you are promoting makes the aluminum error, along with some truly bad writing, and you are OK with it.

    I would expect that a doctor who purports to advice people on vaccination would know what ingredients are what. A simple misstatement would be one thing, but Jay Gordon (who I assume you are referring to) has regularly claimed various things about vaccines that are not true. He should know better, so jumping on him for his misstatements seems completely fine with me.

    Dawn, who is presumably a layperson, was not jumped on until she began repeating the same bogus stuff over and over. She was gently corrected, like the authors of this site have been, but she chose not to accept those corrections. Sucks for her.

  21. #21 Lora
    October 20, 2008

    Elinor, CHOP doesn’t get into the individual ingredients and their function or formulation considerations much at all, which I think is important considering the boogeymen that the antivax’ers raise. Also, Do Vaccines Cause That isn’t open access–yes, I realize that we would all hope very much that parents who are concerned would trouble to read a $15 book about the subject, but unfortunately many don’t even read the two-page pamphlets, the aftercare instructions, or pay attention when the doc is telling them what symptoms to be concerned about. I think a webpage ranking high on Google hits would be much better for these reasons.

    Ms. McCarthy has been repeatedly corrected on the function of drug formulations, to no avail. Since the folks writing seem amenable to correcting errors, I’d be delighted to email them some help (will do later this evening!).

    Is it possible that you are confusing the issues of people not understanding information that they read with people not wanting to believe information that they read and people not paying attention to things that they read/are told? They are separate issues, and the **argh, groan** framing affects which of these issues will be addressed. E.g., when celebrity anti-vax’ers natter on about their cause, they are reaching people who don’t want to believe that perhaps this is simply how their autistic child is, and they are also reaching people who would not pay attention otherwise. Unfortunately we are stuck in the reactive position of trying to do damage control, and we must address all three issues at once–a lot trickier, IMO.

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