Ever since Jenny McCarthy hitched her fading star to the anti-vaccine movement and managed to get Oprah Winfrey to go along for the ride, she has become the public face of the anti-vaccine movement. Unfortunately, there hasn’t been nearly as much blowback as there should be in the mainstream press, although bloggers have been all over McCarthy’s promotion of the worst lies of the anti-vaccine movement and advocacy of autism quackery. Then I came across this the other day:



I’m of two minds on this. While it’s a good thing to see cartoonists ridiculing Jenny McCarthy and Oprah for their promotion of anti-vaccine views, I can sympathize with Sullivan when he writes:

There are many reasons I have for being vocal about my objections to Jenny McCarthy. Public health, that’s obviously a big one. Making the rest of the world look at the “autism community” as a bit of a joke, well that’s another.

That is perhaps the saddest thing about the anti-vaccine movement. Its sheer lunacy is unfairly and unjustly tainting the autism advocacy community by association.


  1. #1 The Science Pundit
    July 21, 2009

    I agree. Whenever somebody tells me that they do volunteer work for some autism group, I immediately get on my guard and start looking for a polite way to find out if they’re an anti-vax kook. I don’t react the same way when people tell me that they volunteer for cancer, alzheimers, MS, or some group helping just about any other affliction.

  2. #2 Todd W.
    July 21, 2009

    What’s really bad is when you get anti-vaxers insulting and shouting down people who share that they work with and advocate for people with autism (e.g., ABA teachers) and don’t believe in the vaccine-autism connection. These people are making a real difference in the lives of their clients and their families, helping give kids with autism a better chance at succeeding on their own or with limited assistance, and the thanks they get is derision?

    I realize the emotions involved, but there really is no excuse for rudeness on this issue, particularly toward those who are having a huge beneficial impact on people with autism.

  3. #3 Todd
    July 21, 2009

    We are in the beginning stages of understanding ASDs, but cranks at Autism Speaks are diverting attention away from science. What I’d like to know, as a person with a vested interest in the research, is how much money is being wasted pursuing pseudo scientific wild goose chases. Like religious groups blocking embryonic steam cell research, it seems like an entire decade has been flushed away by idiots like Jenny McCarthy. She not only has the deaths from vaccine preventable diseases on her head, but I’d charge her with making the lives of people affected by ASDs miserable.

  4. #4 M.B.
    July 21, 2009

    I almost agree with you. The saddest thing about the anti-vaccination movement is that they are indirectly killing children. That they taint legitimate ASD advocacy groups comes second.

    However, I do take your point. As a person with an autism spectrum disorder, it very deeply bothers me to see these people killing children, lying, and mangling logic, and all supposedly on my behalf.

    To (almost) quote Joseph Welch, “You have done enough, Ms. McCarthy. Have you no sense of decency, ma’am? At long last, have you left no sense of decency?”

    Thanks, Orac. It’s always nice to see someone who actually gives a damn.

  5. #5 Nostrum
    July 21, 2009

    You don’t even know how frustrating it is as a parent that one of the first things people ask me is, “Do you think it’s vaccines?”

    No. No I don’t. And I’m sick and tired of having irrational loons parading around on the talk show circuit peddling their Pile-O-Woo. For the low, low price of all your money and a pile of guilt for not following my impossible routine *exactly,* you too can have results no better than placebo!

  6. #6 Deb
    July 21, 2009

    This is why the Jenny crowd is actually anti-autism, not just anti-vaccine. I’ve worked with children with foetal alcohol syndrome who’ve grown up being told they’re damaged and the effect of the label is as profound as the original damage. Imagine growing up being told you’d been ‘damaged’ or ‘poisoned’ and what that would do to the way you live. Or as parents, the ways you would treat your children and their condition. And then of course there’s the wasted money being taken away from things that really could help.

  7. #7 kathleen
    July 21, 2009

    “tainting autism advocacy”
    more like poisoning it..soon enough my children will be old enough to understand what is being said about autism in popular media..what are they going to think about themselves?

  8. #8 Albert Lewis
    July 23, 2009

    “Imagine growing up being told you’d been ‘damaged’ or ‘poisoned’ and what that would do to the way you live.” – Deb @6

    My youngest boy was branded “attention-deficit” disordered by my ex-wife (who had custody) so he ended up in a class of six such boys, attended by one teacher and six “aides” – big beefy fellows who kept the poor, disordered boys in line, you know. The ex-wife eventually tossed him out of her house and into mine, so he was enrolled in the local school with the brand stuck to his record, of course.

    Over the next two years my wife and I fought to have him allowed into mainstream. Finally it was allowed and he went directly to the Dean’s List and stayed there. He approaches problems a little differently than teachers expect, true, but today he works in New York City, London, Milan and Paris. Not bad for a supposed ADHD case branded because he wasn’t being understood.

  9. #9 brantl
    July 23, 2009

    The anti-thimerosol people, of which I’m one, believe that RFK, JR. knows how to get his facts straight. My kid gets vaccines, he doesn’t get thimerosol. My son’s behavior changed radically when he got his big dose of vaccines, at age 2. If you haven’t checked into JFK’s work, do so. A CDC study was hidden by the Bush administration after a large meeting with the industry big-shots, and the study buried. Where’d the guy who wrote the study go to work shortly thereafter? Glaxxo-Smith-Cline (sp?).
    I’ll believe Bobby, Jr. over anybody associated with the Bush administration, thanks.

  10. #10 Natalie
    July 23, 2009

    Oh, that’s just sad.

  11. #11 mgb
    July 23, 2009

    I found a good article in rolling stones magazine where JFK jr. puts forth his arguments. I have to admit some of the quotes used are pretty damning.

  12. #12 Chris
    July 23, 2009

    mgb, did you check how many corrections Kennedy had to put in that article? Anyway it is old and very stale news, covered in this blog three years ago, and it was a reprint from the original a year before!

  13. #13 Robert F. Kennedy, Jr.
    July 23, 2009

    You really shouldn’t listen to me. I have no clue what I’m talking about.

  14. #14 JayZee
    July 23, 2009

    This is a problem for me.I’m on the fence on this issue, not really sure which way to go.

    I wish the scientific method could be used to test a segment of the ever growing population of un-vaccinated infants and children compared to vaccinated infants and children.Short and long term for autism and ANY immunopathology.

    Let the chips fall…how hard is this?

  15. #15 Skemono
    July 23, 2009

    Yes, because RFK is so reliable. Let’s listen to him rather than any scientists who know what they’re talking about.

  16. #16 Chris
    July 23, 2009

    JayZee, that question has been asked and answered several times on this blog. There is this handy-dandy search box on the left side of this page for you to do a search. In the mean time, I suggest you read Let’s Do a Study!, and then the book Autism’s False Prophets by Paul Offit which also discusses this and other study methodologies.

  17. #17 Chris
    July 23, 2009

    JayZee, here are some Orac blog posts to start with:
    Search results using ethics vaccine study unvaccinated

  18. #18 JayZee
    July 24, 2009

    chris, Several years ago I read Offit’s cutter incident and had a lovely debate through email exchange and phone conversation with him.Paul is brilliant, passionate and very generous with his time.Paul will be the first one to tell you he makes a ridiculous amount of money that’s why he’s constantly selling and protecting the market.

    What do we do with this trail of morbidity and mortality left in the wake of these vaccines?

  19. #19 Chris
    July 24, 2009

    It is a different book. Read the new one. (As for your comments on money made: would you deny Steve Jobs or Bill Gates their millions for their contributions to the computer industry? If you think that someone making lots of money from an industry is a reason to not use it, get rid of your computer now, and don’t even think of using the internet!)

    Did you even click on the “Let’s Do a Study!” link in my comment?

    By the way, I did do the search for posts here that would tell you about the study, but it went into permanent moderation. Anyway, go to the left side of this blog, look for the search box, put these words into the box: vaccines study unvaccinated ethics. Yes, “ethics” is the very important part of that search.

    Now you say:

    What do we do with this trail of morbidity and mortality left in the wake of these vaccines?

    Even Dr. Sears notes that the deaths from pertussis per year in the USA is up to two dozen. In this blog it was noted that Minnesota reported a death from Hib. Where are the equivalent statistics for vaccines?

    Don’t look at VAERS (after several million HPV doses about 20 deaths were reported, some were from car crashes and drug (not vaccine) overdoses). VARES is a self-selected survey, which is the lowest from of statistical quality. Many times the “vaccine injuries” turn out to be something totally unrelated to a vaccine (some are reported over a year after the vaccine!).

    Go into the real medical literature (you can find it at http://www.pubmed.gov) and give me the details as to which vaccine has a “trail of morbidity and mortality” which would require it to be removed from the pediatric schedule.

  20. #20 Chris
    July 24, 2009

    Oh, crud… too many mistakes. It is supposed to be “VAERS” both times, and it is the lowest FORM of statistical quality.

    Hey! I used bold tags, but I don’t see them. At least the blockquote worked. At least I didn’t get the standard error!

    Okay, going to bed now.

  21. #21 JayZee
    July 25, 2009

    “Oh, crud… too many mistakes.”


    Me too! …it was past my bedtime.
    Paul is a brilliant car salesman is what I thought I posted.

    Chris, even a first grader knows the referee can’t wear a team uniform.It’s not just the vaccines – it’s infectious disease care and the corruption of medical science.I’ve seen enough.

    On your insistence I did peruse his new book online and I’m shocked that Jenny has so much sway over him.Sheesh.I avoid Oprah and I don’t know that much about Jenny.I guess I’ll have to catch up sometime.

  22. #22 Chris
    July 25, 2009

    Jenny has sway over who?

    Anyway, read more of this blog. And then there is this:

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