It has now been nearly two months since Andrew Wakefield was forced to resign from Thoughtful House in the wake of his being found guilty of research misconduct by the British General Medical Council (GMC), the withdrawal of Wakefield’s infamous 1998 Lancet paper, and the withdrawal of Wakefield’s last grab at scientific credibility, his infamous hepatitis B “monkey study.” After a period of silence, over the last week, Wakefield has started to pop up in the public eye again, most recently last week in an interview for an independent filmmaker that is getting wide play in the anti-vaccine underground but not much anywhere else. Unfortunately, without the seeming respectability of Thoughtful House to buoy him, I had predicted that Andrew Wakefield would be destined for even more disrepute. It turns out that I was quite correct.
Andrew Wakefield has been interviewed by Dr. Mercola, who has posted the interview on his website in an article entitled Why Medical Authorities Went to Such Extremes to Silence Dr. Andrew Wakefield. I wonder if Wakefield knows that being featured on Joe Mercola’s website is a mere step above being featured on the conspiracy website Whale.to, right next to the New World Order conspiracy theories, UFO stories, Ley lines, Chemtrails, and HIV/AIDS denialism. Oh wait, he’s already there. But, to be fair, he didn’t actually sit down with John Scudamore to do an interview, as he did with Mercola. Here is the first part of the interview:
A transcript of the interview can be found here, in case, like me, you can’t stand to watch Wakefield’s unctuous “poor, poor, pitiful me” whining and Joe Mercola’s chipper conspiracy mongering for the full hour-plus time to which the combined running time of all ten parts of the interview total. Because the interview is long and consists of a lot of the usual misinformation that Wakefield has been peddling for twelve years now, I’ll make like a CAM practitioner and cherry pick bits of the interview that interest me to comment on. For instance, Mercola starts out with lips planted firmly on Wakefield’s posterior:
Today, I‟m here with Dr. Andrew Wakefield and we‟re just delighted and privileged to have him. We‟re going to talk about some very exciting topics primarily related to the vaccines. There has been a progressive increase in the use of vaccines over the last 20 or 30 years and there is more on the way and the big issue of course is, first of all, do they work and then secondly and more importantly is, how safe are they? And one of the most prominent researchers in answering that question with respect to the safety and the adverse effects that could be caused would be Dr. Wakefield. We‟re going to discuss some of the studies he has done. He‟s really one of the pioneer and probably the most prominent researcher in this area that‟s why we‟re so excited to have him. This is literally a multi-billion dollar process of these vaccines and largely because of the patented drugs being decreased; the big focus of the drug companies is to be increasing these use of the vaccines. So this is really a central part of their role and they are mounting massive efforts at discrediting anyone especially a prominent researcher who is attempting to counter the benefits, the supposed benefits of vaccines.
In the accompanying commentary, Mercola opines:
One of the primary reasons for this interview was to discuss Dr. Wakefield’s recent media exposure, and allow him the opportunity to finally set the public record straight.
As you probably know, the scientific peer-review process is designed to ferret out the truth. But in some cases, such as the case of Dr. Wakefield, this process can become perverted by conflicts of interest.
There are tens, if not hundreds of billions of dollars involved in the vaccine industry, and as a consequence there’s major pressure to suppress negative findings, such as the findings Dr. Wakefield uncovered.
In the last few months, he has been severely criticized in the media. Like every story there are always two sides and up until now he has not shared his due to advice he had received from his attorneys. That advice has now changed, and I wanted to provide him with the opportunity to tell his side of the story. In this interview, Dr. Wakefield opens up publicly for the first time.
Well, not exactly the first time. Mercola’s late by about a week.
Be that as it may, right from the beginning, it’s clear that the form of the interview will be to paint Andrew Wakefield as the Brave Maverick Doctor, a veritable Galileo of anti-vaccine pseudoscience, being suppressed/repressed by the medical establishment. Mercola even wonders if there’s a Nobel Prize down the road. Even if he was joking, which he appeared to be only partially, I laughed out loud when I heard that line, because I strongly suspect that Mercola really believes that Wakefield is worthy of the Nobel Prize in Medicine. Not long after that, Wakefield goes on and on about how British authorities supposedly tried to shut him down before he ever published his 1998 Lancet paper, painting himself as the poor naif, who had no idea what he was getting into and was shocked that the British Department of Health might have been alarmed at his poor quality research, and the GMC’s ruling 13 years later confirms that the Department of Health was more than justified to be alarmed, even though it did not know at the time that Wakefield’s work was trial lawyer-funded to the tune of £435,643 in fees plus £3,910 in expenses or that his research involved subjecting autistic children to invasive medical procedures without good medical indications.
Self-serving blather by Andrew Wakefield and fawning drooling by Joe Mercola aside, though, what I really wanted to find out from this interview was a hint at what Wakefield planned on doing next. I once joked that Wakefield’s next position would be one of three things, either medical director or chief “scientist” of Generation Rescue, medical director or chief “scientist” at SafeMinds, or the medical director at a quack clinic in Ecuador, Costa Rica, or Tijuana (although I would point out that I don’t limit Wakefield’s options to those locales). First off, apparently he’s written a book, although its apparently imminent release date tells me (1) that he’s been working on it a while and (2) that it’s probably going to be self-published or published through a vanity press:
I‟ve written a book at the GMC I was accused of callous disregard for children suffering which rather extraordinary even to me having experienced what I‟ve experienced to be accused of callous disregard for children is a stretch. So the book is called Callous Disregard. There is just tinge of irony in that. And it‟s really about the circumstances that surrounded The Lancet paper and everything that flowed from it but also the whistle blower in the background and that behind the scenes action that I wasn‟t aware of at the time but was forced into the open by the disclosures at the General Medical Council. So it‟s a story that hasn‟t been told that needs to be told. The second part of it which I‟m writing at the moment will focus largely on the American experience and my involvement with Congressional testimony and that kind of thing and all the behind the scenes jiggery pokery that went on there. So that book will be coming out hopefully in time for Autism One here in Chicago in late May.
See what I mean? If he’s still writing it and expects it to be released at the annual anti-vaccine quackfest that’s coming up in six weeks, it’ll have to be vanity press. Maybe Generation Rescue is going to publish it. Of course, one can’t help but point out yet again that, if, as he claims, Wakefield has so much evidence that exonerates him of the charges recently found proved by the GMC, why didn’t he present it to the GMC? It’s not as though he hasn’t had two and a half years to present his case. Yet, here he’s been, both here and elswhere, claiming that he was done wrong and that he can “prove, with extensive documentary evidence, that this conclusion is false,” referring to the GMC’s conclusion that he and his collaborators had conducted research on autistic children without proper ethical approval. Wouldn’t the time to have presented that evidence have been during the GMC hearings?
But what are Wakefield’s future plans, aside from being a major speaker at the yearly autism and Generation Rescue’s anti-vaccine quackfest known as Autism One in Chicago? He hints at them near the end of his interview:
I’ve just been offered a new position which allows me to integrate the research efforts of a variety of autism organizations around the world and to focus on those issues that the Interagency Coordinating Committee (IACC) with all its money and all its power seems to loathe to do and that is to look directly at environmental causes included within that of course is vaccines. So, the IACC seems to be moving around that issue but the elephant in the room is clearly the vaccine. I don‟t want to look at it now. My concern is to rue it in or rue it out. If they‟re fine they‟re fine, if they‟re not, they‟re not. We need to know. The public need to know. The medical profession needs to know. So that we can make informed choices and give informed consent.
To “integrate” the “research efforts” of a variety of autism organizations? What does this mean? One wonders if a bunch of anti-vaccine autism quackery organizations decided to pool their money to hire Wakefield to be an autism quackery czar of some sort? After all, Wakefield’s salary at Thoughtful House was $270,000 a year, and, unless J.B. Handley were willing to bankroll that hefty sum every year, I doubt that there are too many other organizations that could afford Andy.
Actually, given his history of scientific misconduct, research incompetence, and questionable ethics, no autism organization can afford Andrew Wakefield at any salary. They just haven’t figured it out yet.