Britney Spears and Hugh Hefner join the anti-vaccine brigade

In the celebrity vaccine wars, as we all know, Jenny McCarthy has become the de facto leader of the "vaccines-cause-autism" lunatic fringe. However, apparently she has managed to recruit another celebrity to help her out. Her choice is amazingly appropriate: Britney Spears, who was seen at a fundraiser for "Jenny McCarthy's autism charity Generation Rescue."

Because no one knows parenting and science like Britney Spears, I guess.

On the other hand, I have to wonder what J. B. Handley, founder of GR, thinks of having the Hollywood press refer to his baby as "Jenny McCarthy's autism charity"? Of course, I wouldn't exactly call GR a "charity." In reality, it's far more of a propaganda machine pushing the discredited idea that mercury in vaccines somehow causes autism, although of late it's moved the goalposts and--shall we say?--"readjusted" its idea to blame combinations of vaccines and "toxins" in light of the continuing barrage of studies that fail to find a link between mercury-containing vaccines and autism. I also can't help but wonder what the other "charity" supporting the belief that vaccines cause autism, TACA, thinks about GR stealing its celebrity spokesperson. (Remember, Jenny arranged her "Green Our Vaccines" rally primarily under the sponsorship of TACA.)

There were a some other celebrities at this fundraiser that seemed equally appropriate. Yes, Hugh Hefner showed up with his "Girls Next Door," as did Charlie Sheen and his new bride. A perfect confluence of beautiful people demonstrating that special brand of stupid that only celebrities seem able to achieve!

Of course, while Charlie Sheen has already shown that he's drunk the anti-vaccination Kool Aid, I'm sure that neither Britney Spears (who is so utterly clueless about virtually everything other than music, and whether she understands music is pretty darned debatable) nor Hugh Hefner has a clue about the real agenda of Generation Rescue, namely supporting the scientifically extremely dubious belief that some way, somehow, it's just got to be the vaccines that cause autism, no matter how extensive the evidence to the contrary is. I'm sure they have no clue that GR's real agenda is to support all manner of pseudoscientific quackery to "cure" autism, preferably by lending it an undeserved patina of science. All they know, I'm guessing, is that it's an "autism charity" and that Jenny McCarthy supports it. Their "people" probably told them that it would look good for them to show up to "support" autistic children, that it would be a lovely photo op. There's also the element of "you scratch my back and I'll scratch yours," as in "you show up to my charity fundraiser, and I'll show up at yours." Who cares what the actual charity is? It's charity, after all, right?

Perish the thought of all those marchers on Washington Jenny led last month with their signs likening vaccines to toxic waste or weapons of mass destruction.

I wonder what Hugh Hefner, for instance, who happens to have a lot of business savvy and is certainly way more intelligent than the bubble-brained Jen and Brit show, would say if he were ever to learn just how outside the mainstream of autism science and treatment Generation Rescue and its founder are or how GR supports pseudoscience and anti-vaccine fear-mongering. Sadly, probably nothing. It's all about self-promotion and forging alliances, after all, and Hef is good at nothing if not that (well, that and sleeping with women young enough to be his granddaughters--ew!). I highly doubt Hef or Britney care one whit about autism, quack "biomedical treatments," or that science has failed to find any sort of link between autism and vaccines or thimerosal, despite having looked extensively. They and their publicists just like the positive press for supporting what looks like a "worthy" cause on the surface, and they know that the entertainment press is even more scientifically clueless than the regular press, Britney especially, given that she's trying to resurrect her moribund career. All the celebrity press will report is what it's reporting already: How "fabulous" everyone looked.

And in Hollywood that's all that matters. Kiss kiss.

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Der Spiegel really seems to be on a roll these past few days.

As much as I support your position in general, I must take exception to your assertion that Hollywood celebrities display a unique form of stupidity.

A lifetime of work in film production has convinced me that actors pretty much display the same variety of stupidity as everyone else. They just do it in front of a lot more people.

I'm not sure it's Britney who's at fault here, I think Jenny and Jim took a leaf out of the Scientology book and preyed on her just while she's still fragile. If something is wrong with the Spederline kids though, I think the documented substance abuse while pregnant and nursing can overshadow the boostershot hysteria.

Der Spiegel really seems to be on a roll these past few days.

At least it is in the "Panorama" section and not under "Wissenschaft".

By Catherina (not verified) on 21 Jul 2008 #permalink

Maybe the tag is more correctly,
C-listers Show Up for Photo Op.

I can see the public-service spots now:

"Britney's Good Mothering Tip #5: Don't vaccinate!"

By D. C. Sessions (not verified) on 21 Jul 2008 #permalink

I would love to see Britney's involvement create the opposite of the intended effect. Let wavering parents see the stupidity via association and rush out to get their babies back on schedule with vaccinations.

By Samantha Vimes (not verified) on 21 Jul 2008 #permalink

If there is a way to make these celebrities spend enough time to get educated about the pseudoscience of the antivaccinationists, while at the same time open their eyes to see the damage that they already have caused, both in the UK and in the USA, when parents listen to the antivaccination preachers and did not vaccinate their children, only then there is a chance to persuade these celecbrities that they are supporting woo. Spears, Hef, Sheen et al., should receive messages in their e-mail addresses with links to this and other blogs that carry the flag in the battle against pseudoscience.

By S. Rivlin (not verified) on 21 Jul 2008 #permalink

britney cured my autism with just one bottle of kabbalah water and a bit of red string.

Orac, maybe you just need to enlist Kathy Griffin to fight the dumb celebs...

I was wondering about the impetus for medical professionals to get involved in this. Then, Kathleen Seidel posted the clearest explanation yet: Money. Money for the vaccine omnibus proceeding, both as lawyers(in the case of Clifford Shoemaker), and money for Dr. Geier to act as an expert witness. It very much appears to me that these people are milking the process for all it's worth, and they get paid even if the claimant they represent isn't granted compensation. Having the toxin gambit disproved would choke off a great deal of money.


You hit the nail on the head (well, Kathleen did). As it turns out, these lawyers and 'expert' witnesses get paid out of the VICP regardless of outcome. As soon as the amount of money in the fund was announced, the freak show started and these 'investigations' began. The fund holds billions from a small surcharge on all vaccines administered. And we are supposed to think these 'saviors of our children' aren't just going after their next publicly-funded meal ticket?

Haven't time to read first before posting as I'm in a rush, but I'm confused. Didn't a recent poster in the Jay Gordon thread say that Hugh was pro vaccine, in particular Gardasil and accidentally turned up at the GR event? Or has this whole thing gone about face?

By Heraclides (not verified) on 21 Jul 2008 #permalink

Oh, yecchh!! Is the stupid burning your corneas off yet? Any cause that's backed by the likes of Britney and that old fossil Hefner is a cause that attracts publicity of the worst possible kind; once some people are in the clutches of "celebrity", forget it...they're lost to rational science forever! (No matter that the celebrities in question are either has-beens or of dubious value to begin with!)

It's my contention that you have more "celebrity" in your fifth metacarpal than this gaggle of goofballs who think autism needs to be "cured". As someone who'd be considered by some to be part of that spectrum, I'd suggest they all need to get themselves a life and some education! Are they and their ilk not the ones indirectly responsible for the resurgence of diseases like measles and rubella? Either of them will kill far more people if left to their own devices than any ASD ever could hope for...and I'm right behind your campaign to eradicate the ignorance with some serious insolence!

Hey, you can add Vince McMahon and World Wrestling Entertainment to the list of merry Generation Rescue idiocy peddlers. And apparently they're going to get some prime time coverage to boot...

Before you dismiss it, the WWE gets watched by 5 million people a week and is a half-a-billion dollar company, so it's no small potatoes that they're getting involved.

By anonimouse (not verified) on 21 Jul 2008 #permalink

WWE and Generation Rescue. Fake sports and fake science - perfect match!

By T. Bruce McNeely (not verified) on 21 Jul 2008 #permalink

With all due respect (and a bit of insolence) this is not going to bother me one bit, since none of these people are what you would call authority figures on science.

you idiots need to leave then alone they are fighting to make vaccines safer and you obviously don't have children that have been harmed by these vaccines and watch your normal children slip into an encephalitis like state and the vaccine companys are getting away with it because they are having the docters calling it autism and the national vaccine injury componsation will not componsate for autism. Ecephalitis: A lowered level of conciousness, loss of eye contact, not responding to stimuli such as loud noises, not recognizing family members. Pretty heartbreaking huh. All you insensitive people should get a clue.


You are starting to sound a little paranoid and conspiratorial.


By Mercury Dad (not verified) on 21 Jul 2008 #permalink


They are not fighting to make vaccines safer. They are trying to demonize vaccines, working with doctors who want to fleece unsuspecting parents out of their hard-earned money on treatments they know won't and can't work. And their trial lawyer buddies get a nice retainer in the process. It's a scam, it's always been a scam, it will always be a scam.

By anonimouse (not verified) on 21 Jul 2008 #permalink

Somehow I am not surprised to find that Ms Vacuous has taken up the anti-vax cause, but Hugh Hefner ? Hefner always seems so rational in interviews. Perhaps he's just getting old. . .

Lynn said "Ecephalitis: A lowered level of conciousness, loss of eye contact, not responding to stimuli such as loud noises, not recognizing family members. "

And so the encephalitis from measles, mumps, pertussis and Hib are not just as heartbreaking?

Do you have some actual data that shows that the MMR, DTaP and HiB vaccines cause more encephalitis than the actual diseases? Give us data, not emotional diatribes!

Or are you one of those people who thinks that a kid like mine with a seizure disorder and a very severe genetic heart condition is less deserving of life?

Come on admit it! You think that the one in 1000 kids who get encephalitis from the real measles virus deserve their fate! And that the one in 5000 who become permanently disabled was part the natural way of the world... plus the one in 1000 who die from measles is a good thing. Admit it!
( )

Because parents like me who give birth to imperfect children would be better off if they did not live to adulthood.


(choose the words in your next posting very carefully)

You are starting to sound a little paranoid and conspiratorial.

Damn these assaults on my irony meter!

But I'll play, J.B.: What's paranoid and conspiratorial about pointing out that what celebrities think about a scientific issue doesn't matter and that celebrities are often quite dense when it comes to science or the charities they support? Or about pointing out that neither Jenny McCarthy nor Britney Spears is exactly known for her intelligence or critical thinking skills?

I'll wait.

I'll just chime in with the chorus--could they possibly have found poorer spokespeople if they'd overtly offered millions? Wouldn't most parents run to not be associated with Spears' parenting acumen?
My son has agenesis corpus callosum. I'm still waiting to see how vaccination caused his neurological abnormalities in utero , but I'm sure the anti-vaccers have no problem bending time to their logic. He was going to have autistic behaviors with or without vaccinations; I choose to vaccinate him for his own health and public safety across the board. I guess I won't win the Brittney Spears motherhood award this year, shucks.

Mercury Dad-Handley is nothing but a wealthy, antivaccination, antigovernment extremist. He compensates for a lack of intellect with an overabundance of psychotic enthusiasm.

Can't the old Handley who used to stick his tongue out and tell people that his son would be cured soon come back and play. What was that, like 3 years ago now? Maybe you need the suppository RNA drops, JB. Or was it Buttars magic sauce? Did you try his urine injection scheme? Or was it the chelation? Or did you try a tinfoil-wrapped hyperbaric balloon chamber?

By Hey Zeus is my… (not verified) on 22 Jul 2008 #permalink

Tell us about the research you fund, JB. Where are all of the great studies you've sponsored? You know, other than the phone survey and the full page ads.

If you used half of that money to investigate the question by applying something resembling scientific method, you might actually have some science to back up your ever expanding opinion.

Does it bother you that Jenny fixed her kid in a few months and Jamie is just as autistic as ever? Can we get a camera on your kid to show the world how recovered he is now?

By notmercury (not verified) on 22 Jul 2008 #permalink

Hey Zeus is my homeboy said "Mercury Dad-Handley is nothing but a wealthy, antivaccination, antigovernment extremist. He compensates for a lack of intellect with an overabundance of psychotic enthusiasm."

You left out one of his more endearing talents: JBH is a bully, and encourages bullying in others. If a kid of a parent who embraces neurodiversity was being bullied, Handly would blame the parents.

I wonder whether any of the people whose tickets to this World Wrestling Entertainment fundraiser are going to be underwriting Generation Rescue's attempts to buy research would fall into J.B. Handley's category of "trailor [sic] dwelling coo coos [sic]."

Wonder whether they'd be so hot to support someone who suggests he'd like to see certain mothers, doctors, and immunization workers dead because they don't support his Lysenkoesque view of vaccines and autism.

I agree with the bully comment. The anti-vaccination folks are bullies. They intimidate their doctors, the scientists, the media. They behave unethically by plotting behind the scenes and then accusing scientists of not being transparent. They adopt scientific language to say things that at best do not conform to what science shows us and at worst are patently untrue. Most importantly, they bring nothing constructive to the table. They complain but do not help to advance anything.

And they accuse federal public health officials of being slow to act, when scientists acted incredibly quickly, producing study after study on thimerosal and MMR. How many more studies are needed? That's an irrelevant question since for the antivaxers it's not about science. Look at what Safeminds says in their tab on "research."

". . . the ultimate goal [of SafeMinds] is to encourage and support efforts to conduct medical research that provides credible findings to support that the mercury/autism hypothesis is true."

They already have their conclusion! What good science! This is why you could have 100 studies showing their hypothesis is false, and they'd still be at it with the same vigor, scaring parents and leading people to not vaccinate their kids. The really vulnerable kids? Those are the few with mito disorders, who the doctors at the mito meeting in Indianapolis said at at greater risk if they are unvaccinated.

By Genevieve (not verified) on 22 Jul 2008 #permalink

C'mon guys, if autistic children are worthy of our empathy, then why not Mr. Handley? He may be "neurotypical" in a very broad sense, i.e. able to support himself, form relationship, make eye contact. But he's also found himself in an uncomfortable and unsustainable situation, which is causing him to lash out. Think about it. He bought into the vaccine-autism link before the scientific consensus pointed to the opposite. Lots of well meaning people did. But lots of well meaning people adapted to new evidence and moved on. Meanwhile, Mr. Handley clings to his old frame of reference, against all reason and odds. He does this out of a misplaced love for his son, and for the advantageous business relationships it affords him. I'm not saying he's immune to criticism. He's willingly entered a debate that he has zilch chance of fairly winning. I'm only saying that it wouldn't hurt to look at the bigger picture, and instead of focusing on Mr. Handley's character flaws we should consider him as a hole.

By l'asperge (not verified) on 22 Jul 2008 #permalink

Though it was a typo I agree with that hole statement. He's a 'hole now, was in the past, and as far as I can tell will continue to be a 'hole in the future.



I just happen to be doing a little reading on the corpus collosum, background reading for a possible new line of research, so your post srtikes a chord over here. But neuroscience is outside my research home turf, so I get to start with the basics! So far, I've been so focused on the mechanics, as it were, of corpus collosum activity, that I haven't run into typical "symptoms" of agenesis corpus collosum, but hopefully I'll get there in time... Its that mixed blessing of working science, there is no much to learn (good) and there is so much to learn (where the hell am I going to find the time?!)

By Heraclides (not verified) on 22 Jul 2008 #permalink

Does anyone actually think that Jamie Lynn Spears (Britney's baby sister) wasn't an early adopter of Gardasil with Brit Brit's approval? Does anyone in their right mind think that Hefner would be against a vaccine that would make it safer for 18 year old girls and boys to have sex with whomever they choose, including 90 year old "playboys" if the mood so inclines them? JB Handley with the rest of his fan club are psychotically enraged at Gardasil. I would suspect that Hefner would be ticked off at his ex Playmate, Jenny, if he knew she had snagged him and his 3 Gardasil Girls to show up at an antivaccine soiree.
And speaking of Hollywood's C-list parents, who besides Britney could vie for Hollywood's worst parent role model but Charlie Sheen? The story is that Hef is trying to get Miley Cyrus to pose for Playboy, surely he'd be for Miley getting her 3 Gardasil jabs. Can't you just see Mercury Dad passing out autographed GR prayer books at the fundraiser? Or did he stay home and pray for Hefner to donate more money.

By Bunnies for Gardasil (not verified) on 22 Jul 2008 #permalink

Ah, yes, Hugh Hefner - the poster boy for right living. Nothing like years of promiscuous behavior to promote public health. I don't understand why anyone thinks he is intelligent. He is depraved and cunning; not intelligent.