Medical Expert and Playboy Centerfold, Jenny McCarthy
"An apple a day keeps the doctor away."
In May 2007, McCarthy announced that her son Evan was diagnosed with autism in 2005. Before claiming that her son's autism was caused by vaccination, McCarthy wrote that he was gifted, a "crystal child", and she an "indigo mom". Evan's disorder began with seizures and his improvement occurred after the seizures were treated, symptoms experts have noted are more consistent with Landau–Kleffner syndrome, often misdiagnosed as autism. McCarthy served as a spokesperson for Talk About Curing Autism (TACA) from June 2007 until October 2008. She participated in fundraisers, online chats, and other activities for the non-profit organization to help families affected by autism spectrum disorders. Her first fundraiser for TACA, Ante Up for Autism, was held on October 20, 2007, in Irvine, California. She is a prominent spokesperson and activist for the Generation Rescue foundation, and serves on its Board of Directors as of January 2011.
A study found 24 percent of parents placed "some trust" in information on vaccine safety from celebrities like Jenny McCarthy.
McCarthy's book on the subject, Louder than Words: A Mother's Journey in Healing Autism, was published September 17, 2007. She stated both in her book and during her appearance on The Oprah Winfrey Show that her husband was unable to deal with their son's autism, which led to their divorce. In 2008, she appeared on a Larry King Live special dedicated to the subject, and argued that vaccines can trigger autism. In an April 27, 2010 PBS Frontline documentary, she was interviewed about the controversy between vaccine opponents and public health experts.
In addition to conventional, intensive Applied Behavioral Analysis (ABA) therapy, McCarthy tried a gluten-free and casein-free diet, hyperbaric oxygen chambers, chelation, aromatherapies, electromagnetics, spoons rubbed on his body, multivitamin therapy, B-12 shots and numerous prescription drugs. "Try everything," she advises parents, "It was amazing to watch, over the course of doing this, how certain therapies work for certain kids and they completely don't work for others ... When something didn't work for Evan, I didn't stop. I stopped that treatment, but I didn't stop." McCarthy has stated on talk shows and at rallies that chelation therapy helped her son recover from autism. The underlying rationale for chelation, the speculation that mercury in vaccines causes autism, has been roundly rejected by scientific studies, with the National Institute of Mental Health concluding that children with autism are unlikely to receive any benefit to balance the risks of heart attack, stroke and cardiac arrest posed by the chelating agents used in the treatment.
McCarthy's public presence, and vocal activism on the vaccination-autism controversy, led, in 2008, to her being awarded The James Randi Educational Foundation's Pigasus Award, which is a tongue-in-cheek award granted for contributions to pseudoscience, for the 'Performer Who Has Fooled The Greatest Number of People with The Least Amount of Effort'. Randi stated in a video on the JREF's website that he did sympathize with the plight of McCarthy and her child, but admonished her for using her public presence in a way that may discourage parents from having their own children vaccinated.
McCarthy's claims that vaccines cause autism are not supported by any medical evidence, and the original paper by Andrew Wakefield that formed the basis for the claims (and for whose book McCarthy wrote a foreword) has been shown to be based on manipulated data and fraudulent research. The BMJ published a 2011 article by journalist Brian Deer, based on information uncovered byFreedom of Information legislation after the British General Medical Council (GMC) inquiry into allegations of misconduct against Wakefield that led to him being struck-off from the medical register (unable to practice medicine in the UK) and his articles retracted, stating that Wakefield had planned a venture to profit from the MMR vaccine scare.
Parental concerns over vaccines have led to decreased immunization rates and increased incidence of measles, a highly contagious and sometimes deadly disease and whooping cough. Neil Cameron, a historian who specializes in the history of science, writing for The Montreal Gazette labeled the controversy a "failure of journalism" that resulted in unnecessary deaths, saying that The Lancet should not have published a study based on "statistically meaningless results" from only 12 cases and that a grapevine of worried parents and "nincompoop" celebrities fueled the widespread fears.
Generation Rescue issued a statement that the "media circus" following the revelation of fraud and manipulation of data was "much ado about nothing", which led USA Today to report that McCarthy had "taken a beating on Twitter". Salon.com responded to Generation Rescue's statement with this:
"It's high time the woman who once said that 'I do believe sadly it's going to take some diseases coming back to realize that we need to change and develop vaccines that are safe' took a step back and reconsidered the merits of that increasingly crackpot stance. And it's time she acknowledged that clinging to research that's been deemed patently fraudulent does not make one a 'mother warrior.' It makes her a menace."
"The Panic Virus: The True Story Behind the Vaccine-Autism Controversy"
Excerpt: "In The Panic Virus Seth Mnookin draws on interviews with parents, public-health advocates, scientists, and anti-vaccine activists to tackle a fundamental question: How do we decide what the truth is? The fascinating answer helps explain everything from the persistence of conspiracy theories about 9/11 to the appeal of talk-show hosts who demand that President Obama “prove” he was born in America."
Even if there were a causal connection between vaccination and autism (which no research validates), massive vaccination is the greatest medical boon ever.
Vaccine naysayers are constitutionally incapable of distinguishing "the anecdotal" from "the statistical." They are haunted by the "one in a million chance" they might be directly responsible for causing their own child's harm, simultaneously ignoring the salvific effect of vaccines on thousands of children in that same group of a million.
This same over-valuation of anecdotal story-telling at the expense of statistical evidence also characterizes second amendment crazies from sane people who keep guns out of their homes.
Those who over-value anecdotes could not forgive themselves if, by a one in a million fluke, their home was invaded by a crazed murderer/rapist and they did not have a gun to defend themselves.
Those who value statistical truth (over individual anecdote) could not live with a gun in the home, knowing that homes with guns are far more likely to witness in-home suicides on one hand and in-home homicides on the other. http://paxonbothhouses.blogspot.com/2012/07/gun-cartoons.html
These divergent mindsets -- "the individual/anecdotal" and "the statistical" -- neatly straddle the two sides of the conservative/liberal divide.
Conservatives fear they could not live with themselves if a vaccination "went wrong" - no matter how unlikely the statistical likelihood of adverse reaction
Liberals, on the other hand, fear they could not live with the societies of which they're part if they normalized gun possession or failed to normalize universal vaccination.
McCarthy's view on vaccines stirs 'View' controversy
Critics worry that as co-host, she'll get to spread her opinion that vaccines cause autism.
The news that a talk show has hired a new host doesn't typically cause a commotion.
But the newest host of ABC's The View, Jenny McCarthy, isn't just any actress.
In recent years, McCarthy has become as well-known for her claims that vaccines cause autism as for her roles as a late-night host on VH1 and a 1993 Playboy model.
McCarthy, a best-selling author, has blamed vaccines for causing her son, Evan, to develop autism, both during an appearance on The Oprah Winfrey Show and in books such as Healing and Preventing Autism: A Complete Guide.
About one in four adults said they were familiar with McCarthy's views about vaccines, according to a USA TODAY/Gallup poll taken in 2008. Of those adults, 40% said her claims made them more likely to question vaccine safety.
Now people on both sides of the issue are talking. Many vaccine skeptics and some parents of autistic children hail McCarthy as a hero.
But public health groups say they fear that McCarthy, 40, will use her new job to spread dangerous misinformation. Two dozen studies have failed to find any link between autism and vaccines. The advocacy group Autism Speaks also has said there is "no connection" between immunizations and the condition.
"Jenny McCarthy's unfounded claims about the dangers of vaccines has been one of the greatest impediments to efforts to vaccinate children in recent decades," says Amy Pisani, the executive director of Every Child by Two, an international vaccination group co-founded by former first lady Rosalynn Carter. The group wrote to The Viewproducer Barbara Walters last week seeking to keep McCarthy off the show.
"Children have died due to this misinformation, and those who perpetuate lies for personal gain ought to be held responsible," Pisani says.
In its announcement, ABC did not mention whether McCarthy, who also writes an advice column for The Chicago Sun-Times, will address vaccines or other medical issues. McCarthy has appeared on the show 17 times. ABC says the actress officially starts Sept. 9.
"All the hosts speak openly on a variety of topics," says Lauri Hogan, publicity director for ABC Entertainment Group.
"We are delighted that Jenny will be joining us as a permanent co-host on The Viewstarting in September," Walters said in a statement. "Jenny brings us intelligence as well as warmth and humor. She can be serious and outrageous. She has connected with our audience and offers a fresh point of view. Jenny will be a great addition to the show as we usher in an exciting new chapter for The View.''
In a statement, McCarthy said joining The View was a life-long dream.
"I'm beyond thrilled to be joining Barbara and the other amazing women at the table," she said. "I look forward to helping make hot topics a little bit hotter and showing my mom that my interrupting skills have finally paid off."
McCarthy's fans rallied to her defense on social media.
"She is an entertainer, but so what? She has a story, just like the other hosts of The View, so let her tell hers and don't bash her," says Kathy Sheehy, who, as the mother of a 16-year-old son with autism, admires McCarthy. "Debate and open discussion are good. Give parents the benefit of the doubt and let them decide what is best for their babies. This is a scary time to be a parent in this country, and everyone has a right to hear all sides."
After reading McCarthy's books, Meghan Dawson decided to take her two autistic children to Jerry Kartzinel, who co-wrote a book with McCarthy and treated the actress' son.
"Her books offer real insight into ways to help our autistic children," says Dawson, of Irvine, Calif., who says her children, ages 3 and 4½, have made great progress after using a number of approaches, including vitamins and applied behavioral analysis, an intensive form of therapy. "Her story of 'curing' her son's autism is a ray of hope in a very dark and lonely place."
McCarthy's critics say they're afraid that giving her a network TV job could give her more credibility. Rahul Parikh, a pediatrician with Kaiser-Permanente in Walnut Creek, Calif., says he's especially uneasy about seeing McCarthy on a show "that caters to moms."
About 10% of parents now skip or delay recommended vaccines because of safety concerns. Public health officials have blamed this trend for recent outbreaks of measles and whooping cough.
"ABC has reached a new low when it comes to bringing on a 'controversial' host to improve ratings," says Austin pediatrician Ari Brown, author of Baby 411. Like many pediatricians, Brown says she devotes considerable time to debunking vaccine myths and reassuring parents about the importance of vaccines. "While controversy might sell, it also might turn viewers away."
Seattle pediatrician Wendy Sue Swanson says it could take decades to make up for lost ground on vaccines. "In the medical community, we'll work to undo myths around vaccine safety for the rest of our lives, in part because of Ms. McCarthy."