I would really like to know ABC’s thinking on this. First, the only subject that Jenny McCarthy seems to have had an opinion on is vaccines cause autism. I’ve actually spent the last half hour googling her to discover if her activism crosses into areas other than autism and came up empty handed. So why would ABC select one issue McCarthy to co-host a show that covers a multitude of issues?
And there’s concern over giving Jenny McCarthy such a large platform.
“That message she’s giving out has been roundly, roundly disproved time and time again,” MIT professor Seth Mnookin told CNN. “I think it’s a really, really unfortunate and some ways dangerous step that ABC is making.”
“I think what ABC has done here is further legitimatized her views, and those are views that have been shown not only to have absolutely no founding in science, but also to be potentially really dangerous,” Mnookin added.
More than 30 studies have investigated the potential connection between autism and vaccines, but found no evidence of such a link. The only study to have found a link, published in The Lancet in 1998, was later found to be fraudulent.
But Jenny doesn’t believe the study in The Lancet to be fraudulent.
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.”
Menace is a good word. Her opinions on vaccines are dangerous and not one of those opinions is based on science.
Jenny McCarthy believes that vaccines caused her son to be autistic. Never mind that it’s not clear that he was actually autistic, none of the claims she has made about vaccines and autism are backed up by, um, any medical evidence. But that doesn’t stop Jenny McCarthy from making those claims very publicly. She is a supporter of Andrew Wakefield, the British doctor whose study linking the MMR vaccine and autism was found to be based on fraudulent data. The fact that he has been discredited by the medical community and lost his license doesn’t stop her from supporting him.
But that doesn’t stop Jenny McCarthy from saying vaccines aren’t safe. And the problem is, people listen to celebrities. They shouldn’t–it’s not like Jenny McCarthy has any kind of scientific training or expertise–but they do. Even though most people realize that celebrities aren’t scientists, celebrities get our attention. And when they say things that scare us, well, it can be hard to shake. As my friend Seth Mnookin, the author of the great book The Panic Virus says, it’s really hard to unscare people.
“It’s not like Jenny McCarthy has any kind of scientific training or expertise.” Bingo. And the fact that Jenny McCarthy has celebrity power (for lord knows what) makes her a menace. For reasons beyond me, people are listening to her and deciding not to vaccinate their children. ABC will be giving her unscientific message a very large platform… and that is dangerous.