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Viruses Don’t Care About Your View: Why ABC Shouldn’t Have Hired Jenny McCarthy

Giving a job on The View to a anti-vaccine celebrity sends a dangerous message about public health and science in general

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Victoria Will / Invision / AP

This morning, ABC announced that Jenny McCarthy would be taking the place of Elisabeth Hasselbeck this fall as co-host of The View. Announcing the hire, producer (and soon-to-be-exiting co-host) Barbara Walters praised McCarthy thus:

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.

“Fresh”? “Outrageous”? Well, that’s a nice way of putting it. McCarthy, former Singled Out host, columnist, and Playboy model, is telegenic and outspoken. She’s also the single most visible celebrity spokesperson for the discredited, literally dangerous belief that childhood vaccines can cause autism. On her side is her anecdotal claim that vaccination gave her son autism, and a debunked study from 1998. On the other is, pretty much, the entire pediatric community.

Why should anyone care about one celeb on a TV show? There are many TV critics who dismiss The View as silly out of hand. I’m not one of them; if anything, I’ve been a View apologist. However loopy the show can get, I give it credit for at least trying to discuss issues and politics in daytime TV.

But discussing the news, even at 11 in the morning, comes with responsibility. And for a show even remotely about news–and a career newswoman like Walters–to legitimize McCarthy’s dangerous anti-science because she will probably get crazy attention and ratings is irresponsible and shameful.

Because persuading parents that needed vaccines cause autism isn’t just a zany, oh-no-she-didn’t opinion. It’s wrong. Study after study has refuted the claimed link between vaccines and autism. And the fear of vaccines doesn’t just potentially harm the children whose parents forego vaccination, but other kids as well, by threatening the “herd immunity” that we rely on to protect the larger population from disease.

The View’s Sherri Shepherd may once have wondered if the world might be flat, but at least no one fell into orbit as a result. Vaccines are actually a matter of life and death.

Our public health system depends on parents immunizing their kids. And The View, by nature and demographics, is a show aimed largely at parents, mothers in particular. And people can condescendingly write off its influence at their peril, and children’s peril; a University of Michigan study showed that about a quarter of parents placed “some trust” in celebrities’ views on the safety of vaccines.

(By the way, you’d probably no sooner get your immune-science information from a TV critic than a celebrity. If you want to read about this in detail, Seth Mnookin’s book The Panic Virus traces the history and deadly effects of the anti-vaccine beliefs, and the irresponsibility of treating it as a he-said-she-said issue. [Update: Mnookin has posted an excerpt about McCarthy on his blog.] For a shorter read, Phil Plait has done great coverage on the issue, and McCarthy’s disinformation, at Slate.)

ABC might argue that hiring McCarthy does not mean endorsing her vaccine beliefs. Maybe not–in a way, it may be more dangerous, muddying a vital question of public health by framing it as a “controversy” that you can hash out in a roundtable before interviewing Bruce Willis about Red 2.

Maybe ABC sees McCarthy as a lateral swap for Hasselbeck–another outspoken, blonde woman around the same age. But medical science is not a matter of “views” and “opinion.” It’s not like believing that capital gains taxes should be lowered or gay marriage permitted. Things cause disease or they don’t.

Even if The View never airs McCarthy’s beliefs about vaccines–or, conversely, if every other panelist argues against them every day–by giving her implicit credibility the show has already suggested that her scaremongering is up for debate. She says one thing, Whoopi says something else–hey, you decide! People are talking! We must be doing something right!

And there’s the bigger problem. To say that you can simply shrug off differences about medical fact as “outrageousness” or “controversy” is to feed the belief that science in general, be it vaccines or climate change or evolution, is simply subjective: you have your truth and I have mine. But we don’t. The Earth didn’t revolve around the sun only for Galileo.

The problem with treating factual matters of science like opinion debates is that as soon as you do that, anti-science has already won. Let The View on-the-one-hand-on-the-other-hand as many hot-button social issues it wants. A virus doesn’t have two hands.

469 comments
lomana
lomana

Maybe not–in a way, it may be more dangerous, muddying a vital question of public health by framing it as a “controversy” that you can hash out in a roundtable before interviewing Bruce Willis about Red 2. cream pembesar payudarah

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LauraCordova-James
LauraCordova-James

What people missed in the conversation about autism rates gong up is that we did not have a criteria to diagnose it, let alone no name for the symptoms.  We would call a severely autistic person dumb and put them in an institution for the rest of their life.  Only a Swiss doctor identified and named the diagnoses of Autism in the early 1900's.  It wasn't until the 1940's, that some American doctors began to use the diagnosis but we still did not have any criteria to identify it as a consensus, so a lot of people who had autism were simply misdiagnosed or not diagnosed at all.  Finally, as we began to have behavioral therapists for special needs children and psychiatrists with better diagnostic tools and study in the 1980s and 1990's, the diagnostics for autism became more refined, ergo the diagnoses went up.  So, its not that autism was on the rise, it was that the diagnoses correctly pinpointing it went up. At the same time organic food sales went up, so was it the sales of organic food that caused the Autism?  

No. Did increasing vaccine schedules have to do with better Autism diagnostics?  No.  Correlation does not mean causation with organic food sales to vaccines.  However, studies were done to see if vaccines were the culprit for Autism.  Its the scientific method that uses controlled studies to use experiment to see if it is true or false. So, populations of vaccine scheduled children and non vaccine scheduled children were studied all around the world.  The results with cooperative studies done internationally at the same time have shown that vaccines are not connected with the rise in autism reporting.  Further research has shown that Autism is a gene expression.                       

In conclusion, better diagnostics gives people the illusion that Autism is rising, when its really not.  Some people who are becoming biochemists and engineers today are on the high spectrum of Autism called Aspergers who blend in society just fine. It has always been with us on a larger scale, we just never knew it until now.

GeorgeAdamrovich
GeorgeAdamrovich

Does this writer have anything better to write about that Jenny McCarthy? It's just a TV show and not everyone that watches will take what she or any other women on the show said to be right or wrong. We are not all stupid, we can make up our own minds on what we should do and not do. If Jenny does not want to get her kids vaccinated well that's her right as a parent. If more people keep their noises out of other peoples business this will be a better world.  

DCTODDONE
DCTODDONE

Jenny McCarthy is NOT the only parent that believes that their child has autism because of a reaction to vaccinations.  She may be the HOTTEST, but so what?  Those that don't believe there is a link between immunizations and autism should spend more time doing research and less time believing the hype.  Better yet, ask yourself WHY your child gets 2-3 times the vaccinations that you did as a child...

DeweySayenoff
DeweySayenoff

@DCTODDONE Actually, I've done the "research".  Guess what?  It says that immunizations are safe in general, very effective, and are a considerably lower hazard than the diseases they help to prevent.

Why do our kids get 2-3 times the vaccinations we did?  Because since you and I got vaccinations, medical research has learned that vaccinations need to be boosted at times to maintain effectiveness.  We also have developed more vaccines against more diseases.  That means you need more vaccinations to avoid those diseases.

Duh...

Autism has no link to vaccines.  At least not any more link than to, say, drinking water.  People who get vaccines DO get autism.  People who drink water DO get autism.  There is no causation there.  There's no correlation between the two.  Autism doesn't increase or decreased based on vaccination rates.  It's simply the fact that autism starts to manifest around the time the vaccines start to come due that makes people think one causes the other.  It's like blaming trainer bras for breast development.

I'll BET YOU that if you put a trainer bra on a girl of five, she will develop breasts.  It happens every time.  It just might take some time.

Much of the problem you are facing is that the alarmists are good at being stupid and speaking in stupid-talk.  That is to say, you can understand them easier than you can understand words like "causation" and "correlation".  They also rely on ignorance of the fact that life CHANGES.  We LEARN NEW THINGS.  When we learn new things, that means we have to do things differently because we learned some things aren't as good as we thought.  Such as the concept that vaccinations are "life long prevention", which they're not.  The alarmists scream about this and claim conspiracies and other patently disproved nonsense, but the weak of mind who don't know any better are all too easily convinced that anyone talking about bad things that might happen to kids is right.

They're not.

But the really tragic thing about the lack of vaccinating one's kids is the misery they cause others when the diseases they get, that could have been prevented - like measles - spreads to an adult and they lose their ability to even HAVE KIDS (which is one of the potential side effect of measles in adults).  One parent's paranoia and ignorance means someone else can't even have kids of their own to be paranoid about.

Not to mention the fact that their own kid, about which they are paranoid, suffers through a preventable disease for no damn good reason.

So feel morally superior to everyone else for your "research".  If your kid is autistic, it's not because of vaccines, but likely because of you and your partner's genetics.  And once your kid grows up and realizes that they got all those childhood diseases because you were an idiot, they'll have even less reason to love you.  And you can also congratulate yourself on your role in preventing overpopulation.

I don't know what you consider "research" to be, but you didn't do enough.

vfrickey
vfrickey

No, Jenny McCarthy BELONGS on "The View" - it's a show BY numbskulls FOR numbskulls.  She's just maintaining the show's general tone of sedulous adoration for lack of thoughtfulness.

JayneChapman
JayneChapman

I thought this was America - since when do we not hire someone on tv if their views are controversial?  FOX spews their lies on a daily basis and they are allowed to continue to do that - we know of at least one doctor who performed abortions who was murdered because the pro life people were stirred up by the likes of FOX and one crazy person decided to take matters into his own hands. Jenny McCarthy speaks from her own experience - our grandson had the same experience after having his MMR - he was progressing normally and right after the MMR he lost all of his words, had seizures and had explosive diarrhea for ages - these children who have autism all have gut issues. Whether autism is the direct result of the MMR or whether it happens on top of a genetic link, there is no doubt that there is something about the MMR and autism - tens of thousands of cases of this happening can not be just dismissed no matter how much big pharma would like that to happen.  Parents need to watch the reactions their own children have after each shot they receive - if they have a reaction they should wait to allow their children to get shots until they are a little older and their body can take it. If a severe reaction like a seizure occurs that child should probably not have the shots. This needn't be all or nothing - parents know their own children.

HarrietHuestis
HarrietHuestis

@JayneChapman  No No No. You made several very dangerous statements based on eronious information.  A history of seizures is not a contraindication for vaccination.  from http://www.cdc.gov/vaccinesafety/vsd/mmrv.htm

  • ACIP recommends that a personal or family history of seizures is not a contraindication or precaution for administration of MMRV, MMR, or varicella vaccines.

The risk of seizures is much higher for the disease than for vaccination.  Furthermore with vaccination it is in a controlled situation. 

Autism is unrelated to mmr as countless studies have yet to find any correlation except for  the only study which instigated this messwas found to be fraudulent.   This is a blog but he links to the studies.  http://www.skepticalraptor.com/skepticalraptorblog.php/mmr-vaccines-do-not-cause-autism/

AntonioFrancisco
AntonioFrancisco

Why are so many people catching cancer and autism these days. 100 years ago most people didn't even know what autism and cancer existed.

PeggyThatcher
PeggyThatcher

I recommend "The View" hire on panelists who have something to say the the public which is of real value.  Jenny McCarthy is a public health menace.  She scares parents needlessly, and that can result in death and life-long disability, and endangers children who cannot be immunized. Even small outbreaks of childhood communicable diseases can be extremely expensive to contain and treat.

I recommend people who are unfamiliar with whooping cough go to YouTube to see what children with this disease endure for weeks or months.  It's horrible.

lilady
lilady

@thefloattank Incredibly biased decision by a lower court in Italy...which is now being appealed.

The magistrate who made that ruling for the plaintiff, based the decision on evidence from Andre Wakefield's "research"...which has now been throughly and irretrievably debunked.  The decision by the Remini Italy magistrate can been condemned by legal experts worldwide...and by the science community worldwide.

Do try to keep up with legal developments before you post here.



thefloattank
thefloattank

This article is crap. Jenny just said and stated what a lot of parents of Autistic kids already know and believe about vaccines. Courts in Italy have ruled the MMR causes Autism and has more guts than any vaccine injury compensation program here in the USA. You are just ignorant to the facts or the current stats which could be about 1 in 55. You don't appear to have been effected just yet or know of anyone effected to grasp the situation. When does someone actually decide to take action when it's 1 in 25??  I am sorry, but you seem to be a pencil penis for writing this article along with the editors who took the time to include it in the magazine. LOL!!!!!!! I had to throw in an insult as reading this trash called for one. Jenny seems to have stopped talking about the issue some time ago because of the stigma attached to coming out with what needed to be said, but you are bringing it up again like she was on the news last night again front and center in Washington jumping the fence at the White House to see the president. Give us a break!

LauraCordova-James
LauraCordova-James

@thefloattankAutism has always been very high in our populations in our past.  Its been with us for hundreds of years if not thousands.  What you not told is that we did not have a criteria to diagnose mental symptoms very well 100 years ago and even 50 years ago.  We would call an autistic person dumb and or deaf and put them in an institution for the rest of their life.  We had no diagnosis for autism in America.  Only a lowly Swiss doctor started the diagnoses in the early 1900's and it still was not used as a diagnoses in main stream medicine until recently.  Then in the 1940's, America slowly began to use the diagnosis but we still did not have any criteria to diagnose it thoroughly, so a lot of people who had autism were simply misdiagnosed or not diagnosed at all, because we did not have a role for behavioral therapy.  No specialists were established in the job market for behavioral therapy for children nor did we have special needs applications at the time.  Over time, a consensus began to be shared by psychiatrists and doctors that started in the early 1980s and 1990's and then the diagnoses to identify autism went up.  So, you see... its not that autism was on the rise, it was the diagnoses correctly pinpointing it that went up.   This is what people need to LISTEN to! 

21stcentury
21stcentury

I feel bad for JM's disease-vulnerable kids, but she's a funny, smart if ill educated woman who has enjoyed a modicum of success mining her best attributes.

lilady
lilady

@21stcenturyJenny has one child.  She used that one child's seizure disorder to revive her career as a fading-fast D-list celebrity, by aligning herself with J.B. Handley's Generation Rescue.

Generation Rescue has a yearly conference in Chicago.  Here are just a few of the disgraced and discredited former doctors, quack doctors and alternative "practitioners" who are invited as keynote speakers at that conference:

http://justthevax.blogspot.com/2013/07/the-view-of-jenny-mccarthy.html


kpriv
kpriv

Here ya go folks.  Just ONE article, written by two doctors, among hundreds of articles that show the big pharma companies will put profits over your well being.  If there's a trial and the witness is proven to be unreliable, then their testimony is considered tainted.  How can we possibly trust those who so shamelessly release toxic nightmares as "cures" onto us, without apology?  How can we possibly trust those in the CDC and DHHS when they make rulings and policies that favor their future employers.. they nearly all leave their government positions for cushy pharma jobs after proving their loyalty.  What we have here is a corrupt system, that profits on your poor health.  Why would they ever want you to be perfectly healthy?  They would go out of business... Talk about conflict of interest!!


http://vactruth.com/2012/01/25/gardasil-killing-us/

With complete disregard for the welfare and safety of the people who take their products, the pharmaceutical industry has made a habit of putting profits above all else.  Despite a track record of bringing us drugs that kill and maim, such as Vioxx, AZT, Fen Phen, and Thalidomide, there is never an apology, never a commitment to improve, never even an acknowledgement that they have done anything wrong.  Now, as if we have learned nothing from history, the drama is unfolding yet again, this time with Gardasil. - See more at: http://vactruth.com/2012/01/25/gardasil-killing-us/#sthash.WIuO14Ir.dpuf

lilady
lilady

@kpriv You're using Gary Null who has a PhD from a diploma mill?  What a joke...and what a credulous person you are to be sourcing your information about vaccines from Null.


tooban
tooban

Why do you people abuse each other? If you can argue in a civilized manner, stay quiet. 

Now... Polio. Measles. Smallpox. Tetanus. Horrible diseases, now pretty well gone. Why? Sorry, Ill take the risk of the vaccine. And why not look at the crap food you americans are forced to eat? Its easy you know - meat no more than a couple of times a week, and then food that goes off if you leave it out. If its in a wrapper or made in a factory, don't eat it or feed it to your kids.

kpriv
kpriv

@tooban 

You really think McDonalds is what causes autism?  Sorry, I don't know about your family policies, but most people don't feed 3-month old babies with big mac and fries.

JayneChapman
JayneChapman

@tooban Most of us who have had a child or grandchild wind up with autism after taking the MMR are not saying get rid of the shots - we are saying that parents should pay attention to the reaction their own child has after getting a shot - if no reaction, continue taking the shots. If a severe reaction, either space the shots out over a longer period of time, wait until the body can better accept them, or in extreme cases, don't take further shots. Decades ago, we all only had a few vaccines - today's babies are overloaded with them - their tiny bodies might not be able to accept them.