Jenny McCarthy’s autism fight grows more misguided

So what if a study linking autism and vaccination has been called fraudulent? The "warrior mother" still believes

Topics: Autism,

Jenny McCarthy's autism fight grows more misguidedJenny McCarthy

Jenny McCarthy is loyal to a fault. And Andrew Wakefield isn’t a fraud in her book. Since her son Evan was diagnosed with autism in 2005, the former pinup turned self-described “mother warrior” has become one of the most prominent advocates for autism awareness in the world. She’s written books chronicling Evan’s condition and what she describes as his “recovery”; she is at the forefront of “Jenny McCarthy’s Autism Organization” — Generation Rescue. And she is the woman who publicly, most steadfastly has demanded, “for people just to start listening to what the mothers of children who have seen autism have been saying for years, which is, ‘We vaccinated our baby and something happened.’”

Yet despite numerous studies, a definitive correlation between vaccination and autism has never been proven. And this week, Dr. Andrew Wakefield’s controversial, already largely discredited study that kicked off the whole debate  back in 1998 was branded an “elaborate fraud” by the British Medical Journal (BMJ). BMJ further noted that “not one of the 12 cases reported in the 1998 Lancet paper was free of misrepresentation or undisclosed alteration, and that in no single case could the medical records be fully reconciled with the descriptions, diagnoses, or histories published in the journal.” Wakefield’s medical license was revoked last year for “serious professional misconduct.”

All of this is what is known around Jenny McCarthy’s organization as a “vaccine-industry funded media circus” that’s “much ado about nothing.”

On CNN Wednesday night, Generation Rescue co-founder J. B. Handley disputed host Eliot Spitzer’s assertion that there’s “no affirmative causal link,” between vaccination and autism, citing “new” data on the subject and urging viewers, “Look at the SUNY Stony Brook Study, look at the Pittsburgh University Study.” I’m not a scientist, but OK.

That University of Pittsburgh study on the “Influence of pediatric vaccines on amygdala growth and opioid ligand binding in rhesus macaque infants” that Generation Rescue is currently touting does indeed find differences in brain development between unvaccinated monkeys and those given vaccines containing the contentious preservative at the heart of the autism debate, Thimerosal. But while the monkeys were given equivalent recommended doses of vaccinations for children born between 1994 and 1999, the study notes “Thimerosal was removed from most pediatric vaccines in the United States in 2001.” Similarly, the Stony Brook study on “Hepatitis B series vaccine and development disability in children aged 1 – 9 years” looks at data accrued from 1999 – 2000. And another study that Generation Rescue refers to as “new” data that “shows Hepatitis B vaccine creates 3x higher risk of autism” similarly relies on data culled from 1997 – 2002.

You Might Also Like

Does the discrediting of Andrew Wakefield’s study mean conclusively that there’s no merit to studying the link between the preservatives in vaccines and adverse, possibly permanent reactions in children? No. But it’s a simple fact that children vaccinated in the latter part of the past decade have been on different schedules and with differing and decreasing levels of mercury-based preservatives in their shots. As the FDA says, “At present, all routinely recommended vaccines for U.S. infants are available only as Thimerosal-free formulations or contain only trace amounts of Thimerosal.”

McCarthy’s own son was born in 2002. And despite Time magazine’s Karl Taro Greenfield’s observation last year that Evan’s symptoms sound remarkably similar to the neurological disorder Landau-Kleffner syndrome, McCarthy still considers him as “healed” from autism. There is no doubt McCarthy went through a nightmare when her boy fell victim to mysterious seizures and displayed signs of social withdrawal. Her — and her organization’s — passion for children and commitment to their well-being are no doubt sincere. And every parent absolutely should talk to the family pediatrician about vaccination risks, about what shots can be spread out, what can be postponed, and what might be optional for his or her own child.

But any organization using a celebrity to mislead parents with claims of “new” data that rely on decade-old vaccine formulas and schedules is more than disingenuous, it’s flat-out dangerous. 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.

Mary Elizabeth Williams
Mary Elizabeth Williams is a staff writer for Salon and the author of "Gimme Shelter: My Three Years Searching for the American Dream." Follow her on Twitter: @embeedub.

More Related Stories

Featured Slide Shows

  • Share on Twitter
  • Share on Facebook
  • 1 of 8
  • Close
  • Fullscreen
  • Thumbnails

    7 ways Americans have defiled the hot dog

    Sonic's Bacon Double Cheddar Croissant Dog

    Sonic calls this a "gourmet twist" on a classic. I am not so, so fancy, but I know that sprinkling bacon and cheddar cheese onto a tube of pork is not gourmet, even if you have made a bun out of something that is theoretically French.

    Krispy Kreme

    7 ways Americans have defiled the hot dog

    Krispy Kreme's Doughnut Dog

    This stupid thing is a hotdog in a glazed doughnut bun, topped with bacon and raspberry jelly. It is only available at Delaware's Frawley Stadium, thank god.


    7 ways Americans have defiled the hot dog

    KFC's Double Down Dog

    This creation is notable for its fried chicken bun and ability to hastily kill your dreams.

    Pizza Hut

    7 ways Americans have defiled the hot dog

    Pizza Hut's Hot Dog Bites Pizza

    Pizza Hut basically just glued pigs-in-blankets to the crust of its normal pizza. This actually sounds good, and I blame America for brainwashing me into feeling that.

    Carl's Jr.

    7 ways Americans have defiled the hot dog

    Carl's Jr. Most American Thick Burger

    This is a burger stuffed with potato chips and hot dogs. Choose a meat, America! How hard is it to just choose a meat?!

    Tokyo Dog

    7 ways Americans have defiled the hot dog

    Tokyo Dog's Juuni Ban

    A food truck in Seattle called Tokyo Dog created this thing, which is notable for its distinction as the Guinness Book of World Records' most expensive hot dog at $169. It is a smoked cheese bratwurst, covered in butter Teriyaki grilled onions, Maitake mushrooms, Wagyu beef, foie gras, black truffles, caviar and Japanese mayo in a brioche bun. Just calm down, Tokyo Dog. Calm down.


    7 ways Americans have defiled the hot dog

    Limp Bizkit's "Chocolate Starfish and the Hot Dog Flavored Water"

    This album art should be illegal.

  • Recent Slide Shows



Comment Preview

Your name will appear as username ( settings | log out )

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href=""> <b> <em> <strong> <i> <blockquote>