Brian Deer responds to Keith Olbermann

Last night, I lambasted Countdown host Keith Olbermann for having been played by the antivaccine movement and having unjustly slimed British journalist Brian Deer. Clearly, Olbermann was so blinded by his hatred of Rupert Murdoch that all chief apologist for the antivaccine movement, former freelance journalist David Kirby, had to do was mention that The Times of London, the newspaper that published Brian Deer’s excellent investigative report nailing anti-MMR guru Andrew Wakefield to the wall for falsifying data, is owned by Rupert Murdoch, and it was like waving the proverbial red cape in front of the bull. Like a bull on crack, Olbermann didn’t think too much before he charged ahead, parroting the misinformation and talking points spoon fed to him by David Kirby. Leaving aside the fact that this made Olbermann look like an even bigger fool–not to mention a huge hypocrite–for having nailed a FOX News reporter for reading word-for-word Republican talking points as analysis just the day before.

Well, unfortunately for Keith Olbermann, Brian Deer is actually in the states and has seen both the video and David Kirby’s bragging about it. He also gave me permission to post his letter to the producers of Countdown. Showing what a fair-minded individual he is, even though he detests Andrew Wakefield as much as I do, Deer even complains about the inaccuracies in Olbermann’s attack on Wakefield the night before:

The producers,
Countdown,
MSNBC

On Wednesday 11 February 2009 you placed into the mouth of your presenter Keith Olbermann a grievously defamatory item concerning me.  You named me the third of the day’s “world’s worst persons” and, among other things, accused me of dishonesty and “malfeasance” in connection with my work as a journalist for The Sunday Times of London.  The item has been widely seen in the UK.

On the previous day, you broadcast a similarly defamatory item concerning Dr Andrew Wakefield, whose false claims of having found a possible link between a childhood vaccine and autism have been the subject of my investigations.  Wakefield can no doubt deal with his own reputation.  However, it’s clear to me that, although I share your apparent general opinion of Wakefield, the item concerning him contained inaccuracies, and appeared to have been crudely lifted from my work, without any effort whatsoever on your part to check your facts, or to properly describe my findings.  I think that by subsequently attacking me you believed that you could somehow mitigate your previous errors.

These two instances evidence your inability to deliver three daily targets for your “world’s worst person” item, and you now resort to baselessly picking on people about whom you know little. It’s clear to me that you do so in order to deliver entertaining defamations, at little cost to the programme, and in circumstances where you believe your victims will have no redress.

It is untrue that, as you say, I am the complainant against Wakefield in UK disciplinary hearings.  I have ample correspondence to prove this.  As a journalist with public as well as professional duties, I was approached almost five years ago by the UK doctors’ regulator, the General Medical Council, and asked if I would supply them with my journalistic findings, post-publication, at that time concerning Wakefield.  This I did, in a manner familiar to journalists, both in the UK and the US, in dealings with statutory regulators.  There can be no possible issue about this, or any justifiable allegation of misconduct on my part.  Nor could there be any justification for your suggestion that this would somehow disbar me from continuing my investigations into Wakefield’s activities, or that I had improperly concealed my previous actions, or that my prior supply of journalistic findings invalidated findings reported last weekend which are not yet charges  faced by Wakefield.  Your item implied that, in reporting my new findings, I was somehow merely reporting my own prior allegations.  This is utterly false, and grossly damaging to my reputation.  To assist your employer to commercially profit by recklessly attacking me appears to have been your intent.

You were apparently supplied with your baseless allegations by a New York-based freelance journalist, David Kirby, who has made substantial sums of money through attacking childhood vaccines, and who is an advisor to Wakefield. Extraordinarily, you even supplied Kirby with a copy of the script of your attack on me, prior to broadcast, and thus appear to have acted in cahoots with him.  Kirby was sufficiently motivated, and stupid, to publish your script on a website before the item was aired.

Your defamation of me has been taken up by others, and you are plainly responsible for this.  You have no possible defence, since your claims are simply false.  They were fabricated and placed with you by antivaccine campaigners and cranks. You can argue no privilege or free speech right to make such false allegations, not least since you published them with complete disregard for their truth or falsity. NBC’s lawyers will no doubt explain to you the particular difficulties of such conduct in the UK jurisdiction.

I am presently travelling, and have no access to office facilities.  I write to you via a junk antispam email address.

I look forward to your prompt response, and ask that you supply a copy of this email to your legal department.

I can presently be contacted at xxx-xxx-xxxx.

With best wishes,

Brian Deer