Keith Olbermann: Played for a fool by the antivaccine movement

Stick a fork in Keith Olbermann. He’s done.

He has now officially degenerated into a liberal version of Rush Limbaugh, except that Rush Limbaugh is occasionally funny. Maybe he’s more like Sean Hannity, particularly in his apparent dedication to the truth, or, rather, lack thereof. Hannity detests liberals and will immediately attack on the slightest pretense, even if the information given to him of “liberal wrongdoing” is dubious or outright wrong. Like Hannity, Olbermann will never turn down an opportunity to attack Bill O’Reilly or his paymaster Rupert Murdoch. Somtimes it’s justified, but dubious reasons don’t stop him from letting “Bill-O” or Murdoch have it with both barrels. The following is one such example.

True, I rather used to like Olbermann’s broadsides against Bill O’Reilly, for example, when he took down Bill O’Reilly for blaming the Malmedy massacre on American troops. Of late, I had become less enamored of his “Worst Person in the World” schtick (and, let’s face it, schtick it is) as he became seemingly more interested in entertainment and vindictiveness rather than accuracy. Indeed, when he was parodied by SNL a while back, I ate it up. Yesterday, I thought that he may have to some extent shown signs of perhaps starting to “get it” when he named the man who started the decade-long MMR scare in the U.K., Andrew Wakefield, as his Worst Person in the World yesterday. Wakefield richly deserved such an “honor,” given that his undisclosed conflicts of interest uncovered by a British journalist named Brian Deer, his research incompetence, and, most recently also uncovered by Brian Deer, his scientific fraud that falsely implicated the MMR vaccine as a cause of a syndrome of regressive autism and enterocolitis launched an anti-MMR hysteria that drove vaccination rates over the last decade down to below herd immunity. As a result, the measles has returned with a vengeance in Britain.

Too bad tonight Olbermann let himself be played like a fiddle by antivaccine propagandist David Kirby, the man who, with Robert F. Kennedy, Jr., was instrumental in launching the American version of the MMR scare. That was the thimerosal/mercury scare that roared into the states in 2004 and is now maintained by Jenny McCarthy–still aided and abetted by David Kirby. No, Kirby played Olbermann like Itzhak Perlman playing a goddamned Stradivarius. Indeed, Kirby played on Olbermann’s hatred of Rupert Murdoch, inducing him to embarrass himself so completely and utterly that I can never–ever–take Olbermann seriously again:

How do I know Kirby put Olbermann up to this smear job against a competent and dedicated journalist who exposed great wrongdoing? Easy, earlier today Kirby bragged about it on the Huffington Post:

Countdown’s producers clearly took the Sunday Times story at face value, without doing a little due diligence. After all, Wakefield had denied the allegations in the original article, he issued a formal statement of denial earlier this week, and the autism treatment group he works for in Austin, TX also issued a statement. Olbermann’s people should have picked up the phone and called Austin before he blasted Wakefield for faking scientific data.

Which brings us to today’s Best Person in the World — Keith Olbermann, who is issuing an eloquent and fitting correction on tonight’s show.

I contacted his office today, as did many, many people, to see if he would address the issue. And address it he will. Here is the email I got back this afternoon:

Here is Keith’s script from tonight’s show, where Brian Deer will receive (at least) the bronze Worst Person in the World honors… it will air tonight, barring breaking news:

The bronze to Brian Deer.

He wrote the Times of London report that Dr. Andrew Wakefield had allegedly altered key research linking the Measles, Mumps and Rubella triple-vaccine to autism in children, which earned Dr. Wakefield a spot on this list yesterday.
The Times of London did not bother to mention that the British investigation into whether or not Wakefield did that was the result of a complaint by… Brian Deer.

The guy who wrote the article about the investigation never mentioned he was the complainant who precipitated the investigation.

The truth about the doctor’s research may be in doubt here, but not Deer’s vast conflict of interest nor the Times of London’s journalistic malfeasance.
The paper is owned by Rupert Murdoch, and it’s my bad for forgetting his new motto: “We have never been a company that tolerates facts.”

My irony meter exploded when I read that. Consider: Here we have David Kirby, the man who wrote a book called Evidence of Harm: Mercury in Vaccines and the Autism Epidemic: A Medical Mystery, which was custom-designed to hype up the idea that mercury in vaccines cause autism. He is a man who now blogs for Age of Autism, promoting the idea that vaccines cause autism every chance he gets. Moreover, he is also a man with no apparent source of income. I have seen no bylines by him in the media since 2005 (other than AoA and The Huffington Post), and I haven’t seen him doing any writing other than on blogs promoting antivaccine talking points, usually with great sliminess. Who pays him? He certainly doesn’t appear to have a source of income other than if he’s being payed to blog for AoA. In any case, his current career, such as it is, depends upon his keeping the idea that vaccines cause autism alive. If that manufactroversy ever goes away, Kirby is out of luck. So he’s not exactly one to accuse anyone else of conflicts of interest.

Addressing Olbermann’s spoon-fed talking point, so what if Brian Deer made the initial complaint? Olbermann apparently doesn’t know that the reason Deer made the complaint to the British GMC was because of what he found in his original report in 2004 and then again in 2006. In other words, Deer discovered that Wakefield had been in the pocket of a trial lawyers seeking to sue vaccine manufacturers, having accepted £435,643 in fees, plus £3,910 expenses for his “research.” Who wouldn’t have reported him to the GMC for that? Moreover, once the complaint was made, Deer’s involvement appeared to be over, except for his reporting.

Leaving that aside, I repeat that Kirby played Olbermann like a Stradivarius. Indeed, Kirby pwned Olbermann and made an utter fool out of him. All Kirby apparently did was to wave Rupert Murdoch’s name in front of Olbermann by pointing out that the newspaper in which Deer’s exposes ran is owned by Rupert Murdoch, and like a rabid bull on speed Olbermann charged, delving into the depths of burning stupid that reveals utter credulity and ignorance by saying “the truth about the doctor’s research may be in doubt, but not Deer’s vast conflict of interest nor the Times of London’s journalistic malfeasance.”

That’s right, because he hates Murdoch so much, Olbermann slimed an excellent journalist, Brian Deer, who brought to light something that desperately needed to be brought to light, Wakefield’s unreported conflicts of interest, his scientific incompetence, and now his scientific fraud. He even descended to the level of calling it “journalistic malfeasance.” Did Olbermann bother to read Brian Deer’s actual reporting? No. Did he bother to look at some of the evidence Deer posts on his website,

Again, the answer would appear to be no.

Instead, Olbermann lapped up David Kirby’s talking points like a dog would spilled gravy and then let his emnity with Rupert Murdoch undermine what little critical thinking skills he has left by parroting nonsense. Those talking points, helpfully included by David Kirby in his HuffPo post, include his usual appeal to authority, including a list of “notables” who either believe that vaccines cause autism or have said things that could be interpreted as if they believe that vaccines might cause autism, and a list of studies that are either bad to the point of having been deconstructed here or on other skeptical blogs or that do not show what the antivaccinationists think they show. Olbermann’s team fell for it hook, line, and sinker. Nor did they consider that the U.K. has some of the most plaintiff-friendly libel laws in the world, so much so that some plaintiffs indulge in libel tourism there. If Deer’s reporting was not true, he would have been at serious risk of being sued and losing.

Worse for Olbermann, he didn’t even bother to check whether the key talking point he had been fed by Kirby, namely that Deer had made the complaint against Wakefield to the GMC, was in fact true. Brian Deer has already commented on it, pointing out that he is not the one who complained and thus initiated the General Medical Council investigation into Andrew Wakefield’s behavior:

There’s so much in what’s going on at the moment to disturb right-thinking people.

  1. It has become clear in recent days that networks of anti-MMR “campaigners” now quote each other’s website falsehoods, so as to create the impression that these have substance. Ultimately, with regard to me, these can be tracked to two or three cranks and malicious liars, who spread disinformation much as do those people who create trojans and viruses intended to harm other people’s computers. That children’s health could potentially be impacted by such disordered obsessives is a matter of great concern.
  2. David Kirby’s role has become extraordinary. In one day, today (I’m in the US, and it’s still my today!), he asserts that my latest findings are false, even though he has no access to any of the data upon which my investigation rests; and he also asserts as fact that Michelle Cedillo was injured by MMR. I suppose we should regard him as some form of psychic paediatrician who can determine the medical conditions of children he has neither met nor seen records of. Maybe he learnt that craft from Dr Wakefield, who honed that skill to a fine art.
  3. The cranks and malicious liars assert that I am the “complainant” in the GMC case against Wakefield, even though they know I am not. The GMC’s case was initiated following a concurrence between Wakefield and the health secretary John Reid, that such an investigation should be held. I was subsequently approached and asked for my cooperation, which, as a matter of public duty I was bound, and indeed anxious, to give. I have a letter from the GMC’s lawyers, which was also supplied to Wakefield, stating that I am not the complainent, but that I am an “informant”, like, say, a health authority. Were I the complainant, I would have been entitled to legal representation at the GMC. The haters furthermore allege that I have a “conflict of interest” in my role in supplying material to the GMC and in continuing to investigate the Wakefield matter. It would plainly be contrary to common sense and the public interest were journalists who supplied evidence to a statutory regulator to then be disbarred from continuing to pursue their stories. Were such a principle to be accepted, journalists would not supply their findings to regulators (as they do all the time), and so the public interest would be damaged.

I believe that Dr Wakefield himself knows that the game is up, which is why he broke with the guidance of his lawyers and published this weekend what I say is a false and mendacious statement. He now has no chance of claiming that he wasn’t given an opportunity to respond, or that he couldn’t because of the GMC, since he plainly did respond.

The only thing I can say about this is that Olberman is a tool. He is a fool. He is, to borrow the U.K. lingo, a total wanker. The only way to describe Kirby’s pwnage of Olbermann is EPIC FAIL on Olbermann’s part.

Think of it this way: If Olbermann can be so completely and utterly pwned by a propagandist like David Kirby, he is nothing.

Please tell him so at [email protected].

ADDENDUM: It’s even worse than I thought. A reader sent me these links:

“Dr Wakefield said that he would insist on a full GMC inquiry after it was suggested by John Reid, the Health Secretary, on Friday.”

“The doctors’ watchdog GMC agreed to consider a full investigation into the work of Dr Wakefield last week at the request of the Health Minister John Reid.”

“In the wake of the Lancet’s revelation, Britain’s Health Secretary John Reid has called on the doctors’ watchdog the General Medical Council (GMC) to mount an inquiry into Wakefield’s conduct “as a matter of urgency”.”

“Last night, Dr John Reid was banging the drum for an “independent inquiry” into Dr Andrew Wakefield, the scientist who links autism and the MMR vaccine.”
(anti-vax source)

“The General Medical Council (GMC) is considering launching an inquiry of Dr Andrew Wakefield, the man at the centre of the measles mumps rubella (MMR) vaccine furor, after The Lancet reported undisclosed conflicts of interest in a key article.”

In other words, Olbermann was completely wrong, and Kirby’s claim that Brian Deer initiated the complaint is a lie–a lie that Olbermann mindlessly parroted.

ADDENDUM #2: Brian Deer has responded to Keith Olbermann.