Brian Deer responds to Andrew Wakefield

Two days ago, I deconstructed Andrew Wakefield’s clumsy attack on Brian Deer, the investigative journalist whose investigations uncovered Wakefield’s massive conflicts of interest and, most recently, his scientific fraud. Now, right here in the very comments of this blog, Brian Deer has responded:

Obviously, because Our Andy’s statement purports to be a complaint to the UK Press Complaints Commission, I can’t yet comment on the substance (although I have mentioned just a couple of generic Wakefield claims right up at the top, here: http://briandeer.com/solved/wakefield-veracity.htm).

But, in general, my reaction is that I’m stunned.

Never before in my career in journalism have I seen so many assertions in a single complaint that can so easily be proven to be both (a) wrong and (b) dishonest. It’s really very striking.

I don’t, in fact, believe that his complaint is really targeted at the PCC, since it won’t hear something that’s in front of the GMC. Wakefield would know that. And he would also know that it won’t hear something that hasn’t been raised with the paper. This is all on the PCC website, and he and his people will have read that. Disingenuous in principle.

His strategy, in my opinion, is predicated on his personal and financial situation. This “complaint” is addressed to the narrowcasting of the web. He needs to get to parents of autistic children, to whom he may wish to suggest they should come to Austin with the kids, and to his bigger backers: particularly the money and reputations behind Thoughtful House. Through Kirby and Olmsted, he can get to those – perhaps a couple of thousand – people he wants to reach.

But, as ever, this is a short-term strategy, since much of what he says can be checked. For example his suggestion that his possible MMR-autism link allegation has been backed by other published research. He even cites papers. Thoughtful House people, and indeed anyone, can pull those papers, and form a judgment about his integrity. Similarly, he denies that his 1998 Lancet paper said the kids in his research paper (the one they are taking about here: http://briandeer.com/mmr/royal-free-press-1998.pdf) were “previously normal” (Go on, have a look, you know you want to: http://briandeer.com/mmr/lancet-paper.pdf.)

His famed “charisma”, will stand him in good stead for a while, as it did at the Royal Free, but history shows (eg with the whistleblower Nick Chadwick) it doesn’t work with everyone, or forever. Eventually, people who know where any US bodies are buried will speak out.

Meanwhile, in the unlikely event of the UK’s General Medical Council continuing to have jurisdiction over him, I would guess that there is a straight, pretty much open-and-shut, dishonesty action against him over his statement, widely published to vulnerable parents, which I reckon could have him struck off in a five day hearing.

To me, it really beggars belief.

Indeed it does.