Sometimes, as I sit down to write a blog post, I have no idea what I’m going to write about at first. Fortunately, it’s rare that I truly have zero idea what I’m going to write about. Usually, there are options, and I don’t know which one I’m going to pick. Sometimes, however, something happens that demands that I write about it. Either that, or it’s something that I know my readers will want me to write about and will be disappointed if I do not. Unfortunately, in this case, the timing is such that there’s been nearly a full day since the announcement of this particularly stupid decision (and I know you know what I’m talking about, even though I haven’t explicitly stated it yet) that everyone and his grandmother has already blogged about it. I have a highly demanding day job; so I have to wait, to the point where I’m already bored with this story, having seen endless Tweets, Facebook posts, and blog posts that I perused just over lunch earlier today, with more having poured in over the several hours since lunch. At this point, should I even bother?
What the hell? Why not? After all, my ego tells me that whatever all those other bloggers have to say is as nothing compared to the awesomeness that is Orac’s ability to dissect antivaccine nonsense, and few have followed the antivaccine “career” (such as it is) of Jenny McCarthy.
By this point, anyone who gives even a part of a rodential posterior about the antivaccine movement has already heard that the producers of the daytime chat show (I love the British term; so posh) have made an enormous, bone-headed, idiotic mistake on par with hiring Colin Baker to play the sixth Doctor back in the 1980s. No, much worse. Colin Baker didn’t promote dangerous pseudoscience, and, I hate to admit, I did occasionally like his portrayal of my favorite Time Lord. Yes, I’m referring to the hiring of Jenny McCarthy to be a regular on The View.
I can’t help but point out right here that it’s been very clear to me over the last couple of years that Jenny McCarthy has been making a conscious effort to—shall we say?—deemphasize her antivaccine crankery. Oh, sure, she still shows up every year to bask in the adoration of the antivaccine faithful at their yearly Autism One quackfest and even did it just this May. But the rest of the year she’s nowhere near as visible promoting “her” organization Generation Rescue as she used to be a few years ago. Indeed, other than last week’s post about the speculation that she might become a regular on The View it’s been a long time since I’ve written a post that was primarily about something Jenny McCarthy did. This post defending Andrew Wakefield in 2011 might well have been her most recent appearance as “star” of a post by me on this blog. Sure, I’ve written posts that have mentioned her secondarily, but it’s been at least a couple of years since she was the primary recipient of some of Orac’s not-so-Respectful Insolence. Heck, even when a bill was being considered in California to make it harder to obtain non-medical exemptions, it fell to Saturday Night Live alumnus Rob Schneider to bring the stupid home and step up—or, if you prefer, down—to be The Official Celebrity Antivaccine Idiot rallying opposition to the law. Not so long ago, that job surely would have fallen to Jenny McCarthy, but she was nowhere to be seen. Even Chuck Norris is outdoing Jenny McCarthy in laying down flaming swaths of antivaccine stupid these days. No longer do we get such brilliant statements from Jenny McCarthy as:
- “Without a doubt in my mind, I believe that vaccinations triggered Evan’s autism.”
- “Following bio-medical treatment — which is basically changing the diet, giving vitamins and supplements and detoxing the body from metals or candida — and he recovered. And the reason the medical community has such a hard time with this is because we are treating and healing a vaccine injury … this is truly a revolution.”
- “People are also dying from vaccinations. Evan, my son, died in front of me for two minutes. You ask any mother in the autism community if we’ll take the flu, the measles, over autism and day of the week. I think they need to wake up and stop hurting our kids.”
- “The reason why [the medical community] is reluctant to talk about it is because there’s such a huge business in pharmaceuticals.”
- “I look at autism like a bus accident, and you don’t become cured from a bus accident, but you can recover.” — She said in a Time magazine profile, The Autism Debate: Who’s Afraid of Jenny McCarthy?
- “Let me see if I can put this in scientific terms: Think of autism like a fart, and vaccines are the finger you pull to make it happen.”
And let’s not forget her famous rant in the TIME Magazine article mentioned above:
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. If the vaccine companies are not listening to us, it’s their fucking fault that the diseases are coming back. They’re making a product that’s shit. If you give us a safe vaccine, we’ll use it. It shouldn’t be polio versus autism.
No more, but I don’t believe McCarthy has changed her views. Her silence on autism and vaccines is very much more likely to be part of a plan to resurrect her career. It’s apparently all worked. Jenny McCarthy has become “respectable” enough to land a high profile gig on The View. Or maybe I should say that she is no longer disreputable enough to be denied such a gig. It used to be that the only jobs she could land were low-budget direct-to-video gigs, starring in video games, and other sundry bottom-feeding entertainment jobs. Memories are clearly short, though. She soon started appearing in a recurring guest role on Two and a Half Men and landed a spot as a cohost of Dick Clark’s Rockin’ New Years Eve. Eventually, somehow she got some guest shots on The View, and now she’s a regular. Hiding her antivaccine proclivities has served her well. Five years ago, she was leading antivaccine cranks in marches on Washington demanding that politicians “green our vaccines.” In 2013, she’s the new cohost of The View.
So what’s the big deal? Everyone deserves a second chance, right? If McCarthy keeps her yap shut about vaccines while she’s on The View, then who cares? To some extent, I can understand and partially agree with that view. There are plenty of performers with political or other views that I find odious whom I nonetheless find entertaining enough to watch. Nor does hiring someone to be on a coffee klatch that provides infotainment by discussing the issues of the day in a light, fluffy, frothy morning brew of a show, even more forgettable as a typical summer blockbuster imply that ABC agrees with her views. After all, the woman she is replacing, Elisabeth Hasselbeck, has some—shall we say?—questionable views, but this is different. Jenny McCarthy’s views endanger children by encouraging parents not to vaccinate. Sure, McCarthy denies to high heaven that she has told parents not to vaccinate, but she has a history of spreading the sort of misinformation that frightens parents, claims that vaccines cause autism. I’ve been writing about it for years.
Jenny McCarthy’s ignorance of science and antivaccine views are perhaps best encapsulated in this video, in which she parrots easily debunked antivaccine misinformation claiming that vaccines contain aborted fetal tissues, ether, and antifreeze, none of which is accurate. She blames autism on children reaching a “toxic tipping point” and claims that autism can be healed by various “detoxification.” If you want to see an example of sheer, unmitigated antivaccine stupid, watch the videos below. The antivaccine crank blog originally posted this video, but took it down, apparently out of embarrassment. But YouTube knows all, and I hope that as many people as possible watch these videos and read my deconstruction of them here:
Pay particular attention to the part where McCarthy tries to give a discourse on neurology. As I wrote at the time, I rather suspected (and still do) that the shock would cause poor Steve Novella to clutch his chest with crushing chest pain if he tried to watch it, as she describes neurons as the “kings” and the glial cells the “chefs,” which, according to her, can “morph into Rambo” and fight off Iran and Iraq. In fact, she even describes it and acts it out. Her analogy? Allergies change the “chef cells” into “Rambo cells,” and the “king cells” starve.
I also encourage people to look at the sorts of signs that were carried by protestors at the rally that Jenny McCarthy led:
More images can be found here. You get the idea. This is not just a matter of hiring someone with misguided ideas that are kooky but harmless. This is someone who has not only been an antivaccine activist and a leader of a rally on Washington designed to get the government to “acknowledge” that vaccines cause autism.
No doubt ABC will argue that that’s all in the past, except that it’s not. Not really. Jenny McCarthy still shows up every year at the antivaccine quackfest known as Autism One. Before, when she showed up, she was just a washed up former Playboy Playmate, comedienne, and actress with fringe views. Now she’s on a show with 3 million viewers broadcast nationally, which raises her status immensely. Before, when she showed up at the Autism One quackfest, no one outside of antivaccinationists and those of us who oppose them cared. Now, one can anticipate that her new status will allow her to raise the profile of the quackfest. Indeed, it will be interesting to see if McCarthy does the keynote for the 2014 Autism One meeting, as she has done for the past several years. Unless a ban on McCarthy appearing at such events is written into her contract, I don’t see how ABC could stop McCarthy from appearing there and raising its profile by her now magnified celebrity.
Even though The View is fluffy infotainment, it’s fluffy infotainment with millions of viewers, many of whom are young mothers who might be wondering whether it’s safe to vaccinate or not. If Jenny McCarthy is allowed to let her antivaccine freak flag fly again in this venue, the damage could be severe, as questions of science are presented as manufactroversies in which pseudoscience is presented as science. I’d be shocked if McCarthy’s antivaccine friends in Generation Rescue aren’t plotting right now to give her talking points and ways to work them into conversations on the show where they don’t sound out of place or forced, and it wouldn’t surprise me to see her slipping such messages in every now and then. It might not even be noticeable to anyone without a deep knowledge of the antivaccine movement, at least not at first.
ABC, what have you wrought?