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Did the “CDC whistleblower” William W. Thompson apologize to Andrew Wakefield in a text message?

Orac post-publication note: There is reason to believe that one point I made below could well be incorrect. However, even leaving that point out, there are still many reasons to doubt the authenticity of the text exchange I discuss below. See the first 10 comments for a discussion. Unlike AoA and other antivaccine groups, if I am wrong about something, I will admit it and discuss what might have led me to an incorrect conclusion. Oh, and I missed something obvious (see comment #11). D’oh!

There’s something that’s been bothering me the last couple of days. I tried not to blog about it, but the more I looked at it the more it bugged me. It didn’t help that it’s also about this whole “CDC whistleblower” issue that’s been consuming about 90% of this blog’s posts for the last two weeks, thus risking tiring my readership (not to mention me) of the whole topic. So, when I noticed what I noticed, I sat back and waited, hoping that someone else would write about it, so that I wouldn’t have to. So far, as far as I can tell, no one has. I even hinted about it on Twitter, but no one took the bait. So here we are, once again, revisiting the story of CDC senior scientist William W. Thompson, who apparently helped biochemical engineer turned incompetent antivaccine pseudo-epidemiologist Brian Hooker produce an execrable “reanalysis” of one of a paper on the safety of the MMR vaccine on which Thompson was a co-author ten years ago that allegedly showed that there was an increased risk of autism in African-American males. It didn’t. For all his trouble Thompson was “outed” as the “CDC whistleblower” by Andrew Wakefield in an incredibly vile video likening this “deception” to the Tuskegee syphilis program and the crimes of Hitler, Stalin, and Pol Pot all rolled into one in a piece de resistance of race baiting combined with Godwin. Later, Thompson issued a statement that is being trumpeted as “proof” that the “CDC lied,” when it is nothing of the sort.

The latest salvo from the antivaccine crank contingent came two days ago, when HIV/AIDS denialist Celia Farber published on her “Truthbarrier” website an article entitled BREAKING NEWS: CDC WHISTLEBLOWER TEXT MESSAGES TO ANDY WAKEFIELD: STUDY WOULD HAVE “SUPPORTED HIS SCIENTIFIC OPINION.” In it there was a grainy photo of what is purported to be an iPhone screen with the following text exchange:

photo402-e1409680426456-225x300

A bigger version can be found here. (Why waste my benevolent overlords’ bandwidth by hosting a 4.6 MB file, when I can host a small version of it and waste Farber’s instead if you want to see the full size version?) In any case, here’s the alleged exchange:

AJW: “Is the press release real?”

WT: “Yes”

AJW: Thank you. This was the right and honorable thing to do. Andy.

WT: I agree. I apologize again for the price you paid for my dishonesty.

AJW: I forgive you complete and without any bitterness.

WT: I know you mean it and am grateful to know you more personally.

Although there is no text exchange shown, it is also claimed that Thompson texted Andrew Wakefield’s wife Carmel on August 20, saying:

I do believe your husbands career was unjustly damaged and this study would have supported his scientific opinion. Hopefully I can help repair it.

One notes, however, that there are no visuals of this particular text. One wonders why.

In any event, it all sounds damning, doesn’t it? Thompson actually apologized for everything to Andy and his wife? If true, it would indicate to me that Thompson was—shall we say?—less than sincere when he issued his press release in which he stated that Brian Hooker had recorded their conversations without his knowledge and that Andrew Wakefield had released his name without his permission, given that this text exchange is supposed to have come from the evening of August 27, which is the day that Thompson’s press release was issued. Having spoken to William Thompson’s lawyer, Rick Morgan, on Friday, I figured I’d send him an e-mail asking if he could confirm or deny whether his client ever had such an exchange. I figured that he’d be annoyed if his client were communicating with Wakefield after having issued that press release or would be anxious to deny the authenticity of the exchange if not. Rick Morgan never responded. I presume he had gotten whatever message he had wanted to get to me and then, not needing me any more, decided to ignore future communications. He’s a lawyer. I expect little else.

But something about that text exchange, more specifically the image of that text exchange, bothered me. It even bothered some antivaccinationists, because I saw complaints about it. Why is it a photo of an iPhone? Doesn’t Andy even know how to take a screen shot on his iPhone? (Just press the Home and Sleep buttons at the same time and release. There’ll be a fake camera shutter noise, and you’ll have a screenshot. So, not long after, a real-seeming screenshot appeared:

wakerscreenshot

Better, right? (The full size original is here.) Well, no. Something kept bothering me about this screenshot. Something didn’t look right. No, it wasn’t necessarily just that there were apparently 130 unread text messages still on Wakefield’s phone, as indicated by the number 130 in parentheses. (Either Wakefield doesn’t check his texts that often, or he’s got a lot of groupies he communicates with.) It was something else. Something odd. So I looked at my own iPhone. Then I looked at this screenshot. Then I looked at my iPhone again. The iPhone in the screenshot is clearly running some version of iOS 7, as is mine. Then it hit me. Take a look at this part of Wakefield’s screen shot, the top of the screen:

photo-3 copy

Now take a look at the same header from mine. (I blocked out the name of the person texting me.) Notice any difference? Take another look:

oractext2

Now, do you notice the difference? I did? Notice how in Andy’s screenshot, the word “Back” appears by the arrow in the upper left hand corner. Notice how, in mine, the word “Messages” appears in the upper left hand corner. That’s what had been bugging me when I first looked at the screenshot and it didn’t look quite right to me! I had finally put my finger on it!

So does this anomaly mean that these text messages are faked? I don’t know. That’s why I waited two days to say anything about it. I was asking around to see if there were any versions of iOS 7 that displayed the word “Back” instead of “Messages” to indicate going back to the main list in the Messages app. (Maybe the UK version of iOS used “Back” instead of “Messages,” although Wakefield’s lived in Austin so long that I highly doubt he’d have a UK-sold iPhone or, if he did, that Thompson would be texting it. Oh, wait. Nope.) I couldn’t find any, but, even though I’m a pretty major Apple fanboi in many respects and have used an iPhone since I got the very first iPhone a few months after it had been released (I waited until my previous contract was up), I don’t claim encyclopedic knowledge of the iPhone. I could be wrong, and I’m sure one of you in the comments will tell me so if I am. If I’m not wrong, to me this anomaly strongly suggests that this screenshot in which Thompson allegedly “apologizes” to Andrew Wakefield is a fake.

Of course, even if the screenshot isn’t a “fake” (in that it was created on one of those text message generator apps or something like that), it could still be a fake, if you know what I mean. All it would take to make a “real” screenshot that is in reality faked would be for Andy to put a friend’s iPhone number into his Contacts app, give that contact the name “William,” and then have that friend text Wakefield whatever texts Wakefield wanted him to, to create the exchange. We have nothing other than Celia Farber’s and, apparently, Andrew Wakefield’s word (given that Wakefield Tweeted a link to Farber’s article) for it that this is really William Thompson texting him, and, as we’ve learned from his long history, anyone who relies on Wakefield’s word alone for anything is taking a huge risk of being burned.

So in the end, we’re left with three possibilities. First, this text exchange might legitimate, all the anomalies of not using a proper screenshot at first and “Back” instead of “Messages” appearing in the upper left hand corner notwithstanding. I doubt this possibility very much, because, for all his foolishness, naivete, and gullibility Thompson appears to be honest to a fault and his having communicated with Wakefield after accusing him of “outing” him without his permission would imply that Thompson was less than truthful—to put it mildly!—in his press release. Also, I doubt very much that his lawyer would be happy with his having communicated with Wakefield in a manner that could be publicized; my guess is that Morgan has Thompson under very strict instructions not to communicate with Brian Hooker, Andrew Wakefield, or anyone associated with them. Even if that weren’t the case, why would Thompson, having been burned once, give Wakefield a chance to burn him again? If Thompson really did communicate with Wakefield after becoming his client, I can see Rick Morgan tearing his hair out over the extreme stupidity of the move. Still, given Thompson’s past behavior, this possibility cannot be entirely discounted.

The other two possibilities are either that this screenshot was faked (which seems possible, although I could be mistaken, given that, despite extensive Googling I haven’t been able to find a screenshot that uses “Back” instead of “Messages” my search is not comprehensive) or that Wakefield faked a text exchange and made it appear to be someone named “William,” the implication being that that’s William Thompson, something that is incredibly easy to do. All you need is a friend with an iPhone to do it. There’s no concrete evidence to argue for or against this last possibility, but I also note that there’s no concrete evidence (just Farber’s and apparently Wakefield’s word) that the screenshot represents a real text exchange between William Thompson and Andrew Wakefield, either. That doesn’t even take into account the content of the text exchange, which is bizarre and stilted, to say the least. Even if it is real, it’s no doubt highly cherry picked.

Whatever the true case, this whole “CDC whistleblower” thing just keeps getting stranger and stranger. Now can the developments stop for a day so that I can write about something else tomorrow?

By Orac

Orac is the nom de blog of a humble surgeon/scientist who has an ego just big enough to delude himself that someone, somewhere might actually give a rodent's posterior about his copious verbal meanderings, but just barely small enough to admit to himself that few probably will. That surgeon is otherwise known as David Gorski.

That this particular surgeon has chosen his nom de blog based on a rather cranky and arrogant computer shaped like a clear box of blinking lights that he originally encountered when he became a fan of a 35 year old British SF television show whose special effects were renowned for their BBC/Doctor Who-style low budget look, but whose stories nonetheless resulted in some of the best, most innovative science fiction ever televised, should tell you nearly all that you need to know about Orac. (That, and the length of the preceding sentence.)

DISCLAIMER:: The various written meanderings here are the opinions of Orac and Orac alone, written on his own time. They should never be construed as representing the opinions of any other person or entity, especially Orac's cancer center, department of surgery, medical school, or university. Also note that Orac is nonpartisan; he is more than willing to criticize the statements of anyone, regardless of of political leanings, if that anyone advocates pseudoscience or quackery. Finally, medical commentary is not to be construed in any way as medical advice.

To contact Orac: [email protected]

337 replies on “Did the “CDC whistleblower” William W. Thompson apologize to Andrew Wakefield in a text message?”

Gah! I just noted another anomaly! Look at the battery. In mine it’s black; in Andy’s it’s green. Oh wait. Never mind. That’s what happens when you plug the iPhone in to charge, as indicated by the little “charge” symbol next to the battery in Andy’s phone.

Also, I doubt very much that his lawyer would be happy with his having communicated with Wakefield in a manner that could be publicized; my guess is that Morgan has Thompson under very strict instructions not to communicate with Brian Hooker, Andrew Wakefield, or anyone associated with them. Even if that weren’t the case, why would Thompson, having been burned once, give Wakefield a chance to burn him again?

You’re assuming that Thompson is acting rationally here. That’s probably true, but by no means guaranteed. Thompson would hardly be the first client to ignore the advice of his well-paid lawyer to STFU.

I would agree that this is less likely to be a genuine conversation with Thompson than either a Photoshop fake or the transcript of a conversation with a different William. For one thing, consider the source. But Thompson sounds naive and gullible enough to have done this, legal advice notwithstanding.

Interesting. Thanks for pointing that out. The text exchange is still rather dodgy in many other ways.

I actually spent a lot of time searching the web for screenshots of iPhone messages with “Back” instead of “Messages,” trying variations of all the versions of iOS 7 that existed, and I couldn’t find it.

@Orac – the flow of those text messages seems “odd” since there is no context (why would he apologize to Wakefield?)

If Wakefield is asking “is Thompson’s press release real?” And Thompson says yes, why is Wakefield saying Thank you?

Thank you for putting out a press release that calls me a liar (for having said that I had your permission to release your name)?

Again, the texts don’t even make sense in the context by which they are given…..

mine alternates between “zurück” and “Nachrichten” (back and messages – my UK phone speaks German) depending on who sent the message. If it is someone in my address book, it says “Nachrichten”, if it is a number I have not saved, it says “zurück” (so contrary to the above).
Also – why does “Andy” spell “honorable” without the British “u”?

mine alternates between “zurück” and “Nachrichten” (back and messages – my UK phone speaks German) depending on who sent the message. If it is someone in my address book, it says “Nachrichten”, if it is a number I have not saved, it says “zurück” (so contrary to the above).

Interesting. Mine doesn’t do that. I tested. Maybe Andy’s using a UK phone.

Erm, this blog seems comparative to conspiracy theory blogs where they pick everything apart in order to validate their wild theories.

@Orac – when was the last time he was in the UK & why would he buy a phone there? The updates should be US anyway…

Again, those text messages might make a little bit of sense if it was sent to Hooker (since the case can be made that Dr. Thompson did mention the data issue that Hooker ultimately “found”)…but they make no sense when applied to Wakefield.

@Katherine – perhaps you don’t spend enough time at AoA….they are the ones claiming this is real, when there are good reasons to believe it isn’t (or not being shown in context).

@Spectator: D’oh! How did I miss that?

OK, even if I’m wrong about the “Back”/”Message” thing (which seems not unlikely now, although I still haven’t been able to find such a screenshot), that cursor in the first picture sure does suggest that this was made using a text exchange generator. There are no cursors on the iPhone. They’re not needed, given that everything is down by touch. I mean, holy hell. If you’re going to spoof a text exchange, at least make sure the computer cursor isn’t in the photo…

Remember Betteridge’s law of headlines

“Any headline which ends in a question mark can be answered by the word ‘no’.”

Orac: ” he’s got a lot of groupies..” Heh.

AND… Celia Farber! Holy Christmas!

Isn’t it interesting how these folks run together?
Celia, Andy, Hooker, David Lewis, anti-vaxxers of all stripe, hiv/ aids denialists and what frigging else! Oh. Bolen.
( I once pointed out the PRN connection as several were guests and/ or had shows on PRN, e.g. Farber, Steve Kohn) There are even more but right now I have other work.

So far, searching my iPhone messages, I have seen a few with “Back” in the corner. Every single one of them, however, I didn’t have a contact name, just a phone number. It’s possible it switches to “Back” if there isn’t room for “Messages”.

Regardless, I am unable to accept this as evidence simply because we have no way to confirm its accuracy without a court-ordered search of Apple’s database.

True blue all American here. My phone was bought and never been out of the US. But wait, there’s more.

I’m an old guy, and I don’t use SMS, so I don’t have a lot of experience with it. The only text I get are free ones my carrier sends me to say my bill has been paid. Most of the time don’t read them.

So I went back to look again to see if read vs unread vs previously read might make a difference, and it seems it does.

However, as I was zeroing in on it, I ran out of unread messages. So it’s there sometimes, but not if your unread is zero.

There are no cursors on the iPhone. They’re not needed, given that everything is down by touch. I mean, holy hell. If you’re going to spoof a text exchange, at least make sure the computer cursor isn’t in the photo…

It could be a computer screen shot of the text hence the cursor.

I hadn’t realized how many “fake text” sites there are out there….seems incredibly simple to fake whatever you’d like.

@Gray Falcon: Interesting. It seems that even if I’m wrong about the whole “Back”/”Message” thing, there’s still plenty of reason to believe Andy’s text exchange is fake on the basis of what you say. If there’s “Back” there, it would seem, there should have been a phone number, not a name, at the top, in which case the screenshot must have been altered because in Andy’s screenshot there’s the name “William” there.

As an aside, I’ve checked many of the messages on my iPhone, and I don’t see the word “Back” when it’s just a phone number there not matched to a contact. Weird. I’m learning something I didn’t know about iOS 7, not that I’m sure that it’s of much use.

On the other hand, that first picture really is odd and suggestive that something weird is going on here that doesn’t involve a real screenshot.

@Orac – figured it out.

If there is no “name” only a phone number, it says “Back”..if it has a contact name, it will say messages.

That, by itself, shows that the message above is fake – since it would say “Messages” because of the contact name being given as William.

Ta Da!

“I know you mean it and i am grateful to know your more personally.”

Why didn’t the “i” autocorrect to “I“?

Want to ask a few questions…

Why did Wakefield put his name in the text? What good would that possibly do? Obviously it’s coming from him as per the text conversation?

Not sure if this applies to iOS since I don’t use it, but in Android, if you change a contact’s name, the header will change. This is always good for a joke when we have an existing conversation with someone like mom or dad asking if you’re coming home for dinner, and you change the name in the contacts to something like “Mick Jagger” and suddenly it looks like Mick is inviting you to dinner.

Also, why would Andrew Wakefield have Dr. William Thompson in his contacts as “William?”

Just my thinking here.

@Chemomo:

The i is to make it look more legit- not too perfectly polished.
Just like his project had 8 of 12 subjects not 11 of 12.

I wonder why there’s such a gap between the comments at 5:55 and 7:37–that “I forgive you complete and without any bitterness” seems to come out of nowhere, hours later. makes me wonder if additional texts to and from William made between 6:00 and 7:30 were deleted to create this apparently seamless conversation.

I hate to say it, but I think you’re struggling here. You’re claiming that Wakefield would validate a fake text exchange contained in a screenshot.

I’ve never thought he was bright, but it sounds more than a little far-fetched to think he would supplant my 86 page declaration describing his research misconduct, with a piece of artwork that a seven-year-old could grasp. After all, it’s not like Dr Thompson will not get his moment in the spotlight.

Given Dr Thompson’s apparent agony that he may have contributed to the fall of Andrew Wakefield, maybe I could step in as his locum priest and assure him that he had nothing to do with it. Maybe he could get advice from the lawyer you mentioned as to whether all this is just made up:

http://briandeer.com/solved/slapp-amended-declaration.pdf

I kinda agree that this is a little like conspiracy theorists at work – pretty much needs one or other of the parties to confirm/deny then we’ll know — er oh wait…

Still, gotta have my ha’pennies worths – why does he sign the second text ‘Andy.’

Anyway – wether real or not – its the most brown-nosed vomit worthy txt exchange I’ve seen in a while

Also, why would Andrew Wakefield have Dr. William Thompson in his contacts as “William?”

I can answer that one. In the iPhone preferences, under Mail, Contacts, and Calendars, there is an option for “Short Name,” which tells the phone how to shorten names that are in the contacts. Options include:

1. First name and last initial
2. First initial and last name
3. First name only
4. Last name only

There is also an option to “Prefer Nicknames.” There is a field in entries in the Contacts app for “Nickname,” such as if you have a pet name for your wife or girlfriend or your friend has a nickname that is commonly used. If that option is turned on and there is a nickname in the Contact, then the phone will use that preferentially.

If Short Name is turned on and set to “First Name Only,” then even if William Thompson’s full name is in the Contacts app database, Messages will only show “William.”

I think you are reading too much into the discrepancies. Yes, the screenshot was displayed on another system and photographed, and the photograph was sent, but without knowing the context this might be nefarious or innocent. I just looked on my iPhone, and indeed some messages say “Messages” and some say “Back”. Not all messages without a contact say “Back”, but no message with a contact doesn’t say “Messages”. However, if I have a message that is not in my contact list displayed, and it says “Back”, if I then press “Contact” and create a contact, when I return to the message, it still says “Back” but the number is now replaced with the name I just created. This suggests that the message was originally from a number and a contact was made just then. This is another reason why the picture of a display of a screenshot is probably innocent, namely if I was trying to fake a text exchange, I would just do it with someone else and change the contact when I took the screenshot. No image editing required, not possibility of a discrepancy. Which also shows us that the screenshot is no proof at all.

This is another reason why the picture of a display of a screenshot is probably innocent, namely if I was trying to fake a text exchange, I would just do it with someone else and change the contact when I took the screenshot. No image editing required, not possibility of a discrepancy.

Which is why I included that as a third possibility. 🙂

Faking a text message, which would surely be refuted at some point, if not real, seems very bizarre. I think the ‘i’ wouldn’t necessarily autocorrect if it came from Thompson’s phone and it wasn’t an iPhone. Also, I’m not sure the cursor is massively suspicious – it’s just a screenshot of the conversation from a computer screen – perhaps Wakefield took a photo of the screen to make it seem (somehow) more genuine, rather than just the screenshot as a raw image. The content of the conversation is the most dodgy thing to me, the rest is all explainable in some way.

That may not be a mouse cursor, that’s where the “GPS in use” icon appears on my iPhone. It’s the identical shape, though my icon is solid, not hollow.

To add further confusion, I don’t know how Macs do screen shots, but Windows screenshots don’t include the cursor.

Also, a “friend” of yours now has a screenshot featuring “Back” on their Facebook page.

Because the “iMessage” is located at the bottom, it shows that both Wakefield and Thompson have iPhones (otherwise it would just say Text Message)….

Again, i’s always autocorrect on iPhones.

Note: The blacked out part of the screen shot was a number. As soon as I added the number to the contacts, it displays the contact name instead of the number, and the “Back” changes to “Messages”.

The GPS thing could be a result of the device management software my firm is using.

“To add further confusion, I don’t know how Macs do screen shots, but Windows screenshots don’t include the cursor.”

Its a photograph of the screen taken with an iPhone. You can see that in the exif data.

Nope, you’re right, I was looking at the wrong arrow. That IS a mouse arrow.

Karl, third-party screen shot programs will show the cursor.

It seems silly to try to determine whether or not this test message exchange is real based on what you can see on the screens given that:
1. It is child’s play to fake this. (See comment #32, and there are no doubt other ways)
2. There is no way to validate the text exchange without access to the servers they traveled on (as pointed out in #17 and never going to happen)
In addition, Wakefield is already a proven liar. Why wouldn’t his acolytes be the same?

There is no way to validate the text exchange without access to the servers they traveled on

Or a forensic analysis of Andy Wakefield’s and/or William Thompson’s iPhone. Although it’s been pointed out that, contrary to its claims that it cannot, Apple can, if it wishes, retrieve iMessages, it is apparently not trivial for it to do, given end-to-end encryption iMessage uses. Obviously, it would take a subpoena to get Apple to do that, which just isn’t likely to happen. Nor is Wakefield or Thompson likely to give up his phone for a thorough forensic analysis.

Because the “iMessage” is located at the bottom, it shows that both Wakefield and Thompson have iPhones (otherwise it would just say Text Message)….

So does the blue color of the word balloons containing Wakefield’s texts. 🙂

“The GPS thing could be a result of the device management software my firm is using.” -Nevermind: It can be very confusing to reply to things without rereading the whole thread since your last post. 🙂

Also, I’m not sure the cursor is massively suspicious – it’s just a screenshot of the conversation from a computer screen – perhaps Wakefield took a photo of the screen to make it seem (somehow) more genuine, rather than just the screenshot as a raw image.

Yes, looking at the high resolution version of the image, I can now see pixels going off the sides and bottom of the image.

“third-party screen shot programs will show the cursor.”

Many can, yes, but the built in screenshot function of Windows used by the majority Windows users won’t.

So, let me see if I get this story straight:

Wakefield didn’t know how to take a screenshot from his iPhone, so how did he get it to the computer screen that he took the picture from?

I think we need to play “the Man from Missouri” on this one…if Wakefield wants to prove that this message change is real, then he needs to show the entire conversation.

And he also should really release the unedited audio, as well – since it seems that Thompson is okay with that now….

“Wakefield didn’t know how to take a screenshot from his iPhone, so how did he get it to the computer screen that he took the picture from?”

Wakefield emailed it to that blogger. She took a picture of her screen. She’s since added a copy of the screenshot to her blog.

I don’t understand how anyone can be saying “oh, that mouse cursor isn’t that suspicious, it’s just a screenshot of the conversation from the computer screen” – that doesn’t make any sense.

If you had real evidence of something, and wanted to convince others of its reality, you’d want to collect the best evidence of it happening – no unnecessary steps.

So for instance, suppose you had a text message conversation that you wanted to show people had happened, and you didn’t actually know how to take a screenshot of it with your phone. You might settle for grabbing some other camera and shooting a photo of the screen. So far so good.

But the iPhone wouldn’t generate a mouse cursor. Neither would the camera you were taking the picture with. The least elaborate scenario in which the cursor gets superimposed on the picture is one where the entire conversation that was to be recorded was already captured in a computer and being displayed on a screen – and then someone got out their camera and took a fuzzy picture of that.

Why?

If you have the image saved on a computer, you can share it endlessly and have no loss of fidelity. Why on earth would anyone who had real evidence and wanted to share it in order to convince people deliberately introduce a LARGE amount of image degradation by photographing the image on the computer screen?

You don’t do that if you want to convince people of the truth by providing them with the best evidence. You would do it, however, if the only evidence you had was sketchy and you needed to hide how sketchy it was.

Why do you think it is impossible (in today’s day and age, with Mega-Mega Pixel digital cameras & mobile devices), to catch non-blurry pictures of UFOs and Bigfoot?

For example the same reason you mention – they have something to hide. If the image was already on a computer, why not just email it – why take a picture?

Something is rotten (again) with this one….

Wakefield emailed it to that blogger. She took a picture of her screen. She’s since added a copy of the screenshot to her blog.

Exactly, it doesn’t make any sense.

Wakefield sends Farber a photo image by email.

She wants to show the world this photo image.

So she takes a photo of it on her screen??

And then posts that photo?

I’m sorry, I do not believe it. I believe in people who don’t know how to do screenshots. I believe in people who don’t know how to get a photo onto their blog. I just do not believe in people who can figure out how to take a picture file produced by their own camera and get it onto their blog but can’t figure out how to do it with a picture file provided to them via e-mail.

@Science Mom- Why would someone photograph a screenshot?

I wouldn’t deign to even try and answer that given the cast of clowns involved. But the one with the cursor in it is highly pixelated and looks like a photo of a computer.

Yup. That’s why I must beg to differ with Mr. Deer on this one. As I’ve pointed out multiple times, I could be off-base on this one. On the other hand, no one that I’ve been able to find has discussed these issues online other than believers in the vaccine-autism notion (I refuse to dignify it by calling it a hypothesis anymore), who are lapping up this text message exchange in spite of the multiple reasons to doubt its authenticity or, at the very least, to doubt whether it’s conveying the whole story.

At best (for Wakefield), it’s real (albeit almost certainly highly cherry picked). In that case, why e-mail it to Farber, and why would Farber need to take a picture of her computer screen when she has the PNG file of the screenshot, which could be shared or posted as desired? (iPhones produce PNG files of screenshots.) At worst, it’s a fake, either made with an iPhone text message generator or by Wakefield or someone else having a text exchange and then changing the contact name to “William.”

Hey, worst case scenario, I get a little mud on my face, but such is life. I’m willing to risk being wrong sometimes.

I’ve studied computer forensics. Small details like a mouse pointer appearing on a shot of an iPhone can make or break a case.

@Orac – perhaps it would force Wakefield to release the entire chain of text messages to provide context.

Again, the disjointed nature of the conversation doesn’t even make sense in the context in which Wakefield is giving…

Perhaps this might also force Thompson to either confirm that he has been in communication with Wakefield (thus weakening his case even further and potentially jeopardizing his status as a “whistleblower” under the statutes) or disavow any knowledge of this communication – thus declaring it to be a fake.

Who knows – but at the end of the day, the Anti-Vax nuts are just damaging their own credibility further (if that was even possible) by this drib / drab method of releasing information.

Why would “Doctor” Wakefield send the screenshot to The Truth Barrier, and not, say, AoA or Hooker? I don’t follow the anti-vax people in great detail, and I thought I knew most of the players. I’d never heard of The Truth Barrier, until now. If “Doctor” Wakefield did send it to someone else first, who, and why sent it to The Truth Barrier?

I don’t really care if it’s fake or real — my opinion of the parties involved is already low enough that neither option really hurts them. But the photo of a screen showing a text message chain . . . well. I like to read the blog <a href="http://thedailywtf.com/"thedailywtf.com and there’s a running gag involving this sort of not-quite-understanding-how-the-technology-works thing, which they call the “wooden table approach”. Here’s the original instance of it: Web 0.1

What happens on your iPhone if you are carrying on a text conversation that runs to multiple screens ?
Is it possible that iPhone uses “back” to take you back the start of the message session ?
Just wondering. I only have an old, outdated phone, not a smartphone.

@DLC – you just have to scroll back up with your finger….

Lots of really good points raised here that bring a lot of suspicion on the validity of the conversation….only Thompson now can confirm or deny in a way that would put this to rest.

Its a photograph of the screen taken with an iPhone. You can see that in the exif data.

Taken in Manhattan at 1:12 p.m. on September 2. Where did wakerscreenshot-393×700.jpg come from? Farber writes “the second one is a JPG, here,” but delivers photo-3.png. The JPG was created by Adobe Fireworks CS6.

Bit strange that quite a highly educated Brit would prefer “honorable” over “honourable”.

What I don’t understand if how an epidemiological study that finds a non-significant association between autism and MMR vaccines given in a specific time frame, in African-American boys, *could* possibly validate Andrew Wakefield’s ‘case series’ of an imaginary bowel syndrome in non-African American children. Forget whether the text messages are real, I can’t even follow the logic. The two studies are not even remotely similar, except in that they both contain the words ‘MMR’ and ‘autism’.

And even if Thompson believes in his heart that the DeStefano et al study was carried out wrongly, that has exactly fuck-all to do with the fact that Wakefield’s paper was fraudulent. Does Thompson think the GMC investigation was some kind of Big Pharma cover-up? No study, no matter how much it didn’t follow its own protocol, can validate Wakefield, BECAUSE WAKEFIELD MADE UP DATA. Even if the CDC turned around tomorrow and said, oops, yes, all autism is caused by MMR, it still wouldn’t make Andrew Wakefield less of a fraud. The idea that the DeStefano paper could’ve saved Wakefield’s career is simply delusional.

“but delivers photo-3.png. ”

She changed the photo she had there. The original photo there was

http://truthbarrier.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/09/photo-3-576×1024.png

It’s still on her server, but she appears to have pulled it.

It has been commented online that the dimensions of that first photo don’t make sense. They don’t match an iPhone screenshot.

And, why title an image “photo-3-576×1024.png” anyway? Why not take the title the iPhone gives you?

Re: “I wonder why there’s such a gap between the comments at 5:55 and 7:37–that “I forgive you complete and without any bitterness” seems to come out of nowhere, hours later.”

Not really so implausible. Wakefield sends “That was the right and honorable thing to do”, sets down his phone, and goes off to dinner at 6:00pm. A minute or two later, Thompson sends “I apologize again”. Wakefield doesn’t see it until he comes back from dinner at 7:57, when he picks up his phone, sees the (two hour old) message, and replies “I forgive you completely …”.

Bit strange that quite a highly educated Brit would prefer “honorable” over “honourable”.

Unless he’s been thoroughly Americanized in his more than a decade living in Texas, I guess.

I’m on an iPhone iOS 7.1.2. If someone texts from an email account the header when reading the text states “back “. If it’s a SMS from a phone, the header reads messages.

None of this validates the conversation which to me reads utterly fake. But maybe Andy has got so used to fawning admirers that he now thinks it’s how people speak.

-hi Andy you are completely correct I utterly validate you.

– gee thanks.

– no you were so totally rite and awesome

Do people really text like that? Also why no mention of ‘Oh by the way that press release where I make you look like a jerk – The Man Made Me Do it!’ as it would be likely to enter the conversation given the alleged texts were sent on the day of the release.

Personally I think Andy created an email account, christened it William and sent himself some texts.

Either way, if this is what Andy considers solid evidence these days, it shows pure desperation. iPhone screenshots??? The fact he’s even publicising this shows the depth to which he has fallen.

I meant to write–she seems to have pulled it from the blog article. The original is still, for now, on her server.

Notice that the border has been changed. It was black or very dark purple originally. Now it’s blue.

Why is she editing this? What’s the border supposed to look like?

Honestly, though, does it really matter whether this exchange is real or not? Even if Dr. Thompson genuinely feels guilty about not publishing that data b/c he believes that it was clinicaly significant and/or that it would have validated Wakefield’s fraudulent study, he’s still wrong, for all of the reasons Orac (and others) have already discussed.

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