TIME Opinion

That Moment When You Must Have a Word With Jenny McCarthy

Jenny McCarthy hawking something that is not, for the moment, bad science.
Jenny McCarthy hawking something that is not, for once, bad science. Andrew Toth; Getty Images

The Playboy model and chat show host tries to whitewash her anti-vaccine stand. But there's no ducking the misinformed things she's said.

Dear Jenny:

Look, it’s clear we haven’t always gotten along, and it was never likely we would. You believe vaccines cause autism, that they are related to OCD, ADHD and other physical and behavioral ills, that they are overprescribed, teeming with toxins, poorly regulated and that the only reason we keep forcing them into the sweet, pristine immune systems of children is because doctors, big pharma and who-knows what-all sinister forces want it that way. I live on Earth.

Yes, I have often called you out by name, never favorably, and you’ve always left me alone—until today at least, when you name-checked me in a jaw-droppingly disingenuous piece you wrote in the Chicago Sun-Times, trying to launder your long, deeply troubling, anti-vaccine history. You quote yourself from earlier interviews in which you said:

“People have the misconception that we want to eliminate vaccines,” I told Time Magazine science editor Jeffrey Kluger in 2009. “Please understand that we are not an anti-vaccine group. We are demanding safe vaccines. We want to reduce the schedule and reduce the toxins.”

That’s absolutely true, you did say those things. But let’s take a look at some of the other things you said in that same interview, such as the way you responded when I asked you about the outbreaks of polio that have occurred in Africa, Asia and American Amish communities when vaccines are not administered:

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 f*cking fault that the diseases are coming back. They’re making a product that’s sh*t. If you give us a safe vaccine, we’ll use it. It shouldn’t be polio versus autism.

Then there was your answer when I asked you if you didn’t believe (like the overwhelming majority of doctors, research institutions and medical journals everywhere on the planet) that the rise in the incidence of autism has nothing to do with vaccines and is just a result of better recognition of autism symptoms, a widening of the diagnostic criteria for the condition and, as often happens, some overdiagnosing too:

All you have to do is find a schoolteacher or principal and ask them that question. They would say they’ve never seen so much ADHD, autism, OCD as in the past. I think we’re overdiagnosing it by maybe 1%. Now you look around and there are five shadows — kids with disabilities — in every class.

And about that line in which you claimed not to be anti-vaccine. Let’s take a look at the entire quote:

People have the misconception that we want to eliminate vaccines. Please understand that we are not an antivaccine group. We are demanding safe vaccines. We want to reduce the schedule and reduce the toxins. If you ask a parent of an autistic child if they want the measles or the autism, we will stand in line for the f*cking measles.

Yes, and if you ask people whether they’d prefer witches to be burned at the stake or their community to be demonically possessed, they’ll stand in line for the witch burnings too. But they don’t have to make that choice because witchcraft is make-believe, as is your anti-vaccine nonsense.

Jenny, as outbreaks of measles, mumps and whooping cough continue to appear in the U.S.—most the result of parents refusing to vaccinate their children because of the scare stories passed around by anti-vaxxers like you—it’s just too late to play cute with the things you’ve said. You are either floridly, loudly, uninformedly antivaccine or you are the most grievously misunderstood celebrity of the modern era. Science almost always prefers the simple answer, because that’s the one that’s usually correct. Your quote trail is far too long—and you have been far too wrong—for the truth not to be obvious.

Sincerely,

Jeff

 

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