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Jenny McCarthy Calls Autism Retraction Censorship

By Sierra Black |


Jenny McCarthy

When the Lancet fully retracted Andrew Wakefield’s controversial study linking autism to vaccines, most of the scientific community breathed a huge sigh of relief. Now we can move on to other topics, right? Like finding a real cure for autism?

Not quite yet. Some people stood right by Wakefield and his controversial research. And Jenny McCarthy and Jim Carrey came out swinging, calling the Lancet’s retraction “censorship”.

Jenny, honey, the science has left the building. Why are you still here?

When Wakefield’s autism research was first published in 1998, it was taken seriously. Doctors, scientists and government agencies all over the world launched further research into the claims. Japan and Norway suspended the MMR vaccine from their vaccine schedules for several years while investigating its safety.

They all came up empty-handed. No one other than Wakefield was able to demonstrate any link between autism and either the MMR vaccine or the trace amounts of mercury used as a preservative in vaccines. The countries with the highest autism rates, in fact, were ones that had never allowed the suspect preservative thimerisol to be used in their vaccines.

Even as study after study was debunking the potential links between autism and vaccines, a movement was gaining ground among worried parents eager to safeguard their children.

Fine. I get that. Ten years ago, reading about the ‘vaccine controversy’ in newspapers, I thought the case for a vaccine-autism link sounded pretty plausible too.

But it doesn’t now. The Lancet retraction came on the heels of Britain’s General Medical Council finding that Wakefield had acted unethically in conducting the research that led to his original 1998 paper linking vaccines with autism. These two events should be the final nails in the coffin of Wakefield’s research.

But Wakefield’s got starlets on his side. Jenny McCarthy still believes in him, and she thinks you should, too. Motherlode ran a guest post from a mom whose child suffers from autism a few weeks ago about why you shouldn’t.

One commenter likened McCarthy to a snake-oil salesmen, and the comparison is pretty apt. Like those charlatans of yesteryear, both Wakefield and McCarthy, as his very visible, vocal supporter, are offering suffering families a false hope of a fast, easy cure to a terrible illness. Most kids won’t be helped by Wakefield’s methods, and McCarthy’s antics distract from the real, slow, boring work being done by doctors and scientists, work that has a far better chance of ultimately helping kids with autism.

Some of that science has also been published this week, showing a link between advanced maternal age and autism.

Photo: Wikipedia

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About Sierra Black


Sierra Black

Sierra Black lives, writes and raises her kids in the Boston area. She loves irreverence, hates housework and wants to be a writer and mom when she grows up. Read bio and latest posts → Read Sierra's latest posts →

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32 thoughts on “Jenny McCarthy Calls Autism Retraction Censorship

  1. PlumbLucky says:

    Hence why I tend to take anything that is backed by a celebrity with a serious grain of salt. (And I love the line about “science has left the building”.)

  2. Mistress_Scorpio says:

    I’m not surprised that Jenny McCarthy isn’t going to let go of this. She’s done the sex symbol thing, she’s done the toilet humor thing, she did the parenting thing, and now she’s gonna ride this autism thing into another career resurgence.

  3. Laure68 says:

    Mistress_Scorpio – don’t forget the whole “I’m an indigo mother and my child is a crystal” thing, which is what she did before she accepted the fact that her child is autistic.

    This is a typical tactic from those who do not have science on their side. They say they are being persecuted by the establishment. When there are no facts they can rely on, they have to either accept the facts or resort to the martyr routine.

  4. Emily says:

    She bugs me. There’s no link and yet she clings to it, despite the fact that she didn’t even TRY to breastfeed (she says as much in her belly laughs book) and there is science to back up what bad/poorly mixed formula can do to a child’s developing brain. (I’m not blaming formula or carelessness for her child’s autism – merely pointing out that there are other potential factors she refuses to see.)

    Until she has M.D. after her name (her or Jim Carrey, I’m not picky) I refuse to acknowledge their opinions of vaccines.

  5. Mistress_Scorpio says:

    Laure68, I’m afraid I’m simply cynical about her behavior… I see dollar signs in her eyes. As far as martyrdom, she can get off the cross… we need the wood.

  6. Laure68 says:

    Mistress – I totally agree with you. She tried the indigo mother thing and didn’t get enough attention from it, so she went to this. The most amazing thing to me is that it took her years to accept that her son was autistic, yet she now claims she could tell the MMR shot made her son autistic the minute he received it. ugh

  7. engfant says:

    Jenny, VITAMIN D/sun exposure is your answer. Dermatologists/sun screen are your enemy.

  8. Mistress_Scorpio says:

    Laur68, I see your point now… missed it first time, sorry!
    Furthermore, why is it that people cry censorship when no one is preventing their free speech? No one owes anyone a microphone, a stage, a broadcast or the legitimacy conferred when their writing is published by a reputed journal.

  9. Anya says:

    Umm…Engfant you’re kidding right? Vitamin D and safe sun exposure can help prevent rickets if you’re in a risk group, among other things, but kids need sunscreen and safe sun exposure.

  10. Irene says:

    THANK YOU SO SO MUCH for explaining so perfectly why I cannot stand Jenny McCarthy. Frankly I’d like to see her son, hear him speak – so I can see what she considers “cured”. There is NO SUCH THING & all she does is irritate the rest of us parents of children with autism. Why is she the only one that has a “cured” child?! She’s a lowlife who uses this sad diagnostic to further her career. I wish someone would challenge her ON OPRAH.

  11. Sierra Black says:

    Irene: her being on Oprah is exactly what drives me nuts. It’s one thing to make a mistake like this in the privacy of your own home – I’m sure there are lots of things I’m irrational and wrong-headed about. But making a mistake like this all over the national media produces a body count and a lot of broken-hearted parents.

    BTW, Wikipedia suggests that her son’s autism was misdiagnosed, and he really suffers from Landau–Kleffner syndrome.

  12. [...] to add to the ongoing debate about autism this week, even with these staggering statistics, experts, like Janie F. Shelton, a graduate [...]

  13. Andrew says:

    The retraction of the paper Wakefield was paid by lawyers to write is a good thing for all children, and especially children with autism. My only complaint is that it took 12 years for this corrupt doctor to get caught and exposed for the fraud that he is. He is responsible for the suffering of autistic children who received his bogus treatments instead of actually helpful ones; he is also responsible for the death and disease which resulted from the fears he manufactured.

  14. Tom says:

    Contra Katie Wright, Jenny McCarthy et al are not “drawing attention to children in crisis.” (Way to try and reframe the issue, Katie.) These people are, instead, promoting bad science and false hope.

    Similarly, Andrew Wakefield is not interested in “helping our kids.” He’s an unethical opportunist who hopes to make lotsa money from desperate parents. Ditto for the Geiers, Boyd Haley, et al.

    It’s time to abandon the “vaccines cause autism” claims and look somewhere else. No link has been found except in the worst of the studies — those that were designed to find a link no matter what.

    The Katie Wrights of the world will never be convinced that they’re wrong. But that’s OK. Articles like this aren’t meant for them. They’re meant for those casual observers who maybe have heard a little about the issue and wonder what it’s all about. Please folks: Don’t rely on anti-vax sites like Age of Autism for your information.

    The anti-vaxers know that their time in the sun has come and gone. That’s why their small remnant is raging so virulently. If you really want to see the crazy, check out the comments section at Age of Autism and similar places. And prepare for the shock you’ll receive when you realize that these people actually BELIEVE what they’re saying.

    And — hard as it may be for Katie Wright to believe — not only do I have a child on the autism spectrum, I also don’t work for a pharmaceutical company.

  15. The Domestic Goddess says:

    Katie: I do. I know what it is like. I have two children with autism. ANd guess what? They have bowel problems, stim, flap, have meltdowns and I STILL THINK JENNY IS A FLAKE.
    She has no clue what she is talking about. She knows nothing of science or medicine. There is abso-smurfly no proof that these vaccines do this to children.
    The MMR shot is NOT responsible for 1 in 155. She is drawing attention to the wrong things. I don’t want people thinking my kids are poor, sickly, awful kids who need curing. Because they are awesome, smart, wonderful, fabulous kids. I never, ever hear her get out there are speak out about that!

  16. give it a rest says:

    @Katie Wright: I actually do have an autistic daughter. And I’m a doctor. Wakefield’s research, purely and simply, was fraudulent, and the man is ethically bankrupt. I’m certainly sorry that your son has had GI issues, but studies have shown no increase in gut issues in autistic kids above gut issues in neurotypical kids (that’s right, “normal” kids get serious GI issues too). Wakefield’s “autistic enterocolitis” is a fairytale. As for Jenny McCarthy: clueless idiot. She opens her mouth and torrents of stupid flow forth. If you think she’s your advocate, you really should rethink your views on science and public health.

  17. Corina Becker says:

    As an autistic adult, all I can say is that Jenny McCarthy needs to read a dictionary, and thank god that Wakefield’s paper was retracted. I don’t suffer from being autistic, aka from being myself. I struggle to gain supports when all the attention and funding for the supports and help I need are being distracted by people like Jenny and Wakefield.

    So, in short, good riddance to bad rubbish!

  18. Grendel says:

    As another parent of a child with autism I applaud this article. Jenny McCarthy is a distraction from the real work that needs to be done and has dragged badly needed funds away from real research into the morass of quackery she spruiks for.

    She demonstrates a complete lack of candour on the Wakefield issue – that or a level of intellectual paucity rarely seen even among the most vapid starlets.

  19. tia says:

    This is so sad the way most of you sit in judgement of another person , a mother. It’s so easy to move on when the “Medical Professionals” keep telling us it’s NOT them or worse THE DRUG COMPANIES ! Doctors and Researchers are not GODS. Keep perspective, open minded , and be your own devils advocate that’s how we evolve.

  20. AutismNewsBeat says:

    Methinks Katie Wright projects too much.

  21. Chris Lamb says:

    “Jenny, honey, the science has left the building. Why are you still here?”

    That sound you here is a thousand science-bloggers shaking their fist in the air at not thinking of that line first… brilliant.

  22. Eric says:

    I’ll always remember watching a speech Robert Kennedy Jr. gave (not someone I usually align with) about pollution and being right on board with him. That the air and water are common public goods and the cost of cleaning them should be borne by those that pollute them. Right on! That “Big Mercury” was giving our kids autism. What!?!?! It was a very odd speech, and it reminded me that he has quite a few loose screws. “Big Mercury” indeed.

  23. Laure68 says:

    Why is it that people who do not believe in science (like tia) insist on punctuating their posts with all caps?

    But seriously, the old “big pharma, medical community, etc. is evil” doesn’t really make any sense. (Drug companies make very little from vaccines.) It is just something to say when there is actually no real evidence on your side.

    In any case, this is definitely not censorship. Jenny and Jim need to find a dictionary. This study should have never been published in the first place. If someone else now tries to publish a study and a journal finds the methods/results to not follow basic ethical/scientific practices, will that author now cry “censorship”?

  24. [...] Jenny McCarthy Calls Autism Retraction Censorship (featuring the immortal words “science has left the building”) [...]

  25. [...] Jenny McCarthy Calls Autism Retraction Censorship (featuring the immortal words “science has left the building”) [...]

  26. Marj says:

    Being a Devil’s advocate means arguing for the sake of the argument, not actually being an advocate for anything. I love research. I spend a lot of time doing it for fun. However, I am not a medical professional or a scientist, and I would never claim that some research online, in a library or even in medical magazines would qualify me to present myself as an arbiter of medical knowledge. The problem with people relying on their own research rather than science or medicine is that they do not have the training or education to fully understand their research. I say that as one of them. I am an English major. The ability to write research papers on Byronic heroes or discuss The Wife of Bath may make me somewhat educated but it does not qualify me as a doctor.

  27. [...] some of you thought I was being mean to her last week after she called the Lancet’s retraction of Andrew Wakefield’s controversial [...]

  28. [...] This link round-up starts with my first staff post at GRS, and then moves on to Strollerderby, where my hottest post for the past few weeks has been another righteous rant – this one about Jenny McCarthy’s crazy anti-vaccine campaign. [...]

  29. [...] McCarthy talks autism, parenting and science with Time magazine this week. I recently asked why Jenny still says vaccines cause autism when the science has so clearly left the building. She answers that question and many others in her [...]

  30. [...] Jenny McCarthy Calls Autism Retraction Censorship SHARETHIS.addEntry({ title: "Museum Says Member Cards Not Safe for Kids", url: "" }); Related Posts:Why Jenny McCarthy Matters [...]

  31. Aladaham says:

    I came here following Nostrum, who pestod to my blog. Jenny is now part of the AoA Collective, where they all think with one mind. I am proudly banned from posting there, as they clearly do not like my take-no-prisoners style. Jenny IS toxic, and detrimental to the health of children. I am decidedly pro-vaccine, and am annoyed at Amanda Peet for appologizing for calling non-vaccinators parasites. Nice perspectives on living with Autism. While neither of my boys are autistic, both grew up with severe disabilities, and I see so many similarities with what parents of autistic kids deal with it is astounding.

  32. Anna says:

    I am the Mother of two teenage boys who are on the autism spectrum. One has Aspergers, the other has Non-verbal learning disorder. And they are wonderful, caring, genius kids who are a gift to this world. As are all children. The idea that my children need to be “cured” is ridiculous! We are all born with our own quirks and hurdles to jump. That does not mean that there is something “wrong” with us, it just means we are all unique and some of us may require more support from our community than others. That is what community is for…to support one another, not to label and chastise when someone does not fit the “ideal person” mold.

    And that is what Jenny, and that whole movement seem to be trying to do. Rather than embracing and supporting the uniqueness of those with autism, they are trying to find someone to blame. It kind of seems to me like the this is the falseness of Hollywood invading autism. The idea that it must be someone’s fault, and there must be a cure, because everyone can be perfect with a bit of a nip, tuck, and no food for the rest of your life. But you know, right now autism does not need a cure, it needs research, and understanding, and support.

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