Give yourself a minute to let this sink in: Jenny McCarthy has been hired by the Chicago Sun-Times to give parenting advice. According to the Washington Post, she’ll have a regular “Dear Jenny” advice column for the paper’s “Splash” magazine. She’ll also have a regular platform for talking about her ideas as the site’s parent blogger.
McCarthy is a comedian and actor and headline grabber and all that. But when most of us (especially parents) hear her name, the first thing we think of is vaccines and autism. More specifically, she thinks the former causes the latter. Which, of course, they don’t. But there’s no convincing Jenny of that.
And that’s a problem.
How could the Sun-Times even consider hiring her as a dispenser of advice? She continues to perpetuate ideas that are not just false, but harmfully so. Vaccination rates have been steadily dropping, and I’m sure that is in no small part due to the work of McCarthy. (I have no evidence to back that up, but that’s just me playing by McCarthy’s rules. It seeeeeems like there’s a connection; the one thing happened after the other.)
Around seven years ago, McCarthy’s son Evan was diagnosed with autism, McCarthy wrote in her memoir Louder Than Words. Like any parent, she went home and did some Googling after receiving the news. What she came across was a study by Andrew Wakefield, who claimed to have evidence for a link between shots and autism. Wakefield’s study and his fitness as a doctor were widely discredited less than three years ago. But McCarthy has continued to spout her beliefs. As recently as last year, she beat the drum over on Huffington Post, claiming that her son “regressed” after getting routine immunizations and calling into question their safety.
But the Sun-Times says adding Jenny to the payroll is just supposed to be fun and funny and lighthearted and hahahahaha. She won’t be writing about her medical intuitions or trying to back up fraudulent studies or any of that nonsense, so what’s the harm?
Here’s the harm: pertussis, measles, meningitis, to name a few. We once nearly eliminated measles but now the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report that the number of cases are on the upswing due to exposure among unvaccinated kids. Same with pertussis, aka: whooping cough. The number of cases are alarming – more than 32,000 cases and 16 deaths have been reported since the beginning of this year, according to the CDC. Whooping cough is showing up in communities where the number people who have been immunized against it falls below the threshold for herd protection.
McCarthy is a discredited believer of dangerous ideas and giving her a platform for reworking her brand — which was trashed by her quackery — is incredibly irresponsible. Until she recants her opinions and embraces the science publicly, she’s still the most famous face behind all the fears surrounding vaccines and autism.
By giving her an advice column, the Sun-Times is itself saying, at best, “so what?” At worst, it’s the paper saying it doubts the safety of vaccines, too.
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