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Jenny McCarthy, Dispenser of Dangerous Ideas, Lands Gig as Advice Columnist

By Madeline Holler |

jenny mccarthy, immunizations and autism

Here’s Jenny McCarthy raising money for autism charities. Catch her in the Chicago Sun-Times trying to distance herself from her quacky ideas.

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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About Madeline Holler


Madeline Holler

Madeline Holler is a writer, journalist, and blogger. She has written for Babble since the site launched in 2006. Her writing has appeared in various other publications both online and in print, including Salon and True/Slant (now Forbes). A native of the Midwest, Madeline lives, writes, and parents in Southern California, where she's raising two daughters and a son. Read bio and latest posts → Read Madeline's latest posts →

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3 thoughts on “Jenny McCarthy, Dispenser of Dangerous Ideas, Lands Gig as Advice Columnist

  1. The Mommy Psychologist says:

    It took us so long in the field to get rid of the myth that autism was caused by “cold mothering.” Decades to get rid of this false idea. It looks like it is going to take us even longer to get rid of the myth that vaccines cause autism. It is unfortunate because in the meantime childhood diseases that had nearly been eradicated continue to rise. As does the incidence of autism even though more and more parents choose not to have their kids vaccinated.

    “The child psychologist who thought she had all the answers to parenting until she became one herself.”

  2. CW says:

    You are the one who needs to get your facts straight. The recent pertussis epidemic in CA was almost exclusively found in two groups: migrants from Mexico and adolescents who had previously been immunized but whose immunity wore off and had not received a booster shot. Only a tiny fraction of the population of kindergartners in CA are no-vaxxers (about 3%), yet they are the ones being scapegoated by the media :-(

  3. Katie Wright says:

    Jenny McCarthy exerts more time and energy actually helping struggling families with autism than the AAP. Her organization offers free mentoring, free a free 7 day autism conference in which Moms have a chance to connect and learn about IEPs, insurance issues, educational rights, dealing with picky eaters, breaking the night wakefulness cycle, debilitating GI disease and how to deal with it, ways Moms can take care of themselves as they hold their families together….We have almost 2.5 million American families living with this very difficult and often heart breaking disorder. Many of our kids have had life threatening seizures and are in and out of the hospitals with chronic illness.
    So rather than sitting back and doing nothing, like most doctors, Jenny is actually helping our families and I am very grateful.

    What has Babble done to help these families?

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