I try to be open-minded. But when I heard yesterday's news
that actress/game show host/author/pseudo famous person Jenny McCarthy had been
plucked by Barbara Walters to co-host The
View, I didn't feel so open-minded. In fact, I felt pretty disappointed in the show's creator and producer,
Barbara Walters. As a mom and as a
professional in a position of power, Barbara should know better than to give
someone a platform who has used her fame to spread falsehoods and misinformation
that have adversely affected all of our children.
For those of you unfamiliar with Ms. McCarthy's views on
childhood immunizations, she's against them. McCarthy has made her protest of
vaccinations—stating they cause autism in children—a national cause by
attaching her face and name to the cause. But when refuted with accurate
information based in science, she simply says, "Bullshit!" or threatens
naysayers with "an angry mob."
As the mother of an autistic son, McCarthy is convinced her
son's vaccinations caused his disease. Sure she'd found autism's smoking gun,
McCarthy became the voice of the anti-immunization movement and was one of the
main forces behind the vitriolic and uninformed dialogue that reached a fever
pitch just a few short years ago.
If you think McCarthy's decision to spearhead an
anti-vaccination movement is her prerogative as a parent, you're wrong. If you don't vaccinate your children, that
directly affects my children, whether they ever come in contact or not. It's
both ignorant and selfish to raise your children vaccination-free. Without
vaccinations, our children would be stricken with everything from measles to
polio. By not vaccinating your children, you're depending on me to vaccinate
mine or risk an outbreak.
It all started in 1998 when British gastroenterologist
Andrew Wakefield co-opted the findings of a young grad student who worked in
his lab. The research had nothing to do with vaccinations and autism, but
Wakefield held a press conference and made a leap, linking the MMR vaccine
given to young children and autism. What
he didn't tell the world in that press conference was that he was being paid by
a lawyer suing vaccination companies and was using the false information to
help his case.
A worldwide panic ensued. Doctors and parents alike became
terrified of immunizations. Worse yet, the debate became heated. The anti-vaccination movement, led by
McCarthy, marched on Washington and encouraged parents to stop vaccinating
their kids. And parents did. The heated
debate became a frenzy ending with the first rise in cases of diseases like
polio and measles in over 30 years.
At this point, McCarthy could have read the same research you or I did and realized there was no link between autism and immunizations.
Despite the research being refuted in 2004, McCarthy appeared in a teary-eyed interview on a 2007 episode of The Oprah Winfrey Show on which she stated her case linking autism and vaccinations. Asked about the CDC's recent refuting of any link between autism and vaccinations, McCarthy responded, "My science is Evan," meaning her son. In response, many parents rejected the CDC's findings and chose to go with McCarthy's findings.
You may say that McCarthy isn't responsible for the choices
of the viewers, and you may be right. Except due to the anti-vaccination
movement led by McCarthy, children were dying. At this point, McCarthy could have
read the same research you or I did and realized there was no link between
autism and immunizations. Two years
later, she could have read the fabulous Newsweek cover story of 2009 called
"Anatomy of a Scare," which carefully detailed all sides of the autism debate. But
she didn't, because her science is her son, who last I checked has never been to
By giving McCarthy a daily pulpit to speak to moms, Barbara
Walters, ABC, and the producers of The
View are giving a platform to someone who has refuted science, who has
helped influence parents to make decisions that have killed their children. I understand hiring a co-host for her
ability to get ratings, but hiring McCarthy feels irresponsible and
manipulative. We're all supposed to tune
in to see what she says. Meanwhile, some viewer is going to be believe her when
she says, "Don't vaccinate your kids." Was there no other inflammatory host
available, or is ABC and Walters hoping McCarthy starts up the vaccination
debate again so we can all tune in to hate her? Regardless, there has to be
another way to get ratings than by spewing lies and giving an uninformed person
a platform to preach.
I've watched Barbara Walters since I was a kid. Up until now,
I've admired her. She seemed to always take a stand whether it be for women, or
for a news story she believed in. But
now, it seems like the only thing Walters believes in is ratings. Jenny
McCarthy isn't inflammatory, she's offensive and she's uninformed. But don't
believe me; read the research and ask your doctor. That is, unless you think
science is bullshit.