True story: A friend of mine, who happens to be a journalist, had an interview with Jenny McCarthy (below) a while back. When I found out, I sent her a message that was along the lines of, “Ask her all about the anti-vaccine craziness or our friendship is over.”
Her response: She couldn’t do it because the “rules” of the interview said that topic was off-limits.
Turns out something similar was in place for The Daily Beast‘s Lloyd Grove, but he tried, anyway:
As soon as I raise the subject [of vaccines], McCarthy’s personal publicist — who is listening in on the interview from a few feet away — pounces. “Can we actually not go into this?” the publicist instructs, offering instead to provide a newspaper op-ed in which her client explains herself.
“I’ll hear the question, and then I’ll let you know,” McCarthy says gamely, adding with a confidential smile, “She’s worried about me being ‘vilified.’”
“I am not anti-vaccine,” McCarthy insists. “I’m in this gray zone of, I think everyone should be aware and educate yourself and ask questions. And if your kid is having a problem, ask your doctor for an alternative way of doing the shots” — for example, fewer vaccination doses at the same time.
“The ironic thing is my position has always remained the same. People just never listened to it,” she says. “Literally, throughout the years, I have said the same thing over and over again. But people will only read headlines instead of looking back and seeing what I’ve been saying.”
There’s no gray area. And we’ve all looked at what McCarthy has said. That’s the problem. (Maybe if McCarthy did as much research into vaccines as she’s asking everyone else to do of her, she wouldn’t be so vilified.)
This isn’t the first time she’s tried to defend herself against charges of spreading dangerous misinformation. There’s a litany of ignorant, harmful statements she’s made (in context) and you can read those for yourself.
But just to offer a few examples, she once claimed there was something wrong with children getting multiple shots in a single doctor visit, a statement she reiterated with Grove:
For my child, I asked for a schedule that would allow one shot per visit instead of the multiple shots they were and still are giving infants.
But the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention put that myth to rest a while ago:
The available scientific data show that simultaneous vaccination with multiple vaccines has no adverse effect on the normal childhood immune system. A number of studies have been conducted to examine the effects of giving various combinations of vaccines simultaneously. These studies have shown that the recommended vaccines are as effective in combination as they are individually, and that such combinations carry no greater risk for adverse side effects.
McCarthy also claimed:
I’ve never told anyone to not vaccinate.
Maybe not directly, no. But by spreading false information and implanting doubts about vaccines into the minds of gullible parents for years, she bears some responsibility for the spread of many preventable diseases.
She also thinks there’s something wrong with “toxins”:
We are demanding safe vaccines. We want to reduce the schedule and reduce the toxins
Phil Plait beautifully explained the problem with that logic (not to mention the hypocrisy) earlier this year:
… The amount of, say, formaldehyde in a typical vaccination is much less than you’d get eating an apple. The same can be shown for the other ingredients claimed to be toxins in vaccines as well. The truth is vaccines contain far too small a dose of any of these things to cause any of the problems McCarthy and other anti-vaxxers claim exist.
Also, botulinum is the single most lethal toxin known to humans. Yet McCarthy has enthusiastically praised injecting this toxin into her face. How can anyone possibly say that and also say vaccines have dangerous levels of toxins in them with a straight face?
The most damning statement she made was to Time magazine’s science editor Jeffrey Kluger in 2009. McCarthy explained it this way:
“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.”
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 [fucking] measles.
As if it’s an either/or choice. Can’t imagine why McCarthy left that line out…
Ultimately, McCarthy’s views have not changed and her critics are not wrong. We call her an anti-vaxxer not because she opposes all vaccines at all times, but because she has been the biggest promoter of discredited theories about them. Whether it’s her goal or not, her actions have encouraged parents to put their children — and other people’s children — in harm’s way because they’re not giving their kids the protection they need.
McCarthy thinks she’s in a superior “gray zone” between the “black and white” thinking of giving children all the vaccines when the doctors say so and being labeled a wingnut:
God help us all if gray is no longer an option.
Guess what? It’s not an option. Much like evolution and Creationism, it makes no sense to be on the fence. Either you accept the science or you reject it.
McCarthy rejects the science — and thinks she deserves credit for just asking questions. Even though those questions were answered a long time ago and she just wasn’t happy with the responses. If Jenny McCarthy is not “anti-vaccine,” then Ken Ham must be the greatest advocate of evolution we’ve ever seen.
In the meantime, the Jenny McCarthy Body Count will continue to rise until she comes to her senses and rejects the harmful beliefs that she still holds.