October 29, 2007, - 8:26 am

Bimbo Science: “Doctor” Jenny McCarthy & The New McCarthyism

By Debbie Schlussel
You’ve heard of “junk science.” Now there’s a new form, which I call “Bimbo Science.”
The latest (and maybe the first of many such bims to come) “scientist” to come along and dismiss accepted, proven medicine is former Playboy model, Playboy video star, and all around blow-up doll Jenny McCarthy. She’s parading around all the usual shows that welcome Bimbo Science–Oprah, The View, etc.–claiming that vaccines caused her son’s autism.
But while the “New McCarthyist” has a medical degree from the University of Google, Dr. Ari Brown, a Medical Doctor, pediatrician, and fellow of the American Academy of Pediatrics exposes McCarthy’s many lies and idiocy in one of the best Wall Street Journal op-eds I’ve read in a while (among many excellent ones).

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Smackdown:

Dr. Ari Brown’s Brain KOs Jenny McCarthy’s Silicone “Medicine”

Dr. Brown refers to Jenny McCarthy as an “actress.” That’s being charitable. But who knew America would actually be taking medical advice from this bim?:

Dangerous vaccines that harm kids. An epidemic of disabled children, hurt by an uncaring medical establishment.
Sounds like a B-grade Hollywood thriller. But this is supposedly a true story as told by actress Jenny McCarthy, author of the best seller, “Louder Than Words: A Mother’s Journey in Healing Autism.”
When I heard Ms. McCarthy tell Oprah and Larry King that vaccines caused her son’s autism, I had a flashback to a cold winter’s night, 13 years ago. I was the senior pediatric resident on call in the Intensive Care Unit. Cradled in the arms of her parents, a seven-year-old girl was brought to the emergency room at Children’s Hospital Boston. The girl had come down with chickenpox a few days earlier — she had a fever and hundreds of itchy skin lesions. That night, she had taken a turn for the worse. Her fever shot up to 106 and she became confused and lethargic. She was unresponsive and limp in her mother’s arms.
The ER doctors suspected that her open sores allowed Strep bacteria to get under her skin and rage through her bloodstream. Now she was in “multiple system organ failure” — every square inch of her body was shutting down all at once. IVs were placed into her veins to start fluids, antibiotics and medications to stabilize her heart and blood pressure. She was placed on a ventilator machine to breathe. Then she was brought to the Intensive Care Unit.
By the time I met my patient, she had tubes coming out of every opening and weeping skin lesions all over her body. I was used to blood and gore, but it was hard to look at her and not cry. Imagine how her parents felt when they saw their once-beautiful little girl in this grotesque state, struggling to survive.
My attending physician told me to grab dinner. This child would need me for the rest of the night. I returned to the ICU to find that my patient had gone into cardiac arrest and died. I watched, helplessly, as the nurses placed the little girl into a body bag.
Fast forward five months: The first chickenpox vaccine was approved. That day, I vowed never to let a child on my watch suffer from a disease that was preventable by vaccination.
That’s a story that doesn’t grab headlines or guest shots on Larry King. Vaccines are one of mankind’s greatest scientific achievements. This year alone, they prevented 14 million infections, $40 billion in medical costs, and most important, 33,000 deaths. Yet vaccines are victims of their own success. Today’s parents are unfamiliar with the diseases they prevent, but these diseases are alive and well in the U.S. — I have personally seen children suffer from them.
Call it the New McCarthyism: Who cares about 100 years of scientific research? Vaccines are evil, because the Internet says they are. When a well-meaning parent like Ms. McCarthy blames vaccines for her child’s autism, it’s dangerous. Celebrity books come and go, but the anxiety they create lives on in pediatricians’ offices across the country. A small but growing number of parents are even lying about their religious beliefs to avoid having their children vaccinated, thanks in part to the media hysteria created by this book.
Parents go through stages of grief when their child is diagnosed with a disorder like autism. We all want to blame someone for our suffering. That’s understandable. Was there something we could have done as parents to prevent this? But why hasn’t the media called out Ms. McCarthy on all the medical inaccuracies in her book? Has anyone actually read it? I have — cover to cover. Here are two revealing points:
Ms. McCarthy told Oprah that her son was a normal toddler until he received his Measles, Mumps and Rubella vaccine (at 15 months of age). Soon after — boom — the soul is gone from his eyes. Yet she contradicts herself in her book: “My friends’ babies all cracked a smile way before Evan did . . . he was almost five months old.” Which is it? Was he normal until his MMR vaccine or were some of the signs missed before he got that shot?
Ms. McCarthy also contends that mercury in vaccines caused damage to her son’s gut and immune system, leading to autism. Yet the mercury preservative Ms. McCarthy assails was removed from the childhood vaccination series in 2001. Her son, Evan, was born in 2002. It’s hard to trust Ms. McCarthy’s medical degree from the University of Google — she comments about the Hepatitis C vaccine that wreaked havoc on a friend’s child. An inconvenient truth: There is no Hepatitis C vaccine.
Doctors do need to do a better job of guiding families through the maze of autism treatments. I also desperately want to know why autism happens and how to treat it. But let’s put our energy into funding autism research and treatment, not demonizing our vaccination program.
Ms. McCarthy is in the trenches, fighting for her son. I, too, am fighting. I am on the front lines everyday, trying to keep our kids healthy and protected. And, after all I have seen, one thing is certain — I’ve vaccinated my own kids and would do it again in a heartbeat.

Readers, Dr. Brown exposes the type of “medical advice” and Bimbo Science the Oprah, The View, and Larry King viewers in your life are getting.
While life often imitates art, it’s sad that the world of “Idiocracy” is already this dominant.

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Idiocracy: Millions of American Women Are Taking Medical Advice From Her

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24 Responses

Debbie,
AWESOME column, GREAT advice. As a mom of a 7yr old I went thru the same fears of having my son vaccinated and knowing other parents who chose not to and even some who blamed the vaccinations on their child’s problems. I chose to vaccinate my son and am very glad I did.
The diseases are much worse than the fear of the vaccinations, fortunately I followed my doctor’s advice. These diseases are horrible and can easily be prevented with a vaccine.
Shame on the fear-mongers who have the stage because they are Hollywood “stars”. Shame on the Oprah’s who help them out.

piratelady on October 29, 2007 at 10:14 am

Outstanding article. I’m the father of a 3 year old and he hasn’t missed any vaccinations nor will he. He’s healthy and bright and very active.
When I need advice on a car problem, I go to a mechanic. When I need medical advice, I go the the appropriate doctor/dentist/surgeon/etc. I just don’t get the people that listen to a Playboy Playmate/actress/bim for important matters like this. I’m sorry that her child contracted autism, but don’t just lash out at immunizations when you could be carrying the gene that causes it.

hockeykevin on October 29, 2007 at 10:39 am

While I would not cite Jenny McCarthy to espouse this position, there are PLENTY of scientific studies that suggest that mercury contained in the Thimerosal preservative which used to be in vaccines until recently have, in fact, played some role in the rise in autism rates.
My wife and I had our first son injected with every recommended vaccine. He is now autistic. We were more selective with our next two children, and we insisted that any vaccination would have to be done with a vaccine that did not contain thimerosal.
I’m not saying that we should look to Jenny McCarthy as an appropriate expert. I’m just saying that there is a lot of scientific evidence to suggest she’s right.

Hourman on October 29, 2007 at 11:43 am

I happened to catch McCarthy’s appearance on ‘The View’ and what I recall was her saying that there was no certainty to any one single cause and that autism might be attributable to several causes potentially acting in concert. She added that your physician should be consulted, and my take away was that she was not absolute for the cause of autism, just that you be aware and ask questions.
Not bad advice.

zyzzyg on October 29, 2007 at 1:41 pm

I’m a law student, not a medical expert, but I would venture to guess that there were many other factors that led to this boy’s autism. We have family friends with an autistic child, and it usually works out that mothers who have kids at an older age have a much greater chance of having a child that is either autistic or retarded/suffering from Down’s Syndrome.
As to McCarthy’s advice to not vaccinnate kids, I would recommend you talk to public health officials who live in 3rd world hellholes that still have some of these diseases. Having vaccinations like these required is one of the things that gives us First World status. You don’t see leper colonies, small pox outbreaks, etc. here in the states. The chances of an unvaccinated kid getting some illness he just shouldn’t get are much greater than the kid developing autism.

JasonBourne81 on October 29, 2007 at 1:58 pm

A woman who peels off her clothes for money is hardly my idea of a source for medical advice! What are people thinking?
Debbie, you mentioned the University of Google – is there really such a school? I thought for sure that the first mention of it was just a joke, but then Dr. Brown also mentioned it. What/where is this place?
[DR. D: DEFINITELY A JOKE. DR. BROWN'S JOKE, WHICH I REPEATED IN THE INTRO TO HER PIECE. BUT THE WAY OUR SOCIETY IS GOING, DON'T BE SURPRISED IF IN 100 YEARS, THERE ACTUALLY IS A UNIVERSITY OF GOOGLE. SEE THE MOVIE "IDIOCRACY" AND YOU'LL SEE IT'S PROBABLY NOT SO FARFETCHED. DS]

Dr. D on October 29, 2007 at 2:23 pm

Good for you DebbieÖ taking the time, and making the effort to fight ALL FORMS of idiocy, whenever you come across them. Itís amazing what people will believe, and what trend they will follow,on the advice of the ìstarsî.
I once rented a house from a very intelligent, chartered accountant who was a ìveganî. No meat etc., you know the drill. But he gave it all up one day because a nurse was bold enough to show him the ìtruthî and consequences of his beliefs.
John had given blood at a nearby clinic responding to their cry for blood and immediately found out that his donation was refused. Here is a guyÖ eating healthy everything, and he was told his blood was just no good!
He was floored.
The thoughtful nurse took him over their testing area and showed him some simple science. Vile of water, one drop of his vegan blood, and lookÖ it floats on the top. Again, another vile of water, one drop non-vegan, or ìnormalî blood, and look it sinks to the bottom.
Johnís blood didnít cut it because it lacked a rather basic, but critical, and healthy density.
But John was smart enough to change, and he started eating meat etc. after that.
I hope the TV crowd and other simpletons hear your rebuttal and your quoting of this good doctor repeated on some national programme, (this issue actually NEEDS international attention) so that some of these ìdummiesî and their children may be saved from their own whimsical ìignoranceî ~

The Canadien on October 29, 2007 at 2:50 pm

Years ago, I interviewed a woman in San Antonio whose three children had taken the vaccines. The daughter was fine while the sons became autistic. I kept in touch with this woman, and she said that while she believed the vaccines caused her sons’ autism, she had no explanation for why her daughter–getting the same vaccine and being blood-related to her sons–didn’t have autism, nor was she able to conclude in her exhaustive research that it was the vaccine that caused her sons’ problems.

richardzowie on October 29, 2007 at 3:34 pm

You have forgotten to even mention the guru of tha vaccine/autism conspiracy; Robert Kennedy Jr.

Papa Bear on October 29, 2007 at 4:58 pm

This vaccine/autism bit is old old news that has been discredited HUNDREDS of times by authorities from all over the world.
But, there will always be those who think they have proven something based on the ancient Post hoc ergo propter hoc fallacy: Latin for “after this, therefore because of this”

Red Ryder on October 29, 2007 at 5:12 pm

Actually, most, if not all, of the “studies” that discredit the link between rising autism rates and thimerosal are paid for by the vaccination industry.
Companies like Eli Lilly have a lot of money wrapped up in ensuring that an entire generation of children don’t come after them for causing their autistic condition. For example, did you know that when the Homeland Security Bill was passed in ’02, a last minute addition to the bill gave Eli Lilly blanket immunity from civil suits for Thimerosal? The midnight inclusion of the immunity provision in the Bill was so humiliating that Bill Frist had to see to its removal.

Hourman on October 29, 2007 at 5:47 pm

I would guess that Jenny’s son’s autism was caused by overuse of silicone. Anyone with half a brain knows that when taking any medicine one has to balance the risks against the benefits. Is Jenny turning into a Scientologist, or what?

lexi on October 29, 2007 at 6:30 pm

Oh dear–the conspiracy nuts are back..
Why let the facts about thimerosal get in the way? And then, there’s the other side that blames autism on the bugs in the vaccine, not the thimerosal.
And, of course, there were studies on Amish kids, most of whom never got vaccinated–and their autism rates are about the same…
http://www.fda.gov/cber/vaccine/thimerosal.htm#t1
Hopefully, the fact that a bim like Jenny picks up on all this crap will finally discredit it even more.

Red Ryder on October 29, 2007 at 6:35 pm

I work with a guy who has TWO Autistic kids. He thinks the vaccination thing is nonsense. Great job Debbie.

Captainamerica on October 29, 2007 at 6:43 pm

Sorry to those parents of autistic kids, but the fact is that there are MANY diseases with no proven etiology.
My advice is to concentrate on getting your kid healthy, and forget about etiology, as it is unknown at this time.
Even lung cancer, for which smoking is overwhelmingly the cause, still claims plenty of victims who have never smoked, so to try to hang your hat on a “pop” etiology for autism is pointless.
Sadly, this will not stop parents of kids who were born long after thimerosal was even used in a particular vaccine, to claim etiology.
The earlier example of a non-existent Hep-C vaccine cited is typical, also.

Red Ryder on October 29, 2007 at 6:56 pm

I’m participating in a genetic link to austism study with the University of Utah. They began back in the 1980’s (I don’t remember much, as I was around 6 or 7 years old). They’re trying to find out if autism is genetic, and what happens with certain treatments over a 20 year span.
Some of my family has autism, dating back before vaccines were discovered. I was deemed to have a learning disability early in life, and was subjected to multiple mind-altering and other kinds of drugs since I was 8 years old. When I was 22, I was re-diagonosed with Severe PTSD – easily treated with therapy. It took a lot of folks a lot of money to screw me up. My mother was the driving force behind the medicating, mostly through her own guibility with so-called “experts” hired by the school district. She has repented of this recently.
I’ve been rehabilitating for the last 7 years; as the medications left me severely underweight, mentally and emotionally ravished, and under educated.
Debbie gives a great point of view. Search for real experts, and not just some skank with no credability.

bhparkman on October 29, 2007 at 8:31 pm

Debbie, the vaccine/autism group is a big bunch of loser morons, greedy lawyers, and greedy loser morons who want a payout for autism, real and imagined. Perhaps you could compare them to the man made global warming crowd, who want to impose a new global totalitarian order to cure a crisis they concocted. Also since you are so pretty why do we get so few pictures of you?

Anonymous1 on October 29, 2007 at 9:19 pm

Hourman, what is the “vaccination industry?” Eli Lilly makes loads upon loads of pharmaceutical drugs, not just vaccines, so I’d hardly call it a “vaccination industry.” It, like all others, are diversified beyond that of vaccines.
Beyond that, Eli Lilly may in fact have attempted what you’ve stated (I don’t feel like researching it), but that’s a highly common occurance in federal legislation. There’s always a big corporation with deep pockets, and lobbyists by the truck load that get congress to add on legislation to protect them from this or that, or to assist them in keeping/gaining profit. It in no way is proof that vaccinations cause autism.
I certainly understand your desire for it to be so -Elvis conspiracists believe he’s still alive because they yearn so deeply for it to be true that they can’t take the truth that’s staring them right in the face.
Anytime someone of authority in the scientific world comes out against AGW, or 9-11 conspiracies, the opposing side instantaneously accusing them of being gotten to, or paid off by the government or evil corporation that stands to lose if their side is believed.

CaptShady on October 30, 2007 at 9:42 am

Without getting into any sort of shouting match, I’d like to know what truth is “staring [me] right in the face” that I’m unwilling to take. I just pointed out that a lot of the studies which discredit the link between Thimerosal and autism are sponsored by the industry which produces the product.

Hourman on October 30, 2007 at 11:47 am

I’m so NOT trying to get into a shouting match, I meant pure respectful dialogue in my reply to you. I hope you read it with that intent.
I didn’t mean to imply that there was truth that you refused to accept. I just meant to say that you might be believing in something untrue, because you want it to be true so badly.
On with the discussion, who finances the studies that prove that there is in fact, a link?

CaptShady on October 30, 2007 at 3:25 pm

BEFORE YOU ALL JUDGE JENNY, MY SON WAS BORN IN 2002. AT 10 MONTHS OLD HE GOT HIS SHOTS. THAT NIGHT HE HAD A FEVER SO HIGH I THOUGHT HE WAS GOING TO DIE. THE NEXT 3 DAYS WERE LIFE CHANGING. HE DIDN’T CRY THE SAME, REFUSED TO EAT, AND TOTALLY REGRESSED. HE BEHAVED VERY DIFFERENTLY. THE LOOK IN HIS EYES WAS DIFFERENT. I IMMEDIATELY TOLD HIS DOCTOR WHOM IGNORED ME AND SUGGESTED IT WAS TIME FOR MORE SHOTS. AUTISM IS NOT IN EITHER FAMILIES.TODAY MY SON STILL HAS NO LANGUAGE, POTTY SKILLS OR SOCIAL SKILLS. HE’S BEEN IN SCHOOL SINCE AGE 3. WE ARE NOT ANTI-VACCINE, BUT I KNOW THAT VACCINE CAUSED MY SON’S SOUL TO SLIP AWAY. HE SPINS THINGS FOR HOURS AND IS VIOLENT. TO THOSE OF YOU NOT DEALING WITH AUTISM DIRECTLY, SHUT UP AND KEEP YOUR IGNORANT ADVICE. MY LIFE IS HELL EVERYDAY. WALK IN MY SHOES. MY SON WAS 100% FINE UNTIL THAT DAY AT AGE 10 MONTHS. I MISS HIM SO MUCH. I DON’T CARE WHAT JENNY DID IN HER PAST, LIKE YOU ALL DON’T HAVE ONE TOO. HER SON IS OK NOW. SHE MUST BE DOING SOMETHING RIGHT. STOP SLINGING YOUR TRIVIAL DRAMA, IT’S A COLOSSAL WASTE FOR THOSE OF US WHO DEAL WITH AUTISM EVERYDAY. YOU ONLY TALK ABOUT IT UNTIL THE NEXT “BIG” TOPIC COMES ALONG. I LIVE AND BREATHE AUTISM. IT’S REALLY TOO BAD THAT NO ONE CARED ABOUT THIS UNTIL MANY STARS HAD THE PROBLEM, INCLUDING YOU ALL WHO COMMENTED. STOP BASHING JENNY AND START HELPING THE ISSUE, AUTISM. SHE’S JUST A MOM PROTECTING HER CHILD. P.S. MY DOCTOR TRIED LOSING PAGES OF MY SON’S VISIT THAT DAY IN HIS RECORDS. EXPLAIN THAT TO ME?

kimberly on May 1, 2009 at 8:51 pm

As a mother of an autistic child, and a fan of jenny mccarthy’s, I became interested in reading “louder than words” recently. Jenny never claims to be an expert, and never says that kids should not get vaccinated. Why is is “dangerous” for her to encourage parents to research and educate themselves on vaccinations? She is beautiful and funny, and it’s sad that there are jealous women out there who feel they need to bash her and post her sexy pictures up to insinuate that she is an idiot. As a registered nurse, I am pro-vaccine, and I don’t necessarily agree with everything she thinks, but that doesn’t mean she hasn’t done her research or wouldn’t do anything to save her son. Stop being so angry.

samantha on November 15, 2009 at 10:43 pm

Jenny McCarthy is a damn liar.

Franklin on February 20, 2010 at 9:48 pm

First rule of thumb – do not get your science from a former Playboy centrefold. Jenny’s proselytizing has reached the stage of “yelling fire in a crowded theater” when no fire exists, and she has effectively started a movement across the world which has now begun to drive up the rates of communicable diseases which were once nearly eradicated worldwide.

She knows this, and has stated that in her opinion, more childhood deaths are not an unreasonable outcome, because it “strengthens the overall population.” Sucks if you happen to have a child that died from pertussis though.

Autism is a spectrum disorder, rather than a diagnosis. So it is entirely possible that Jenny’s son Evan could and would improve with intensive interaction. While I do believe that Jenny is a devoted and conscientious mother, her arguments frequently go off the rails – she says is that autism isn’t genetic, and then confuses the issue with statements about genetics. There are strong genetic indicators of autism, but the underlying cause is still unknown.

When people like Jenny say vaccines cause autism, they are ignoring the evidence that they are wrong. The deaths of children are often traceable to the misinformation from the anti-vax movement.

Furthermore, Jenny is the ultimate hypocrite of the highest order. Botox, as you surely know by now, is a highly diluted and purified form of botulinum toxin (a neurotoxin that causes botulism) – one of the most toxic substances known to man . She is a regular prononent of injections of botox and has had her face injected many times – this does involve an actual needle.

Jenny states that needles with vaccines in them are bad, but needles with botulinum toxin are good. I don’t think Jenny truly understands that botox injections and vaccines are more similar than different. Botox injections are linked to respiratory failure and death.

I am honestly surprised that Jenny can advocate for botox along with the other intrusions into her own bodily health. She clearly has implants, and I have also read that she smoked during her pregnancy. While there isn’t any know correlation between implants/smoking and autism, Jenny appears to be looking to blame someone or something for Evan’s autism, without much introspection into her own lifestyle choices.

Heather Clemenceau on March 20, 2010 at 2:03 am

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