Tag Archives: Matt Herper

Forbes’ Emily Willingham Pretends CDC Study Results Don’t Exist

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Editor’s Note: Click the above image to enlarge.

By Jake Crosby

Forbes’ writers seem to have trouble reading scientific abstracts. In December, its senior editor Matthew Herper cited a press release that contradicted the research he discussed to endorse the vaccine efficacy of Gardasil. That, however, pales in comparison to the type of misrepresentation contributor Emily Willingham made when she conflated an earlier, suppressed CDC analysis (left abstract in image) showing thimerosal is associated with autism with a later, watered-down analysis CDC distributed at a public meeting that showed no association (right abstract in image). All the more remarkable is that she is an autism parent herself and has a PhD in biology.

Following the press release by Focus Autism, AutismOne and A Shot of Truth about the earlier abstract uncovered by A Shot of Truth scientific advisor Dr. Brian Hooker, Willingham responded with a long and verbose article titled, “Is The CDC Hiding Data About Mercury, Vaccines, and Autism?” She then answered her own title with: “You know the rule. The answer is, ‘No.'”

One paragraph in, she was already getting basic facts of the abstract disastrously wrong: “In 1999, four authors affiliated with the CDC presented an abstract at a conference … a CDC conference for fellows of its Epidemic Intelligence Service (EIS).” The conference takes place annually in April, but the research project of thimerosal did not even begin until August of that year as pointed out by chemist and Coalition for Mercury-Free Drugs‘ secretary Dr. Paul King in a comment to me. That error of Willingham’s, however, could hardly have predicted what was to come.

Although she never linked to the abstract from her article, she did read it and quoted directly from it – noting that it compared a “highest exposure group” to an “unexposed group”. Though she acknowledged the study authors “reported an increased risk for nondegenerative neurological disorders,” she never acknowledged they included autism.

Then five paragraphs into her article she suddenly switched from talking about the long-suppressed abstract to talking about a later analysis  where no comparison of autism across highest-and-unexposed groups was included. The manuscript describing that analysis, dated June 1st, 2000, was presented at the closed Simpsonwood meeting of federal officials and pharmaceutical industry representatives the following week and then distributed by CDC at a public meeting of the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices later that same month. That document Willingham cited was not concealed from the public for over a decade and did not show that thimerosal is associated with autism, unlike the abstract of the earlier analysis. Yet she spent the rest of her article discussing the later study as if it was the same CDC study cited in the press release circulated by Focus Autism, AutismOne and A Shot of Truth and later picked up by Health Impact News Daily whose headline she drew attention to.

She even quoted the lead investigator Dr. Thomas Verstraeten presenting the lack of association with autism in the later manuscript:

“This is the result for autism, in which we don’t see much of a trend except for a slight, but not significant, increase for the highest exposure. The overall test for trend is statistically not significant.”

Dr. Verstraeten was under considerable pressure to reanalyze the data to  make the association between thimerosal and neurological disorders disappear, as evidenced in an email he titled “It just won’t go away.”  He wrote “…some of the RRs [relative risks] increase over the categories and I haven’t yet found an alternative explanation… Please let me know if you can think of one.” He and his colleagues issued successive studies  watering down the original results and ultimately, as  Willingham conceded, he was hired by vaccine maker GlaxoSmithKline.

What Willingham never quoted, however, was the reported result for autism in the abstract of the earlier analysis that the press release was actually about:

“The relative risk (RR) of developing a neurologic development disorders was 1.8 (95% confidence intervals [CI] = 1.1-2.8) when comparing the highest exposure group at 1 month of age (cumulative dose  > 25 ug) to the unexposed group. Within this group we also found an elevated risk for the following disorders: autism (RR 7.6, 95% CI = 1.8-31.5), nonorganic sleep disorders (RR 5.0, 95% CI = 1.6-15.9), and speech disorders (RR 2.1, 95% CI=1.1-4.0).”

Apparently, Willingham is imitating CDC, as all the way back in 2004 one of the coauthors of both CDC analyses Dr. Frank DeStefano said in a presentation to the Institute of Medicine (IOM) that:

“In no analyses were significant increased risks found for ADD or autism”

In that same presentation, DeStefano also claimed the “Initial” analysis was a study dated February, 29th, 2000, where the association with autism originally reported in the suppressed abstract was apparently diluted away by combining the highest exposure category with a lower exposure category. The very existence of the positive research results from the long-suppressed study abstract was denied.

One decade later and Emily Willingham and Forbes Magazine are now following CDC’s lead, as are other vaccine industry talking heads.

Jake Crosby is editor of Autism Investigated. He is a 2011 graduate of Brandeis University with a Bachelor of Arts in both History and Health: Science, Society and Policy and a 2013 graduate of The George Washington University School of Public Health and Health Services with a Master of Public Health in Epidemiology. He currently attends the University of Texas School of Public Health where he is studying for a Ph.D. in Epidemiology.

Forbes’ Matt Herper Cites Misleading Gardasil Press Release

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Editor’s Note: Above is the abstract of a study which was misrepresented by the drug company press release that Herper cited to endorse the cervical cancer vaccine Gardasil; click to enlarge.

By Jake Crosby

Mainstream media’s coverage of the disputed safety and effectiveness of human pappilloma virus (HPV) vaccination is a shameful repeat of its coverage of the vaccine-autism cover-up.

Following Katie Couric’s recent investigative report on the safety and efficacy of vaccination against HPV, many familiar media mouthpieces of the vaccine industry came out of the woodwork to chastise Couric for her journalism. Included among those was Matt Herper, senior editor of Forbes Magazine. Using Twitter to cite a press release from Gardasil’s manufacturer, Herper challenged HPV expert Dr. Diane Harper’s contention to Katie Couric that HPV vaccine Gardasil only provides protection for five years. His tweet:

It appears that the claim on @katiecouric that vaccine efficacy wanes at 5 years is incorrect. http://www.prnewswire.co.uk/news-releases/studies-demonstrate-gardasil-has-long-duration-of-protection-from-hpv-disease-182323031.html …

Herper’s tweet was retweeted dozens of times, including by vaccine industry media go-to guy Seth Mnookin. Herper also cited and linked to the drug company press release from his Forbes article attacking Couric for her program on Gardasil. According to the press release:

“The interim data, presented at the 28th International Papillomavirus Conference (IPV) in Puerto Rico, showed that young women[1] and adolescent girls and boys[2] vaccinated with Gardasil were protected from HPV-related diseases for up to eight years following vaccination.”

The press release also included quotes from Professor Susanne Krüger Kjær, lead investigator of one of the studies:

“These latest data show an encouraging trend of continued protection with Gardasil against HPV-related cervical, vaginal and vulvar disease in women through eight years,” said Professor Susanne Krüger Kjær, Danish Cancer Society. “These studies provide further evidence for the ongoing efficacy, immunogenicity, and safety of Gardasil.”

Absent from Sanofi Pasteur MSD’s press release, however, is the conclusion from Professor Kjær’s own study which reads:

“The qHPV vaccine shows a trend of continued protection in women, although there is as yet insufficient data to confirm that protection is maintained.”

If Matt Herper can go to the trouble of digging up a drug company press release from a year ago on research presented at a conference, then why couldn’t he go to the extra trouble to dig up the abstract of the actual research the press release was about? Why did he instead settle for the misleading press release written by a PR person employed by Gardasil’s manufacturer to second-guess the statements of Dr. Diane Harper – an international authority on HPV who was involved in clinical trials of Gardasil? Perhaps because the abstract would prove that the press release Herper cited is a misleading representation of research.

Herper’s use of a misleading drug company press release over actual research to push Gardasil is minor in comparison to his record of reporting on the vaccine-autism cover-up. He has endorsed Salon’s removal of “Deadly Immunity” by Robert F. Kennedy Jr. (which exposed CDC’s cover-up of the dangers of mercury in vaccines) prompted by a bogus rumor spread by Seth Mnookin that Rolling Stone Magazine secretly retracted Kennedy’s article. Salon is run by the brother-in-law of Arthur Allen, Mnookin’s predecessor as vaccine industry media go-to guy who vetted and ultimately approved of Mnookin’s since-dispelled rumor. So Matt Herper has a history of promoting scientific fraud to protect the vaccine industry. Even worse, such apologists now appear to dominate mainstream media’s coverage of vaccine safety issues, Katie Couric notwithstanding. Not surprisingly, Herper has not responded when informed on Twitter of what the actual research said.

Jake Crosby is editor of Autism Investigated and is diagnosed with an autism spectrum disorder. He is a 2011 graduate of Brandeis University with a Bachelor of Arts in both History and Health: Science, Society and Policy and a 2013 graduate of The George Washington University School of Public Health and Health Services with a Master of Public Health in Epidemiology. He currently attends the University of Texas School of Public Health where he is studying for a Ph.D. in Epidemiology.

Gardiner Harris Infects Forbes With Herper Virus

Matt Herper
Matt Herper, Senior Editor of Forbes

By Jake Crosby

Forbes Magazine has shamelessly given a platform to vaccine industry talking heads such as Emily Willingham and “Science”Blogger Peter Lispon. Its senior editor – Matt Herper – routinely writes articles pushing pharma talking points, while censoring the science CDC has tried to bury that utterly contradicts its party line. Ironically, when Herper first entered the debate, he seemed to hold promise as an inquisitive reporter. That, however, did not last long. So what influenced him? The probable answer: The New York Times’ ethically bankrupt reporter Gardiner Harris.

Matt Herper first came to this debate in 2007 when the CDC released a heavily biased study that sought to absolve thimerosal of causing neurological harm, using information from the CDC’s Vaccine Safety Datalink Project (VSD). Its lead author, William Thompson, is a former Merck employee and its senior author Frank DeStefano was already caught trying to bury proof that thimerosal was causing neurological damage. In spite of the fact that the 2007 study cut 70% of its participants, it replicated earlier research by DeStefano and colleagues associating thimerosal exposure with tic disorders and speech delays. Furthermore, the 2007 study never examined autism as an outcome. In fact, it never studied unvaccinated children.

As a result, Dan Olmsted, formerly of rescuepost.com, asked CDC why the lack of study of unvaccinated children. After receiving many long, circuitous answers, Olmsted tried to ask a follow-up question but was cut-off. Fortunately, there was another reporter who shared his concerns, and whom Olmsted quoted as asking:

“So I was just wondering in a follow up question about why not compare to unvaccinated kids. And you – if I understand right, you included all children from several managed care organizations in order to enroll?”

Olmsted thanked Matt Herper for asking the question, but did not follow up on how Herper actually covered the CDC’s study. That was a whole different matter.

The title of Herper’s article speaks for itself: “Fear Factor.” Herper coauthored the article with Forbes’ then-senior editor Robert Langreth. The third sentence speaks volumes:

The overwhelming consensus among scientists that vaccines don’t cause autism or learning problems is getting a boost today from a government study of 1,000 children that showed no evidence at all that receiving vaccines containing a mercury-containing preservative, thimerosal, caused any problems for children at all.”

Neglecting special populations such as unvaccinated Amish, Herper and Langreth simply cited CDC’s simplistic excuse as to why no unvaccinated children were studied:

Researchers couldn’t compare kids who got vaccines with those who didn’t, because almost all children are vaccinated. Only three kids out of every thousand in the United States don’t get at least some vaccinations.

Forbes was not the only mainstream publication that covered this study in such a deceptive way, however. Over at The New York Times, the conflicted “journalist” Gardiner Harris wrote an article that predictably began:

Yet another study has found that a controversial vaccine preservative appears to be harmless.”

However, if the preservative appeared to be “harmless,” then the CDC wouldn’t have replicated past research associating it with speech delays and tic disorders. The CDC study would have also included autism among its outcomes, but did not. Harris did not even address the fact that no unvaccinated children were studied, as Herper and Langreth did.

Why would different reporters from different publications report on this story from the same dishonest perspective? Perhaps because Robert Langreth and Gardiner Harris were old colleagues who cowrote articles for The Wall Street Journal (WSJ) – a newspaper whose editorial bias predates both Forbes Magazine and The New York Times. WSJ has published unsigned editorials supporting the rider in the Homeland Security Bill that sought to shield Eli Lilly from thimerosal litigation. After Langreth left Forbes for Bloomberg News, Herper became senior editor. In other words, Herper took over Langreth’s job, but still manages Forbes’ content on the vaccine-autism issue exactly like Gardiner Harris’ former colleague Langreth did – by backing the government’s cover-up of vaccine injury through censorship and propaganda.

We can almost certainly thank Gardiner Harris for infecting Forbes Magazine with the Herper Virus. Veteran public health reporter Harris is now in India where he came down with travelers’ diarrhea for not washing his own mango.

Jake Crosby is editor of Autism Investigated and is diagnosed with an autism spectrum disorder. He is a 2011 graduate of Brandeis University with a BA in both History and Health: Science, Society and Policy. He is completing his candidacy for an MPH in epidemiology from The George Washington University School of Public Health and Health Services.