Tag Archives: Matthew Herper

Emily Willingham: Forbes’ Formerly Contributing “Contributor”

By Jake Crosby

Since May, Emily Willingham has gone from a Forbes “Contributor,” to “Subscriber,” and back to “Contributor” again according to her bio on the Forbes website. The difference between the first and second time she was listed as “Contributor” is that during the first time, she was actually contributing – albeit with embarrassingly misleading stories. Since her demotion to “Subscriber,” Forbes has published nothing from her, and she began referring to herself as a “Former journalist” in her Twitter bio. She would then replace it with her current bio which says, “All sweetness and light wrapped in a glittery sugar-spun cloud of happiness. Plus unicorns! So many unicorns.” This Twitter update along with the reversion to her old “Contributor” status at Forbes happened shortly before her receipt of UK lobby group Sense About Science’s 2014 John Maddox Prize, apparently to minimize attention to the fact that she no longer contributes.

Named in honor of Nature’s late editor, the John Maddox Prize is given out each year to reward someone who “has promoted sound science and evidence on a matter of public interest” according to Sense About Science. Willingham was rewarded for writing a Forbes article that is now the basis of a libel suit against her. Sense About Science is funded by the BMJ Group, which the plaintiff suing Willingham is also suing for libel.

Despite the fact that Willingham is now listed as a Forbes “Contributor” again, she still has not actually contributed a single article since May – one month after she wrote the article she is being sued over. Even before that, she conflated the research results of an early CDC study of thimerosal with those of a later one to wrongly deny that CDC researchers ever found an association with autism when they actually had. When asked on Autism Investigated about this misrepresentation of Willingham’s, Forbes Senior Editor Matthew Herper had no comment. When she won the award, he inadvertently drew attention to her no longer contributing to Forbes by referring to her writing in the past tense: “I loved having her write for us. She’s awesome.”

Willingham’s award is more a curse than an honor for Forbes, bringing yet more attention to her embarrassing reporting and to the even more embarrassing fact that she is still not contributing there anymore. The only purpose the reversion of her status back to “Contributor” from “Subscriber” currently serves is to minimize attention to that fact. It appears just as unlikely that this “Contributor” will ever contribute anything to Forbes again.

Addendum: See on The Epoch Times.

Jake Crosby is editor of Autism Investigated and a blogger at The Epoch Times. 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’ 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.