By Jake Crosby
The vaccine industry has many voices that echo the same talking points. While they may all deliver the same message, they each come from different backgrounds and are connected to the vaccine industry in different ways. Below are some of those people who have come out of hibernation to bash ABC for allowing Jenny McCarthy to co-host “The View.”
Seth Mnookin – As the vaccine industry’s media go-to guy, Seth Mnookin appeared in early-2011 on the heels of the pharma-sponsored British Medical Journal’s trial-by-media of British scientist Dr. Andrew Wakefield, accusing him of fraud (later officially found unsubstantiated). Mnookin took advantage of the ensuing media circus to promote his book “Panic Virus,” which was written from the vaccine industry’s perspective. One false rumor started by Mnookin – later disproved – was that Rolling Stone secretly retracted Robert F. Kennedy Jr.’s article on the thimerosal-autism cover-up titled “Deadly Immunity.” Before RS dispelled the rumor, however, Salon.com used it as pretense to truly retract Kennedy’s piece. The CEO and Founder of Salon is a brother-in-law of Arthur Allen, the vaccine industry’s original media go-to guy whose wife is Senior Fellow of a Merck-funded think tank called the New America Foundation. While aggressively promoting his book, Seth Mnookin also claimed to have become involved purely as an objective journalist. This was later disproved – his uncle Robert Mnookin Chairs Harvard Law School’s Program on Negotiation, where the mother-in-law of Alison Singer is also a professor. Singer runs and founded the “Autism Science Foundation” – a front group of the vaccine industry dedicated to stifling research into the vaccine autism link. Singer has also made false reassurances of Mnookin’s objectivity. Seth Mnookin does not hold up well to criticism, as evidenced by his multiple encounters with the editor. During his last encounter, he refused to address a challenging question the editor asked him at his alma mater of Harvard regarding CDC research that inadvertently associated MMR vaccination with autism. During his second-to-last encounter, Mnookin booted the editor out altogether.
Jake Tapper – A CNN news anchor, Tapper appears to have quite a rapport with Seth Mnookin, at least on Twitter. CNN led the media lynching of Dr. Wakefield in January 2011 and Fred Hassan, former president of PhRMA, sits on the board of directors for Time Warner – the company that owns CNN. Tapper gave Seth Mnookin airtime as an expert while mentioning on Twitter the fact that his book won an award from the National Association of Science Writers – a pharma-linked union of “journalists.” Tapper’s father, Dr. Theodore Tapper, is a South Philadelphia pediatrician. After a virus that causes fatal wasting disease in piglets was discovered to have contaminated millionaire vaccine industrialist Paul Offit‘s rotavirus vaccine, Dr. Tapper dismissed concerns about this as “much ado about nothing.” Like father, like son.
Michael Specter – Having first came to the public scene in 2009 with the publication of his book “Denialism,” New Yorker Staff Writer Michael Specter appeared for a brief time to be the vaccine lobby’s new media go-to guy. He was later caught plagiarizing the talking points of millionaire vaccine industrialist Paul Offit, indicating just how much original research Specter did on the topic. As a result, he apologized…to Paul Offit. Who Specter should have really apologized to were the very folks whose positions he merely dismissed. Today, Michael Specter continues to occasionally blog about this controversy from the sidelines of The New Yorker, despite his disgrace.
Alex Pareene – Joining Salon from Gawker in mid-2011, Pareene has become Salon’s new in-house vaccine-autism cover-up apologist, starting with his endorsement of the 2011 Institute of Medicine whitewash of the MMR-autism link. That report came only months after Salon retracted Kennedy’s “Deadly Immunity” article from the internet, which included a quote by 2004 IOM review committee chairwoman Marie McCormick: “…we are not ever going to come down that it [autism] is a true side effect…” of vaccination before looking at any evidence for or against. So Salon knows the IOM reports on autism and vaccines are produced in bad faith, but promotes them anyway. This makes Salon, and by extension Alex Pareene, complicit in the cover-up.
Mary Elizabeth Williams – Before Salon hired Pareene, Mary Elizabeth Williams served the role of Salon’s resident vaccine-autism cover-up apologist. A long time colleague of Salon Founder and CEO David Talbot, Williams could not write the words “autism” and “vaccines” in the same article without also writing “Jenny McCarthy.” Before, she managed Salon’s forums.
Liz Szabo – USA Today’s answer to The New York Times‘ ethically bankrupt Gardiner Harris, Szabo first appeared in late-2009 to bash Jenny McCarthy. In mid-2010, Szabo won an award for her vaccine reporting from the Campaign for Public Health Foundation, funded by the vaccine industry.
Emily Willingham – An autism parent and “Science” Writer, Willingham also ascribes to the neurodiverse ideology – that autism is a difference to be celebrated. She is also a prominent member of the National Association of Science Writers, linked to the vaccine industry through its sister organization the Council for the Advancement of Science Writing – funded by the pharmaceutical industry.
Dr. Claire McCarthy – A Boston Children’s pediatrician who also blogs, Dr. McCarthy became another public spokeswoman for the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), heavily-funded by the vaccine industry. AAP’s position on autism and vaccines was perhaps best revealed by former president Dr. Renee Jenkins, who reportedly told ABC’s Good Morning America: “Ninty Seven plus percent of children don’t have these defects, so, when you look at what the risk and the benefits to children are, and, you really weigh the risks, then the benefits far outweigh the risks that occur.” The implication is clear – AAP is perfectly fine with giving up to 3% of American children autism to protect the vaccine program. This is the group Dr. McCarthy speaks for.
Dr. David “Orac” Gorski – “Science”Blogger and vaccine industry mouthpiece Dr. David Gorski blogs under his moniker “Orac” where anyone who disagrees with him on vaccines is a “crank,” “anti-vaccinationist” and any other ad hominem attack he can dish out. In 2010, it was discovered that his employer was in partnership with vaccine maker Sanofi-Aventis as Dr. Gorski was conducting a clinical trial for Sanofi drug Riluzole, sponsored by his employer. Eventually, the trial was terminated before the enrollment phase due to funding running out. More recently, Dr. Gorski was discovered to have promised that if autism prevalence declines by a certain year, he would admit the vaccine preservative thimerosal might cause autism. That has since happened, yet Dr. Gorski refuses to come through on his promise. He can be seen squirming on YouTube when confronted with his broken promise at a talk he gave in March.
James Poniewozik – A TV critic for TIME Magazine, Poniewozik is a new voice in this debate. TIME, however, is not. That magazine has unanimously promoted pharma’s talking points and merrily carried the cover-up into print. Currently, the CEO of Time Inc is Laura Lang, former executive of Pfizer.
Phil Plait – Perhaps best known for posing nude next to his telescope, penthouse astronomer Phil Plait is in-effect a less verbose, even less articulate version of blogger David “Orac” Gorski. Phil Plait formerly blogged for Discover Magazine and now blogs for Slate.com. He was previously president of the James Randi Educational Foundation. James Randi is a stage magician who is fellow of the Committee for Skeptical Inquiry, an affiliate group of the Center for Inquiry which includes a retired Merck scientist on its board of directors.
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 currently attends The George Washington University School of Public Health and Health Services where he is completing his candidacy for an MPH in epidemiology.