Skepticism

Jenny McCarthy and Wishful Thinking

A lot of readers sent us this story posted on Hollywood Life: New Report Says Jenny McCarthy’s Son May Not Have Had Autism After All. The story says that Jenny McCarthy is reversing her position on the vaccine and autism link and that she admits her son never had autism but instead has a neurological disorder called, Landau-Kleffner syndrome. The Hollywood Life reporter is basing his or her statements on a TIME magazine article Fact checking it rocks!released on February 25th in which Karl Taro Greenfeld interviews Miss McCarthy. You can read the TIME article in its entirety here.

I like many others in the skeptical community got really excited when I read the Hollywood Life story. Heck, I even tweeted about it. I had read the first part of the TIME article the night before and didn’t recall reading anything mentioned like that at all but hey, it seemed reasonable to me and I just figured I hadn’t read that part of the story. With the recent Lancet retraction of the Wakefeild study it would make sense that McCarthy might reverse her stance. She has literally nothing to base her autism-vaccine beliefs on at this point. So it must be true! Right?

Hooray for science! High fives everybody!

Jenny has seen the light of science!

Wrong.

I went back and read the entire TIME magazine article and nowhere did I find any comments from Jenny McCarthy insinuating that she had changed her view whatsoever.

From the TIME article:

McCarthy says she does not believe all vaccines are bad — though she swears she will never allow Evan to receive another — nor is she saying you shouldn’t vaccinate your child.

Come on! This is like saying you can go ahead and vaccinate your child but if you want to be a good mom like me, you won’t. That is not the voice of someone reversing his or her stance on anti-vaccination.

check sourcesWhat about the Landau-Kleffner syndrome that was mentioned in the Hollywood Life report? Jenny herself was never quoted as saying anything of the sort. It was simply the author of the article alluding to what skeptics and pediatricians have been saying all along, that Evan may never have had autism to begin with.

I dislike what Jenny McCarthy promotes and I would be thrilled if she reversed her position and actually paid attention to scientific evidence. But unfortunately I see no signs of that happening anytime soon. Instead a comment that she made while appearing on the Oprah Winfrey show is requoted in the article:

My science is Evan. He’s at home. That’s my science

Not only does the TIME article say nothing of her changing her stance it at one point actually refers to her as being “dangerous” and the article serves as a warning with this statement:

She has just completed shooting the pilot for a daytime talk show for Oprah Winfrey’s TV network to begin airing later this year — which will be, she promises, yet another platform for her message.

Sorry everyone. I really wanted to believe it too but nothing has changed and we clearly haven’t seen the last of Jenny.

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Amy Roth

Amy Davis Roth (aka Surly Amy) is a multimedia artist who resides in Los Angeles, California. She makes Surly-Ramics. She is the fearless leader of Mad Art Lab. Support her on Patreon. Follow her on twitter: @SurlyAmy or on Google+. Tip Jar is here.

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39 Comments

  1. Oh, I never got the impression that she reversed her stance re: vaccines. She is still couching it with loaded language like “it still needs to be investigated” and “vaccines need to be made safer”. All I got from the article is she might admit her son did not actually have autism, but she maintains she will remain an advocate for kids with autism.
    No one thinks she is done with the woo.

  2. I never saw the article, but if I had I probably would have called bullshit on it. People as committed to spreading antiscience as McCarthy rarely change their minds on the issue, and even if her son was confirmed to not have autism, it wouldn’t neccesarily mean she had to reverse her thinking. It would just make her change from “vaccines gave my son autism” to “vaccines give other people’s kids autism.”

  3. Can I just say that the quote “My science is Evan.” makes not one whit of sense? I have been pissed off that no one interviewing this woman has told her that that sentence is meaningless and could she explain herself more clearly. It irks me that since she is portraying herself as a fierce mommy warrior nobody calls her on statements like that. ARRRRGGHH (BTW I know she has made many more silly statements but this one really gets me. It’s as nonsensical as saying “My cat is my physics.”)

  4. If she is so easily willing to believe and propagate something without any evidence whatsoever to support it, then I feel it is only fair and just that I believe Jenny McCarthy is the reincarnation of Adolph Hitler, here to take revenge on the US by stealthily killing its future generations. No wait… there’s actually more evidence of that than she has…

  5. Avoiding vaccines has caused a resurgence in diseases like whooping cough thought eliminated from the US nearly a half century ago and it’s killing babies too young to immunize. Mumps, measles and other diseases thought eliminated coming back. Oprah plus Jenny are advocating the killing of our babies.

    We need to organize advertiser boycott of the Jenny show before it gets off of the ground.

    At least the 911 nuts, the fake moon shot whackos, the JFK screwballs, Alex Jones, Jesse Ventura and the others don’t cause anyone to die. They are just misinformed fuck-tards who can actually be sort of entertaining.

    So, lets get a letter writing campaign going to potential Jenny advertisers that explains the science and the baby deaths her ideas promote.

    Advertisements are the engine of television and cutting off the fuel may be the best if not only solution to this madness.

  6. Wingnut Jenny and others like her are just a symptom of a much larger problem. I see it as an intelligence problem. It seems like most people in the world are not intelligent enough to understand the sciences (or are too lazy to try) and it’s easier for them to accept woo. The largest example is religion. I believe it’s impossible and unnecessary to educate these people. The only people who really need to understand the science are the leaders and educators of the world. The rest will follow like the sheep they are. The problem is that for now, people of power and influence are still woo-ers themselves. So, the answer would seem to be that skeptics need to start running for political office, getting teaching degrees and infiltrating our higher learning institutions, and beating the shit out of Jenny McCarthy.

  7. I received so many emails yesterday with links to the Hollywood Life posting. It was so disappointing to have to tell them that Hollywood Life got the information completely wrong.

    I really don’t see how Hollywood Life could come away reading the Time Magazine article thinking that Jenny McCarthy had reversed her position. It is just a bunch of wishful thinking.

    I had several people saying that I would need to take down the Jenny McCarthy Body Count website. I wish that I had never needed to create it in the first place. It would be great to be able to suspend it, but that is simply not the case.

    Jenny McCarthy is still anti-vaccine.

    -Derek

  8. McCarthy is a person who stripped naked to make money and gain fame. This person will do anything to remain relevent. She has no talents, little education and a huge, fragile ego. She co-wrote a book about being pregnant, a book about having a baby and then books about how she handled his medical issues. Running her mouth about herself is the way she pays her bills. This is not about autism, her son or her crusade but about McCarthy staying in the spotlight. I feel a little sorry for her. She really is quite stupid and with her looks fading has little else to fall back on. I can hardly wait for her son’s tell-all book when he is 20!

  9. Reading the full TIME article, it seems that McCarthy was being intentionally vague. I wouldn’t be at all surprised if that interview was her way of backing away from the anti-vax crowd without having to actually admit she was wrong.

    That’s what I HOPE it means, anyway.

  10. I can’t believe what a total fucktard deranged twat Jenny McCarthy is . And now she’s having a whole daytime talk show all to herself?

    The ridiculous thing is if she wasn’t attractive/sexy, no one would give a toss about what she has to say and she wouldn’t have the pedestal she now has. Unfortunately, beauty is valued more than brains it would seem. What the fuck is wrong with the people in this world.

  11. @denver7 who said: I believe it’s impossible and unnecessary to educate these people. The only people who really need to understand the science are the leaders and educators of the world. The rest will follow like the sheep they are.

    you sound quite hitler-ish.

    although i must say, i have wondered about an intelligence connection here and there — but no, it’s education that’s the key.

    i think you are correct in that religion and religious upbringing IS the biggest problem with blocking critical thinking, but not intelligence.

    your “sheep” can most certainly be educated.

    a well-rounded education can often wake up the critical thinking beast in all of us.

    think about it, how many “skeptics” were brought up in woo / religious households?

    likely most of them. education helped them, religious woo nuts that they all might once have been.

    having an elitist “we can’t save them so lets bury them” attitude is not constructive.

    hey, why don’t you step up and give a bit of education a try– maybe volunteer at a school or an after-school program.

    actually, after reading your rather arrogant outlook, maybe not so much with the being around kids thing.

    as for autism — has anyone considered something like how much and how often the parents of these kids use and/or abuse various drugs?? even before getting pregnant, aren’t there both egg / sperm issues when it comes to the long term abuse of something like marijuana?

    instead of harping on jenny mccarthy, why don’t people try to find the actual causes?

  12. @olly polly: In response to finding the actual cause of autism, there are promising studies being conducted that are looking into genetic causes. That seems to be where the science is heading. I am unsure if any studies have ever been done looking into a drug connection but I do know that older parents are more likely to have an autistic child. In general, older parents are are at a higher risk to giving birth to a child with a developmental problem.

  13. @AmyI am unsure if any studies have ever been done looking into a drug connection but I do know that older parents are more likely to have an autistic child. In general, older parents are are at a higher risk to giving birth to a child with a developmental problem.

    what studies show that older parents are more likely to have autistic children?

    how old is older?

    the simple fact is that NO studies have been done to prove anything.

    i agree that genetics are probably a factor, but i’m not 100% convinced that there isn’t some other cause — and if it IS genetic, WHY?

    why now? why not 50 years ago?

    drugs? plastics? genetics? vaccines?

    given the current prevalence of autism, where are the studies to prove any connection to anything?

    kinda like prescription drug deaths — if it were H1N1 deaths, they’d be getting attention.

  14. @olly polly: here is the latest info, based on a study looking at all births in california, inventorying all autism cases in an attempt to find clusters and further investigate possible environmental factors.

    there are many possible reasons for autism being more prevalent in children of older mothers. they may indeed be genetic: it’s possible that people who are themselves on the autism spectrum might focus more on education and career, thus delaying parenting.

    as with most things, i suspect there are both genetic and environmental factors. based on existing science, however, it seems highly unlikely that vaccines are the culprit. i will be interested to see the results of the next phase of this study.

  15. It should be noted that one reason for the increase in Autism diagnoses is that the DSM IV diagnostic criteria lists more conditions / diagnoses under the label of “Autism” than previous iterations of the DSM. And DSM V will likely cause another big increase in Autism diagnoses, as it will undoubtedly label even more conditions as falling under the Autism umbrella. From what I am hearing, DSM V will drop the label “Asperger’s Syndrome” in favour of it being merely a milder form of Autism. I wouldn’t be surprised if ADHD got put under the Autism umbrella either in DSM V or DSM VI, which would cause another big spike in Autism diagnosis numbers. It is amazing what changing what falls under a category can do to the number of people diagnosed under that category.

    On another note, we need people like Jenny and others to STFU. What is really needed is for more people who are actually Autistic to be given a voice and a platform, so they can speak for themselves. They can be very intelligent, thoughtful, and well spoken, and fully capable of speaking out for themselves, and for their own interests, if only the non-Autistic portions of the population would STFU long enough to listen to what they are trying tell them.

    As an ADHD adult, with an ADHD son, I certainly do not need some ex-stripper telling me what is best for my son. Oprah Winfrey giving her a national platform to spew her views on a daily basis borders on negligence. There should be a law against that. I am normally against censorship of any kind, but I’d almost be willing to make an exception in the case of Jenny McCarthy and Oprah Winfrey.

  16. for the record, amy, i am quite familiar with pubmed.

    from the study you linked to:

    In the latest study, researchers found that mothers over the age of 40 had 51 percent higher odds of having children with autism compared with mothers between the ages 25 and 29.

    The father’s age also played a factor, but only when he had a child with a woman under 30

    what about the women from 30 – 40 ??

    what about the fathers?

    what about the DRUGS that these “older” parents did their whole lives??

    point being, these studies are all quite flawed. there are far too many variables that aren’t taken into account.

    vaccines are the least of anyone’s worries, imho.

  17. i’m curious…how many people who comment here or contribute to this site have actually been around autistic children (or adults)?

    i have the utmost respect for those skeptics who have actual experience with autism and can look these woo parents in the face or yack about them online and NOT be condescending and petty.

  18. @olly polly: my cousin is autistic. his parents to-this-day are anti-vaxxers.

    I love and respect my cousin. yes i think it is wrong that his parents are so antivaxx, but that doesn’t ruin my impression of them.

    However, attacking the writer of this post does not seem to do much but just give the impression that you are: a) a troll just looking to pick an argument. b) someone real who just wants to be a contrarian. c) or just a person who is socially awkward and instead of talking, they are choosing to “yack” and be condescending towards the person who wrote this article.

    Whichever it is, there is no reason to act like that that.

  19. That particular study on “older” mothers uses 40 as the cut-off, but in general, ob-gyns use 35 because there are several studies showing increased health problems after that age. Doctors most often use this as a guideline for when to do amniocentesis and other completely optional screening procedures.

    McCarthy has a serious case of savior syndrome. I really feel sorry for her son and the hype over his health. Very very sad.

  20. “What is really needed is for more people who are actually Autistic to be given a voice and a platform, so they can speak for themselves.”

    Except that many of the die-hard anti-vaccination people won’t accept their comments. Autistic authors such as Temple Grandin, Michelle Dawson and Amanda Baggs have been accused of being manipulated, of being unable to understand the “truth” or even of not really being autistic. Actually, it’s often kind of sad that many parents refuse to believe that people with autism can make great accomplishments in their careers and family life – or that there adults with autism who don’t wish to be any different than they are.

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