‘View’ Host Jenny McCarthy's Vaccine-Autism Claims: Beauty Versus Science

'View' Host Jenny McCarthy's Vaccine-Autism Claims: Beauty Versus Science

"View" under fire for giving a forum to McCarthy's claim that vaccines cause autism

Nothing spreads a lie faster than a smile: ABC's "The View" is being roundly criticized for its hiring of Jenny McCarthy by people who fear her belief in a phony link between vaccines and autism will hurt children.

The objections aren't just to McCarthy's views, but about a culture so fixated on image that a pretty face can trump decades of research.

There may be no greater testament to the power of celebrity than the fact that so many people are willing to treat this as a debate with two equal sides. Almost the entire medical establishment believes that vaccines save children's lives. But many parents believe otherwise, thanks in large part to a woman who became famous by posing naked.

"McCarthy, former 'Singled Out' host, columnist, and Playboy model, is telegenic and outspoken. She's also the single most visible celebrity spokesperson for the discredited, literally dangerous belief that childhood vaccines can cause autism," wrote Time's James Poniewozik. "On her side is her anecdotal claim that vaccination gave her son autism, and a debunked study from 1998. On the other is, pretty much, the entire pediatric community.

McCarthy's son was diagnosed with autism in 2005. She has claimed that it was caused by vaccines, and that he has since been cured. Besides anecdotal experience, her evidence is a study by former intestinal specialist Andrew Wakefield that the British Medical Journal has debunked as “an elaborate fraud.”

Although every medical association promotes immunization, a 2011 University of Michigan study found that a quarter of parents still place "some faith" in celebrities counter-claims on vaccinations. McCarthy is the most prominent celebrity making the link.

Sometimes news outlets strive to appear neutral in order to treat even far-out opinions with respect. Not this time.

"By choosing Jenny McCarthy to be a host on "The View", ABC made a decision that could end up costing lives–even worse, the lives of children," wrote Dr. Claire McCarthy (presumably no relation) in the Boston Globe. "Jenny McCarthy believes that vaccines caused her son to be autistic. Never mind that it's not clear that he was actually autistic, none of the claims she has made about vaccines and autism are backed up by, um, any medical evidence."

Continues McCarthy (the one who went to medical school, not the one from "Singled Out"): "Vaccines save lives. So many fewer children get sick from polio, diphtheria, measles, chicken pox, tetanus, whooping cough and other vaccine-preventable illnesses."

McCarthy did not immediately respond to a request for comment Tuesday. "The View" referred me to Barbara Walters' statement when she announced McCarthy's hire: "We love her! She's fun, uninhibited, and, of course, opinionated enough to help us beging the latest chapter in 'View' history."

No one is discrediting Jenny McCarthy because of her looks. No one would be complaining if the facts were on her side. And it's an obvious fact that she isn't the only celebrity who gets more attention that the average person because of appearances.

But McCarthy rose to fame because of her appearance and vivacious personality, not her rigorous research. And doctors became doctors through years of study, not through modeling gigs and hosting game shows.

What critics are asking, in the end, is that everyone stay in their respective lanes.

  • tiggs1

    It is sad that crook doctor that started all this Vaccines responsible for autism preyed upon her and all the mothers like her who were searching for answers. He has been disbarred and his license to practice medicine was taken away. Why? Because he was a part of a company that developed a single Measles Vaccine and when another company developed a vaccine that contained a measles and 2 other childhood vaccines in the same shot he tried to say it was the 3vaccine shot that caused autism. He falsified documents and eventually was exposed for the fraud which if pulled off would have made him rich because he would have profited from the vaccine he developed being the ONLY vaccine used on children. Last month a study came out that blamed Autism on Thyroid supplements some mothers take during pregnancy. Someday I hope they find the cause and the cure but Vaccines are NOT it.

  • Twylaa

    The reason why Jennie's story about her son had “legs” is because thousands of other parents have had the same experience. Way before she went public, parents were reporting autistic regression following adverse reactions to vaccines. Read David Kirby's book “Evidence of Harm” published in 2005. The group Talk About Curing Autism was founded in 2000. The group “Defeat Autism Now” was founded in 1995. Safeminds was founded in 2000. Jenny's celebrity status initially helped her to get attention in the press, but the reason why many people listened to what she had to say was because her experience and beliefs reflected theirs. She's not like the Pied Piper leading people by some kind of strange hypnosis.

  • Twylaa

    What critics are asking, in the end, is that there should be censorship of any discussion of a link between vaccines and autism.

  • Erik Anybody


    Lots of actual science, says that.

    You know, the kind where they do lots of statistical gathering, look for correlation, then see if they can find a causal link.

    There's not even a STATISTICAL tie between vaccination and autism, which is the first step to finding a link.

    So, yeah, actual real science says there is no link. We don't know what causes autism, but we can definitively say what DOESN'T cause autism. The two are not mutually exclusive things.

  • Erik Anybody

    No, she doesn't. She has formal general education, none of which is relevant to her statements. In the field we're talking about, she has ZERO education.

    Tesla had DECADES of practical education in his field, including almost 30 years of direct experimental education.

    Of course, we're talking about a time where there *was* no formal education in Tesla's field. The same cannot be said for Ms McCarthy.

  • Erik Anybody

    Because, if it doesn't matter, then spacing them out doesn't matter, either. QED.