McCarthy is joining ABC's "The View" -- one
of the most visible morning TV shows
Perry: The criticism toward hiring McCarthy
focus on her anti-vaccine stance
- He says
McCarthy has made statement about vaccines
that are false and dangerous
Now that she has a bigger platform, what
dangerous ideas will she seize on?
David M. Perry is an associate professor of history at
in River Forest, Illinois. His blog is
How Did We Get Into This Mess.
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-- Jenny McCarthy is joining ABC's "The View" -- one of
the most visible morning TV shows in America.
In the press
announcement, Barbara Walters said of her, "Jenny brings
us intelligence as well as warmth and humor. She can be
serious and outrageous."
Let's talk about the
Much of the criticism
toward hiring McCarthy, including
has focused on her stance against vaccines.
She has repeatedly
claimed that that vaccines played a major role in giving
her son autism, that he "recovered"
from autism thanks to a special diet, and the government
and medical establishment did not bother to investigate
her son's recovery. She argues that we vaccinate too
much, too quickly, and that the research on a link
between autism and vaccines should continue. Her
charity, Generation Rescue, continues to
question the safety of vaccines
starring anti-vaccine advocates, such as Andrew
Wakefield, a disgraced British doctor.
Let us be clear: The
statements she has made about vaccines are deceitful and
If you're curious about
the anti-vaccine scare and McCarthy's part in spreading
misinformation, read "The
Panic Virus" by Seth
Mnookin or follow the work of
If you think a few parents choosing not to vaccinate
their children has no impact on your life, Plait and
Mnookin (and the CDC and pretty much every pediatrician)
will gladly refute that misconception.
controversial vaccine 'View'
But beyond the damage
she's already caused, I'm worried about what she's going
to do next, now that she has an even bigger platform.
McCarthy has displayed a
willingness to leap into new belief systems and promote
them to people hungry for answers.
Her journey through the
world of hunch-based parenting has taken a number of
twists and turns. In 2006, as recounted by Mnookin, a
random woman told McCarthy that her son was a "Crystal"
and McCarthy an "Indigo." Suddenly, McCarthy plunged
into the new age philosophy of
Indigo moms and their Crystal
-- believed to be the next phase of human evolution.
That never took off so
she dumped it and moved on to the anti-vaccine movement.
She landed time with Oprah and Rosie, and wrote multiple
books on "healing autism." Although her TV and movie
career eventually stalled, her popularity among
desperate parents, discredited scientists, sellers of
snake oil, and conspiracy theorists has apparently
propelled her back into the spotlight.
"The View" is watched by
millions of people, many of whom are parents of young
children, a staple market for daytime TV.
Parents are more likely
to jump at "fads" rather than sticking to "evidence-based"
parenting. It's hard to blame them for this
characteristic -- they are primed to be afraid.
Parents are told that
unless they buy a given product, their child will get
sick, learn too slowly, fail to flourish, or even die.
Being a parent requires so many leaps of faith on a
day-to-day basis. We just hope and pray that we're
getting it mostly right.
When someone claims to
have answers, especially someone with the intelligence
and charisma of a Jenny McCarthy, parents are easy
In the world of special
needs parenting, a world to which both McCarthy and I
belong, parents are even more afraid and seek answers.
Doctors present parents like us with long lists of risk
factors and complicated prognoses. The days are hard,
laden with therapies, doctor visits, worries about
medical expenses, estate planning, schooling, bullying,
transportation, and so much more. All of the fears
become magnified. I don't want you to pity parents of
children with special needs, but do understand that many
of us are looking for answers to questions we barely
Parents of children with
autism, in particular, have proven especially
susceptible to fraud and fear. Life with autism can be
that stress levels for primary caregivers of children
with autism compare to those of soldiers deployed in
Some parents have not
only followed McCarthy's decision to create a
gluten-free/casein-free diet, as still advocated on her
but have pursued much more extreme measures. At this
year's Autism One/Generation Rescue conference in
Chicago, many sessions focused on costly
though no science supports the idea that injecting a
child with stem cells will cure autism.
In previous years, panels
at the same conference have promoted the practice of
giving autistic children
orally and as an enema -- all as part of a detox method
(predicated on the idea that autism is an environmental
Parents who do this are
not cruel; they're just looking for hope.
Enter Jenny McCarthy, a
woman who evangelizes. She jumps at fads, hunches,
intuitions and really bad ideas. She believes them. She
makes them hers. Then she builds institutions to promote
them with the full-throated roar of a new convert.
McCarthy has profited
handsomely from her outrageous views. She is
intelligent, funny and persuasive. She writes books that
sell very well. Her organizations throw successful
events. She is a tireless promoter of her ideas. And now
she's a host on "The View."
What idea will she seize
on next? What dangerous fad will she claim needs more
study? How many parents, at home in the morning, will be
persuaded? I'm deeply disappointed that Barbara Walters
and ABC have decided to let us find out the answers to
these troubling questions.