Dear ABC: Putting Anti-Vaccine Conspiracist Jenny McCarthy on “The View” Will Kill Children
Jenny McCarthy, a former model and comedienne, is set to be the next co-host of ABC’s The View, a popular morning talk show with an all-woman cast. She is replacing Elisabeth Hasselbeck, who recently jumped ship to Fox News, cable’s longtime home of attractive women who specialize in reactionary sneering.
McCarthy certainly has a more pleasant, or at least less confrontational, television style. Really the only problem with hiring her is that her life’s mission at this point is the advancement of dangerous fictions about vaccines. She devotes a great deal of energy to promoting the untrue belief that vaccines lead to autism, and it seems possible that she now views her career as a television personality and prominent celebrity as a means of carrying out her mission to spread what she believes is the truth about autism.
Vaccines don’t cause autism. Vaccines, instead, prevent disease. Vaccines have wiped out a score of formerly deadly childhood diseases. Vaccine skepticism has helped to bring some of those diseases back from near extinction. Children have actually died as a result. Vaccine skepticism isn’t just some “alternative viewpoint” that is stupid but ultimately harmless, like “detoxing” or 9/11 Trutherism. Parents have been convinced by McCarthy and the people she works with and promotes. They have foregone vaccination for their children. The result has been the recurrence and spread of preventable diseases. It’s incredibly irresponsible for a broadcast television network to think Jenny McCarthy should be on television — in a position where her job is to share her opinions — every day. It should seriously be a major scandal.
The cynicism and contempt of this hiring is almost funny: In replacing the widely hated Hasselbeck with McCarthy, Walters and company didn’t select a new conservative, to maintain the panel’s political balance. They just went with someone who says dumb, inflammatory things. It’s basically a tacit admission that they were simply casting for “the pretty idiot one.” McCarthy ought to be insulted, if if weren’t for for the fact that she’s probably incredibly grateful to be on network TV at all, after flailing through a series of poorly conceived late-night cable talk show launches.
But McCarthy’s idiocy is of a very different, and much more damaging nature than the standard-issue right-wing idiocy of Elisabeth Hasselbeck. McCarthy is not expressing a disagreeable political position, she is spreading misinformation that has actual, tangible health risks. America’s public health authorities should be sounding the alarm. The American Medical Association and the surgeon general should be publicly calling on ABC to reverse its decision to hire McCarthy. They should have begun the campaign before the announcement was official.
Vaccine conspiracies, like so much modern cult conspiracy culture, perpetuates itself and lives on indefinitely thanks to the community-building and archiving of the Internet. With the help of some very prominent advocates, with huge audiences and a great deal of influence, it has spread far beyond the fringe. McCarthy has been one of the movement’s most prominent voices for years, and, infuriatingly, much of the media has treated her bullshit as weepy celebrity “awareness-raising” fare instead of crackpotted nonsense.
And some outlets have taken it much, much further. Here is Ms. McCarthy’s intact Huffington Post author’s page. It would be nice if, at some point, the Huffington Post actually retracted the various noxious vaccine conspiracies they used to print regularly in the quack-infested “Living” section. All of it, at the the moment, is still online, uncorrected, from this to this to this to this to all of this to this to this. I dunno, maybe a couple dozen editors’ notes are in order, for the sake of future Googling parents? Could someone at AOL stop scamming old people for a second and get on this?