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Complain to CBS: CBS resident anti-vaccine propagandist Sharyl Attkisson sucks up to anti-vaccine pseudoscientist Andrew Wakefield

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A number of you sent me this link. It’s to a video (above) of Sharyl Attkisson, CBS News’ resident anti-vaccine propagandist, putting on a nauseating display of sucking up to Andrew Wakefield over his recent monkey study, the one that I deconstructed yesterday to show it for the lousy science that it is. Attkisson is a true believer. She’s done this sort of thing before, occasionally to unintentionally hilarious effect; she’s especially enamored of writing hit pieces on Paul Offit. Even worse, Attkisson is in bed with Generation Rescue and Age of Autism, apparently feeding information to AoA when it suits her. Personally, I view her as nothing more than a fellow traveler with Age of Autism; for all intents and purposes, she might as well blog for Generation Rescue.

I’ll leave it to you, my readers, to pick apart the inanities contained in the video above. I’m more interested in countering it. So, please, use this page and complain about this to CBS. I know, I know, if CBS has tolerated Attkisson’s anti-vaccine propaganda for this long, it’s unlikely that her bosses will fire her now, but it’s important to let CBS know just how misguided she is. Tell ’em Orac sent you.

By Orac

Orac is the nom de blog of a humble surgeon/scientist who has an ego just big enough to delude himself that someone, somewhere might actually give a rodent's posterior about his copious verbal meanderings, but just barely small enough to admit to himself that few probably will. That surgeon is otherwise known as David Gorski.

That this particular surgeon has chosen his nom de blog based on a rather cranky and arrogant computer shaped like a clear box of blinking lights that he originally encountered when he became a fan of a 35 year old British SF television show whose special effects were renowned for their BBC/Doctor Who-style low budget look, but whose stories nonetheless resulted in some of the best, most innovative science fiction ever televised, should tell you nearly all that you need to know about Orac. (That, and the length of the preceding sentence.)

DISCLAIMER:: The various written meanderings here are the opinions of Orac and Orac alone, written on his own time. They should never be construed as representing the opinions of any other person or entity, especially Orac's cancer center, department of surgery, medical school, or university. Also note that Orac is nonpartisan; he is more than willing to criticize the statements of anyone, regardless of of political leanings, if that anyone advocates pseudoscience or quackery. Finally, medical commentary is not to be construed in any way as medical advice.

To contact Orac: [email protected]

37 replies on “Complain to CBS: CBS resident anti-vaccine propagandist Sharyl Attkisson sucks up to anti-vaccine pseudoscientist Andrew Wakefield”

A couple things that jumped out at me. She brings up the vax vs. unvax study idea and says that it should be “pretty easy to do”. And, of course, Wakefield feeds the fears of people who expect that kind of study to be done.

He also mentioned that the monkey study is “part of a larger study” looking at the effect of the full vaccine schedule. That statement suggests that you were correct about it being a rehash of the earlier study, with some post hoc additions to jigger the results.

What a sham! This is an infomercial pure and simple. Atkinsson has succeeded in lowering herself to a rung or two down below hacks like Stagliano.

Also, is it just me or does Wakers look seriously ill? Maybe he’s following his own protocols. If so, good for him, I hope he keeps up the good work. I’d suggest the IgG IV, IV chelating with DAN!-approved Na-EDTA, Lupron chemical castration, Butter’s urine injection scheme, Butter’s stink Handley-approved gel, magnets in the shoes, lava rock baths, Amy’s yeast RNA (again, hilariously Handly approved) extracts mixed with perfume goodness, a whole shoot-load of fat-soluble vitamins and minerals, massive doses of antivirals and antibiotics, HBOT balloon fun times, and a solar sauna.

Yeah, that ought to keep a quack busy. Maybe the CBS infomercial reporter can do it with him too.

I was also thinking that Wakefield does not look well. He looks very tired. I almost feel sorry for him… but then I remember the wasted decade of autism research and my son’s pain, and who he has aligned himself with, and that sympathy is short-lived.

You get more mercury eating a can of tuna than from a vaccine. What a fucking stupid interview.

Also the comment about the brain stem kind of bugged me. I’m no expert in autism but it seems to me that even if it was due to damage in the brain from some unknown agent wouldn’t the damage be found somewhere like the neocortex, you know, where our higher functioning occurs and not in the brain stem?

What’s the phrase the anti-vaxxers like to use? “Follow the money.”

Wakefield never thought autism had anything to do with mercury or Hep B, it was always the measles virus in the gut for him. Enter Liz Birt, Mark Blaxill, and Safe-Minds throwing some money out there for Thoughtful House and a monkey study and he’s suddenly on board with thimerosal causing autism? Please. Wakefield would sleep with a monkey for the right price.

In the text of this article posted by #3, you got some “nice” framing with this sentence:

“The study became the centerpiece for an ongoing and nasty fight between vaccine safety advocates who embrace Wakefield’s research and believe vaccines can be administered in a safer fashion, and public health and government officials who attack Wakefield and believe his ideas threaten international vaccination programs.”

Love how it’s implying that public health officials/ the government are against vaccine safety. And poor Wakefield is being “attacked.” Ugh.

The UK’s general medical counsel hearing on Wakefield and his fitness to practice medicine will deliver it’s report on or after Nov 2009 according to Brian Deer’s postings. Brian did an amazing amount of investigation on Wakefield and deserves a lot of credit for uncovering the fraud and deceit of the charlatan Age of Autism and bow down to. Not sure what the Wakefield acolytes will do when the gmc smacks him (hard presumably), but I’d venture anything with Wakefield’s name on it isn’t fit to train a dog.

So what does this CBS investigative correspondent investigate here? Giving Wakefield a blow job while he explains how it is that money (three quarters of a million bucks)paid to him on behalf of claimants in a putative lawsuit does not constitute a conflict of interest because he didn’t spend it on the Lancet study where he linked MMR to autism for the lawsuit.

Okay, he spent it on something else: his patio roofing, a Latin American vacation, a new microscope.

Do the anti-vaxxers then say that, so long as a researcher doesn’t spend, say, drug company money, on research studies of the company’s drugs, there is no conflict of interest?

No, I think they would say that three quarters of a million bucks paid by drug company to a researcher that was spent on something else was, in fact, corruption.

Perhaps the anti-vaxxers can explain Wakefield’s argument. Because certainly the investigative correspondent didn’t.

Explain why Wakefield isn’t corrupt for taking money and then spending it on something else.

The quandary of thimerisol versus no thimerisol in the Hep B vaccine seems to allude logic. “They did not separate out the specific contents and thier effect”.
Sooooo, what the heck are we talking about then? Kind of like having an interview with two Alzhiemers patients.

There should be a point in the interview where someone says, “What were we talking about just a minute ago?”

Uncle Dave,
I like the “interview with two Alzheimer patients” analogy but that doesn’t really cover the magnitude of this fraud. They are working to actively promote vaccine preventable disease and line their pockets with woo-generated money from desperate parents seeking cures. They hurt their own children with chelation and other horrific, useless crap, waste thousands on ineffective fake treatments that do nothing but feed the malignant woo industry.

at MikeMa

However it does cover the magnitude of the logic of the interview. Or as they say in literature, where is the denouement?

As they say in Monty Python’s Life of Brian;
“Whats the point Reg?”
“Where’s the baby going to gestate? In a box?”

Or as Orac pointed out;

“Why did the investigators look at thimerosal-containing hepatitis B vaccination? There’s no thimerosal in the hepatitis B vaccine anymore and hasn’t been since 2001. In fact, if you read the methods section of the paper, you’ll see that Hewitson et al added thimerosal to Recombivax HB (Merck) in order to recreate that thimerosal feeling from the 1990s. Why would they do that?”

In other words or in my opinion to anyone objectively watching the interview with no preconceived notions (and some understanding of scientific method) they would have to conclude; So what’s the point? Or as ‘Watching Wakefield’ put it, “Perhaps the antivaxxers can explain Wakefield’s argument.” And of course they will, in they’re own very special way.

In her “defense”, I think Sharyl Attkisson is simply a mediocre journalist. From what I’ve read, she’s made more than her share of mistakes in her beat on the hill. While she certainly could have a pro-quackery/anti-vaccine bias, it is also equally possible she’s just blissfully unaware.

After all, it is the TV news business, where looking good has always been more important than being competent.

The interviewer was clear as she pointed out that HBV vax in babies had no thimerosal.

This was honest journalism as she also allowed Dr. Wakefield to discuss the monkey study with an HBV which did have the preservative.

Like the two authors mentioned, I have also been asked to review vaccine injury law suits. I have read records and given my opinion but have been clear in telling the attorneys and parties involved that I will not accept money for participating in these cases. Even though I don’t doubt his motives like you do, I wish that Dr. Wakefield had also done his work pro bono. As a side note, I have spoken twice for groups devoted to safer vaccines. I have paid for my own airfare and expenses and have not accepted any honorarium or fees.

Most of the doctors involved in the “vaccines have nothing to do with autism” camp have accepted very large sums of money from the pharmaceutical industry. Millions and millions of dollars, as you well know.



What part of “Wakefield committed scientific fraud” don’t you get?

Dr. Gordon is back to the pharma-shill gambit, I see.

The great majority of pediatricians are in the “vaccines have nothing to do with autism” camp. And Dr. Gordon assures us that “most” of them “have accepted very large sums of money from the pharmaceutical industry.”

I’m sure that “most” of the great majority of pediatricians will be surprised to learn that they have received millions from Big Pharma. They’ll be looking through the junk mail for the overlooked check….

Jay, Wakefraud is not a friend to children or to your professional reputation. He is a friend only to his bank account and his ego.

As for you, you are playing a numbers game, a casino of disease and the house always wins. As the numbers of unvaccinated children grow, vaccine preventable diseases will become more and more common. Eventually, a child will die because of your medical advice from a completely preventable disease. And every day, it becomes more and more clear that vaccines do not cause Autism or any of the ASD. You offer false protection to children and false comfort to parents. Call it hyperbole if you want, but I’ll call it a statistical guarantee.

Even though I don’t doubt his motives like you do, I wish that Dr. Wakefield had also done his work pro bono.

I’m sure he could’ve easily done that. After all, what’s the difference between zero dollars and three quarters of a million?

Most of the doctors involved in the “vaccines have nothing to do with autism” camp have accepted very large sums of money from the pharmaceutical industry. Millions and millions of dollars, as you well know.

Most? Be specific, Dr. Jay. Otherwise, you’re just making unfounded allegations. BTW, it doesn’t count if the doctor received money for work unrelated to vaccine-autism injury claims.

Don’t you folks realize? It doesn’t take millions. I mean, what pediatrician doesn’t love giving up his or her valuable free and family time to get a cheesy meal from a drug company sales rep a couple times a year? Jeez, who wouldn’t sell out their medical ethics for that? Especially if they throw in a couple of pens and a pad of post-it notes.

IIRC, there are about 16000 members of the AAP. Now, even if just half of them dispute the vaccine/autism link (way underestimated), Uncle Jay is claiming that the majority (>50%) are getting millions and millions of dollars from Big Pharma. That means that there are 4000 getting multiple millions, which would put it at more than $4 billion dollars that Big Pharma is paying to pediatricians. That’s a hefty chunk of the budget, and any stockholder should have access to that information.

So, Dr Jay, you have an opportunity to review Andrew Wakefield’s claims: that there was no conflict of interest because he spent the money on something else.

What do you say? Do you say that Andrew Wakefield misled CBS?

The information is all in front of you. If you say there is information you need to come to a conclusion, tell us what it is.

Do you say that Dr Wakefield misled CBS about the nature of conflicts of interest?

“Dr. Jay” claims:

“Most of the doctors involved in the “vaccines have nothing to do with autism” camp have accepted very large sums of money from the pharmaceutical industry. Millions and millions of dollars, as you well know.”

Once again, “Dr. Jay” pulls his “facts” out of his anus. Most of the doctors in the “vaccines have nothing to do with autism camp” have received “millions and millions of dollars”? Show your data, “Dr. Jay” or apologize to the thousands of doctors – many of them AAP members – who you have just impugned.

This is a classic example of the tu quoque fallacy, or it would be if “most” of the doctors in the “vaccines have nothing to do with autism” camp (more accurately known as the “vaccines haven’t been shown to cause autism” camp) had actually taken “millions and millions of dollars” (either individually or collectively) from the pharmaceutical industry.

Can’t “Dr. Jay” ever stick to the facts? Rather than try to excuse Dr. Wakefield’s obvious (yet originally concealed) conflict of interest, he manufactures a “fact” that “most” doctors who don’t agree with “Dr. Jay” that vaccines cause autism have taken payolla from “Big Pharma”.

This is beyond “Dr. Jay’s” usual pathetic level of “argument” – it has crossed into “scurrilous lie” territory.

An immediate and unqualified apology is due from “Dr. Jay”.


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