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Andrew Wakefield on Good Morning America? Who says “tell both sides” medical journalist about pseudoscience is dead?

Oh, geez. Will the media never learn?

Yep, it looks as though Andrew Wakefield will be on Good Morning America tomorrow. True, it is a holiday in the U.S., but that just might mean that viewership will be higher because more people will be at home. I, of course, will be at work; so I probably won’t get to see it until it’s either on YouTube or the GMA website later. In the meantime, the promo is here. It’s probably better that way, at least for my blood pressure.

Fallacious “tell both sides” journalism about scientific fraud and pseudoscience lives, it would appear.

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]

44 replies on “Andrew Wakefield on Good Morning America? Who says “tell both sides” medical journalist about pseudoscience is dead?”

However, you should take a look at as they have a fantastic interview with Seth Mnookin and are removing the RFK Jr. thimerosal article from their archives. . .

While I’ll be at home, I’ll pass since I’ve already heard his dry-run ( see progressiveradionetwork archives; the Gary Null Show; 1/10/11, 3PM for a pre-view of his spiel. Andy starts at about 13 minutes). I have a soiree later and don’t expect that seeing and hearing him will be what I want to do after first arising on a holiday.

Andrew Wakefield will be on Good Morning America tomorrow

After which, they will get Snooki’s take on the whole matter…

Yo! Jyarsey Shoah rawks!
No srsly, check it. So’s these doctah guys and scientists n’ stuff ah, like, rilly tryeen tuh, ya know, make babies and them be all ahtistic with shots and stuff so’s they can move tuh M’nhattan an’ live in loafts an’ get into ooal the coolest clubs an shit!! OMG SRSLY! I seen it on TMZ!

Rawkaway rawks! Woooooooo!

@1 smartin

That’s great! Dare I say that Salon has finally completed the transformation back to a respectable journal?

“Tell both sides” journalism is likely to live on, too. Former journalists Holly Stocking and Lisa Holstein’s 2009   paper observes that “…claims-makers who offer contrary views, however outrageous, often are quoted in news stories because their inclusion reinforces the impression of journalistic objectivity, a hallowed ideal and a defining norm of journalists’ professional values.” (pg. 28).
A few months ago I put a post on my blog   about the manufacture of doubt (e.g., re climate change) in which I pointed out that “A byproduct of this even-handed exposure of views is increased (and perhaps unwarranted) public doubts about views that nonetheless are backed by considerable evidence and expert authority. One of their central claims was that often the combatants are aware of this norm and try to exploit it.”

Dr Wakefield was not convicted of fraud by a court of law or by an administrative tribunal with the necessary jurisdiction and authority. He has been convicted only by journal and mainstream media publications. Should he not have a right of reply or at least an opportunity to reply?

Given that his reply to this point can be summarized as “Buy my book,” I believe he’s had his opportunity. That any additional news outlets would feel the need to have him on-camera or on-mike does not speak well to those outlets’ jouranlistic integrity.

@Harold L Doherty:

Dr Wakefield was not convicted of fraud by a court of law or by an administrative tribunal…

Well, yes, I don’t recall anyone saying that he was. While I have seen some people call for his arrest/imprisonment, I don’t think anyone is calling for him to be jailed without being given a trial first.

Should he not have a right of reply or at least an opportunity to reply?

He does have a right to reply. No one is preventing him from replying. Further, beyond merely replying he could file a libel suit Brian Deer and/or the BMJ, and the UK is very plaintiff friendly when it comes to libel suits.

If you’re merely saying that we should withhold our judgement until Wakefield responds, as far as I know he has responded, in the form of “read my book”.

If you’re saying that no one should form opinions on the possibility of fraud unless and until the government has brought criminal charges, well, I have to disagree with that.

The stupid is strong with Doherty at #7:

Dr Wakefield was not convicted of fraud by a court of law or by an administrative tribunal with the necessary jurisdiction and authority. He has been convicted only by journal and mainstream media publications. Should he not have a right of reply or at least an opportunity to reply?

Well, what a load of crap! Are you a lying fool or a foolish liar? Mr Wakefield was struck off by the General Medical Council in the UK and no longer has a license to practise medicine there. The GMC is precisely “an administrative tribunal with the necessary jurisdiction and authority.” Wakefield has had plenty of opportunities to tell his stories, at the tribunal, at courts when he has unsuccessfully sued for libel and on his numerous appearances on rubbish television channels. He is no victim, he is a nasty, money-grabbing, fraudulent, monster.

Or do you consider the only tribunal with authority one constituted by Age of Autism’s Council of Supreme Tosspots?

Of course, you have the right to be stupid, that’s free speech for you. But it would be nice if you chose not to exercise it.

Sam thank you for the cheap, silly insults.

I understand that the GMC made various findings of unethical conduct including some dishonest conduct. If it is your opinion that it found fraud please provide a quote or reference from the decision to back that up …. is you can.

Sam thank you for the cheap, silly insults.

I understand that the GMC made various findings of unethical conduct including some dishonest conduct. If it is your opinion that it found fraud please provide a quote or reference from the decision to back that up …. if you can.

Harold Doherty, you must know that the GMC hearings were not designed to address scientific issues including the reliability of the data (read fraud) so that of course the GMC did not and could not find that Wakefield was fraudulent.–that was simply outside the scope of their inquiry. Similarly, the GMC did not address the issue of whether or not Wakefield used to cheat at rugby, so there was no finding regarding that question, either.

The editors of the BMJ, though, did examine the data, and they believe that Wakefield was fraudulent. Take it up with them, won’t you?

Meanwhile, the Huffington Post has an extended exclusive interview with Meth Snooki.

It’s funny to see Seth Mnookin all serious in these interviews; I went to high school with him and he was sort of the class clown. I thought he was kind of a prick at the time and couldn’t believe he got into Harvard and I got rejected from Cornell ;þ

#13 Harold L. Doherty

I understand that the GMC made various findings of unethical conduct including some dishonest conduct. If it is your opinion that it found fraud…

Perhaps you’d like look at some of the evidence presented outside the GMC.

This should come as no surprise. Thanks to Brian Deer, the journalist who uncovered so much of Dr. Andew Wakefield’s shady research and dealings,we now know that Wakefield was paid by lawyers before his infamous MMR study and thathe failed to disclose this clear conflict of interest

We’ve got..

The payments, unearthed by The Sunday Times, were part of £3.4m distributed from the legal aid fund to doctors and scientists who had been recruited to support a now failed lawsuit against vaccine anufacturers

According to the figures, released under the Freedom of Information Act, Wakefield was paid £435,643 in fees, plus £3,910 expenses.

At the time Wakefield denied any conflict of interest and said that the money went to his hospital, not to him personally. No disclosure was made, however, of the vastly greater sums that he was receiving directly from the lawyers.

So Harold L. Doherty,what’s your definition of fraud?

Shill much?

“The greatest threat of childhood diseases lies in the
dangerous and ineffective efforts made to prevent them.”
Robert Mendelsohn, MD

“Since the beginning of laboratory investigation of vaccines,
researchers have known that immune system dysfunction can follow vaccination.”
Harold Buttram, MD and John Chriss Hoffman

Vaccination subdues one disease, only increases others.
Herbert Spencer in “History of Epidemics in Great Britain”

“Man cannot infringe upon nature without paying the penalty,
and human blood is incapable of accepting animal pus, serums, or other,
and alchemically turning it into a healthy, vital fluid.”
The Randolph Society (Gross! yuk!)

“The more vaccine that is used the more the actual infection that comes about.”
Wm F Koch, MD, PhD, The Survival Factor, 1961

“Vaccination is an illogical practice and may be the underlying cause of illnesses such as cancer.
Disorders of the immune system often occur as a consequence
of the after-effects of receiving viral vaccines, presumably related to the cell
associated immunity responses, where a graft rejection type phenomena may occur.”
Dr Eva Snead, “Some Call it AIDS, I Call It Murder”, 1992

My definition of fraud is a deliberate deception for the purposes of personal gain.
In Wakefield’s case this would appear to be of both financial and professional benefit.
He also deceived his co-authors on the paper who had no idea he was employed by a litigation lawyer to help make a case against MMR.

He may not yet have been found guilty of fraud, but the evidence against him that has been revealed is utterly damning.

Interesting tidbit that while I do not believe the term ‘fraud’ was ever used by the GMC panel terms such as ‘dishonest’ and ‘inaccurate’ are used repeatedly, typically followed by ‘found proved’.I agree with the above comments the focus of the GMC trial was not potential fraud but Wakefield’s gross ethical violations.
Wakefield has a right of response, which he has extensively exercised, however we also have a right to be annoyed if someone chooses to put him on television and then lobe him softball questions. Frankly I’d like to see Wakefield put on TV and forced to answer for the numerous inaccuracies contained within his MMR paper but it seems unlikely that GMA is going to give us that sort of interview.

Actually, the GMC did make a finding of fraud. It found that Wakefield’s description of the purpose of the study (to find a new syndrome in a lawsuit) and the nature of patient referrals was dishonest. That is a clear finding of fraud, which goes to the very nub of the research. The paragraph is reported at Mr Deer’s website:

I assume it can be found in the GMC results, but I have not looked.

Like I said I’m fairly certain they never actually use the term fraud anywhere but it is extremely clear from the evidence that is what was going on. Here’s an example:

[Wakefield’s] conduct as set out at paragraph 32.a. was,

i. dishonest,

Found proved
ii. irresponsible,

Found proved

iii. resulted in a misleading description of the patient
population in the Lancet paper;

Found proved

In reaching its decision, the Panel notes that the project
reported in the Lancet paper was established with the
purpose to investigate a postulated new syndrome and yet
the Lancet paper did not describe this fact at all. Because
you drafted and wrote the final version of the paper, and
omitted correct information about the purpose of the study
or the patient population, the Panel is satisfied that your
conduct was irresponsible and dishonest.

The Panel is satisfied that your conduct at paragraph 32.a
would be considered by ordinary standards of reasonable
and honest people to be dishonest.

If GMA is so concerned that professionals/companies are benefiting from vaccines. Then why arent they reporting the system that exists now. Who runs the current MMR vaccine companies. Who is benefiting from that?

It’s just ignorant to believe that Dr’s & corporations arent benefiting from the currrent health care system. Healthcare is a business.

I hate watching the news now, no real information is ever shared. The more factual reports are about Hollywood Star’s red carpet looks.

Kim over at Countering… has a post up typed as she watched the interview. Judging by first impressions, looks as though GMA was hard on Wakefield.

But the GMC panel judgement counts for zero.
Don’t you know they were just a bunch of stooges hired by BigPharma to do a dirty number on Saint Andy?
Of course they found him guilty.

@26 Todd, thanks. I’ve updated it to include footage of the interview. George was hard on Wakefield; there really wasn’t any false balance. GMA made it clear that his work had been debunked and that he was fraudulent; not even any of what they normally do, of accusing him of being fraudulent.

The only thing that wasn’t hit on enough was how much money he’d taken from the lawyers, which isn’t new to any of us following the story. Not enough’s been made of that, and I don’t recall seeing any reporters directly asking him about the money from the lawyers. They’ve gotten close to it, but not straight out, but I may have missed some of Wakefield’s media interviews.

If anyone interviewing Wakefield would do just a modicum of homework and see that he makes the same claims over and over, so many of them could have trashed his claim that his work has been replicated in 5 other countries. He has repeated that so often, I think he might actually believe it but he needs to be called out on that.

@science mom: AoA apparently has a “reference list” of studies that support Wakefield’s findings. The 5 countries thing is listed there too, and has shown up on the parenting site I frequent. *sigh*

Wakefield said on GMA this morning: “The findings we made in the original study were of a bowel disease in children with autism. Let me make that absolutely clear that is what has been replicated.” He also said: “[The] clinical symptoms which turned out to represent a novel bowel disease that has been replicated around the world.”

Wakefield thus abandons his pretense that there is any support whatsoever for his claim that MMR is associated with ASD and instead reduces his claim to this: children with ASD (just like children without ASD) can have bowel problems. Of course, if that was all he had said, he wouldn’t have been on GMA. Instead, this is what Wakefield really claimed: “[T]he widespread use of MMR immunization is a major determinant of the apparent (now substantiated) increase in rates of autism.” [Pediatrics 2001;107;e84]

The world has learned nothing from the Shoah (Holocaust). Witness Cambodia, Bosnia, Rwanda and Darfur. Humanity is only too happy to continue its path of destruction and genocide.

Virtually every History PhD in the free world will stake his or her career on known Holocaust facts. Despite this, Holocaust deniers ply their mendacious poison everywhere, especially with young people on the Internet. We must tell the true story of the perpetrators of genocide, revealing the terror, humiliation and degradation resulting from such blind loathing and prejudice. We must disclose the cruelty and horror of genocide to combat the deniers’ virulent and inaccurate historical revision. By doing this, we protect vulnerable future generations from making the same mistakes.

Whenever we stand up to those who deny or minimize genocide we send a critical message to the world. As we continue to live in an age of genocide and ethnic cleansing, we must repel the broken ethics of our ancestors, or risk a dreadful repeat of past transgressions. If not through genocide awareness and Holocaust education, then how? A world that continues to allow genocide requires ethical remediation.

We must show the world that religious, racial, ethnic and gender persecution is wrong; and that tolerance is our progeny’s only hope. Only through such efforts can we reveal the true horror of genocide and promote the triumphant spirit of humankind.

Charles Weinblatt
Jacob’s Courage

@Charles Weinblatt:

Uh, what does any of that have to do with Wakefield, autism or vaccines?

@Matthew Cline – I think he’s comparing the misinformation being published by mainstream media to the misinformation about the holocaust that is being given air time by some fringe groups. Both types of denialism are dangerous, and there are young and impressionable minds that will listen to them.

That’s my take on Charles’ opinion.

Weinblatt’s a spammer. He has posted that exact same message on other threads in the past. At least then his spam was relevant to the topic.

The Australian Vaccination Network (read: The Australian Anti-Vaccination Network) provided the following list in support of Wakefield. Yes, a bunch of case studies concerning IBD-like disease in people with Autism. hmm…the words “evidence” and “vaccination” do not particularly spring to mind when I read through these articles.

The most deceptive part was that the tiny url’s were posted, but not hyperlinked, thus requiring effort above and beyond simply clicking. I suppose the theory is that the choir they preach to wouldn’t make the effort to actually look at these articles and discover the duplicity.

Clinical Presentation and Histologic Findings at Ileocolonoscopy in Children with Autistic Spectrum Disorder and Chronic Gastrointestinal Symptoms
Arthur Krigsman, Marvin Boris, Alan Goldblatt and Carol Stott
Autism Insights 2010:2 1-11

Gastrointestinal Pathology in Autism Spectrum Disorders: The Venezuelan Experience
by Lenny G. Gonzalez, MD

Panenteric IBD-like disease in a patient with regressive autism shown for the first time by wireless capsulenteroscopy: Another piece in the jig-saw of the gut-brain syndrome?
Balzola F, et al.
American Journal of Gastroenterology. 2005. 100(4):979-981.

Endoscopic and Histological Characteristics of the Digestive Mucosa in Autistic Children with gastro-Intestinal Symptoms.
Gonzalez L, et al.
ArchVenez Pueric Pediatr, 2005;69:19-25.

Anna, peer-reviewed evidence showing harms from vaccination of greater significance than is already known to exist will convince people on this board.

Unsupported assertions, in your case quoted from other people (with rank conspiracy-mongering to boot!), will not.

Or perhaps you are just drive-by trolling and we will not see you again?

By this logic–“Fallacious ‘tell both sides’ journalism”–then let’s be consistent and say that Anderson Cooper shouldn’t have interviewed Wakefield, either.

Should Wakefield not be quoted in newspaper articles about the BMJ investigative report? Same logic, there, I presume.

The guy is all over the news for being a fraud–he’s the centerpiece of an irrational movement that is a danger to public health. So who do you want journalists to interview to represent him, if he shouldn’t be allowed to respond to the charges?

BTW, no doubt Orac and others watched the Good Morning America interview, yet I’m not hearing any criticism of it. Is that because Stephanopoulos did a good job? (or is a topic on another thread I haven’t read?)

Wouldn’t that be a better criteria (quality of interview) for judgment, rather than a blanket edict, disallowing Wakefield from being interviewed at all.

If someone is in the news for being a fraud, it’s not out-of-line to interview him. In fact, I would think it’s fair.

I see a distinction between interviewing the person accused of fraud with “telling both sides” of an issue. Analogies suck, but if I were doing a story on the Holocaust, it wouldn’t be appropriate to find some deniers to “get their side.”

However, if Joe Blow was in the news for being fired from his job for being a Holocaust denier, then it’s entirely fair to talk to him. Maybe he will just scream “THE JOOS! THE JOOS!” In fact, that would probably be for the best, because the audience would know exactly what kind of guy he is.

@41. Seems to me that Orac conflated the well worn “telling both sides” refrain with your standard journalistic interview of someone who is prominent and also in the news for being a world-class fraud.

But If I misunderstood his post, and if Orac didn’t jump the gun before actually seeing the interview, and assumed it was going to be a different kind of story (instead of it being the B+ equivalent of Andersoon Cooper’s A+ interview), well, I’m ready and willing to be corrected.

BTW, just for kicks, I juxtaposed Orac’s criticism of ABC with another equally flawed reaction from another blogger, but on a different topic:

On Facebook, Andrew Wakefield is asking his supporters to vote in the poll linked on my ‘nmy. So far, they are in the lead. This could change if we get together.

Wakefield was clearly just biding his time until he got some pro-vax patsy to interview him while they cuddled on a sofa sipping lattes.

So what does he say?

-They are out to get me!
Conspiracy – UK Gov, other National Govts and Global Bigpharma all in it together, along with the “once respectable” British Medical Journal.

-He did it all for the children, and would do it all over again.

-Brian Deer cannot be trusted because…. He interviewed one of the parents having gained her permission to do so by using a false name.

-The UK Govt is wholly responsible for the outbreaks of measles because they withdrew the single measles vaccine, (and not Wakefield for lambasting MMR).

-He coped with the situation using yoga and beer.

-Pleads “what possible gain could there have been for me?” (conveniently forgetting the private companies he set up with forecasted turnover of £73 million, and the £450k he somehow got from the lawyer for supposedly doing 2900 hours of legal work on the autism-vaccine claim in 2 years, despite having another fulltime job and young family, and the £25k research funding unaccounted for.)

-On legal action against BMJ/Deer – He has “thought about it” is “discussing it at the moment”
but admits it would be costly and wouldn’t be the best use of his time and would preoccupy him (insinuates this is perhaps what the unamed conspirators want)
[ie probably no prospect of legal action, he realises he hasn’t a legal leg to stand on but is proactively looking for excuses to explain away his reluctance to do so]


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