Jenny McCarthy’s Charisma Masks Her Kookiness
About one thing there is no doubt. Jenny McCarthy is a very pretty lady. After all she rose to fame as a Playboy Playmate. She has also had a fling with modelling, TV and movies. And she is probably a nice lady and a caring mother. But a scientist she is not. Nevertheless she has no qualms about offering her opinion on complex scientific issues such as vaccination. Jenny believes that her son’s medical condition, which she claims is autism, was caused by a reaction to the mumps, measles, rubella (MMR) vaccine. She has become an outspoken critic of current vaccination practices, having bought into the vaccine-autism link as suggested by Dr. Andrew Wakefield in his now classic paper in the Lancet. That’s the paper that has been withdrawn by the journal because it was deemed to be fraudulent.
But Jenny has not withdrawn her support, sympathizing with anti-vaccinationists who claim that Wakefield is a scapegoat in a scheme cooked up by the pharmaceutical industry. The scientific community has thoroughly examined and dismissed Wakefield’s allegations and looks very skeptically on Jenny’s claims that her son greatly improved by chelation therapy which purports to rid the body of mercury introduced by vaccines. Were Jenny not an attractive lady with the gift of gab, her words would not carry much weight. But given her celebrity status, many hang on her utterances. As a result of the scientifically unsupported anti-vaccination movement we are already seeing epidemics of mumps and measles because of reduced immunization rates. Jenny may be well-meaning but she is doing society a disservice.
In spite of her scientific illiteracy Miss McCarthy has been invited to be a speaker at a breast cancer fundraiser in Ottawa. The Ottawa Regional Breast Cancer Foundation claims that Jenny was invited because she will draw a crowd and give donations a boost. That may very well be, but the fact is that a breast cancer organization is featuring a promoter of pseudoscience whose anti-vaccine stand may compromise breast cancer patients. These patients are often immunocompromised and are candidates for infection with the influenza virus. The risk can be reduced when they and the people around them have received the flu vaccine, which anti-vaccinations also oppose.
Having Jenny McCarthy speak at a health event organized by a reputable organization gives her undeserved credibility and helps spread her pseudoscientific message. I have absolutely nothing against inviting Jenny to speak at not health-related events. Indeed if she were invited to the Montreal Comedy Festival, I would get in line for tickets.