The news that a TV talk show has hired a new host doesn’t typically cause a commotion. But the newest host of ABC’s “The View,” Jenny McCarthy, isn’t just any actress. She is well-known for her false and misleading claims that vaccines cause autism as for her roles as a late-night host on VH1 and a 1993 Playboy model. But, will her appointment lead to children being harmed or even dying?
A political reporter for the online news and entertainment website Salon, Alex Pareene, commented saying: “Dear ABC: Putting Jenny McCarthy on ‘The View’ will kill children.” Is this an over-the-top claim, or a real possibility? Well, it turns out Mr. Pareene is not alone in his fears. Another news story reports:
The New Yorker’s science reporter Michael Specter wrote that “Jenny McCarthy, who will join “The View” in September, will be the show’s first co-host whose dangerous views on childhood vaccination may—if only indirectly—have contributed to the sickness and death of people throughout the Western world.”
“Executives at ABC should be ashamed of themselves for offering McCarthy a regular platform on which she can peddle denialism and fear to the parents of young children who may have legitimate questions about vaccine safety,” Specter added.
Why are these critics so concerned about an actress? Here’s an explanation offered in an article in USA Today:
About one in four adults said they were familiar with McCarthy’s views about vaccines, according to a USA TODAY/Gallup poll. Of those adults, 40% said her claims made them more likely to question vaccine safety.
Public health groups say they fear that McCarthy, 40, will use her new job to spread dangerous misinformation. Two dozen studies have failed to find any link between autism and vaccines. The advocacy group Autism Speaks also has said there is “no connection” between immunizations and the condition.
“Jenny McCarthy’s unfounded claims about the dangers of vaccines has been one of the greatest impediments to efforts to vaccinate children in recent decades,” says Amy Pisani, the executive director of Every Child by Two, an international vaccination group co-founded by former first lady Rosalynn Carter. The group wrote to The View producer Barbara Walters last week seeking to keep McCarthy off the show.
“Children have died due to this misinformation, and those who perpetuate lies for personal gain ought to be held responsible,” Pisani says.
McCarthy’s critics say they’re afraid that giving her a network TV job could give her more credibility. Rahul Parikh, a pediatrician with Kaiser-Permanente in Walnut Creek, California, says he’s especially uneasy about seeing McCarthy on a show “that caters to moms.”
About 10% of parents now skip or delay recommended vaccines because of safety concerns. Public health officials have blamed this trend for recent outbreaks of measles and whooping cough.
“ABC has reached a new low when it comes to bringing on a ‘controversial’ host to improve ratings,” says Austin pediatrician Ari Brown, author of Baby 411. Like many pediatricians, Brown says she devotes considerable time to debunking vaccine myths and reassuring parents about the importance of vaccines. “While controversy might sell, it also might turn viewers away.”
Seattle pediatrician Wendy Sue Swanson says it could take decades to make up for lost ground on vaccines. “In the medical community, we’ll work to undo myths around vaccine safety for the rest of our lives, in part because of Ms. McCarthy.”