McCain's McCarthyism. McMaybe.

McCain's McCarthyism. McMaybe.

McCain's McCarthyism. McMaybe.

Bad Astronomy
The entire universe in blog form
Oct. 2 2008 8:40 AM

McCain's McCarthyism. McMaybe.

My head is spinning after researching this blog post. See if you can follow along here. You may want to sit down, and have a bucket of water handy.

A while back, Presidential candidate John McCain said that there was evidence that vaccines cause autism. This did not endear him to me.

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Phil Plait writes Slate’s Bad Astronomy blog and is an astronomer, public speaker, science evangelizer, and author of Death From the Skies!  

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Then, actress Jenny McCarthy became an outspoken advocate of this non-existing link.

Now, in an interview with Access Hollywood (link goes to video, skip to about 2:00 minutes in), McCarthy says she has tried to contact McCain, hoping to convince him to be a champion of her antiscience inquisition.

Still with me?

OK, this gets harder to follow. The interview with Access Hollywood has been picked up by various online sites. Both ContactMusic and IMDB have reprinted the same article (evidently from a news service), and they both say McCain turned her down! Why? According to the news article, it's because McCain denied her requests "after learning there's no hard medical evidence linking vaccines and autism."

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Hey, good on him. That's very cool that he's taking the side of science and --

[insert comical record scratching sound effect here]

Wait! Hold the onions! According to McCarthy in the actual interview with Access Hollywood, that's not the case:

I literally flew to go see McCain ... His team agreed to [the meeting], I was prepped and then all of a sudden his campaign manager had said, 'We're ahead in the polls and this is a very, very touchy subject. Let's not give this interview right now.'"

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So which is it? McCain found science, or it's another political maneuver? Or is Ms. McCarthy somehow garbling up what happened? Or did the news service? The part about McCain seeing no evidence for a link is in the online written articles, but not the video interview of McCarthy.

Whatever. But I'd love to hear the McCain campaign come out and say there is no medical link between vaccines and autism. That would be very cool indeed.

And lest you think this is over, of course it isn't. Don't be silly! Turns out McCarthy's team has been trying to contact Obama now, hoping he'll be the one to deny all the medical evidence, the science, the studies, and reality, and back her side:

We are trying (to contact him)... We have sent numerous, numerous (requests). Y'know, it's a very scary thing for a politician.

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I imagine being hunted down by an antiscience advocate would indeed be scary. Oh-- she must mean taking on a controversial issue is scary. Well, yeah, it can be scary, but there's right and there's wrong. And putting kids and whole populations at risk, well, I'm here to tell you that's wrong.

And shame on Access Hollywood for giving her a soap box from which to preach. It's not like I expect journalistic aptitude from a Hollywood gossip program, but it didn't occur to anyone there that when they interview an actress trying to take on the entire medical profession, that maybe, just maybe, they could have talked to an actual, y'know, doctor?

Which leads me to:

The stupid, it burns

I knew that drawing would be useful. And I told you to have a bucket of water handy.