An Open Letter to Oprah

Bad Astronomy
The entire universe in blog form
May 18 2009 12:00 PM

An Open Letter to Oprah

This has been spreading through the 'net and through Twitter, and I'm throwing my weight behind it too. This letter, written by Shirley Wu, is perfect, and I hope beyond hope that Ms. Winfrey will see it. Here's an excerpt:

To me, it is clear that a significant number of people look up to you, and trust your advice and judgment. That is why it is such a huge mistake for you to endorse Jenny McCarthy with her own show on your network.

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Surely you must realize that McCarthy is neither a medical professional nor a scientist. And yet she acts as a spokesperson for the anti-vaccination movement, a movement that directly impacts people’s health. Claims that vaccines are unsafe and cause autism have been refuted time after time, but their allure persists in part because of high-profile champions for ignorance like McCarthy.

This letter is clear, factual, calm, and hits the right notes perfectly. Spread the word. Send the link to your friends and family, talk about, post it on Twitter, Facebook, wherever. Get the word out.

Like it or not, Oprah has a huge influence. I suspect the letter above is not even enough; she needs to actively denounce what McCarthy is saying. Still, we take what we can. Oprah now has a chance to lay down a path to either promote thousands of children getting sick and even dying, or to perhaps save those same lives.

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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