Newsweek slams Oprah

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June 3 2009 9:30 AM

Newsweek slams Oprah

As you may know, Oprah recently stepped from the realm of pseudoscience firmly into the realm of dangerous antiscience when she decided to support antivax advocate Jenny McCarthy. The blogosphere went, well, nuts, condemning her for this. That includes me; I'm pretty ticked Oprah would put so many children in danger by giving McCarthy a platform from which to spew her nonsense.

And while the blogosphere does reach a lot of people, it helps a whole lot when the mainstream media pitches in. Usually the MSM is really credulous when it comes to the medical field, uncritically discussing "alternative" medicine usually without mentioning any actual science or testing of these ideas... and it makes us all sicker.

Phil Plait Phil Plait

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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So this is why I am so happy that Newsweek has not only tackled Oprah's prolonged New Age nonsense, but they came on strong. They not only printed a 6-page long dissection of Oprah's ridiculous assertions, they made it their front page story this week!

It's a very critical look at the sorts of medical claims made by Oprah's guests and endorsed by the iconic talk show host. Of course, McCarthy is discussed:

In 2007, Oprah invited Jenny McCarthy, the Playboy model and actress, to describe her struggle to find help for her young son. When he was 2½, Evan suffered a series of seizures. A neurologist told McCarthy he was autistic. "So what do you think triggered the autism?" Oprah asked McCarthy. "I know you have a theory."

McCarthy is certain that her son contracted autism from the measles, mumps and rubella (MMR) vaccination he received as a baby. She told Oprah that the morning he went in for his checkup, her instincts told her not to allow the doctor to give him the vaccine. "I said to the doctor, I have a very bad feeling about this shot. This is the autism shot, isn't it? And he said no, that is ridiculous; it is a mother's desperate attempt to blame something on autism. And he swore at me." The nurse gave Evan the shot. "And not soon thereafter," McCarthy said, "boom, soul gone from his eyes."

[...]

But back on the Oprah show, McCarthy's charges went virtually unchallenged. Oprah praised McCarthy's bravery and plugged her book, but did not invite a physician or scientist to explain to her audience the many studies that contradict the vaccines-autism link.

As has now been conclusively shown, vaccines have nothing to do with autism. Moreover, we are now seeing a scary rise in diseases preventable with a simple vaccine shot, and we are also seeing people -- infants -- dying from nonsense like McCarthy's.

And Oprah's helping her shill it.

I strongly urge people to read this article, because the mainstreaming of dangerous crap like McCarthy's has and will continue to kill kids. With Oprah merrily stoking it, this fire will consume far more than just people who watch her show. It will affect all of us, because without the herd immunity provided by having enough people inoculated against diseases, we'll see even more tragic and wholly preventable deaths.

And I'll leave you with this; even Stephen Colbert has jumped in (the Oprah stuff starts at about 4 minutes in). Some NSFW language, perhaps, but a whole lot of mockery that is extremely well-deserved.