The View Gives Anti-Vaxxer Jenny McCarthy a Co-Host Seat

Bad Astronomy
The entire universe in blog form
July 15 2013 1:57 PM

The View Hires Notorious Anti-Vaxxer Jenny McCarthy

Jenny McCarthy
Jenny McCarthy, anti-vaccination advocate and newest co-host of The View

Photo by August Fairchild/Shutterstock

I was hoping I wouldn’t have to write this post, but here we are: The daytime talk show The View has indeed hired Jenny McCarthy as a co-host. I wrote about this last week, alerting people to the possibility, and now it's now been confirmed. She'll find her spot on the program this fall.

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!  

I was not exactly a fan of the show before—giving a soapbox to someone like Sherri Shepherd, who wasn’t sure if the Earth was round or not, rather dampens my enthusiasm—but this secures my opinion of it now.

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Why? McCarthy’s views constitute, in my opinion, a threat to public health. She is loudly against vaccines, claiming they cause autism, claiming they are loaded with toxins, and claiming her own son became autistic after a vaccination and that she subsequently cured him with a gluten-free diet.

To phrase it delicately, none of her claims has any medical merit at all. Vaccines have an incredibly small risk compared to their extremely large benefit. Polio, measles, pertussis … these diseases and many more have infected, sickened, and killed far fewer people than they used to due to the development of vaccinations against them. Smallpox alone killed hundreds of millions of people, and it’s gone because of vaccines.

Vaccines have been tested exhaustively to see if they cause autism, and it's become overwhelmingly clear: There is no good evidence that they do.

Yet despite these facts McCarthy has gone everywhere and anywhere protesting vaccinations. And she’s done this while actually injecting herself with the single most toxic protein known to medical science. Seriously. And over the years as the anti-vaxxers get more of a voice, we’ve seen outbreaks of pertussis, measles, and more, putting people, especially infants, at risk of serious illness and even death.

That’s why giving McCarthy a large public forum to share her views is a terrible idea. I’ll note The View has more than 3 million viewers, and given the time slot, I suspect a lot of those folks watching are parents of young kids—precisely the demographic most prone to listen to anti-vaccine views.

And even if she doesn’t talk about any of her nonsensical health ideas on the show, the very fact that she now has this co-host position gives her a tacit credibility to the viewer. That’s why, last week, I was hoping people would write in to the show to express their displeasure. A lot of you did, and I sincerely thank you for it. Unfortunately, apparently, that had little sway with the producers of The View.

So McCarthy will now get a seat on a TV show, where her charm and good humor will no doubt serve her and her cause well. And in the meantime, her frankly dangerous ideas about health issues will get that much more mainstream attention.

I’m a parent myself. My wife and I have had to make tough decisions about our own daughter over and over again, especially when she was an infant. That’s why we carefully researched those issues and sought out information—science-based, credible information—about them. And that’s why all three of us are up-to-date in our vaccinations.

Despite McCarthy’s well-meaning intentions and sincerity, her claims are still very, very wrong. So let me be clear: Don’t heed the advice of anti-vaxxers. Instead, go to your board-certified doctor and ask about vaccines. And if the doctor recommends you go ahead and get the shots, do it. The life you save may be your own child’s, as well of those of children all around you.

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