The View Goes Antiviral

Bad Astronomy
The entire universe in blog form
July 9 2014 11:21 AM

The View Is Getting Clearer

Jenny McCarthy and Sherri Shepherd
Jenny McCarthy (left) and Sherri Shepherd are not my favorite icons of informed opinion on a daytime talk show.

Photos by Shutterstock/s_bukley/Helga Esteb

I have some good news, and some forehead-slappy news.

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Huzzah.

I’ve had serious problems with Shepherd for years; back in 2007 I called her out for what can charitably be called profound ignorance on some basic matters (like—and I’m serious—not knowing the Earth is round, claiming that nothing predated Christianity, and being a Young-Earth creationist).

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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!  

Given that this is a talk show where the panel discusses various current events and offers up opinions, I have long said she’s an inappropriate person to have on. I’m generally understanding of people having opinions with which I disagree if they come to those conclusions in good faith (if you’ll pardon the expression), even if they’re based on bad evidence—everyone has their own beliefs that are illogical or even irrational. And certainly if everyone always agreed on everything it wouldn’t be a very interesting show to watch (or a fun planet to live on).

But there’s only so much ignorance I think a viewer should be asked to tolerate. Shepherd, in my own opinion, was well past that limit.

As for McCarthy, well, her vociferous and glaringly wrong stance against vaccines leaps her way to the front of the pack of people who needn’t be given a voice on television. I was clear about this when she was hired for The View, and I was even more clear when—in a twist that would make Orwell proud—she claimed she wasn’t anti-vaccination. Her influence on the anti-vax movement presents a threat to public health, and anti-vax beliefs are causing huge spikes in preventable diseases like measles and whooping cough.

So yes, I’m glad McCarthy’s leaving a TV show that has an audience of millions of people, many of whom are young mothers with vaccination-age children. However, sadly, I’m also quite sure she will find some other soapbox from which she can peddle her nonsense. There’s no lack of such venues in today’s media.

And now the forehead-slappiness: Apropos of apparently nothing, Sarah Palin is throwing her hat in the ring to be on the show. It doesn’t sound like ABC invited her, and Palin is well-known for, um, self-promotion, so I doubt there’s any weight to this. It would be, in my opinion, a wash to lose Shepherd and McCarthy and gain Palin; the former governor of Alaska has made creationist noises before, and honestly has hardly said one rational thing since getting into the public eye years ago. Her latest step in bizarro land is to unironically call for President Obama’s impeachment for “dereliction of duty,” even though she herself quit the office of governor in the middle of a term after numerous ethics investigations. So, yeah.

Anyway, I know in the long term all this host shuffling on a daytime TV talk show doesn’t mean a huge amount, but I do think it means something. A lot of folks watch TV, of course, and millions still get a lot of their news and information from shows like The View. That means the producers, in turn, have responsibility for what they say and do. Hiring people to give opinions who are known mostly for their advocacy of provable nonsense is not raising the level of discourse in this country, and that’s something we sorely, sorely need.

Tip o’ the moose antlers to Davin Flateau for the info about Palin.

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