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« Child Warrior: Mia | Main | Mom Continues Autism Fight »

Some New York Times Reporters are Just Ignorant

ReviewerBy J.B. Handley

There's a reporter named Gardiner Harris who writes for the New York Times. I've probably talked to a hundred or so reporters in my time and he is unquestionably the biggest jackass I have ever encountered. Aside from being snide, cynical, wildly biased, dismissive, and arrogant, there's also this ditty, in a private email to me that explains it all:

"but scaring parents away from life-saving medicines is no way to improve this terrible situation. i have met parents who lost their children to vaccine-preventable diseases, and they are haunted. if you had your way, there would be far more of these haunted souls. i hope to prevent that from happening." – Gardiner Harris

So, he's also a vaccine zealot.

Needless to say that when I got the message that Donald McNeil from the New York Times had called on Friday for an interview, I just shook my head. Do I really have the time to waste on another trap at the New York Times, so I can see whatever I say put in the worst possible light in print no matter what I do? Stubbornly, and probably against my better judgment, I called him back.

Before the interview, I took a quick look at Donald's bio, and here's what I found:

"Donald G. McNeil Jr. is a science and health reporter specializing in plagues and pestilences. He covers diseases of the world's poor, AIDS, malaria, avian flu, SARS, mad cow disease and so on. He also writes features and first-person pieces for other sections. He joined the Times in 1976 as a copy boy and has been a night rewrite man, an environmental reporter, a theater columnist and an editor. From 1995 to 2002 he was a foreign correspondent based in South Africa and France and has reported from 49 countries."

Plagues, diseases of the poor, SARS, and mad cow disease? I held no hope - most journalists who specialize in these topics believe vaccines are the answer for all the ills that face the world. It got worse when I started to read the articles Donald McNeil had actually written. Just consider some of these headlines:

Sharp Drop Seen in Deaths From Ills Fought by Vaccine

New Vaccine Said to Offer Hope Against Deadly Bacterium

Avian Flu Pandemic Still Possible, Experts Say

Study Casts Doubt on Theory Of Vaccines' Link to Autism


Oh good God, I thought, this guy is drinking the kool-aid like the other New York Times reporters. Just for fun I Googled "Donald McNeil New York Times Paul Offit" and wouldn't you know, the quote machine has been very busy with Mr. McNeil, featured in nearly every article he has written on anything anywhere to do with vaccines. See for yourself.

My cell phone rang. It was Donald McNeil. He tells me he's writing a review of Paul Offit's book. Interesting that a book sitting at #8,219 on sales rank at Amazon hits the New York Times radar, but there you go.

The interview began. Unlike Gardiner, Donald McNeil was a pleasant guy from the outset, clear and straightforward in his goals. He mentioned Offit's book, that there was certainly some controversy, and what did I think about it all.

I think my initial answer surprised him. To paraphrase myself I said:

"Offit's book is a disappointment. For something like autism, where none of our health authorities have any explanation of cause or cure, we have a whole community of doctors and parents who are actually recovering children. And, without ever treating an autistic child, interviewing a DAN! doctor who treats them, or exploring the several hundred case reports of complete recovery and thousands of stories of improvement, without ever looking into any of this, Offit says its all bullshit. I just don't understand how someone who considers themselves a doctor could do that."

And here is what I am going to tell you about Donald McNeil: he was completely and utterly clueless. He'd never heard kids actually recover. He'd never heard of cases of children, now neurotypical, with detailed medical records and case reports charting their recovery. He didn't know tens of thousands of kids are truly recovering from autism and being treated by doctors with medical degrees just like Offit. From his perspective there's a lie by Andy Wakefield, one death from chelation, and a bunch of quackery. Substance to what we are actually saying and doing? He had no clue.

The conversation continued. He said Offit has a simple position on our community: greedy lawyers and opportunistic doctors prey on desperate parents, and that's all we are. What did I think of that?

I told him Vaccine Court lawyers are paid by the hour, as far as I knew, so hard to fathom they are chasing a great fortune. On the quack doctor side, I took him through my own neighborhood. Six kids with ASD at my son's school. Three completely recovered, all from the same doctor. Doctors don't stay in business very long without results, and I have seen some great results. Has he ever looked? Of course he hasn't. He had no idea.

He then asked the annoying question, the one that Offit deems important to tell every reporter he talks to. He said Offit can't do a book tour for his book because of his fear for his safety because he has gotten death threats. What did I think of this?

My first answer, which is probably the one he'll use, came from the instinctive side of my brain:

"Many of us on our side of the debate get threats, too, we're just not wimps who whine about it. It comes with the territory."

I went on to say that a death threat is never OK, I condemn it, and whomever did it should be prosecuted. At the same time, what I wish I'd said was, "What the hell does that have to do with whether or not he is right or wrong?"

We went on to the next topic, which was probably my favorite. I took him to task on the sweeping statements he and his colleagues make that the science proves "vaccines don't cause autism." I took him through how every single study Offit and others cite only compare vaccinated kids to other vaccinated kids. I asked him to try and name any other drug on the planet where they try to assess adverse events by only looking at people who have received the drug in question. I explained how important it is to look at unvaccinated kids, something people like Offit never advocate doing.

His answer?

"Looking at unvaccinated kids would be immoral."

Now, let me explain. Donald McNeil, senior medical writer at the New York Times, didn't even know unvaccinated kids exist. He thought I meant you would do a study where you told parents not to vaccinate their babies. The idea that unvaccinated kids live in the US or that they need to be considered came from left field. He'd simply never considered such a simple notion and, I'm guessing, never realized all the science from the other side only looked at vaccinated kids.

By the end of the call, it hit me – vaccines are the Bernie Madoff of the drug industry. Madoff could do no wrong. Don't understand how he makes his money? No problem. Seems impossible for him to generate the returns he generated? No problem. Government agencies have taken a look and found nothing wrong? No problem? Everyone else who matters says he's the real deal? No problem. $50 billion in losses later, big problem.

Donald McNeil, a reporter for the New York Times, believes vaccines can solve many of the world's health problems. Paul Offit, who he has quoted in many of his stories, is a trusted source and insider. Autism is up 60-fold? So what? Offit will explain it to him. Offit can be trusted. He's a doctor. We're crazy, desperate parents. We think some vaccines or too many vaccines might actually cause side effects. Our position can't possibly be believed, he just calls us for a quote.

Donald McNeil doesn't strike me as a zealot. I don't think he writes his articles so pharma will buy ads or take him on junkets. He's simply ignorant of this topic, and his preconceived notion that he understands what's going on leads him down a certain path of who to trust and what to write. Did I succeed in changing his understanding? I doubt it. Expect a glowing review on False Prophets soon.

Author's note: More information on my own experience with Paul Offit's new book will be forthcoming shortly.

J.B. Handley is co-founder of Generation Rescue and a contributor to Age of Autism.

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Another problematic (tactful word) New York Times article here -

http://www.nytimes.com/2009/01/20/health/20brod.html?_r=1&ref=science
Personal Health
Trying Anything and Everything for Autism
By JANE E. BRODY
Published: January 19, 2009
(A version of this article appeared in print on January 20, 2009, on page D7 of the New York edition)

Jane Brody should be an invited guest at
http://www.autismone.org/?goto=chicago
AUTISM ONE 2009

Yeah, JB! You just keep on alienating medical reporters.

I saw this in the news a few days ago, and it seems interesting, particularly re: MikeWag's comment... the FDA is now trying to tell American's that methylmercury (the kind you find in seafood) isn't bad for you, either. Do you think they were just tired of looking bad for not banning thimerosal?

(See the Tribune article here: http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/local/chi-mercury-fda-13-dec14,0,5525781.story)

I've been trying to get Offit to respond to these questions for almost a year now. Could someone forward them to Mr. McNeil to see if Offit would respond? Here is my original request.

Dr. Offit. I wonder if you could answer some science questions for me?

1) Is mercury more toxic to newborns and infants than to adults?

2) Have you ever analyzed a multi-dose vaccine vial for mercury concentration? (If you had you would realize that the concentration is 50,000 ug/liter, a level 250 times higher than what the EPA classifies as hazardous waste based on toxicity characteristics
http://www.epa.gov/epaoswer/hazwaste/mercury/regs.htm#hazwaste). Why do you refer to this concentration as trace?

note: For your information, the current (2008) "preservative" level mercury in multi-dose flu, meningococcal and tetanus vaccines is 50,000 ug/l. This can be confirmed by simply analyzing the multi-dose vials. All these vaccines are approved for use in children.

3) Is ethylmercury, a short-chain organomercury compound used in vaccines, as toxic as other forms of mercury? ( recent research shows that ethylmercury is immediately distributed to the brain. Primates exposed to injected ethylmercury, as opposed to equal doses of ingested methylmercury, end up with twice as much Hg++ deposited in the brain. This form remains permanently trapped and has been identified as the primary toxic agent in degenerative brain diseases. (Burbacher T, Shen D, Liberato N, Grant K, Cernichiari E, Clarkson T. 2005. Comparison of blood and brain mercury levels in infant monkeys exposed to methylmercury or vaccines containing thimerosal. Environmental Health Perspectives. 113:1015-1021)

4) Do brain damaged kids behave in a way so that some psychiatrist will label them as somewhere on the autism spectrum?

5) Is autism your area of specialty? How many kids have you diagnosed?

Thanks

Keith, I was thinking the same thing. Since the book is not new, it just seems hinky that they're doing a review now. Should we lay odds on whether or not they hold publication of said review until the Omnibus decisions, or a new study questioning vaccine safety, is released?

The whole thing smells of corporo-political PR. You'd think an experienced reporter might get a whiff of that aroma and follow his nose, but I doubt it will happen.

Yes John, the book has been out for awhile.

Maybe the greedy industry that ignored their own expert's warnings may be prepping for some damage control of public opinion due to the up coming decisions in vaccine court?

Afterall, there may be some who want to take their cases to a court with a jury.

In that case the sooner they start spinning before potential jurors are picked the better.

Hey JB, your cell phone has caller id right?

Maybe Anne would be willing to text him a few things

j/k

A lowly 3 month old book is still getting high profile attention in the book review section? More evidence of editorial politics than anything else. I mean, if you can ignore that the root causes of a life long condition affecting more than 1:150 are unknown, why work so hard to make sure a book that is 1:10,585 (today's rank – I guess sales are really really slow) is known? I think the alternate title could have been "It Wasn't Me, Really".

Its a treat to see a glimpse of what information was shared before the review comes out. What are the chances that the reviewer parrots Offits claims as undisputed fact? Or that Offit himself has the last word on Handley's comments? Will this be another effort to confuse the ever noble question of smart vaccination with anti vaccination?

I know there is an effort to make him out to be the persecuted Salmon Rushdie of the 000's, but I find it amusing how the media repeatedly takes the bait given that the title of his book is in itself a broad unspecified character assassination of anyone who has ever dared ask for vaccines to be safer. Aren't we allowed to expect more from Offit himself, or has he truly earned irreproachable deity status?

I sent him a real nice email explaining that my family is very real. And that because my wife and I try to talk about our experience with others, and give advice to others Dr. Offit's book is specifically calling us either liars, frauds or idiots. I gave him a nice invitation to contact me and judge for himself.

I also pointed out that I have no connection to such nefarious characters as J.B.Handley or Jenny McCarthy (imagine joke emoticon thingy here).

Lets give this guy credit for at least talking to JB at hopefully listening to him before he wrote the review. Thats a start and maybe there has been a seed planted that will grow. Maybe......

Incidentally, I don't know the US newspapers as well as the UK ones, but isn't just highly unusual and peculiar to review a book so long after its date of publication? Newspapers review books whe they are new - don't they? Can anyone remember a parallel?

Since the good doctor is so used to pharmaceutical companies slipping money to his endowment and giving him that little reward for the patents, do you think there was some payment to the newspapers to get that review written? I have often wondered when some of the glowing over the top book and movie reviews come out if there isn't a little quid pro quo?

When it come to the vaccine programme it is the the solemn duty of every doctor and every journalist to lie. In the UK we had the infamous case of Sally Clark. The Clark case first emerged into the public limelight when Sir Roy Meadow, pioneer of Munchausen Syndrome by Proxy diagnosis, produced absurd odds for someone losing two children from natural causes. Meadow was ultimately struck off the medical register(but later re-instated by the High Court) for this indiscretion.

The truth about this story must have been known to virtually every newsperson who reported on this story, up to and Clark's tragic death, but it could never be declared in the open:

"An examination of related legal and other correspondence has now made clear the reason for this extraordinary omission. It is that child health experts, following public loss of confidence in vaccination when the risks of brain damage were first publicised, were trying to maintain a united front in preventing further debate. Even paediatricians who gave testimony on Mrs Clark’s behalf told defence lawyers that if vaccination were mentioned as a possible cause of Harry’s death, they would dispute it. Not wanting to confuse the jury, and with judges having a history of bowing to dominant medical opinion, the defence decided to stay silent on the issue."

Neville Hodgkinson, 'What killed Sally Clark's child?"

http://www.spectator.co.uk/the-magazine/cartoons/30630/what-killed-sally-clarks-child.thtml

Harry Clark had received 5 vaccines four or five hours before his death, yet not a single media outlet could tell you this (with the exception of this "one off" in the up-market Spectator). Everybody, doctors and journalists - though they spilt crocodile tears after Clark's death - were content to see her go to jail and stay there rather than report the truth. Neville Hodgkinson who did, was - perhaps unincidentally - the health editor of the London Sunday Times in a somewhat more glorious epoch.

"Some New York Times Reporters are Just Ignorant" That's a funny title! It can be read two ways -- either as a total put-down, or as meaning that just being ignorant is much better than being ignorant plus snide, cynical, wildly biased, dismissive, and an arrogant jackass.

It will be interesting to see what he writes. Could be he was really listening and will do his homework, or could be he was just being personable but will write more of the same old trash. We shall see!

Thank you, J.B. for your persistance!

Hey McNeil and Harris: If you really believe that vaccines aren't poisoning the children of our country, I've got a nice building on Eighth Avenue to sell you.

At least the ignorance channeling is reduced by "truth for free" via the Internet. No Pharma revenue needed.

NYT’s circulation declines again...

E&P reports that the NYT’s circulation has fallen a “whopping” 9.2% on Sundays, or more than twice the average of declines in newspaper circulation nationally:

The New York Times lost more than 150,000 copies on Sunday. Circulation on that day fell a whopping 9.2% to 1,476,400. The paper’s daily circulation declined 3.8% to 1,077,256.

NYT daily circulation is 1,077,256. When we first looked a these numbers, from 1993, the daily circulation was 1,185,000 — and the paper had far more limited national distribution at that time. Sunday circulation is now 1,476,400 and in 1993 it was almost 20% higher at 1,785,000 — again with much greater national distribution today than 15 years ago.

What are the chances that Donald McNeil will perform his journalistic duties and investigate and report on claims made by Mr. Handley? Probably nil. McNeil will most likely turn into another reporter parroting information spoon fed by Offit and his ilk. Why get down and dirty with the people that live autism 24/7, when you can take the easy road and get all your information from an extremely biased source. With few exceptions, this is the approach that mainstream media has used to report on the autism crisis.

Offit madoff with a bundle.

From this description, Donald MacNeil sounds a bit like the character of Doctor Lessing from "Life Is Beautiful". If anyone remembers him, he was the riddle-loving restaurant patron who appeared sympathetic to Robert Benigni's character at first. Benigni encounters the doctor (a Nazi official) later in the concentration camp and realizes that Lessing's seeming sympathy is useless because the doctor is completely insane.

Who else could the Times have in this key post at this point in history? Not someone who just talks out of two sides of their face but thinks out of two sides of their brain. I'm sorry, but the vaccine injury epidemic is just not that hard to understand.

Harris understands it. Some members of the public and even some activists are under the impression that the guy has integrity because his coverage of psychiatric drugs for kids tends to be "hard hitting". His articles have reported ghost-writing schemes, use of massaged data from skewed drug trials, cover-ups of deaths and suicide rates from those trials, corrupt pinnacles of the field, etc.

In other words, Harris understands the entire shape, size and depth of a model of dangerously commercialized science which is almost identical to the vaccine debacle, but when he looks at the vaccine scandal, he sees only humanity's salvation.

It's truly bizarre and I've often wondered if the guy is also a serious head case, at least a hypochondriac if not just an out and out contemptible liar who tosses out some seeds of truth on one topic the way Brian Deer buys himself a little intregrity by exposing racism once in a while (he does): the price of being able to shill us all to death the rest of the time.

The sickest thing is that the same corrupt leaders in the field of psychiatry whom Harris has targeted happen to sit on pharmaceutical think tanks with Paul Offit, who can do no wrong as far as Harris is concerned.

Crazy or rotten. Pick one.

JB, another great one!
McNeil never bothered to look into any of our claims. He just assumed the "experts" are right, we're totally wrong.

McNeil is surprised kids can actually recover from autism. That tells us loads. If he'd ever spent time with children who can't talk, have melt downs, punch holes in walls, and wear diapers as teenagers, maybe he'd care about helping them recover.

Maybe then autism would be a tragedy to him that is equal to any of the epidemics he's written about.

If Donald McNeil is so clueless about autism, I can't wait for his expert opinion in the Times when the cost of this generation of disabled children bankrupts us all.

Anne Dachel
Media editor

By the way, I forgot to mention that Gardiner Harris has an asymmetrical head.

This reminds me of "The Grinch" as I see many parallels with "The Gardiner" so instead of posting my thoughts, I think it may be more appropriate to just sing the song. Substitutions are ok on this medley --


You're a mean one, Mr. Grinch.
You really are a heel.
You're as cuddly as a cactus,
You're as charming as an eel.
Mr. Grinch.


You're a bad banana
With a greasy black peel.


You're a monster, Mr. Grinch.
Your heart's an empty hole.
Your brain is full of spiders,
You've got garlic in your soul.
Mr. Grinch.


I wouldn't touch you, with a
thirty-nine-and-a-half foot pole.


You're a vile one, Mr. Grinch.
You have termites in your smile.
You have all the tender sweetness
Of a seasick crocodile.
Mr. Grinch.


Given the choice between the two of you
I'd take the seasick crockodile.


You're a foul one, Mr. Grinch.
You're a nasty, wasty skunk.
Your heart is full of unwashed socks
Your soul is full of gunk.
Mr. Grinch.


The three words that best describe you,
are, and I quote: "Stink. Stank. Stunk."


You're a rotter, Mr. Grinch.
You're the king of sinful sots.
Your heart's a dead tomato splot
With moldy purple spots,
Mr. Grinch.


Your soul is an apalling dump heap overflowing
with the most disgraceful assortment of deplorable
rubbish imaginable,
Mangled up in tangled up knots.


You nauseate me, Mr. Grinch.
With a nauseaus super-naus.
You're a crooked jerky jockey
And you drive a crooked horse.
Mr. Grinch.


You're a three decker saurkraut and toadstool
sandwich
With arsenic sauce.


Copyright © 1957, Dr. Seuss.

No wonder NY Times is going broke. Selling propaganda isn't selling so well anymore.

I am a mother who vaccinated all 4 of her kids as well as myself.
A vaccine consumer.
The daughter of a New York State public health nurse. I rushed to vaccinate my 4 babies, thinking it was the single most important thing I could do for my baby's health. One day I was told to double vaccines because we missed a wellness visit.
Time split in half and our world was never the same.
Our sweet life was forever rocked by Autism.
My child who knew our names and sang songs went silent. Refused to wear clothes, smeared poop in the carpet and ate the furniture. Some days I would find him naked in our van eating my lipstick other days he would be found by the police roaming the subdivision, me hysterical on the line with 911. My 2 year old yelling her brother's name off the deck while neighbors formed yet another search party.
The neurologist had no answers, my pediatrician had no answers and the speech therapist sat me down and explained there is no cure.
So we tried the gluten free diet. Really, what did we have to lose at that point?
Then we saw a DAN practitioner.
Slowly my son healed. We took a leap and decided to chelate after adding up the insane amount of Mercury in his shots.
Today he is a beautiful verbal child fighting with his brother over who gets to wear the Santa hat.
We tore the 110 decibel alarms off the walls, refloored the playroom. It is hard for me to look at anything that reminds me of our journey to the belly of hell.
Life is blissfully on the mend as the Mercury come out of my child's body, as nutrients and pressurized oxygen heal his mind.
Children perish when we as a culture propagate ignorance.
I implore this reporter to investigate the ravages of vaccine induced chronic disease.
Especially since the World Health Organization now states that infectious disease is no longer the leading cause of global death.
While Autism numbers swell we cannot afford to lose anymore kids to ignorance, so the likes of Paul Offit can profit from his unchecked, unregulated, indemnified vaccines.

I'd love to know which "vaccine preventable diseases" are haunting parents.... anyone ask Gardiner Harris to back up his statements with some facts or stats.. or ask hom to site his information.. Lord knows we are expected to when confronted by the Vaccine-Zombies...

Thanks, J.B., for the pre-mortem play-by-play. It's always interesting to see how one's words are (mis)used in the final published or broadcast piece.

As you have explained so well, when explaining our vaccine safety position to media or others, we advocates either struggle against overzealousness or batter ourselves against a wall of naivete.

All too often people who consider themselves inquisitive and open-minded have portions of their brain trapped in amber. I'm aghast at McNeil's statement, "Looking at unvaccinated kids would be immoral." Many older U.S. citizens were born before vaccine use became routine.

Years ago I took a magazine writing class in which students were encouraged to spend as little time as possible doing research on our topic. We were told to arbitrarily find one or two experts and get a few quotes. Then dress up the language to make the piece fun. St-r-e-t-c-h out those analogies and metaphors. Allow ample alliteration. Balance, schmalance.

When a journalist allows his or her filter of experience to bias the article before it's written, then it's time to start writing for the Seven Sisters.

"...didn't even know unvaccinated kids exist". He must not be talking to Offit or ECBT since they seem to think that vaccination levels are dangerously low.

Didn't someone from the CDC make this same argument last week at the IACC -- that there aren't enough unvaccinated kids to do a study? What are these people smoking???

Tomorrow is Autism Twitter Day. We are not allowed to talk about the vaccine Autism issue. Although on the organizers site she has the links to...

DR. NANCY SNYDERMAN ON TODAY SHOW

Today Show Segment Doctor challenges autism vaccine link.
Leave comment for Nancy

and in an interview today she said this...

"They were negative towards the families and ignorant of what Autism is about. Plus Jenny McCarthy is all over telling people that her kid is cured or recovered, doing her book tour, so I wanted to be vocal on accepting Autism and raising kids on the spectrum. They will all be adults someday and what services are out there for support and guidance?" -Bonnie Sayers

JB I hope I can be as calm as you were in the face of ignorance. The more I study the less patient I am with those that have all the answers. The more I know the more I know I do not know. The more certain I am positive that something bad is happening to our children due to environmental factors.

Thanks for a great post. It was a little dry around here for the last 24 hours. Thanks for a few fireworks:)!

In my quick efforts I couldn't find an email address for the guy. But, I'm more than willing to provide him a story of the road to recovery complete with medical records..and from just a regular Joe with nothing gain.

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