By Jake Crosby
Remember Amy Wallace? I sure wish I didn’t. For those lucky enough not to, I apologize for ruining your day. Ms. Wallace was the willing entertainment business “reporter” who was front writer for millionaire vaccine industrialist Paul Offit in a cover story she authored for Wired Magazine last year. She was completely duped by the drug industry’s most well paid spokesman on the controversy surrounding autism and vaccines, so much so that her entire article was practically ghost-written by him.
The sheer ignorance, and malleability, of Amy Wallace made her the perfect throw away for the job. Her whole background suggests that her career has been based mostly on, more than anything else, sensationalism and being in the right place at the right time, or in this case the wrong place at the wrong time. As she wrote herself in Los Angeles Magazine, her career was essentially launched when local socialite Betty Broderick confessed in an interview with the reporter to shooting and killing her ex-husband and his new wife.
Although someday she will have a very different opinion about it, she probably feels the same way about the Paul Offit puff piece as she did about the Broderick case, especially after bragging on her website, “Just got word that ‘An Epidemic of Fear,’ my Wired story on vaccines, will be in ‘Best American Science Writing 2010,’ to be published soon… Very exciting.” Given the recent episode of the award the CDC helped the Chicago Tribune buy for its drug propaganda, there now seems to be a trend of “journalists” writing government and industry-friendly pieces on this topic and getting rewarded for it by parties with vested interests.
Amy Wallace is hardly an exception. This one line sums up her whole Wired article: “To be clear, there is no credible evidence to indicate that any of this [vaccines causing autism] is true. None.” That’s assuming that your definition of “credible evidence” is tobacco science, not that Amy Wallace would know the difference between the two. That aside, the remaining premise of her article rests entirely on how parents should listen to “experts” like Offit, who admitted himself on “Science”Blogs that he learned all his information about autism from passive newspaper reading and a handful of parents. Most of them were from the lay neurodiversity sideshow. Wallace also alludes to the fear of infectious disease returning as a result of vaccine safety concerns, even though splitting the MMR vaccine into three separate shots does not make them any less effective against preventing measles, mumps and rubella, nor does using other vaccines without mercury. Her whole cover story is bunk.
So who on earth is honoring her in “Best American Science Writing 2010” for this execrable drug industry propaganda? The drug industry of course, who else? The lead editor of this year’s issue is Dr. Jerome Groopman, a medical doctor, prolific writer and professor at Harvard Medical School. Drug companies Immunex and Hoffman-La Roche have funded Groopman’s research. He has authored a chapter on viral infection in a symposia published by Novartis, and has served on the speaker’s bureau of Ortho Biotech, a subsidiary of Johnson and Johnson. One of his best-known endeavors was working as part of the AZT Collaborative Working Group to carry out clinical trials of the drug during the 1980s where his collaborators included employees from Merck and Burroughs Wellcome (now GlaxoSmithKline).
Dr. Groopman is also chairman of the clinical advisory board of Onconova Therapeutics, a pharmaceutical company that develops drugs for cancer. Serving on the scientific advisory board of Onconova is Dr. Hilary Koprowski, Polish virologist who invented the first live polio vaccine, which is controversial for serving as the origin of the AIDS virus. Koprowski is also a member of the Wistar Institute, through which Paul Offit continues to earn millions of dollars of royalties obtained from Merck’s rotavirus vaccine sales. Koprowski was even director of Wistar while Offit was involved in the development of the vaccine at the institute. And yet, a business partner of Koprowski’s, Dr. Groopman, will play the main role in writing the book determining the “Best American Science Writing” for 2010.
Personally, I’d be surprised if Amy Wallace or a similar tobacco journalist writing puff pieces for the drug industry were given no honorable mention at all in this year’s edition. However, I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. It goes without saying that journalists should not crank out drug industry propaganda, but if doing so can win awards, why not? It worked for Trine Tsouderos and Patricia Callahan of the Tribune, and it is working for Amy Wallace, too.
Jake Crosby is a college student with Asperger Syndrome at Brandeis University who is double majoring in History and Health: Science, Society and Social Policy, and is a contributing editor to Age of Autism.