Millionaire vaccine industrialist Paul Offit lied about me again. Unlike at NIH, where Tara Palmore had me removed after I asked Paul Offit a question during Q&A, at Yale, Dr. Offit himself demanded I leave after he repeated his lie that I am a “stalker.” Fortunately, Vaccine Epidemic co-editor Mary Holland was also in the audience – and defended me after I left.
On January 13, 2012, Offit gave the Beaumont Lecture at Yale’s Sterling Hall of Medicine, sponsored by the Beaumont Medical Club. The title of his talk was “Hard Knocks: Communicating Science to the Public.” It contained many of the same talking points as his recent NIH “Clinical Grand Rounds – Great Teacher Lecture” titled “Communicating Vaccine Safety Science to the Public.” The Yale audience numbered around fifty to seventy-five people, comprised mostly of older physicians.
It was during Dr. Offit’s lecture when he first spotted me seated in the audience. At the end of his talk, he scowled at me. I was not intimidated. Three questions into the Q&A discussion, the microphone was handed to me and I proceeded to ask my question:
"Hi Dr. Offit, I'm a student at GW School of Public Health. You said Dr. Wakefield "can't stop suing people"…
As I was about to ask my question, Offit began shouting me down:
"Stop right there! Stop right there!"
"Were you aware..."
"Stop right there! Jake, I am sick and tired of you following me to my events! Get out! Leave!"
"This is only the second event of yours I've been to."
He responded by saying I cannot criticize him in person, only online.
"You can write about me on your vindictive blog!"
I found this very ironic. For someone who complains about the internet being a source of misinformation as much as Offit does, he sure doesn’t like being challenged in person.
"I have a right to ask a question just like everyone else."
But Dr. Offit doesn’t like my questions, perhaps because he doesn’t have answers.
"No, it's your ‘yeah, but...’ questions! ‘Yeah, but’ this! ‘Yeah, but’ that! You don't want to ask me a question, you want to tell me I'm wrong!" (Well, if he isn’t wrong, he should have nothing to worry about.)
He must have been referring to my response to him at NIH when I pointed out that not every cause of autism had to be prenatal just because he cited several causes that are.
I stood up to leave, and he continued his tirade even as I was walking out the door:
"Go lie about this on your blog! Go stalk someone else!"
He never stated how I had “lied,” and repeated the false accusation that I “stalk” him.
Then several audience members clapped for the congressionally reprimanded millionaire vaccine industrialist. I continued exiting the room.
Fortunately my departure did not shield him from further challenge because Mary Holland of EBCALA was also in the audience and later relayed to me what happened following my expulsion.
Luckily, she was next up at the microphone:
“Dr. Offit, as you are well aware, 25% of parents are delaying or foregoing the vaccines on the CDC schedule. I don’t believe you will sway those people if you are unwilling to engage with people like Jake Crosby. Would you…..”
“Jake is a stalker!”
“No, he is not a stalker! He’s a graduate student.”
“What’s your name?”
“My name is Mary Holland.”
“So you wrote that anti-vaccine book!”
“I am not anti-vaccine. My uncle was the medical director of the FDA. Both my parents are physicians. I am not anti-vaccine.”
“How many chapters are by Andrew Wakefield in your book?”
“Two but my question….”
“I think that’s unconscionable!” he scoffed.
“The Wakefield story is not over, Dr. Offit. Would you be willing to engage in a public debate about the vaccine issue?”
“There is no need to debate the science; the science is in.”
Holland continued her dialogue with Offit after the Q&A discussion:
“I really think you have to engage your critics if you want to persuade people. Would you be willing to have an open debate on this important topic?”
“There’s no need to do that.”
“But vaccine injury is real.”
“Yes, like thrombocytopenia [fewer than average blood platelets per volume of blood], but there is no proof that encephalopathy is a vaccine injury.” And yet, encephalopathy [any disease of the brain] is on the Human Resources and Services Administration’s table of vaccine injuries!
“What about the MMR study by Dr. Geoffrey Evans?” Holland asked. Evans is the director of the federal vaccine injury compensation program. Dr. Offit dismissed the evidence as a creation of trial lawyers.
He also complained to her about my columns on Age of Autism and in particular that I call him a ‘millionaire vaccine industrialist.’ Well, he is. If he disclosed his financial ties to the vaccine industry when he spoke about their products, I would have no need to inform people of his conflicts of interest.
With regards to the late, great Dr. Bernadine Healy, Mary Holland told Dr. Offit:
“In your book [Deadly Choices], you basically call Dr. Bernadine Healy a traitor because she disagrees with your interpretation of the science.”
“I didn’t call her a traitor.”
“You said she betrayed the public health community.”
Well yes, Paul Offit said that was true, and he stood by that view. He shook Holland’s hand but continued to argue there was no need for debate because the science needs no debate.
All I was going to ask him before he ordered me to leave was if he was aware of the report by Dr. David Lewis of the National Whistleblowers Center concluding that the British Medical Journal is guilty of institutional research misconduct. A simple yes-or-no question. He certainly made himself look intolerant by not even letting me proceed with my question.
A journalist covering the lecture told Holland afterward, “You don’t normally see fireworks at these events.”
Another audience member came up to her and thanked her for her questions although other audience members were clearly annoyed that the event had gone off script.
As Mary Holland commented to me about Offit: “He tells a very persuasive one-sided story.”
Until of course, somebody challenges him, after which his persuasiveness breaks down. From Dr. Offit’s position, you can almost understand his stance on how the media should cover this controversy:
“The hell with balance!”
Jake Crosby has Asperger Syndrome and is a contributing editor to Age of Autism. He is a 2011 graduate of Brandeis University with a BA in both History and Health: Science, Society and Policy. He currently attends The George Washington University School of Public Health and Health Services where he is studying for an MPH in epidemiology.