Internal American Academy of Pediatricians email reveals panic and new low in “media planning.” (Full email at end of post.)
By J.B. Handley
Dear Ms. Martin:
I understand you are the Director of Media Relations for the American Academy of Pediatrics. I read your email of February 13th to medical practitioners (that I have included below in its entirety) describing a nationwide search for parents that, in your words, fit one of two profiles. First:
“Parents of children with autism spectrum disorders who support immunization and who do not believe there is any link between their child’s vaccines and his or her autism.”
“Parents of children who suffered a vaccine-preventable illness. This could be a parent who declined immunization, whose child became ill before a vaccine was available, or whose child was ineligible for immunization.”
Apparently, you are trying to establish connections with these families because:
“The anti-vaccine groups often have emotional family stories on their side. The ability to offer a reporter an interview with a similarly compelling parent who is sympathetic to the AAP’s goals is a powerful tool for our media relations program.”
It sounds like you have a system in place to prepare these parents to meet the media, according to your email:
“We will contact candidates in advance to conduct pre-interviews, to offer guidance on talking to reporters and to obtain a signed waiver giving us permission to release their name.”
As the father of an autistic child and the leader of a national autism organization, I found myself sitting at my desk, my chin nearly hitting the floor, in stunned astonishment as I read your email. Where, exactly, has the AAP’s humanity and moral compass gone?
Ms. Martin, let me give you a little insight into my world. If I wanted to find parents who had autistic children and who believed their child’s autism was impacted by vaccines, I wouldn’t need to email the nation’s pediatricians hoping I might find one or two. I could just open my window and yell, because these parents are everywhere in my neighborhood and town! Worse, our numbers continue to grow.
You see, not a day goes by without Generation Rescue receiving an email from a new parent who watched their child decline following a vaccination appointment with their pediatrician. While you search for the handful of parents with autistic children who may support immunizations, we can’t respond to emails fast enough from the thousands we hear from who feel vaccines contributed to their child’s autism. You may think our organizations have some sort of well-orchestrated system for having “emotional family stories” teed up for reporters. What’s actually true is that within a phone call or two, any reporter worth their salt could find parents anywhere in the country who feel exactly like I do.
And, that gets us right back to the problem with your organization as many of us see it. When Generation Rescue rented a booth at your national convention 2 years ago, we were stunned by how many AAP members came to our booth, quietly mentioned that they supported what we were doing, and encouraged us to keep fighting for the kids.
Let me repeat that: Hundreds of your members congratulated my organization for fighting for the kids!
Meanwhile, employees of the AAP like yourself have your head in the sand:
Where is the media story of the AAP sounding the alarm that the prevalence of autism continues to rise?
Where is the media story of the AAP digging into the growing number of stories of children recovering from autism?
Where is the AAP when parents return to the pediatrician and explain to the doctors they trust that their child disappeared after receiving multiple vaccines?
Where is the AAP to help protect our kids from a growing, devastating epidemic of Autism, ADHD, PDD-NOS, asthma, food allergies, learning disorders, and other autoimmune issues?
You are nowhere.
You are looking for the needle in the haystack parent with the autistic child who supports vaccines.
You are looking for the parent with the illness to exploit to scare the masses.
What you should be looking for, Ms. Martin, is your own soul, which you seem to have lost somewhere along the way. Worse, particularly if you are a parent yourself, you also seem to have lost the ability to listen to the parents and to put the needs of our kids first.
Shame on you, Ms. Martin, for planning such blatant manipulation of the media.
Shame on you for being part of an organization that has done nothing to respond to the growing epidemic of autism.
Shame on you and your organization for never exploring the growing body of stories of recovered children.
With deep disappointment and disgust,
Your complete email:
From: Susan Martin
Sent: Wednesday, February 13, 2008 2:29 PM
Subject: parent spokespersons
As part of our ongoing response to media stories regarding autism and vaccines, the AAP communications department is compiling a list of parents who support the AAP and are available for interviews. We are looking for two types of parents who could serve as spokespersons:
Parents of children with autism spectrum disorders who support immunization and who do not believe there is any link between their child’s vaccines and his or her autism.
Parents of children who suffered a vaccine-preventable illness. This could be a parent who declined immunization, whose child became ill before a vaccine was available, or whose child was ineligible for immunization.
We are asking for your help identifying parents who would be good spokespersons. They do not need to be expert public speakers. They just need to be open with their story and interested in speaking out on the issue. We will contact candidates in advance to conduct pre-interviews, to offer guidance on talking to reporters and to obtain a signed waiver giving us permission to release their name.
If a parent were placed on our list, we would offer their name and contact information to select media. We hope to build a list of parents from a wide range of geographical areas.
As the Jenny McCarthy and “Eli Stone” stories illustrate, this issue is likely to recur in the national and local media. The AAP is committed to doing all we can to counter such erroneous reports with factual information supported by scientific evidence and AAP recommendations.
The anti-vaccine groups often have emotional family stories on their side. The ability to offer a reporter an interview with a similarly compelling parent who is sympathetic to the AAP’s goals is a powerful tool for our media relations program.
Please contact me if you have any questions or to suggest a parent to interview.
Susan Stevens Martin
Director, Division of Media Relations
American Academy of Pediatrics
JB Handley is Co-Founder of Generation Rescue and Editor at Large for Age of Autism.