I struggled with whether or not to write this piece because Harvey Karp-as a completely arrogant asshole with little grasp of the facts- is such a wonderfully appropriate spokesperson for the AAP. I have found that almost every parent I’ve asked who saw him on Larry King Live this week felt he did the other side a profound disservice.
That being said, Mr. Karp’s background to be a “spokesperson” for the AAP deserves some scrutiny -- and is quite murky, much like the AAP’s position on our vaccine schedule and autism in general.
It’s ironic for me that I had actually seen Harvey Karp’s face before he started making these Offit-like appearances on TV recently. Mr. Karp appears on a DVD that he created called “The Happiest Baby on the Block.” It’s a bit of an odd DVD he created about how to get a baby to fall asleep. Basically, you wrap the baby tightly in a blanket, rock them in a very specific way, and make a very loud “shhh!!” noise right in their ear. I’m not kidding, and I defer to any parents for whom this has worked. When my wife and I watched the DVD, we had genuine concern for the lasting effects on a baby of breathing in our baby’s ear at full volume…
Anyway, the irony of seeing Dr. Karp came from something he said on that DVD that always stuck with me. To paraphrase, he said that the first three months of a baby’s life are really like a fourth trimester, given how fragile and needy they remain. At that point, my son had already been diagnosed, we were expecting our third, and I was moved to consider how delicate these infants were. It’s almost inconceivable that the same man who made this helpful insight is defending injecting so many toxins into fragile babies during this “fourth trimester.”
I heard a rumor that Mr. Karp actually hadn’t practiced pediatrics in more than 5 years and I decided to investigate. When you use “the Google”, Mr. Karp’s website for selling his DVD comes up. In his biography it states:
“Dr. Harvey Karp is a nationally renowned pediatrician and child development specialist. He is an Assistant Professor of Pediatrics at the UCLA School of Medicine. Over the past 30 years, he has taught thousands of parents, from working moms to superstars like Madonna, Michelle Pfeiffer and Pierce Brosnan his secrets for making children happy.”
I figured it was very unlikely Mr. Karp would fudge his resume, but in the spirit of “trust but verify” I called the UCLA School of Medicine. As any of you can see for yourself, Mr. Karp’s name is nowhere to be found in their faculty directory. I took it a step further and called the Human Resources department. I talked to a very nice woman who looked through their directory and could find no listing of Mr. Karp.
Later on in Mr. Karp’s bio on his website, it also notes:
“Dr. Karp has committed his full-time efforts to writing, lecturing and education. He now travels extensively across America and around the world lecturing the medical community and the public about how to use his innovative discoveries to help parents successfully meet the needs of their young children.”
So, there you have it in his own words: Mr. Karp is a traveling DVD salesman with a dubious resume claim.
The perfect spokesperson to represent the APP in discussing vaccines and autism? You bet he is.
JB Handley is Co-founder of Generation Rescue and Editor at Large for Age of Autism.