DID GARDINER HARRIS GET IT "ENTIRELY WRONG?"
Managing Editor's Note: You can send an email to Clark Hoyt, who is the New York Times' Reader's Representative at firstname.lastname@example.org, after reading David's piece here at A of A.
By David Kirby
Gardiner Harris of the New York Times is perhaps the most important journalist covering the debate over autism and vaccines in America today, given the way that paper drives the news cycle in this country. As such, it is surprising that he seems to have decided that the vaccine debate is, for all practical purposes, over.
Even more surprising is his lack of curiosity in exploring why some studies show that mitochondrial dysfunction among ASD kids is far more common than anyone ever suspected - including officials at the CDC.
In his lead-up article (HERE) to the HHS mitochondrial meeting last Sunday in Indianapolis (which seemed to get little or no media coverage), Mr. Harris quoted one researcher who estimated the number of cases of Americans with mitochondrial "disease" at 30,000 - or just 1-per-10,000 people - making it very rare indeed.
But that is the classic, severe form of mitochondrial disorder, which is inherited directly through maternal mitochondrial DNA. There is growing evidence that Hannah Poling and many other ASD kids have the much milder form of mitochondrial disorder, often referred to as mitochondrial "dysfunction."
One study in Portugal, which used muscle biopsies to confirm mitochondrial disorders in ASD children, estimated the rate at 7.2% of all cases (though other estimates go higher than that).
Now, the rate of ASD among US kids born back in 1994 (the latest CDC data we have, by the way), was 66-per-10,000 - so 7.2% of that would be almost 5 cases of ASD and mitochondrial disorders per 10,000 people.
Mr. Harris might also want to speak with some of the participants on an April conference call of the CDC's CISA Network (which includes top vaccine research centers and America's HMO industry), in which investigators at Johns Hopkins University reported that mild mitochondrial dysfunction (as opposed to "disease") might be linked to a nuclear DNA mutation passed down through the father.
That mutation, which might also confer intelligence, according to one presenter on the call, could be as common as 1-in-400 to 1-in-50 people (or a stunning 200-per-10,000).
I wrote to Mr. Harris and other science staff at The Times about this, but have not received a response.
Equally disheartening, Gardiner Harris seems to get his information mixed up not only on the pages of the newspaper, but in at least one email to a reader of The Times, as well.
I just noticed the following comment posted here at Age of Autism, about an exchange someone reportedly had with Mr. Harris, regarding my support for a bill introduced in Congress to study health outcomes among vaccinated vs. unvaccinated children.
I have often reported that CDC Director Dr. Julie Gerberding said that such a study, while difficult to conduct, could and should be done.
The Age of Autism reader posted this:
I wrote Mr. Harris regarding his article and thought you might be interested in his response: "thanks for your note. there is no credible way to compare autism rates in vaccinated and unvaccinated children. and dr. gerberding made no such statements. david kirby got his story entirely wrong. thanks, gardiner"
But the problem is, I don't think I did get my story "entirely wrong." In 2005, Dan Olmsted, then at UPI, asked Dr. Gerberding at a news conference: "Have you looked at autism in a never-vaccinated population in the U.S. and if not, why not?
This is how Dr. Gerberding replied: "In this country we have very high levels of vaccination as you probably know and I think this year we have record immunization levels among all of our children, so to select out on a population basis that would be representative and look at the incidence in that population and compare it to the other population, is something that could be done, but as we're learning, just trying to look at autism in a community the size of Atlanta, it's very difficult to get effective numerator and denominator and to get a reliable diagnosis."
"I think those kinds of studies could be done and should be done. You'd have to adjust for the strong genetic component that also distinguishes, for example, people in Amish communities who may elect not to get immunized, also have genetic connectivity that would make them different from populations that are in other sectors of the United States."
So, Dr. Gerberding said that such studies "could be done and should be done." And yet, Gardiner Harris insists that the CDC Director "made no such statements," and that instead, I got my story "entirely wrong."
I assume that the email attributed to Mr. Harris is correct (and if it is not, I apologize in advance). Meanwhile, I will leave it to readers of this column to decide who got what wrong.
But it is disappointing to think that America's most important reporter covering this debate is not exploring the growing evidence of a link between mitochondrial dysfunction and autistic regression.
And it is downright puzzling that his understanding of Dr. Gerberding's position on studying vaccinated vs. unvaccinated children could be so entirely different than my own.
David Kirby is an Age of Autism contributor, journalist and author of Evidence of Harm.
Here's some of Harris' coverage of psychiatric drug controversies:
Hell, here's the list:
He gets it. Anyone combing through these articles will see that Harris mostly comprehends (relative to any mass media employee) the mechanisms of fraud and kickback related to pharmaceutical products. He knows how to recognize the evidence of harm.
So if he gets the Mengele model of psych drug marketing, what does it make him that he refuses to recognize the parallel fraud, kickback and harm involved in vaccines? Either he, A) cut some concessions with the devil that he's allowed to go after psychopharmaceutical abuses as long as he champions vaccines. Or B) he may be a serious hypochondriac. That's the only benefit of the doubt I can extend to his inconsistancies-- that he's so pathologically unobjective when it comes to disease that the sight of children on the R train makes him heave and cringe at the thought that some of these be-cootied rugrats might not be fully inoculated. It's bad enough that they could be carrying space viruses and denge and might have touched the seats.
If this is the case, the good news is that the Inconstant Gardiner can take advantage of a revolutionary new medical breakthrough and get himself some protection from the scourge:
Posted by: circle circle dot dot | July 06, 2008 at 10:32 AM
Perhaps Age of Autism should institute a weekly Gardiner Harris award for flannel and obfuscation.
Posted by: John Stone | July 06, 2008 at 03:52 AM
David, please keep fighting the good fight...
I am incredibly disappointed by the narrow, uneducated, and patently ridiculous treatment of the issues surrounding Autism in the Times. Gardiner Harris should be planted somewhere in the proverbial back 40 and left to root in a tea of his own lame compost (opinions)! The debate regarding the etiology of Autism is far from over. Any rational person, with half of a brain, should be asking why there are no safety studies of vaccines administered singly or multiply, why the ingredient list for vaccines resembles more toxic waste than health product, why no study has been undertaken comparing health outcomes of those vaccinated with those never vaccinated, why our generation survived with fewer than 10 vaccines but our children need more than 30 before they are 2, why so many vaccine recipients end up in the hospital or dead, why manufacturers of vaccines require legislation to protect them from legal action regarding the safety of their product when it is administered as prescribed, why 1 in 6 children now suffers a developmental disability, why 1 in less than 90 children suffers from Autism, why most “dread diseases” (hah, hardly) were in decline well before the introduction of the vaccines which supposedly eliminated them, why are those vaccinated more likely than those not vaccinated to require hospitalization after contracting the very diseases they were immunized against, why we have the most vaccinated children in the world and also the sickest (one of the highest infant mortality rates, too), and why a respected member (like the NYT) of the news community would shirk the opportunity for expose in favor of playing Oz (“pay no attention to the Pharmaceutical giant and his puppet Government agencies behind the curtain”). Let's hope they bury Gardiner’s opinion alongside his head (which appears well stuck in the sand).
Thanks for all you do!!!
Posted by: Liz Parker | July 06, 2008 at 01:08 AM
LOL, if the e-mail attributed to Mr Harris is correct, then thereis little doubt as to why there is little quality reporting, and what ease in furthering dishonest information:(
SAdly, no surprise:(
Posted by: kat 23 | July 05, 2008 at 01:33 PM
The vaccine debate certainly is NOT over, - not when evidence like this is still coming to light!
Posted by: Andrew Brereton | July 05, 2008 at 03:44 AM
I don't think Gardiner got it wrong, I think he got it exactly right. Someone told him what to think and what not to think about. He has the opinion and attitude that he's paid to have, whether by the NY Times that relies on pharma ad revenue or by pharma directly. Or maybe like his former colleague, Judy Miller, he just likes being at cocktail parties with fancy people so he's willing to be blinkered and used to spread misinformation. Maybe someone should investigate Gardiner to see where his ties and loyalties really are.
Posted by: Garbo | July 04, 2008 at 11:14 PM
JB, Thanks for sharing all of this... but this struck me for some reason;
“what's the production of pediatric thimerosal-free vaccines this year?something like 19 million doses?"
He should know this if he is the "authority" reporting on the subject. It made me sick to my stomach!
"Haunted souls"??? Whiskey Tango Foxtrot!!! AKA WTF???? sorry, I know we are family friendly here on AoA, but I have to say that it is poignantly apparent that this "lost soul" AKA Gardiner Harris has ABSOLUTELY no contact or experience with children with autism.
Oh yeh... one more thing... I've seen some of these emails floating around, and I have to question - because I wonder - why in the heck they don't use Caps for the first word of a new sentence? It is simply proper grammer, english, and writing. Surprising and a seeming effort to distract.
Again, JB, thank you.
Again, thank you to our entire community who have and will continue to fight for our children and our future!
Happy Independence Day! Our fight is to enable ALL of our children to have their OWN Independence Day!
Posted by: Angela Warner | July 04, 2008 at 10:38 PM
Here's just some of the "best hits" I have received from Gardiner Harris, and I have saved all of mine!! I especially like the part where he plans to save all the haunted souls...
“well, this is more honest, at least. you've moved from blaming thimerosal to simply being against vaccination. i'll be interested to see what scientific rationale you come up with now. at least the mercury hypothesis had a hint of scientific plausibility. and the "they were normal, they got shots, they changed" explanation will always encompass children who have conditions that lead them to regress simultaneously with vaccination but not as a result of vaccination. no, it's not the responsibility of parents to come up with explanations.it's the responsibility of scientists, including government ones. and the ones i know are working as hard as they can to figure out why some seemingly normal children -- including their own, in some cases -- suddenly go to some unreachable place. it's heart-breaking. 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.”
“what's the production of pediatric thimerosal-free vaccines this year?something like 19 million doses? and of those, if the past is any guide, some 4 or 5 million will be discarded because they went unused, right?further, the CDC estimates that flu vaccine coverage in young children is on the order of 20 or 25 percent or so, right? so who are all these children who are getting adult thimerosal-containing flu vaccines? the thimerosal hypothesis was mildly plausible five years ago, JB. now it's just sad.”
“when will it end? when will it become obvious even to you that thimerosal had no effect on autism? if autism rates have not changed substantially by the end of this year? end of next year? 2010? whenever it is, i'll expect your apologies then.”
Posted by: JB Handley | July 04, 2008 at 07:32 PM
Thank you, David, for calling Gardiner Harris on this article. My daughter and I were featured in his article "On autism's cause it's parents vs. research." My daughter was diagnosed with a mitochondrial disorder by the Mayo Clinic. The supplements that Gardiner described as 'dangerous' were prescribed by the Mayo Clinic for the mito disorder (a fact he did not disclose). His article also failed to report the improvements that my daughter has made as a result of chelation. Mitochondrial disorders are a degenerative disease and the fact that my daughter did, and continues to, improve is certainly noteworthy.
I am concerned by the bias in Gardiner Harris's reporting and in his personal correspondance that has been shared publically. It is time for him to be reassigned.
Posted by: Libby Rupp | July 04, 2008 at 05:45 PM
Four years ago a prominent New York Times science writer who had been pursuing a newstip of mine regarding the vaccines/ autism link informed me in an email (unfortunately I didn't save it) that the story was being "turned over to Gardiner Harris, whose take is that there is no connection." Knowing this, what more could be expected of Harris? It's pointless to try to "educate" him since to him, facts are irrelevant. He has his mission, and he is carrying it out.
Posted by: Margo O. | July 04, 2008 at 01:23 PM
Gardiner: Read "The Virus and the Vaccine" (winner of Harper Collins' "Best Science Writing award in 2001) by Debbie Bookchin & Jim Schumacher. Please educate yourself about the politics of vaccine-related scientific research.
Contact Michel Carbone, Janet Butel, or any of the many other imminent scientists who produced 100 peer reviewed studies linking the monkey virus SV40 (which contaminated the polio vaccine in the 60s) with mesothelioma, brain cancers, and non-Hodgkins lymphoma--and then ask why the government still does not recognize SV-40 as a carcinogen.
It is obvious when it comes to vaccines, any science that says they are dangerous is simply not recognized by our government health officials whom you love to parrot. And any expense to make them safer--like culturing polio virus in human cell lines versus monkey kidneys, this barbarism still happens today--is just not good enough for our kids, is it?
Anyone who is thinking of vaccinating should read this book, do their research about the diseases we have vaccinations for, and skip the NY Times vaccine coverage.
Posted by: DR | July 04, 2008 at 11:11 AM
I was spent time as a television "journalist" before I became an autism mom. The one thing I can see from these exchanges involving Mr. Harris is that he is NOT doing his job. He is way too opinionated. He is not unbiased. He is not reporting the truth from both sides. That's just the honest truth.
Posted by: kim | July 04, 2008 at 10:53 AM
If the Times had done a thorough job of covering the Chronic Fatigue Syndrome epidemic the public would know that there is more mitochondrial dysfunction in the country.
If the Times had covered the Chronic Fatigue Syndrome story thoroughly for the last three decades there might be far less mystery about the autism epidemic today.
Millions of Americans may have some mild or acute form of CFS and the accompanying mitochondrial dysfunction that could jeopardize vaccination--just for starters.
These days the kind of skeptical attitude Seymour Hersh has toward the Pentagon and the White House is a far more appropriate one for a science reporter toward the CDC and NIH than the kind of buddy system we have seen in the coverage of stories like autism, CFS and AIDS.
A New York Times science reporter acting like a condescending jerk? We're shocked, we're shocked!
Posted by: Lawrence | July 04, 2008 at 10:47 AM
So as an extension to this post (it may not be directly related), what are your general feelings and opinions regarding coverage of autism spectrum disorders, their increase, their potential causes in mainstream media?
From where I sit (living this stuff 24/7/365), I have to say while we may have a bit more mention of the "A" word in the general press, I have not seen any significant increase within mainstream media in reporting on or an interest in finding out WHAT is behind the why of so many more kids being so much more ill these days?
But maybe I have 'colored blinders' on as, as the parent of one affected child and a child that would have been affected if not for me taking protective measures, I am frustrated and tired of the daily battles and being looked at as a 'crazy anti-vaccine, conducting voodoo/dangerous experiments on her kids, hysterical, needing somebody to blame' mom.
(there are several people in the boys' immediately family who INSIST that I'm being overly pessimistic and dramatic; that there is more coverage in mainstream media and that the public at large DOES care, and that I just need to 'be patient' as things will change).
Posted by: Petra | July 04, 2008 at 10:43 AM
Gardiner Harris shows no compunction about pulling things out of his a**. He's like the compulsive liar Martin Short played on Saturday Night Live -- always smugly repositioning himself.
On TV there's a commercial set in a morgue, in which a man pulls out two slabs and asks which kid is more dead. I see it and think, when it comes to disease or vaccine injury, which kid is more dead? A child in Ethiopia who dies of measles, or the infant from Moline, IL who died from multiple vaccinations this week?
Why is Gardiner Harris helping the CDC avoid finding out why vaccines injure and kill so many children? Maybe he thinks good intentions constitute an excuse for medical homicide.
Posted by: nhokkanen | July 04, 2008 at 10:03 AM
I have also exchanged emails with Gardiner Harris about the potential value and feasibility of a study comparing vaccinated vs. unvaccinated children for rates of autism, ADD, learning diabilities, etc. Below is his latest reply to me. (He does not use capitalization in his replies, so they can be a little difficult to read at first.):
almost none of those children are unvaccinated. they are under-vaccinated, with nearly all of the parents making idiosyncratic choices about which vaccines to use and not use. even hard-core members of generation rescue generally suggest
that children be vaccinated against polio. the MMR vaccine seems to be the one
that many parents skip because they somehow think that measles isn't a serious
disease, and because of andrew wakefield's discredited theory about measles
infections leading to autism. it's dumb, but it's common.
it's not a smart study; it would be a huge waste of money; it's time this
nonsense stop and the politicians let scientists focus on the work that will
find the true causes of autism.
As you can see, in his latest response he essentially tells me there is no control group, because almost all children in the U.S. have received SOME vaccinations. He also tells me it's time for this whole thing to just go away.
In reply to this email, I asked him for citations to studies showing that there are still hardly any completely unvaccinated kids in the U.S. (I have come across lots of parents who say they are not vaccinating at all, versus those who are picking and choosing this vaccine over that one.) I also suggested that even if there are only "undervaccinated" kids to compare to, what's wrong with that? Why not compare kids who, for example, have received only the polio vaccine with those who have received the etnire CDC schedule of vaccines? He has not yet responded.
Posted by: lisa | July 04, 2008 at 09:47 AM
Happy 4th !
Did Gardiner get it "entirely wrong?" I vote, YES. If he got roman numeral I, what Gerberding said incorrect, then every subheading and paragraph below that is incorrect. That would include the part about you, David Kirby, and us, the parents.
These would then all be cicled in red as wrong-
"Study after study has failed to show any link between vaccines and autism"
"Among the first was that the measles vaccine caused a low-level measles infection that affected children’s brains. The science underlying that theory has since been discredited."
"Multiple studies have failed to find any relationship between thimerosal exposure and autism, and nearly seven years after the preservative was removed from childhood vaccines, autism rates seem unaffected"
"Although autism is common among children with mitochondrial disorders, several experts in the disorders dismissed the notion that vaccines may cause the disease, which is widely understood to have a genetic origin."
(this is not incorrect but just plain weird and might say a lot about faltering faith in the medical establishment)--“We’re talking about two things we don’t understand very well, mitochondrial disorder and autism, and putting them together,” Dr. Insel said. “It’s like two drunks holding each other up.”
I think Gardiner may be losing his footing. He seems to be trying so hard to make all of us look bad that he is needing to distort, change, and omit facts to do so.
What struck me too is that the word "wrong" has some different definitions and implications. It can mean incorrect, as in facts and it can also mean morally, ethically, and at times legally, as in knowingly doing something that is harmful.
It could be that "wrong" was then the best way to describe this all.
Posted by: Teresa Conrick | July 04, 2008 at 09:10 AM
I posted the exchange from Mr. Harris. I have to clarify that when he said that "david kirby got his story entirely wrong." I believe he was referring to Gerberding's admission that mistakes were made with the Verstraeten study, which I also mentioned in my email. I apologize for the confusion.
However, regarding the vaccinated vs. unvaccinated study before Congress, we did have had further exchange specifically on this, his last response:
"there are plenty of ways to evaluate the risks of vaccines without funding an expensive study with absolutely no scientific basis underlying it. and if you think this study is truly a good idea, i'm happy to join the legions of public health officials and scientists whom you must see as lacking credibility.
Posted by: Sorsha | July 04, 2008 at 08:53 AM
You extend far too much credit to Gardiner Harris if you take him seriously. Since he maintains his position by simply denying what thousands of witnesses tell him, what status or value can his opinion be said to have?
Our great newspapers - both sides of the Atlantic - no longer report. They have become junk opinion formers. They are certainly not the true heirs of some great, fearless, journalistic tradition.
Posted by: John Stone | July 04, 2008 at 08:51 AM
thanks for this enlightening post, david. i've sent the public editor at the times a couple of complaints about harris's condescending treatment of people who raise these issues with him, but i hadn't seen the one you refer to. people keep talking about misinformation from anti-vaccine websites -- which presumably includes us -- yet the demonstrable misinformation and lack of sophisticated understanding of issues such as mitochondria and autism is coming from the mainstream press.
Posted by: dan olmsted | July 04, 2008 at 08:01 AM