I was a guest on “Oprah” 2 years ago. The show was framed as an “autism 101” piece. Just prior to the live taping I was informed that no vaccine discussion would be allowed. I was disappointed but accepted the conditions.
As I told my story, Oprah listened carefully and asked probing and detailed questions. Afterwards Oprah turned to a doctor in the audience and asked her what was causing this explosion of autism cases, was it vaccines? The doctor said any vaccine connections “has been refuted.” OK, now I was mad. Why was the doctor allowed to talk about vaccines but the parents were not?
During the next break I darted over to Oprah asked if I could respond to the doctor’s assertions. Oprah asked what I had to say. I told her that my son had a horrible reaction to multiple vaccines, became chronically sick and autistic soon afterwards. Oprah looked me in the eye and said, “I will give you the opportunity to say what you need to say.” A few people around Oprah heard our exchange and cautioned Oprah about allowing me to speak. Oprah said that the show allowed the doctor to give her opinion and that I have a right to give mine. Oprah said Moms have a right to talk about their experience.
A few minutes later, on live TV, Oprah looked at me and said, “Say what you want to say.” I said that my son had terrible vaccine reactions was now chronically ill and that appropriate safety testing of the effects of multiple vaccines on babies has never been done. Then Oprah read a statement from the CDC saying that all vaccines are safe. I thought that was fair enough, all sides were heard from.
Larry King asked Jenny McCarthy and Jim Carey if they feel responsible for the public’s lack of confidence in vaccine safety. Jim Carey answered, “Larry, the problem is the problem. Talking about the problem isn’t the problem.” The fact is what Jenny McCarthy says resonates profoundly with millions of parents. I have seen Jenny amongst families. She cannot walk 2 feet without dozens of Moms and Dads coming up to her saying, “thank you for telling my child’s story”, “what happened to Evan happened to my son as well”, “thank you for bringing attention to all the sick kids with autism”…. I could go on forever. Parents want to hear what Jenny has to say because she is making more sense than the doctors who have been telling parents what they know to be true is wrong, what they saw in front of their eyes didn’t happen, that they do not know what happened to their children, when they in fact they do and that there is no hope, when there actually is.
Oprah gave me the opportunity to speak freely, for which I am tremendously grateful, but at NO time did she endorse my opinion. Oprah carefully listened to all sides of the debate. Somehow “Newsweek” interprets episodes like these as promoting “crazy talk.” Since when is a free an open exchange of ideas so frightening? When did asking questions and telling our children’s stories become subversive? Why is talking about vaccine safety and conflicts of interest forbidden? Why does this concern the CDC and “Newsweek” more than the fact that 1 in 100 American boys have autism? Instead “Newsweek” quoted doctors and CDC officials who expounded on the real and terrible dangers of “celebrities”, “the internet”, free speech and talk shows! Now that sounds like crazy talk to me.
Katie Wright has two young boys. Her oldest son, Christian, is severely affected by autism. He developed normally; smiling, talking, walking; only to lose every skill and every word by the age of 2 and a half. Upon the advice of medical professionals Katie and her husband were advised to pursue only high quality behavioral therapy, speech and OT for Christian. It had no meaningful impact on Christian until his parents sought help from DAN! doctors who treated the underlying causes of Christian's descent into autism. Christian has improved but still has far to go. He has Inflammatory Bowel Disease, the measles virus in his gut and an immune system akin to a late stage AIDS patient. Christian does not have a psychiatric disorder. Before autism, Katie Wright was the Clinical Director of Sexual Assault Crisis Center in Stamford Connecticut. Katie is proud to serve on the Boards of NAA and SafeMinds.