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The Truth About Liz Szabo and USA Today RE Autism Coverage

PocketBy Anne Dachel

USA TODAY medical reporter Liz Szabo has long denied everything about the autism epidemic. She's especially adamant that vaccines aren't a factor. She's done such a good job attacking the autism community that vaccine developer Dr. Paul Offit personally thanked her in his book, Deadly Choices.

Here are some examples of what she says about autism and the autism vaccine controversy. You'll notice she often cites Offit and is untroubled by a story of a family with four sons with regressive autism.

Jan 6, 2011, Report linking vaccine to autism 'an elaborate fraud' 

Scare tacticsJune 15, 2011, Childhood diseases return as parents refuse vaccines 

"In some ways, vaccines are a victim of their own success. Today's parents have never seen the diseases that terrified their grandparents, says Paul Offit, chief of infectious disease at Children's Hospital of Philadelphia 'We've not only eliminated these diseases; we've eliminated the memory of these diseases,' Offit says."

"[The autism-vaccine claim] became one of the greatest myths in modern medicine, says Offit, author of Deadly Choices: How the Anti-Vaccine Movement Threatens Us All. He points to nearly two dozen studies showing no link between vaccines and autism."

Apr 2, 2012, With autism rising, researchers step up hunt for a cause 

"Doctors can reassure parents that one thing doesn't cause autism: vaccines, says Paul Offit, chief of infectious diseases at Children's Hospital of Philadelphia. Nearly two dozen studies have failed to find a link between autism and vaccines, whether given alone or in combination."

Apr. 30, 2012. Autism science is moving 'stunningly fast.' Pants onfire

If you're like me, you have to wonder what science she could possibly be talking about since most news reports on autism are happy to declare that as far as autism is concerned, there's no known cause, cure, universally effective treatment, and no way to prevent a healthy new baby from ending up on the autism spectrum. Autism is the perpetual medical mystery.

In the story, Szabo wrote,

"Across the country, researchers are scanning the brains of hundreds of autistic children like Nicky, looking for insights into a condition that has proved frustratingly hard to understand. Autism, which now afflicts more than 1 million children in the USA, is associated with a spectrum of disabilities, including repetitive behaviors and problems socializing and communicating.

"The quest to unravel the mystery - and get children and families the help they need - has become more urgent as autism has become more widely diagnosed. The condition now affects one in 88 children, according to a report last month from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention."  

I'm not sure what the great strides in autism really are as Dr. Thomas Insel, head of the Interagency Autism Coordinating Committee created by Congress to deal with autism was quoted telling us, 'Even when you look at a child who has no language, who is self-injuring, who's had multiple seizures, you would be amazed at how normal their brains look. It's the most inconvenient truth about this condition.'

Szabo talked about the difficulties in mapping the autistic brain and the work being done around the country. She cited Dr. David Amaral from the MIND Institute at UC-Davis who said, 'It would be great if there were a grand unified theory of autism, but we're far from that right now.'

Actually, it's hard to get excited over any of the research Szabo presented. It seems to be more of the same old science we've seen for years.

May 1, 2012, The May family copes with four boys' autism as a team 

In this story she wrote about four boys in a single family with regressive autism.

"Each boy began like any other infant, smiling, cooing and returning his parents' gaze. Each child changed, however, sometime after his first birthday - a common pattern in autism. Its brain signatures appear to be present soon after birth, but it may not cause noticeable behaviors until toddlerhood, new research shows."

In truth, there's more to her April 2, 2012 story and it reveals a lot about the mindset of many reporters in the mainstream press. Recently, the mother of a seven year old boy with severe autism talked to me about a meeting she had with Szabo just before her April 2 story was published.  Jackie Murphy of South San Francisco was asked to give an interview with Liz Szabo and she talked to her in person for over two hours, presenting her son's personal story and what she understands from her perspective as a registered nurse. Jackie tried to get Szabo to consider that there are actually two sides to this controversy. I talked with Jackie about what was said.

Q. Why did you get in touch with USA Today reporter, Liz Szabo?

A. My son and I participate in autism studies at UC Davis MIND Institute.

The MIND Institute asked if I would be willing to speak with Ms. Szabo.

I told them that I wanted to talk to Ms. Szabo in person as I feel it is difficult

to describe to someone over the phone just how sick many of our children

on the spectrum are. Instead, I flew to Washington DC at my own expense

so I could personally share all my son's medical records with Szabo. I also

brought all kinds of articles and books reflecting both sides of the controversial

vaccine-autism issue.

Q. What was the study like that your son participated in at UC-Davis?

A. The study is quite in depth. It is longitudinal, so it takes place over

a period of time. We participated over a three year period. Fintan had

blood draws, behavioral evaluations, yearly MRI's and EEG's. The Autism

Phenome Project is compiling information that may show the different "kinds"

of autism.

Q. When you flew to Washington D.C. from California to meet with Szabo,

what kind of information did you give her?

A. I gave Ms. Szabo a lot about about vaccine concerns. I am not

anti-vaccine, but I do believe vaccines can be a challenge with serious

side effects for some of our children. I don't think the press has done

an adequate or accurate job of covering both sides. I gave her a current

study the MIND Institute is doing on vaccines and the response of the immune

system of a child on the spectrum as compared to a control group. The

question of vaccine safety has not been answered for a very large group of

children. I provided books offering concerns on both sides. I

also gave copies of a report about Danish researcher Poul Thorsen

and the charge that he embezzled millions from the CDC while doing

vaccine research related to autism. His work constitutes the Denmark studies

are still used to reassure parents that vaccines are not linked to autism..

I discussed the study Fintan is in. I also shared with her two large

medical files I have kept on Fintan over the past five years.  When my son

began to regress developmentally, he also had some very serious medical problems.

He had strange immune system responses, severe diarrhea and threw up frequently. 

I told her that we had to pay out of pocket and seek out specialists willing to look at my son,

as I could not get a mainstream pediatrician to take my concerns seriously.

I wanted Ms. Szabo to see that these children have very serious health issues

and parents' concerns are being dismissed by mainstream medicine, leaving

children in pain and untreated.

Q. What did you tell her about your son?

A. I informed her about my son's complete medical history. All of

his problems were only discovered when we paid for medical care ourselves.

These were very serious medical issues including a

gastrointestinal ulcer. I even provided a picture of the ulcer my son had at age

two and a half and I thought that this would be compelling enough to motivate

her to look into the serious immune system/GI system problems common in

autistic children. I told her about how Fintan would press his stomach on tables and chairs

because he was in such severe abdominal pain and that Dr. Krigsman had informed us that this is

common in autistic children and it's referred to as "posturing."

I also gave her the record of my son's last administration of

vaccines. Six vaccines were given at a time when he was recovering from an upper

respiratory tract infection. My son who was already having problems, became

extremely ill and lost all ability to communicate. To this day he has almost no

expressive language and no understanding of what's being said to him.

Q. What was the response from Liz Szabo?

A. Ms. Szabo seemed genuinely concerned. I was hopeful. My intent was not

to have our personal story shared, but to show her that what happened to my son

is the story of thousands of children. We have a serious health care

crisis. As a nurse and a parent I have been astonished at the lack

of integrity among physicians acting on behalf of our children. I also

expect from more from journalists. That was the purpose of my trip from

California to Washington.

Q. When the story came out, did Szabo write about your son?

A. We were not included in the story, and as I said, that was not our goal.

I was however, disappointed in the quote Ms. Szabo used by Dr. Offit in her

article. I think it is misleading to parents and discourages necessary

conversation about vaccine safety between parents and caregivers. She ignored the

fact that studies are ongoing. She did give a limited report on research at the

MIND Institute, but the studies there are so vast and have gathered so

much information that it seems unlikely anyone could cover this information

accurately without dividing the report into a series. Unfortunately, her piece

oversimplified the issue of vaccine safety and ignored so much that is happening in

the area of autism research.

Jackie

(Jackie Murphy and son Fintan are shown in this 8 min video, "Unlocking Autism.". Jackie sent this link to Liz Szabo.)

My comments:

I'm appalled that a mother should have to make this kind of effort to try to and get a member of the press to do her job responsibly and ethically. The fact that nothing that Jackie said or presented to Szabo made any real impression is very frightening. Just how much are reporters willing to overlook when writing on autism? 

Szabo's unfailing loyalty to Paul Offit means that she's untroubled by the fact that he made millions of dollars from the rota virus vaccine that he helped develop and therefore is hardly an unbiased source. She doesn't feel compelled to mention his pharma ties in any of her stories where he's cited as an expert. Furthermore, her selective reporting means  that while citing Dr. David Amaral. she's willing to ignore what he said on PBS in April 2011. 

When asked about the link between vaccines and autism, Amaral responded,

"If the child had a precondition, like a mitochondrial defect. Vaccinations for those children actually may be the environmental factor that tipped them over the edge of autism. And I think it is incredibly important, still, to try and figure out what, if any, vulnerabilities, in a small subset of children, might make them at risk for having certain vaccinations. . . . And I frankly don't think that there's going to be a large group of children that - their autism is caused by their standard immunizations. But you know, it could be a small subset."

It's clear that for many members of the press, there is only one side worth covering in the debate over vaccine safety--the side of those with everything at stake if it becomes accepted that an unsafe, unchecked vaccine schedule is behind the exponential increase in autism and a host of other disabilities and chronic conditions plaguing over half of our children. Szabo and others like her have little left to report on this topic. Telling us about yet another inconclusive study leaves the reader with more questions than answers. Parents are tired of reporters endlessly saying no one knows anything for sure about autism. The demand for legitimate science is growing and as this issue becomes ever more critical, the public will seek out sources that provide such information. Stories about pretend science will be increasingly irrelevant.

Reporters like USA Today's Liz Szabo should remember one thing: the truth will come out. There will be answers to vaccine safety questions. There have to be since public distrust of vaccines is now so prevalent. When all the facts that have been so thoroughly covered up are recognized, those who produced story after story denying the truth will be remembered.

Anne Dachel is Media Editor for Age of Autism. Subscribe to her newsfeed at AnneDachel.com

Comments

GS

I reached this website while googling 'Liz Szabo' because I just read a very badly written 'health' article and was so disturbed that I felt like digging the author's (Szabo) history and reporting patterns. Yes, I suspected malevolence.

http://www.usatoday.com/story/news/nation/2013/06/18/book-raises-alarms-about-alternative-medicine/2429385/

After reading Szabo's above article, I see that she is a low rate journalist paddling information on behalf of mainstream medical industry.

Your article about Szabo correctly points out that "she often cites Offit". Guess what she is doing in her USA Today article? Extolling a book from Paul Offit, and debunking alternative therapies !!

Shame on you, Szabo. USA Today should not print her.

Michael

You can add another story from this idiot, Liz Szabo. She clearly has a hidden agenda and I would guess she is being paid to do it. Here is her newest story on how wonderful vaccines are.
http://www.infowars.com/cdc-study-finds-no-link-between-vaccines-and-autism/

http://www.usatoday.com/story/news/nation/2013/03/29/vaccine-schedule-autism/2026617/

Karen Sullivan

I just want to share a quick story about a fellow I met in the grocery store while looking for gluten free products. His son has autism. He said once he eliminated gluten, red and yellow dyes and genetically modified foods from his son's diet the child changed remarkably. He became more engaged with everything and everyone. More like the little boy he should be.
From everything I have read about GMOs, I think this man is on to something. Just since their introduction in the 90's, cancer rates, autsim, alzheimer and obsity rates have sky rocketed. It doesn't take a genius to put two and two together, just common sense. Quit believing the lies Monsanto tells and pays others to tell. Listen to the European scientist (Monsanto won't allow US scientist to do any research)who are telling us the truth.

Kevin

There is yet another bigger piece of the pain and suffering a parent must go through. That of the ostracization from family members and friends who do not understand autism, don't want to understand and keep on living their happy lives. The pain we feel by not having that support and extra love during a lifetime of need digs deeper into our soul.

Morally, where does that leave us in our society if our own family members choose to exclude us?

Lisa

This is the same kind of journalism that led up to the Iraq war. Reporter goes to a person with an impressive powerful title, writes down everything he or she says, and it is published without question or any effort to substantiate the ideas conveyed. That got us into a devastating war. I would think the Szabos of this world would have learned something from that. DO YOUR HOMEWORK.

Jake Crosby

Let's not forget what the millionaire vaccine industrialist Paul Offit said to me last April:
http://www.ageofautism.com/2012/05/penn-prof-paul-offit-to-gw-grad-student-get-the-fck-out-of-here-piece-of-sht.html

Bev

Keep up the good fight all you autism warriors! It is your voices that will change the thinking of the sheeple. Please tell parents to use their own minds and stop blindly following the "devil's priests" (doctors, CDC, WHO, NIH...)

Simpson Wood

Why do mothers (and parents) keep jumping off cliffs like lemmings ? They have all heard our whispers . I will never understand it . Everyone seems to assume science can only ever be used for our good and I have no idea how we ever came to that conclusion .After all most of the scientific leaps have come through the preparation for acts of war , and the planned destruction of the imagined enemy . Are our children the enemy of our rulers ? looks like it to me .
Liz Szabo And Offit must both be very intellectually challenged people if they dont know the cause of autism , because I do , and I'm unfortunately no genius . Vaccines are a disgrace , the govt is a disgrace , the NAS is a disgrace , the doctor\collaborators are a disgrace .

michael

Szabo is mouthpiece. She is a mouth with out a brain. No heart, no soul, no integrity and certainly no journalist.

Perhaps this image is appropriate for her: http://www.123rf.com/photo_10037617_jaw-model.html

Victor Pavlovic

Nice job Anne, when the so called experts read this article they'll realize how worthless they are, if they don't know already.

Maurine meleck

Great article, Anne, and how sad Ms Murphy went to all that trouble for nothing. The media has been worthless for years. They don't do their own investigating, haven't for years. It's the same old government, ABA and drug lines. When, when, when will this end??
Maurine

Barry

Isn't it amazing, that after 20 odd years of " research" ,

- Medical authorities still have no idea what IS causing autism. Yet somehow, they're 100% sure that the vaccines THEY administer....isn't.

- Mercury is STILL in some childhood vaccines. Heck for all we know, mercury might be in all of them. The only people telling us that mercury has been removed, are the same people who tell us that their vaccines don't cause autism.

- ANYONE is still listening to that boob Paul Offit.

- They claim the exploding incidence is due to doctors who have become so much better at diagnosing it. Yet when you present them with children who has clearly been recovered, they say the child must have been misdiagnosed in the first place. By the same doctors, who are supposed to be so much better at diagnosing it.

- No one has yet been able to find all those autistic adults, who's diagnosis would have been missed just 30 years ago. Or for that matter, the teachers who would have gotten them all through school, without the forms of assistance that many of our children simply can't do without today.


This list can go on and on, but what's the point. Mainstream media exists to ensure that anomalies like these will never be honestly reported.

JL

Liz scabo blocked me on twitter when I sent her callous disregard and age of autism. She tweeted she'd be interested in reading so I sent on my own dime. Guess she never read them.

Zoey

Great work, as usual, Anne.

Carol

I just read some of Szabo's articles.

Drug company sock puppet.

Kapoore

That is the last time I ever pick up US Today--disgusting!! I'm relieved to hear, though, that the UC Davis MIND institute is finally including vaccines in the research. I hope this California mother is willing to put her concerns before the California Senate to show that one size does not fit all when it comes to vaccines, and that parents who know the child best should be making vaccine decisions, not the front office at the school.

Christine Thompson

Anne:

As you've written before, "It's incredible to think that something as tragic as an autism epidemic could be met with such complacency."

I guess we should all feel a tremendous sense of relief and gratitude towards Paul Offit and his ilk. Hooray! Everything causes autism but vaccines. What a relief... and sensory friendly, too.

"So when you find yourself locked onto an unpleasant train of thought, heading for the places in your past where the screaming is unbearable, remember, there's always madness. Madness is the emergency exit." -Alan Moore

cmo

'We've not only eliminated these diseases; we've eliminated the memory of these diseases,' Offit says."

.... but we have a new disease AUTISM... that is 100 times more common than polio... and is dropping about 1 in 54 boys across the nation which we have no ...damn idea after 20 years... what is happening.

To Dr. Offit, research and science" does not involve "studying the children" who "regressed into Autism" following multiple vaccines,

but the study of bankrupt HMO vaccine data to see if Autism rates are the same for those who had received 27 vaccines compared to those who received 26....

which of course makes any mix of combination of vaccines safe...

Zed

And let's not forget that Offit, himself, says he's never treated a child with autism. X-Spurt at profiteering from vaccines, though.

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