Minneapolis Star Tribune Opposes Free Speech on Vaccine Informed Consent Legislation – Without Knowing Content
Did a Minneapolis Star Tribune editorial writer and colleagues violate professional ethics via intimidating communications targeting health rights advocates and legislators?
Yes, say some members of the Minnesota Vaccine Freedom Coalition, whose Facebook political ideology group has about 2,500 followers. One group in the coalition is the Vaccine Safety Council of Minnesota, a volunteer nonprofit composed in part of parents whose children suffered health damage from vaccines.
Mainstream media have not reported accurately – if at all – about U.S. government malfeasance perpetuating the autism epidemic. Some struggling newspapers entrench themselves as public relations hubs, repeating scripted information from some of the very government agencies and industries they are professionally tasked with investigating. Consequently volunteer advocates exercise their right to share health care information intended to prevent vaccine adverse reactions from harming others and call attention to unreported research fraud.
VSCM and three other advocacy groups scheduled an Informed Consent Reception and Briefing for state legislators Feb. 7 at the Minneapolis Club, a private downtown venue. The panel discussion with health professionals is limited to just Minnesota legislators, by invitation only – no press, no public. The other groups hosting the event are Health Choice, Informed Consent Action Network, and Physicians for Informed Consent.
On January 29 Ashleigh Towers, a MVFC volunteer, emailed state legislators invitations to the private event. At least one legislator forwarded that email to Jill Burcum, a Star Tribune editorial writer since March 2008. Towers called that a betrayal of trust. “It’s deeply disturbing that a representative would forward the email to a newspaper writer, rather than simply ignore the invite or politely decline it,” said Towers. “This person is a public official who is supposed to represent the people, not feed them to the media.”
The Star Tribune’s Burcum, after reading the phrase “legislators only,” sent a series of imperious emails to Towers:
Burcum: “Is this event open to the public as well?”
Towers: “No, it’s legislators only. If you have any other questions I recommend reaching out to the organization directly via the form [VSCM address].”
Burcum: “Is it open to the media?”
Towers: “No media in the briefing. Please direct any further communication to [VSCM address].”
Burcum: “What is your role with this organization?”
Burcum: (2 hours later) “I’d like an answer. Are you a contract public relations person? Volunteer? What’s your role and why can’t you answer questions?”
Towers: “You reached out to me unsolicited… I will tell you that I am a volunteer and twice I advised you to ask your questions elsewhere… This is the last communication I am sending you. My role is parent, volunteering for a cause that is important to me. Now, I’d like for you to stop emailing me, personally. If you have further questions, feel free to submit the contact form in the link I’ve sent to you twice already. Thank you for respecting my wishes.”
Burcum: “Let this be an educational moment. You volunteered for a cause. Your name and contact info was on the email distributed to the Minnesota Legislature. The topic clearly involves changing public healthy [sic] policy. You should have realized what that meant in terms of your personal privacy and the questions you would get about this. Learn from this, please.”
Towers then wrote a letter of complaint to Star Tribune administrators. “Jill [Burcum]’s harassing behavior is just the icing on the cake and solidifies my distrust in the mainstream media,” said Towers. “In fact, this whole situation proves to me that government and media are out for their own agendas and cannot be trusted.”
On Tuesday, January 30 a snide blurb written by political reporter J. Patrick Coolican appeared in a gossipy Star Tribune “Hot Dish” e-newsletter:
“Minnesota legislators got an invite for a legislator-only ‘informational briefing’ February 7 at the Minneapolis Club sponsored by, get this, Minnesota Vaccine Freedom Coalition, ‘which represents thousands of Minnesotans who fight for informed consent with regard to vaccination,’ according to the invite. ‘Vaccine policy and pending vaccine legislation will be presented, with an opportunity to discuss these with advocates and other legislators.’ Someone be sure to go and tell me which legislators are there because the public should know of their interest.”
On Wednesday, January 31 Hot Dish ran a second blurb (odd comma usage is theirs):
“A Tuesday nugget about a ‘legislator-only’ briefing at the Minneapolis Club given by, among others the Vaccine Safety Council, drew a lot of reader interest, especially in the sake of last year’s measles outbreak, which was caused by people not getting their children vaccinated, especially in Somali-American communities.”
The Strib blurb also harangued local autism clinic founder Jennifer Larson of Health Choice and VSCM for making contributions to the Republican Party. In the past some critics have nicknamed that newspaper the “Red Star Tribune,” claiming its writing caters to the political left.
Members of MVFC felt bullied. “Imagine that a child was killed or permanently disabled by a drunk driver, and her mother contacted elected officials to invite them to an event being held by Mothers Against Drunk Drivers,” said Patti Carroll, parent of a vaccine-injured child and member of VSCM and Health Choice. “Would Star Tribune editorial writers harass that mother for exercising her right as a citizen? Of course not. So why would it be okay for them to harass parents of children who were killed or disabled by vaccines?”
Journalists cannot speak authoritatively on a topic when they limit references to only one facet of an issue. Over the past decade the Minneapolis Star Tribune editorial board has repeatedly refused to meet with informed choice advocates or families struggling with vaccine-induced injuries or death. Thus the newspaper’s board has backed itself into a credibility corner, by remaining silent about Centers for Disease Control vaccine data fraud for two decades as autism rates skyrocketed and documented evidence mounted. At this point the Star Tribune has two choices: (1) double down even more harshly, to the benefit of their denialist community partners; or (2) start backpedaling, before society crumbles any further under the unsustainable weight of an increasingly disabled population.
To people on the defensive, veritas odium parit: “truth begets hatred.” On February 3 the Star Tribune ran a vitriolic op-ed with the inflammatory and inaccurate title, “Fringe anti-vaccine groups peddle misinformation to Minnesota legislators.” Loaded with the usual clichés – “notorious,” “secretive,” “dangerous,” “propaganda,” “debunked”) the screed casts shame on any legislator who might choose to attend the informational briefing on informed choice rights.
The Star Tribune op-ed also promoted a local medical trade union that profits financially from legislation that will increasing vaccine doses through mandates, and which bears no responsibility for diagnosing, treating or preventing adverse reactions. (Note: Physicians in that union will meet with their legislators March 14 at the Capitol). The op-ed also claims VSCM or MVFC “did not respond to an editorial writer’s other questions,” though editorial writer Burcum failed to go through proper communication channels as directed.
The Star Tribune shunned input from physician event sponsors who support informed choice in vaccine decision-making. But in the medical community, individual vaccine choice varies widely based on personal experience. In another state, Dr. Heather Revelis, M.D. & Dr. Andrew Revelis, M.D. “would not view the removal of personal and religious vaccine exemptions rights… as a success.” “Each child is unique, and there is no one-size-fits-all approach to any medical treatment,” say the Drs. Revelis, “Vaccines are not risk-free.”
“I have a disabled child, and I believe there is a link,” Dr. Andrew Revelis said. “I want real research done to show if there’s a link and I want to preserve parent’s rights to protect their children if there is even a shred of doubt,” he said. Adverse reactions to vaccines cause varying degrees of physical harm, from subclinical to profound.
Angie Gallagher is MVFC’s founder, and parent of a vaccine-injured child. “The media seems to go to great lengths to portray us as some huge nefarious organization out to endanger the public – and so it’s their ‘duty’ to expose some plot,” said Gallagher. “What they are not grasping though is: We. Are. The. Public. It’s our health on the line. We are 100% volunteer-run and represent thousands of Minnesotans who have injured loved ones or are facing daycare or workplace mandates. These are our legislators. We are simply having conversations with them about issues we are experiencing that are all to often swept under the rug.”
The upcoming Minneapolis legislative briefing also inevitably garnered the attention of internet hydra Dorit Reiss. Despite not knowing what information will be presented to legislators, Reiss is urging followers to call the Minneapolis Club to shut down the event. Last April pressure from the Minnesota Department of Health forced health safety advocates to change venues at the last minute for the presentation with Age of Autism’s Mark Blaxill to inform Somali families about their health care civil rights.
The Star Tribune had also run a tip from a Bluestem Prairie blog post. That website’s sole proprietor is Sally Jo Sorenson, an admittedly partisan progressive outstate blogger whose “independent enterprise journalism” (copy-and-paste data dumping) is paid for by clients and donations. Sorenson, who says she “writes to understand,” mislabeled Jennifer Larson an “antivaccination activist” while posting several years of Canary Party campaign donations. Sorenson used a Somali child’s photo to lead her piece, which also criticized Blaxill’s evidence-based presentation to Somali parents – but failed to show knowledge of the information provided that day.
In the U.S., the child disability rate is 1 in 6. Yet Star Tribune content shows a chillingly incurious attitude toward what is a shockingly actionable increase. Most Americans have bought into mainstream media’s normalization of chronic health damage and permanent disability, due in part to industry-funded front groups and complacent charitable organizations that rely on industry goodwill for funding or promote fruitless awareness campaigns.
One semantic conceit many reporters can’t resist when covering vaccines is claiming the moral high ground by focusing only on health damage from disease. They fail to consider that man-made cures may prove worse than the disease itself, whether through genetics, error or fraud. Medications that are lifesavers to some – penicillin, acetaminophen – paradoxically prove life-threatening to others. Worse, some reporters leverage utilitarian reasoning in an attempt to justify suffering by the few by claiming it benefits the many – by not quantifying human carnage, they allow it to continue unabated.
Such rigid bias is evident in Burcum’s January 30 Tweets about the upcoming legislative briefing:
- “Less than a year after MN’s measles outbreak ended. Brazen, reckless and irresponsible.”
- “Event not open to media. But any legislator thinking they can stroll in there unseen, Mpls Club is right next door to the new Strib tower.”
One detects a threatening bark to Burcum’s watch-dogging, seemingly to intimidate legislators who wisely seek vaccine information other than the PR generated by the CDC. A conscientious reporter would ask whether legislators’ fact-seeking motivation stems from disturbingly large numbers of constituents reporting negative vaccine experiences – empirical observations diametrically opposed to public health agencies’ rote reassurances of low severity and extreme rarity.
“I can’t fathom why any media outlet would threaten, ridicule and shame mothers of vaccine injured children for simply contacting their legislator to invite them to an event that is important to their family – to share their personal story,” said Kristin Sullivan of VSCM.
Burcum, a 49-year-old mother of two, has for years been a staunch vaccine defender – signing off on previous op-eds such as one that stated (without the irony of self-recognition), “Vaccine disinformation is a public health plague and it must be stopped.” Such faulty logic and mob-inciting rhetoric falls short of the Boston Herald’s shocking “hanging offense” op-ed, but the messages – direct and implied – are equally mind-blind, unfair, and interfere with civil discourse.
“This latest harassment from the Star Tribune represents a pattern of abuse by the mainstream media to silence anyone who is critical of vaccines,” said Kristin Sullivan of VSCM. “The Washington Post recently called someone a dangerous anti-vaxxer just for refusing an ineffective and unsafe flu shot (which many doctors refuse for themselves) and the Boston Herald called for those representing informed consent to be hanged.”
On Saturday evening, February 3 the Star Tribune published a comparatively balanced article by Jeremy Olson, “Minnesota vaccination activists now are seeking political allies.” Jennifer Larson was interviewed, saying her son “developed autism following his infant vaccinations.” Vaxxed director Del Bigtree is scheduled to speak at the legislators’ forum. State legislation discussed there “would require doctors to disclose that neither they nor vaccine manufacturers are liable if they give shots that cause complications, and that scheduled combinations of vaccinations at single office visits haven’t been studied for safety.” Minnesota’s head of immunization was quoted as saying VIS statements already provide adequate information on shots.
Though the U.S. Centers for Disease Control counts cases of measles, it does not accurately count adverse vaccine reactions and does little with that data. Subclinical symptoms from neuroinflammation, encephalopathies and mini-strokes go unnoticed or misdiagnosed by medical professionals untrained to recognize them, or told they officially do not exist. Other chronic neurological disorders such as tics have been linked to Thimerosal from vaccines, as CDC senior scientist Dr. William Thompson has admitted. Yet in December the Advisory Committee on Childhood Vaccines voted “no” against adding tics to the Vaccine Injury Compensation Program table.
Some people believe the oppressed medical minority of vaccine injury victims may actually be a majority, a “compromised generation.” “We are all vaccine injured, to one extent or another,” said Sullivan. “Do you know what you would’ve accomplished had you not been brain damaged by vaccines? Do you know of the vibrant health you would have experienced had you not been poisoned with mercury and formaldehyde day one? Is the eczema, allergies and respiratory infections my baby suffered with a normal occurrence? The glossed over eyes usually staring back at me in response tells me what I already knew. Not even a clue about what has been done to them.”
With autism rates now a frightening high 1 in 36, the mainstream media’s lack of honest ongoing causality coverage is obscene. “The science” is certainly not settled regarding vaccine/autism causality; abundant evidence proves much of the CDC’s research has manipulated to eliminate evidence of a link. Why are there no Star Tribune investigations of this mass-use medical product deserving of the utmost scrutiny?
- No reporting on CDC senior scientist Dr. William Thompson’s recorded admissions of destruction of research results on MMR adverse effects, as recounted in Vaccine Whistleblower: Exposing Autism Research Fraud at the CDC by Kevin Barry, Esq.
- No analysis of the statistically fraudulent CDC autism/MMR files released by Dr. Thompson, which can be downloaded here (182 megabytes); in which researchers (1) deviated from their analysis plan, (2) omitted of data, (3) destroyed data
- No investigation of CDC’s pervasive culture of fraud – “Our mission is being influenced and shaped by outside parties and rogue interests.”
- No reports on CDC research consultant Poul Thorsen’s indictment. In 2011, the Department of Justice indicted Thorsen on 22 counts of wire fraud and money laundering for stealing over $1 million in CDC grant money earmarked for autism research.
- No mention of the Merck scientists’ whistleblower lawsuit for mumps statistical fraud.
- Silence after former CDC head Julie Gerberding admits on TV that vaccines can cause autism, then joins Merck management.
- Misdirection away from efficacy fails of influenza and whooping cough vaccines.
- Tacit dismissals of neurotoxic ethylmercury-based Thimerosal as “taken out of vaccines.”
- Pushback against altering vaccination schedules to make them safer for infants susceptible to adverse reactions.
The Minneapolis/St Paul journalism community is insular and political; many hesitate to publish investigative reporting on certain local corporations. For years St. Paul’s 3M Company largely escaped the negative spotlight, until 2010 when Attorney General Lori Swanson sued Minnesota Mining and Manufacturing over groundwater contamination from their 50 years of dumping perfluorochemicals around the eastern metropolitan area.
Rochester’s Mayo Clinic is another seemingly untouchable state icon. The Mayo is home to Merck vaccine researchers Dr. Gregory Poland and Dr. Robert Jacobson, both of whom have published extensively and testified at state legislative hearings against bills to limit mercury in vaccines. (Unfortunately for those 1 in 36 U.S. children with autism, Mayo offers little by way of fruitful autism research or beneficial treatments.)
In 1980 Minnesota pundit Nick Coleman “wrote a week-long front page series examining the political, cultural and social impact on Rochester and the region of the 800-lb Gorilla in a doctor’s smock known as the Mayo Clinic.” The series, Coleman said, “was certain to displease the notoriously tightly-wound public info managers of the clinic… A day after the series ended, the wife of a prominent Mayo surgeon told me: ‘The clinic has placed a giant fart over your house. It’s been nice knowing you.’ I left Rochester a few months later.”
In the late 1990s Burcum worked for Mayo as an editor in their tech transfer and consumer health publishing division. Prior to that she was “part of a cantankerous crew” at the Rochester Post-Bulletin, the Mayo’s hometown newspaper. In 2009 Burcum was taken to task by local media critic David Brauer for acting as “Mayo’s real cheerleader” in several praise-filled Star Tribune pieces she wrote without revealing her professional conflict of interest. (Her past Mayo employment now appears in her Star Tribune bio.)
To understand part of the national news reporting blackout on vaccine-induced autism, one must examine newspaper staff roles. As an editorial board member, Burcum stepped up from production reporter of facts to institutional representative, participating in community events such as judging a congressional hotdish contest or receiving a service award. Sometimes the ethical journalistic lines that separate news reporting from entertainment, community relations and advocacy begin to blur. When cronyism sets in, a journalist can lose ethical perspective and devolve into an instrument of favoritism.
As an editorial writer, Burcum is allowed more leeway with content. Editorial writers are by necessity generalists who lay out a publication’s opinion, support it with facts, and sometimes encourage readers to take a course of action. But the fact-barren content of Burcum’s vaccine reporting parallels how national vaccine policy has become fear-based, not fact-based. The content and tone are that of advertising or PR, not newswriting.
The Society of Professional Journalists Ethics Committee urges its members to “distinguish between advocacy and news reporting”… not to mention public relations for government agencies, industry and trade unions. According to SPJ Code of Ethics, journalists should:
– Show compassion for those who may be affected adversely by news coverage. Use special sensitivity when dealing with children and inexperienced sources or subjects.
– Pursuit of the news is not a license for arrogance.
– Recognize that private people have a greater right to control information about themselves than do public officials and others who seek power, influence or attention.
“What is greatly disturbing about the Star Tribune is their pattern of only showing one side to the vaccine issue,” said VSCM’s Sullivan. “Vaccine injuries are real and are not rare, just rarely reported. The Star Tribune never takes a critical look at the people who are actually sick are the ones who received the flu shot this year or in past years. Welcome to ‘1984’ – we live in a dangerous world where the religion of vaccination can’t be questioned.”
The Minnesota Vaccine Freedom Coalition cites this 2005 Universal Declaration on Bioethics and Human Rights by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO):
“Any preventive, diagnostic and therapeutic medical intervention is only to be carried out with the prior, free and informed consent of the person concerned, based on adequate information.”
“Informed consent means you have the right to be fully informed about the benefits and risks of a medical intervention and the freedom to make a voluntary decision about whether or not to accept those risks without being coerced or punished for the decision you make,” said Barbara Loe Fisher of the National Vaccine Information Center. “Informed consent applies not just to risks taken by participants in scientific experiments, but also to risks taken by patients under the care of physicians.”
On Twitter, @JBurcum describes herself as “Applying Minnesota mom sensibilities to coverage: don’t fib, don’t be mean & you [sic] better have done your homework.”
It’s true that Burcum’s writing has won awards. She was a 2015 Pulitzer finalist for “editorials that documented a national shame by taking readers inside dilapidated government schools for Native Americans.” But it’s clear to those who’ve studied vaccine research fraud that Burcum and her Star Tribune colleagues haven’t done all their homework on that life-and-death topic. Here are a few remedial assignments:
- Listen to Brian Hooker‘s interviews with CDC whistleblower Dr. William Thompson (“There is biologic plausibility right now… to say that thimerosal causes autism-like features”).
- Read about the VICP vaccine injury concession of Hannah Poling, daughter of a Johns Hopkins researcher and an attorney/ER nurse.
- Hear Tennessee Assistant Attorney Rolf Hazlehurst explain the Zimmerman VICP evidence fraud – how government used contradictory opinions by the same neurologist on whether vaccines cause autism, and concealed it.
- Find CDC researcher Poul Thorsen’s photo and crimes on the OIG’s Most Wanted List, and assess the implications of his vaccine fraud on vaccine/autism causality evidence.
- Read Unanswered Questions: A Review of Compensated Cases of Vaccine-Induced Brain Injury, Pace Environmental Law Review, vol. 28, no. 2, 2011.
- Look at the 356-page Vaccine Injuries: Documented Adverse Reactions to Vaccines by Louis Conte and Tony Lyons of Skyhorse Publications.
- Watch Hear This Well or Gardasil vaccine injury videos or VaxXed bus parent/victim interviews on YouTube, to grasp the true extent of the growing vaccine injury problem.
- Interview local vaccine injury victims or their caregivers with an open mind… and perhaps even a modicum of compassion.
The inhumane reality most reporters don’t consider is the near-complete lack of consumer recourse for victims of vaccine adverse reactions. Most medical professionals don’t recognize it; most don’t report it to VAERS. Few doctors know how to treat vaccine injuries medically. (Most still prescribe Tylenol afterward, which may worsen the reaction by depleting glutathione levels.) Vaccine-induced disabilities can also cripple finances, impoverishing families. The well-intended Vaccine Injury Compensation Program, slow and corrupt, tosses out most applicants.
Another horror is realizing just how willing local journalists have been to create straw man “antivaccine” bogeymen out of already-stressed families, oppressing the medical minority that their professional actions and inactions helped create. What should Star Tribune readers conclude about the integrity of a newsgathering institution – a supposed bastion of free speech and defender of civil rights – that urges censorship and shaming for a private meeting about informed choice in health care?
A free press can keep governments and industry honest and accountable. A truly free press does not censor citizens’ free speech, but offers a place for it. In 2002 Boston Globe reporters found the moral courage to uncover Catholic Church reassignment and cover-up of pedophile priests. Parents of vaccine-injured children have waited decades for journalists to respond ethically and appropriately with honest and fair investigative reporting, but haven’t been sitting on their hands. They’ve been archiving and sharing FOIA’d reports, research studies and analyses showing the extent of vaccine adverse reactions, CDC data fraud, conflicts of interest and outright corruption.
Some Star Tribune journalists are familiar with reporting on very high-stakes public health controversies… such as tobacco science. “Maura Lerner, of the Star Tribune reported the work of Dr. Richard Hurt of the Mayo Clinic who had spent weeks-studying thousands of once-secret tobacco industry documents. In the report published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, Hurt said that he had no idea that the industry knew these many things about addiction, about how to manipulate nicotine. Hurt is the co-author of the JAMA article with Channing Robertson of Stanford University, another of the prosecution witnesses in the tobacco trial. ‘We had some hints,’ he said, ‘[but] this goes beyond anybody’s wildest dreams about what they knew and when they knew it.’” (Lerner also has worked for Mayo.)
The need for quality health care investigations has never been more critical. A 2016 BMJ report stated that “medical errors... may now be the third-leading cause of death in the United States” — leading to 251,000 deaths annually. “It boils down to people dying from the care that they receive rather than the disease for which they are seeking care,” said Dr. Martin Makary, professor of surgery at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine.
Jill Burcum and Star Tribune colleagues want readers to believe that disease is the only health concern worth reporting, and people harmed by disease should silence themselves. But as long as vaccines exist in attempt to prevent disease, vaccine adverse reactions are sadly inevitable – “unavoidably unsafe,” as the U.S. Supreme Court declared.
A few glimmers of hope about acknowledging individual vaccine response are on the public health research horizon:
“The principles of ‘personalized medicine’ apply equally to ‘personalized vaccinology’…the choice of the vaccine administered should take into account critical characteristics of the individual... Not all individuals respond in the same way to vaccines.”
(Whitaker, JA; Ovsyannikova, IG, Poland, GA. Adversomics: a new paradigm for vaccine safety and design. Expert Rev Vaccines. 2015 Jul; 14(7): 935–947. doi: 10.1586/14760584.2015.1038249)
Shouting down vaccine injury victims will not silence them; their documented medical dysfunctions will still remain. The only op-ed that can silence vaccine injury victims is one that pressures vaccine developers to study, treat and prevent vaccine injuries – and ultimately end them. Until honest causality research is performed, informed choice is consumers’ only fair option to protect themselves and their families from government-mandated products that paradoxically are proving hazardous to health.
(Coincidentally, the Society of Professional Journalists Freedom of Information committee is accepting nominations for its Black Hole Award – “to highlight the most heinous violations of the public’s right to know” and “all attention to those who would interfere with openness and transparency.” Nominations must be submitted by February 16.)
(Age of Autism contributing editor Nancy Hokkanen is a member of Health Choice and the Vaccine Safety Council of Minnesota. Her first employment in 1977 was at a weekly newspaper.)