Un-Investigative Journalists Miss the Obvious: Jenny McCarthy’s Son Has Autism

The ProfessorI keep thinking I’ll write about something other than vaccines because, believe it or not, I am interested in many other health-related topics that I’d love to share with you. But then the propaganda machine cranks up to promote some new (or, in this case, old) outrageous law, story, or video . . . aaaaand I’m right back where I started. Sometimes I feel like Al Pacino in The Godfather: Part III, “Just when I thought I was out, they pull me back in!”


As many of you know, an old – I won’t even grace it with the word article – smear piece from Hollywood Life on Jenny McCarthy has been recirculating since her appearance on network television on New Year’s Eve. I find it ridiculous, and more than a little frustrating, that that particular piece is being posted as if there’s any validity to it at all, but I find it positively baffling when it’s posted by people who should know better – people like the director of the American Health Journalists Association and senior reporter at ProPublica, Charles Ornstein.



I won’t waste my time and effort on most folks who post this sort of thing because it’s just not worth it, but Mr. Ornstein has a history of calling out hospital abuse, and ProPublica’s stated objectives are things I can really get behind. So I thought this time it just might be worth it to try and reach him. I know that many of us are feeling a similar frustration, so I thought I would post my response to Mr. Ornstein as an open invitation to all journalists to live up to their calling.

Dear Mr. Ornstein:

I love the picture on your Facebook cover declaring ProPublica as a non-profit newsroom that produces investigative journalism in the public interest and then goes on to claim that “our reporting uncovers exploitation of the weak by the strong and how some in power betray the trust placed in them.” I applaud these ideals as they are not much in evidence in the world of journalism today.

Imagine my disappointment, then, to find that you have posted on your page a three-year-old [it’s actually much closer to four] opinion piece from Hollywood Life, no less, that alleges “After years of speaking out about her son’s autism — and against childhood immunizations — Jenny McCarthy is reversing her position.” As a journalist with integrity, I am sure you would be disturbed to know that the only thing this claim is based upon is a Time article wherein a medical professional who never even met, much less evaluated, McCarthy’s son, Evan, claims that he did not have autism. How irresponsible is it to assume that this man knows what’s going on with a child he never met, while the doctors who actually did evaluate him were completely mistaken? In addition, no journalist worth their salt would then go on to assume that this man’s pronouncement means anything to McCarthy herself.

On the contrary, since this piece of journalistic garbage is making the rounds again, McCarthy recently commented: “Stories circulating online, claiming that I said my son Evan may not have autism after all, are blatantly inaccurate and completely ridiculous. Evan was diagnosed with autism by the Autism Evaluation Clinic at the UCLA Neuropsychiatric Hospital and was confirmed by the State of California (through their Regional Center). The implication that I have changed my position, that my child was not initially diagnosed with autism (and instead may suffer from Landau-Kleffner Syndrome), is both irresponsible and inaccurate. These stories cite a ‘new’ Time Magazine interview with me, which was actually published in 2010, that never contained any such statements by me.”

The worst thing about reputable journalists posting pieces written merely to discredit Jenny McCarthy, though, is that it implies that the vaccine debate boils down to one celebrity’s opinion. That is a gross misunderstanding of the issues involved. Many people who post such drivel are aware that it is a gross misunderstanding, but they post it cynically anyway, hoping to paint parents who choose not to vaccinate as brainwashed by a Playboy bunny. What a fabulous way to discredit reasonable concerns!

Only it’s not true. Not even a little bit. No one chooses not to vaccinate, or vaccinate selectively, “because Jenny McCarthy said so.” Jenny McCarthy is one parent telling the truth about what happened to her child. (And, really, what possible motive could she have for lying about it?) There are thousands of other parents telling similar stories about what happened to their children, many of whom are ridiculed over and over again by people who have never for a second imagined for themselves what it’s like to watch your healthy child lose the ability to speak, interact socially, and/or use a potty, while at the same time developing horrible gastrointestinal problems, seizure disorders and mitochondrial dysfunction all after a round of vaccines, mostly for illnesses that your child was unlikely to ever encounter.

I’ve heard all the rationalizations: 1) Parents want someone to blame. Every parent I know whose child was vaccine injured (and I know many) blames themselves more than anyone or anything, because they allowed their child to be vaccinated without investigating the risks. 2) The signs were always there, the parents just didn’t notice. You’re a parent. Do you really think this is likely? Thousands of parents just weren’t paying attention to their infant or toddler? That sudden change they noticed at 1 year, 15 months, 18 months, or 2 years didn’t really happen? We’re supposed to believe that doctors who have seen these children for 1-2 hours over the course of their infancy and toddlerhood knew those children better than the parents who lived with them, many of them 24 hours a day? As a journalist and a parent, how likely do you really think that is? It’s not likely, so the last rationalization is 3) “That’s just how autism is”: Symptoms show up at 1-2 years and any correlation with the timing of vaccination is “coincidence.” I don’t know how old you are, but I am about to turn 53. I grew up in the ’60s. My mother had 8 children, her mother had 13. I had uncles, aunts, cousins, etc. galore. No one worried about their children regressing as toddlers. [That bears repeating:  No one.] If it happened, it was so rare that it was never discussed.

Contrast that with today: two percent of all the children in this country are diagnosed with an autism spectrum disorder. An additional 10% or so have ADHD — and no matter how many articles you read about the “overdiagnosis” of ADHD, the increase is real. Ask any teacher who has been teaching for multiple decades. He or she will tell you that today’s children are much sicker than any children they have seen before.

Investigate the history of vaccination in this country (pay particular attention to the National Childhood Vaccine Injury Act of 1986). Ask yourself why all newborns (who are too young to mount an effective immune response) are given a vaccine for a not-particularly-common sexually transmitted disease, when it is well known that a significant percentage of them will have life-threatening adverse reactions (as a matter of fact, nine newborns just died in China from a “hot lot”), and there is currently no way to determine who those children will be; and why nine-year-old boys should have a vaccine that the best-case scenarios say might save the lives of 1200 women over 60 years of vaccinating (while approximately 4,000 per year die of cervical cancer), but has already killed a number of otherwise healthy young girls and permanently disabled others. When you really investigate United States vaccine policy, it’s pretty clear that it has gone off the rails, that there is significant evidence for the “exploitation of the weak by the strong” and “how some in power [have] betray[ed] the trust placed in them.”

I went to Williams College, class of ’83, on a Tyng scholarship, where I graduated in three years with a degree in Physics. When I left, I received 800s on both the math and logic portions of the GRE. I know when something has been demonstrated or proven and when it hasn’t. Trust me when I say that going beyond the mainstream representation of vaccination practice will be very worth your investigatory hours, if only for the sake of your own children.

If you have made it all the way to the end of this, then I thank you for your attention, and I wish you a great deal of luck in your future journalistic endeavors. The world needs more journalists dedicated to reporting the truth, especially when it involves “exploitation of the weak by the strong.”


Zoey O’Toole


Mr. Ornstein posted an update.  He has not removed the original post, but he now “regrets” posting it.



(Ornstein and I have a somewhat different definition of what constitutes a reputable source when it comes to certain subjects.  Marie we are not ever going to come down that it [autism] is a true side effect McCormick, chair of the Immunization Safety Review Committee of the Institute of Medicine, and Seth Mnookin, a former drug addict with a history of breaking and entering, wouldn’t be my standard-bearers for reputable. They have found no evidence of the vax-autism link because it is in their best interests not to do so, not because there isnt one.)

In a personal response to my letter, Ornstein said he agreed that the discussion of vaccinations should go well beyond Jenny McCarthy and that parents need accurate information, but he would not personally be investigating the vaccine program.

I wrote back to say while I understand his reluctance to investigate the topic himself  –  those who do tend to be severely punished for having the audacity to question the powers that be – I am disappointed. If journalists like him refuse to take on the subject, how likely is it that the general public will get accurate information from the mainstream media?

No better opportunity exists for the strong to exploit the weak than the current United States vaccine program. Its fulfilled by an industry that generates tens of billions of dollars annually in revenue, mandated and regulated by government agencies staffed by folks with clear conflicts of interest due to corporate pharmaceutical ties, and when innocent children fall sick and/or die no one is held accountable. If investigative journalists are not willing to really investigate it, who will?

*sigh*  Looks like Im not getting out any time soon.

~ Professor

For more by Professor, click here.

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28 Responses to Un-Investigative Journalists Miss the Obvious: Jenny McCarthy’s Son Has Autism

  1. Katy says:

    You said that there is currently no way to see which newborns are more susceptible to reacting to vaccines. But there are indirect ways to test. For example children could be tested in an indirect way to see if they have enough glutathione. They could be tested for secondary methylmalonic academia and secondary propionic academia. Folic acid levels could be tested, high levels would indicate folic acid is not methylating and therefore not contributing to making glutathione. Considering the estimated societal cost to help a person with autism is 3.1 million dollars, the money spent on tests would be worth it. Also Jenny McCarthy is not saying not to vaccinate, she is saying to slow down the vaccination schedule to give little brain a chance to develop a bit more before vaccinating.

    • ProfessorTMR says:

      Excuse me, I meant no officially recognized way to tell which newborns are susceptible. There are, of course, ways to detect whether certain conditions exist which will make detoxification difficult, but there is no official recognition that these conditions make one unfit for vaccination. Certainly, the money spent on tests is worth it. So would be money spent on studying all the different conditions that could make a child likely to react badly, and I am all for both.

      And I’m well aware that Jenny McCarthy isn’t saying not to vaccinate, but ironically that’s almost beside the point. Many people who are slammed for being “anti-vaxxers” are anything but, including RFK, Jr. Jenny McCarthy is a PR target. It doesn’t really matter what she says or how she says it, she will be vilified because she has a tremendously powerful story to tell about how her son Evan nearly died from a vaccine reaction and subsequently became autistic. To the powers that be, that is a “dangerous” narrative, most especially because it is true, so they will use any means at their disposal to discredit her — lying or misrepresenting what she says are definitely included. She must be “neutralized.” So they paint her as a stupid, emotional Playboy bunny who makes reckless claims and is “anti-vaccine.”

  2. Jermaine says:

    Hello my friend! I wish to say that this post is amazing,
    nice written and come with approximately all significant infos.

    I would like to see more posts like this .

  3. nhokkanen says:

    Like Professor, I grew up in the 1960s, with 7 siblings and many cousins. I agree that NO ONE worried about their children regressing as toddlers. That possibility simply did not exist.

    Dravet Syndrome was first noted in 1978; it’s also called Severe Myoclonic Epilepsy of Infancy (SMEI). Many symptoms are the same as in children with what’s labeled “autism” and some have dual diagnoses. In the causality debate, some doctors claim that a child would have developed Dravet’s proximal to vaccination anyway due to a genetic mutation… whilst conveniently forgetting about mutagens in vaccines, such as Thimerosal or aluminum.

  4. Visionaerie says:

    Great job! Say, I just got the book ‘Dissolving Illusions’ which I would recommend for everyone seeking the truth about the history and effects of vaccines. Let’s hope it gets a very wide distribution like your wonderful site / column. Here’s to the freer and healthier days ahead — may we embrace them with unbridled, rational passion!!

  5. Meghan Dawson says:

    As a fellow Eph and mom of two current patients of Dr. Kartzinel (Jenny’s son’s doctor) I’d just like to say that the whole surge to discredit and demean Jenny McCarthy just disgusts me. Thank you for a very well written response to this current version of the smear campaign and always thanks to you and the rest of TMR for continuing to post about the latest and greatest goings-on in autism recovery.

    • ProfessorTMR says:

      A fellow Eph! I’m far more excited about that than I should be, I think. You’re the first I’ve encountered here that didn’t read something just because they knew me. I won’t embarrass you by asking what year, but I’m delighted to meet you, Meghan!

      • Meghan Dawson says:

        With only 500 kids per class there just aren’t that many of us out there! And no embarrassment, I was class of 2000 and loved everything about the school… except that I’m from the DC area originally so the conversation always went like this: “oh where did you go to college? Williams. Oh William and Mary? No….” 🙂 But hey, at least despite being a stay at home mom I get to use my psych/neuroscience double major degree each and every day! Sometimes I even remember the stuff I studied…

      • ProfessorTMR says:

        There really aren’t that many of us out there. You know what? I was from Long Island and I heard exactly the same thing about William and Mary. I guess William and Mary is just so much bigger that more people had heard of it. Heck, I never even heard of Williams till my father dug the brochure out of the trash and wrote “This is a very good school!!” on the cover. 🙂 And a psych/neuroscience degree! I was mostly unaware of the psych department while I was there. Possibly a mistake given the direction my life is going. Ah, well.

      • Meghan Dawson says:

        I had never heard of Williams either until my best friend found a brochure and said “we’re visiting!” One look was all it took for that beautiful area to win me over. Good thing it was the top school so I didn’t have to do much convincing with my parents because “well the trees were just GORGEOUS” wasn’t going to get me very far:). But then after I graduated I saw a “Price Is Right” where they were doing a showcase with a vacation trip “for all 4 seasons” and BAM there it was, a fall luxury trip to beautiful Williamstown, MA (after Paris in spring of course and winter in the swiss alps!). And while I loved my psych classes it’s really been the Neuroscience double major and the senior honors thesis full of nearly 100 pages of research that have helped me navigate the morass of questionable science, poor empirical design, and dubious conclusions that have graced 90% of the “research” that’s been done on vaccines and autism. I mean if I had turned in a paper with some of the crap I’ve read I don’t think I’d have passed my class!

      • ProfessorTMR says:

        Amen, sister!

  6. Jennifer Power says:

    I do feel for Mr Ornstein. He must now wake up every day, look in the mirror and see a coward. There always was one staring back – he just didn’t recognise it.

    • ProfessorTMR says:

      I’m hoping that someday — soonish — he will look in the mirror and see a brave man who stands up for what he knows to be true, even if it’s very unpopular with the “man.” Our children deserve no less.

  7. Renee says:

    What a great post – as always!

    Jenny and John are friends of ours (our son on the spectrum is older than theirs, but my husband is an actor and has worked with John on numerous occasions) so when my husband and I saw this garbage posted on fb, we immediately contacted them to find out if they knew – by then, Jenny had caught wind and issued her statement thankfully….. but not before a barrage of people decided to make ridiculous comments and repost them :/

    I love that I can come to your site and feel the embrace of people who “get” me, especially when I see the myriad of idiot comments people post on fb about us “crazy non-vaxers” 😉

    • ProfessorTMR says:

      Renee, I’m glad you feel that way. That’s one of our goals: to be a safe place for folks to recharge and get refreshed for the continuing journey. The more we do that for each other, the more we are able to accomplish.

  8. Miranda says:

    It is so refreshing to know there are people in the world that speak the sentiment of the underdogs, and our quest to advocate for the truth.

  9. Diana says:

    Now, this is pure speculation on my part, but it seems to me that this came out just as Jenny is experiencing some success. A certain group were unable to prevent this with their petition to keep her off the View, which I am sure got their panties in a twist. Would they go so far as to tip off the media outlet with this bogus story…stranger things have happened. And as far as Mr. Ornstein its not surprising he won’t be personally investigating this topic. It’s much more comfortable to live in the bubble of being on the ‘right’ side and ‘safe’ from all the diseases. It’s easier to blame a scapegoat and a retracted study for the loss of faith in the system, and blame the unvaccinated for disease outbreaks. Its also much safer for one’s carreer to toe the line. He’s holding a little baby in the photo, which I assume is his. That right there gives a greater depth to his reluctance and cognitive dissonance. It takes different things for people to get past their beliefs. Continue speaking out, it does get tiring indeed, but every time you speak truth, it chips away at the armor people have built around themselves. Great job, and thanks for keeping up the fight, Professor!

    • ProfessorTMR says:

      Thanks, Diana. It does seem that this sort of thing happens every time she gets any sort of attention. The stuff that was going around when she was hired on The View was more than irrationally vicious. One person in particular essentially called her a mass murderer. Ummm… right. Telling the world the truth about how your son got sick = mass murder. And they call us wackos.

  10. Rachel says:

    I am glad that there are people out there who are independent thinkers and take the time to write articles like this one. I had started vaccinating my kids on a delayed schedule. I had done a lot of research on the subject. But when my kids got very sick each time they were vaccinated, I decided the risk of vaccines was much worse than the risk of them getting the virus. As a result, I have kids who are extremely healthy…they never go to the doctor for illnesses because they don’t get anything worse than the occasional colds. We don’t do flu shots. I am absolutely convinced that autism is caused by environmental effects..and vaccines are part of that…and I am convinced that the kids who do get autism are not able to excrete the heavy metals and different chemicals from their body. My son was actually diagnosed at being on the spectrum at three-actually, the doctor who we were referred to by Babies Can’t Wait said my son was definitely autistic- he had severely delayed speech (I stopped vaccinating him at 1 -1/2 years) and had repetitive behaviors. I started giving him clay baths to try to remove some of the heavy metals from his body. Now, no one would ever say he was on the spectrum…although he does have some attention deficit going on…His reading is off the chart in 4th grade-above 8th grade level, he wants to learn scripting on computers and knows more about computers than I ever will….I am so happy that I stopped vaccinations when I did, and really appreciate people like you sharing important information for people who are smart enough to look at different sides of the argument and make informed decisions. I am amazed by how many (seemingly) intelligent people berated Jenny McCarthy instead of commending her for sticking her neck out to try to help other parents. I am absolutely convinced that vaccines have played a big role in the skyrocketing autism rates. Rates that continue to increase. I am surprised that so many people are not waking up to the idea that vaccines are contributing to this, and my heart goes out to parents who are not free thinking enough to investigate the issue themselves, and instead blindly follow what doctors and pharmaceutical companies are telling them.

    • ProfessorTMR says:

      I think you’re right about many of the children who regress due to vaccines or other exposures being unable to excrete the metals. The MTHFR mutation, which impairs methylation, seems to be common in the autism community. How much better would it be if the mainstream medical community were aware of these issues and tested children for them BEFORE assuming that their “one size fits all” vaccines will be safe.

      • Sandra says:

        Well said. I think as the MTHFR gets more recognition the more they will change the vaccine schedule and allow parents to decline them or be selective.

        My son has ADHD and has only been vaccinated, with my reluctance, with the dot vaccine. Upon the third shot he developed vasculitis. My concern now is what do we do about the new law that schools have. My son can’t be home schooled.

  11. Ben Musclow says:

    Very well written Zoey… you brought up the main points in the controversy, though Big Pharma denies such a controversy exists… keep searching and speaking the truth!

    • ProfessorTMR says:

      Thanks, Ben. Indeed they do deny it. Have you noticed lately, though, that they seem to be screaming the denial? The lady doth protest too much, methinks. 😉

      • Ben Musclow says:

        No kidding… the more children, teens and adults are harmed via vaccine “side effects” (who would expect no less when injecting foreign material and adjuvants directly into the bloodstream?), the more Big Pharma has to scream absurdities and ridicule those who have genuine concerns…

  12. Irene Ewen says:

    That was a fantastic response to Mr Ornstein – even though he has no intention of following up any vaccine damage stories you have perhaps planted a seed of uncertainty in his mind about his stance .

    • ProfessorTMR says:

      Irene, that is exactly the thought that lives in the back of my mind. We never know what seeds will take. That’s why it’s worth it to continue to make the effort, even when it seems like it isn’t. (My “disappointed” reply was actually quite lengthy. ;-)) Sometimes we find out much later that one phrase made a difference that we would never have guessed at the time.

  13. Tina says:

    Good good job. I feel often the same as you zoey: “sigh….here I go again…..”
    Great article.

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