Jenny McCarthy: anti-vaxxer, public menace

Portrait of the artist as a threat to public health: Jenny McCarthy (in the movie "Dirty Love") (First Look Media)

To provide context to the ongoing outbreak of measles linked to visits to Disneyland and the influence of the anti-vaccination movement, science writer Seth Mnookin revisits the saga of one of the most celebrated anti-vaxxers, starlet Jenny McCarthy. 

Mnookin's reporting on McCarthy comes from his indispensable 2012 book "The Panic Virus," which examines the myth of a link between the measles-mumps-rubella (MMR) vaccine and autism, its origin in a bogus study by notorious British fraud Andrew Wakefield, and its spread by credulous news and entertainment figures. He posted the chapter on McCarthy on the PLoS blog's website in 2013, when ABC gave her a fresh new platform by naming her to the cast of the talk show "The View."

Mnookin's reporting on McCarthy comes from his indispensable 2012 book "The Panic Virus," which examines the myth of a link between the measles-mumps-rubella (MMR) vaccine and autism, its origin in a bogus study by notorious British fraud Andrew Wakefield, and its spread by credulous news and entertainment figures. He posted the chapter on McCarthy on the PLoS blog's website in 2013, when ABC gave her a fresh new platform by naming her to the cast of the talk show "The View."

Mnookin's reporting on McCarthy comes from his indispensable 2012 book "The Panic Virus," which examines the myth of a link between the measles-mumps-rubella (MMR) vaccine and autism, its origin in a bogus study by notorious British fraud Andrew Wakefield, and its spread by credulous news and entertainment figures. He posted the chapter on McCarthy on the PLoS blog's website in 2013, when ABC gave her a fresh new platform by naming her to the cast of the talk show "The View."

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Mnookin's reporting depicts McCarthy, a former Playboy playmate and MTV star, as an easy mark for charlatans. After dabbling in New Age crystal spirituality, she fell in with an anti-vaccination group once her son was diagnosed with autism. She soon became a ubiquitous spokeswoman for a dizzying variety of autism nostrums--special diets, supplements, detox, chelation, hyperbaric chambers, etc., none of which has been shown to have any scientific validity--and for doubts about the MMR vaccine. 

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Most disturbingly, Mnookin documents how the news and entertainment industry abetted McCarthy's dangerous campaign. One of the chief offenders is Oprah Winfrey, who exposed her huge television audience to McCarthy, treating her as an expert on autism because she had "mommy instinct.... She knows what she's talking about," Oprah advised her fans. But CNN's Larry King and Time Inc.'s People Magazine also gave McCarthy star treatment. In our celebrity-obsessed culture in which TV actors are often called to testify before Congress on subjects of concern to their fictional characters, this was powerful stuff. 

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Most disturbingly, Mnookin documents how the news and entertainment industry abetted McCarthy's dangerous campaign. One of the chief offenders is Oprah Winfrey, who exposed her huge television audience to McCarthy, treating her as an expert on autism because she had "mommy instinct.... She knows what she's talking about," Oprah advised her fans. But CNN's Larry King and Time Inc.'s People Magazine also gave McCarthy star treatment. In our celebrity-obsessed culture in which TV actors are often called to testify before Congress on subjects of concern to their fictional characters, this was powerful stuff. 

Most disturbingly, Mnookin documents how the news and entertainment industry abetted McCarthy's dangerous campaign. One of the chief offenders is Oprah Winfrey, who exposed her huge television audience to McCarthy, treating her as an expert on autism because she had "mommy instinct.... She knows what she's talking about," Oprah advised her fans. But CNN's Larry King and Time Inc.'s People Magazine also gave McCarthy star treatment. In our celebrity-obsessed culture in which TV actors are often called to testify before Congress on subjects of concern to their fictional characters, this was powerful stuff. 

Most disturbingly, Mnookin documents how the news and entertainment industry abetted McCarthy's dangerous campaign. One of the chief offenders is Oprah Winfrey, who exposed her huge television audience to McCarthy, treating her as an expert on autism because she had "mommy instinct.... She knows what she's talking about," Oprah advised her fans. But CNN's Larry King and Time Inc.'s People Magazine also gave McCarthy star treatment. In our celebrity-obsessed culture in which TV actors are often called to testify before Congress on subjects of concern to their fictional characters, this was powerful stuff. 

Most disturbingly, Mnookin documents how the news and entertainment industry abetted McCarthy's dangerous campaign. One of the chief offenders is Oprah Winfrey, who exposed her huge television audience to McCarthy, treating her as an expert on autism because she had "mommy instinct.... She knows what she's talking about," Oprah advised her fans. But CNN's Larry King and Time Inc.'s People Magazine also gave McCarthy star treatment. In our celebrity-obsessed culture in which TV actors are often called to testify before Congress on subjects of concern to their fictional characters, this was powerful stuff. 

Most disturbingly, Mnookin documents how the news and entertainment industry abetted McCarthy's dangerous campaign. One of the chief offenders is Oprah Winfrey, who exposed her huge television audience to McCarthy, treating her as an expert on autism because she had "mommy instinct.... She knows what she's talking about," Oprah advised her fans. But CNN's Larry King and Time Inc.'s People Magazine also gave McCarthy star treatment. In our celebrity-obsessed culture in which TV actors are often called to testify before Congress on subjects of concern to their fictional characters, this was powerful stuff. 

Most disturbingly, Mnookin documents how the news and entertainment industry abetted McCarthy's dangerous campaign. One of the chief offenders is Oprah Winfrey, who exposed her huge television audience to McCarthy, treating her as an expert on autism because she had "mommy instinct.... She knows what she's talking about," Oprah advised her fans. But CNN's Larry King and Time Inc.'s People Magazine also gave McCarthy star treatment. In our celebrity-obsessed culture in which TV actors are often called to testify before Congress on subjects of concern to their fictional characters, this was powerful stuff. 

Most disturbingly, Mnookin documents how the news and entertainment industry abetted McCarthy's dangerous campaign. One of the chief offenders is Oprah Winfrey, who exposed her huge television audience to McCarthy, treating her as an expert on autism because she had "mommy instinct.... She knows what she's talking about," Oprah advised her fans. But CNN's Larry King and Time Inc.'s People Magazine also gave McCarthy star treatment. In our celebrity-obsessed culture in which TV actors are often called to testify before Congress on subjects of concern to their fictional characters, this was powerful stuff. 

Most disturbingly, Mnookin documents how the news and entertainment industry abetted McCarthy's dangerous campaign. One of the chief offenders is Oprah Winfrey, who exposed her huge television audience to McCarthy, treating her as an expert on autism because she had "mommy instinct.... She knows what she's talking about," Oprah advised her fans. But CNN's Larry King and Time Inc.'s People Magazine also gave McCarthy star treatment. In our celebrity-obsessed culture in which TV actors are often called to testify before Congress on subjects of concern to their fictional characters, this was powerful stuff. 

Most disturbingly, Mnookin documents how the news and entertainment industry abetted McCarthy's dangerous campaign. One of the chief offenders is Oprah Winfrey, who exposed her huge television audience to McCarthy, treating her as an expert on autism because she had "mommy instinct.... She knows what she's talking about," Oprah advised her fans. But CNN's Larry King and Time Inc.'s People Magazine also gave McCarthy star treatment. In our celebrity-obsessed culture in which TV actors are often called to testify before Congress on subjects of concern to their fictional characters, this was powerful stuff. 

Most disturbingly, Mnookin documents how the news and entertainment industry abetted McCarthy's dangerous campaign. One of the chief offenders is Oprah Winfrey, who exposed her huge television audience to McCarthy, treating her as an expert on autism because she had "mommy instinct.... She knows what she's talking about," Oprah advised her fans. But CNN's Larry King and Time Inc.'s People Magazine also gave McCarthy star treatment. In our celebrity-obsessed culture in which TV actors are often called to testify before Congress on subjects of concern to their fictional characters, this was powerful stuff. 

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Most disturbingly, Mnookin documents how the news and entertainment industry abetted McCarthy's dangerous campaign. One of the chief offenders is Oprah Winfrey, who exposed her huge television audience to McCarthy, treating her as an expert on autism because she had "mommy instinct.... She knows what she's talking about," Oprah advised her fans. But CNN's Larry King and Time Inc.'s People Magazine also gave McCarthy star treatment. In our celebrity-obsessed culture in which TV actors are often called to testify before Congress on subjects of concern to their fictional characters, this was powerful stuff. 

Most disturbingly, Mnookin documents how the news and entertainment industry abetted McCarthy's dangerous campaign. One of the chief offenders is Oprah Winfrey, who exposed her huge television audience to McCarthy, treating her as an expert on autism because she had "mommy instinct.... She knows what she's talking about," Oprah advised her fans. But CNN's Larry King and Time Inc.'s People Magazine also gave McCarthy star treatment. In our celebrity-obsessed culture in which TV actors are often called to testify before Congress on subjects of concern to their fictional characters, this was powerful stuff. 

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