Media Buys the Pharm
By Allan Uthman
Kennedy, Jr., is a paranoid nut. So are the mothers
of autistic children. At least that’s what I’ve been
told by ABC, The Wall Street Journal, and the
New York Times this month. And hey, they wouldn’t
lie to us, right?
dropped a bomb on June 16th, when his article,
“Deadly Immunity,” was published simultaneously by Rolling
Stone and Salon.com. The piece tells the story of
a strong causal link between the use of thimerosal (a
mercury-based preservative) in children’s vaccines and
autism, and a cover-up of evidence of this link involving
the pharmaceutical industry, Center for Disease Control
(CDC), and the Institute of Medicine (IOM), among others.
The article is a shocker, even for a longtime cynic
like me, due to the horrible nature and global reach
of the scandal. A hell of a story, and it’s clearly
in the public interest that big media outlets should
not only cover it, but investigate it further.
so, at first, it appeared it would be. ABC, having read
drafts of the article, made an exclusive agreement with
Kennedy to run the story immediately after its publication.
They taped interviews and produced a piece; it was “in
the can” and set to be aired on their “Nightly News,”
a well as “Good Morning America.” But on the eve of
their airing, they were cancelled by “high-level ABC
officials.” No explanation was given.
the story of the cancellation got out, angry e-mails
flooded into ABC, and they decided that they would run
a “re-cut” version of the story, which turned out to
be one of the most obvious whitewashes ever aired, faeturing
“expert” scientists from the very organizations Kennedy
had accused, the CDC and IOM, to “debunk” his allegations.
An actual participant in the IOM committee which, according
to Kennedy, had been instructed to find no link
between thimerosal and autism, appeared in the segment,
but not identified. ABC’s own Dr. Tim Johnson recited
entire sections of an IOM press release, calling the
were reminded at least twice that Kennedy was not a
doctor, or a scientist, and told that the “medical community”
dismisses the story as utterly untrue. We were told
that, since the removal of thimerosal from most domestic
vaccines (it’s still in flu shots), autism rates hadn’t
gone down, but the phase-out of the substance only began
in 2001, autism isn’t diagnosed in children for 3 or
4 years, and numbers actually are starting to come down
in California, which has the most consistent measurements
was portrayed as “anti-vaccine.” Basically, the idea
that injecting mercury into babies could
be harmful was laughed off by ABC’s experts. To add
insult to injury, the segment was sandwiched between
June 24th editorial in the Wall Street
Journal, unsurprisingly, favored the industry’s
version of reality, ridiculing Kennedy as a conspiracy
theorist and comparing the thimerosal-autism theory
to UFOs. Michael Fumento, an obvious think-tank spawned
shill, falsely corrected Kennedy’s article, and described
ethyl mercury as “benign.” Again, the very IOM report
which Kennedy’s article soundly discredits was cited
as unquestionable proof of his wrongness. It could have
been written by Eli Lilly’s CEO himself.
next day the New York Times outdid even the Journal,
by reporting these smears as news, not opinion. In the
Times piece, mothers of autistic children are
portrayed as emotional, angry, and irrational, while
establishment scientists are shown as beleaguered, weary,
Kristen Ehresmann, a Minnesota Department of
Health official, had just told a State Senate hearing
that vaccines with microscopic amounts of mercury were
safe. Libby Rupp, a mother of a 3-year-old girl with
autism, was incredulous.
"How did my daughter get so much mercury in her?"
Ms. Rupp asked Ms. Ehresmann after her testimony.
"Fish?" Ms. Ehresmann suggested.
"She never eats it," Ms. Rupp answered.
"Do you drink tap water?"
"It's all filtered."
"Well, do you breathe the air?" Ms. Ehresmann
asked, with a resigned smile. Several parents looked
angrily at Ms. Ehresmann, who left.
Ms. Rupp remained, shaking with anger. That anyone
could defend mercury in vaccines, she said, "makes
my blood boil."
poor Kristen manages to escape from the bloodthirsty
“mercury moms” with her life, we are told that Ehresmann
herself has an autistic child, but isn’t concerned about
Public health officials like Ms. Ehresmann, who
herself has a son with autism…
this sounds like a hell of a coincidence, it isn’t.
It seems nearly every reporter writing a story on this
subject just happens to come a across a detractor of
the thimerosal-autism link who not only has an autistic
child, but also ties to the vaccine industry—what are
an AP story on the same day:
think this issue has persisted, despite a boatload of
scientific evidence…because there are no answers for
parents of children with autism," said Dr. Sharon
Humiston, a University of Rochester pediatrician with
a foot in both worlds. She once worked for the government's
National Immunization Program, and she has a son whose
autism she refuses to blame on vaccines.
AP story from July 19th:
A scientist who also has a 12-year-old autistic
daughter joined the government in urging that the focus
shift to hunting the real culprit and a good treatment.
"We need a war on autism, not a war on childhood
vaccines," said Dr. Peter Hotez of George Washington
University, who said he may rail against his daughter's
grueling brain disorder but is sure that it "had
absolutely nothing to do with vaccines she received."
Hotez is a microbiologist attempting to develop
a vaccine against hookworm, which attacks children in
is an organized PR effort by the people who have the
most to lose if the thimerosal-autism link gains a real
foothold in the public consciousness. Using actual parents
of autistic children to shill for the thimerosal cover-up
is cynical, exploitative, and just shitty, but it’s
to be expected from the same companies and government
agencies who are responsible for this mess in the first
also sows up in the AP report:
“It doesn’t seem to matter what the studies and
the data show,” said Ms. Ehresmann, the Minnesota immunization
official. “And that’s really scary for us because if
science doesn’t count, how do we make decisions? How
do we communicate with parents?”
let’s talk about what the data show, shall we?
was first identified in children born soon after thimerosal
was first introduced to babies in 1931.
1930, Eli Lilly injected 22 meningitis patients with
thimerosal—all died within weeks. This “finding” didn’t
make its way into their report, which declared the
cost-saving substance safe.
1935, vaccine maker Pittman-Moore declared thimerosal
“unsatisfactory” for use in dogs, when half
died after test vaccinations. They warned Eli Lilly
of their findings, to no avail.
1971, an Eli Lilly study found that a hundredth
the typical amount of thimerosal in a vaccine was
toxic to tissue cells.
1977, a Russian study found that doses of ethyl mercury
far lower than those given to American children still
led to permanent brain damage. Soon after, thimerosal
was banned from children’s vaccines there.
1991, the FDA considered banning thimerosal from animal
vaccines. But that same year, the CDC and FDA recommended
three additional vaccines containing thimerosal be
given to infants, including one on the day of their
birth. Since then, autism rates have increased from
1 in 2,500 to 1 in 166. At two months, infants often
received three thimerosal-based shots in a single
day. The chairman of the CDC advisory committee which
made these recommendations was a paid consultant for
the majority of major vaccine makers, and at
least one other person on the committee was a researcher
for these companies.
2000, without public announcement, the CDC privately
invited 52 industry experts to the Simpsonwood conference
center in Norcross, Georgia. This is where Kennedy’s
article begins. Dr. Thomas Verstraten, a CDC epidemiologist,
after examining the records of 100,000 children, presented
some difficult-to-ignore findings to his colleagues.
Here are a few quotes from the transcript of the secret
Bill Weil, American Academy of Pediatrics:
“There are just a host of neurodevelopmental data
that would suggest that we’ve got a serious problem…
To think there isn’t some possible problem here
Verstraeten: “...we have found statistically significant
relationships between the exposures and outcomes
for these different exposures and outcomes. First,
for two months of age, an unspecified developmental
delay... Exposure at three months of age, Tics.
Exposure at six months of age, an attention deficit
disorder. Exposure at one, three and six months
of age, language and speech delays… Exposure at
one, three and six months of age, the entire category
of neurodevelopmental delays, which includes all
of these plus a number of other disorders.”
Dr. David Johnson, State public health officer in
Michigan, member of the ACIP vaccine policy committee:
“This association leads me to favor a recommendation
that infants up to two years old not be immunized
with thimerosal… My gut feeling? It worries me enough…
I do not want [my] grandson to get a Thimerosal
containing vaccine until we know better what is
“The number of dose related relationships are linear
and statistically significant. You can play with
this all you want. They are linear. They are statistically
significant…I think you can’t accept that this is
out of the ordinary. It isn’t out of the ordinary….The
increased incidence of neurobehavioral problems
in children in the past few decades is probably
Robert Brent, a pediatrician at the Alfred I. duPont
Hospital for Children: “…we are in a bad position
from the standpoint of defending any lawsuits if
they were initiated and I am concerned.”
John Clements, World Health Organization's Expanded
Program on Immunization: “…I really want to risk
offending everyone in the room by saying that perhaps
this study should not have been done at all, because
the outcome of it could have, to some extent, been
predicted… there is now the point at which the research
results have to be handled, and even if this committee
decides that there is no association and that information
gets out… that will be taken by others and will
be used in ways beyond the control of this group.
And I am very concerned about that…”
Roger Bernier, CDC's National Immunization Program:
“We have asked you to keep this information confidential…
I think it would serve all of our interests best
if we could continue to consider these data… in
a certain protected environment… So too basically
consider this embargoed information. That would
help all of us to use the machinery that we have
in place for considering these data and for arriving
at policy recommendations.”
In 2001, after the Simpsonwood conference, the CDC
instructed the Institute of Medicine to produce a
study to allay fears of thimerosal causing brain disorders.
Some quotes from the official transcript of a closed
meeting on January 12th of that year:
Marie McCormick, Chairman of the Immunization Safety
Review Committee: “[CDC] wants us to declare, well,
these things are pretty safe on a population basis.”
Stratton, Ph.D., Study Director for the Committee:
“We said this before you got here, and I think we
said this yesterday, the point of no return, the
line we will not cross in public policy is to pull
the vaccine, change the schedule…Even recommending
research is recommendations for policy. We wouldn’t
say compensate, we wouldn’t say pull the vaccine,
we wouldn’t say stop the program.”
McCormick: “We are not ever going to come down that
it is a true side effect...”
of these statements were made before the committee had
considered any evidence.
refers also in the transcript to “Walt” and “what
Walt wants,” referring to Dr. Walter Orenstein, the
CDC’s National Immunization Program director.
in 2004 at an autism conference by Dr. Andrew Wakefield
with a transcript from this committee and the charge
that the CDC had instructed the committee as to what
its findings should be, Stratton did not deny the
charge, but simply said to Wakefield that the transcript
“was not to be shared with you.”
April of this year, UPI’s Dan Olmstead, in search
of a ‘control group’ of children who had not been
exposed to thimerosal, looked for autism in the Amish
community of Lancaster County, PA (the Amish don’t
vaccinate their kids). According to statistical levels,
he figured there should be 130 autistic children there,
but could only find four—one who had been exposed
to mercury from a power plant, and three had, indeed,
all of this, the pharmaceutical industry, and its dependent
“scientific community,” maintains that Kennedy and his
supporters are “conspiracy theorists” who don’t understand
science. In a way, this is true: they are not on the
payroll of those who would stand to lose a lot of money
due to legal liability if the thimerosal-autism link
were conclusively proven. “Most scientists” are, as
are corporate media outlets like ABC, the Wall Street
Journal and the New York Times.
why? Why would vaccine makers go to such lengths to
keep injecting ethyl mercury into babies? Money, of
course. Thimerosal made vaccines half as expensive to
produce. That’s a lot of green, all told.
called risk/benefit analysis. When Ford figured out
that Pintos were going to blow up in rear-end collisions,
they figured the money they would lose by implementing
a safer design ($11 per car, or $137 million) against
the money they calculated they would have to pay out
for an estimated 180 deaths ($49.5 million). Of course,
they went for the cheapest option. It happens all the
time. Unfortunately, that’s not a crime.
terrible, sure, but it is the nature of business, especially
big business, to act unethically in the pursuit of profit.
That’s why we have regulatory bodies, like the CDC and
the FDA. But when these agencies act in concert with
industry, and actively facilitate their exploitation
and deception of the public, it falls to the media to
expose this criminal corruption. But what if the media’s
in on the plan, too? Then, well, we’re just screwed.
science” is the typical charge leveled against those
who would hold industry accountable for its abuses,
or would even suggest that they clean up their act at
the expense of the bottom line. But the real junk science
is Exxon-Mobil funding 40 different organizations which
“debunk” hard data on global warming as a “hoax” to
raise funds for environmental groups, as Mother Jones
reported recently, or the chemical industry funding
scads of Mad Cow research which has yet to reproduce
the disease in a lab, as long as an alternate theory
of cause involving organophosphate pesticides is ignored.
Junk science is tweaking the FDA’s standards so that
American obesity levels suddenly “drop,” or the American
Diabetes Association’s top medical official claiming
“there is no evidence” that sugar has anything to do
with diabetes, weeks after Cadbury Schweppes gives them
millions of dollars. Junk science is industry’s stock
in trade, but it wouldn’t work if politicians and “respected”
news sources weren’t willing to go along.