Being a Playboy Playmate is probably not the most relevant public thing Jenny McCarthy ever did, but it could be the most harmless. In private, Ms. McCarthy is the mother of a son named Evan, who is autistic. In that role, she deserves nothing less than our empathy, support, and compassion.
That role, however, has led her down another public path, one that has the potential to cause great harm, and for which she deserves no small amount of scorn. Ms. McCarthy is convinced, in defiance of all logic and evidence, that her son’s autism was caused by normal childhood vaccinations, and has become a vocal crusader in that very dangerous cause.
McCarthy is only the most visible figure in the so-called “anti-vax” movement. The “godfather” of that point of view is a former British doctor named Andrew Wakefield. I say “former” because Wakefield was stripped of his license to practice medicine after the study supposedly linking vaccines and autism was thoroughly discredited after an investigation. Wakefield was found guilty, along with two colleagues, of “serious professional misconduct.”
Some damage has already been done, and too many parents have taken Wakefield and McCarthy seriously. Vaccination rates have fallen to dangerous levels while childhood diseases virtually unheard of in recent years have made alarming comebacks.
I have no doubt that Ms. McCarthy is a good and loving mother to her son, and that belief spares her from being shamed by an appointment to the Marketing Dept. It does not, however, totally excuse her actions, and her role in a dangerously dishonest campaign of misinformation is Siriusly Unhip.