March 31st, 2011 → 5:01 pm @ Seth Mnookin
For years, CBS News’s Sharyl Attkisson has been one of the least responsible mainstream journalists covering vaccines and autism. Again and again, she’s parroted anti-vaccine rhetoric long past the point that it’s been decisively disproved. To take but one recent example: In January, she posted (and then removed) a story claiming that a study in the Archives of Neurology said almost precisely the opposite of what it actually reported.
She’s at it again: A few hours ago, she posted a story under the heading, “CBS News Investigates.” The piece starts out thusly:
For all those who’ve declared the autism-vaccine debate over – a new scientific review begs to differ. It considers a host of peer-reviewed, published theories that show possible connections between vaccines and autism.
This “new scientific review” is a piece titled “Theoretical aspects of autism: causes–a review.” It was written by Helen Ratajczak and appeared in the Journal of Immunotoxicology. I haven’t had time to go through the entire study that Attkisson cites, but this is what I came up with in four minutes and 28 seconds (yes, I timed it).* (After I wrote the rest of this post, Emily Willingham pointed out that it was published more than a month ago; in fact, Huffington Post stalwart David Kirby and anti-vaccine standard-bearer Age of Autism wrote about the study in early February, and Left Brain/Right Brain explained its worthlessness on February 11.)
* According to PubMed, this is only the second time that Ratajczak has been the primary author of a published study in the past decade, and it’s only the fourth study she’s been associated with in any capacity during that time.
* The study’s citation for the claim that “the United States government…[says] that autistic conditions can result from encephalopathy following vaccination” does not point the reader to an article; the citation reads, in total, “Child Health Safety. 2010. June 30.” That same citation is given to back up the statement, “It has been determined that autism can be caused by an underlying predisposition to mitochondrial dysfunction.” This, apparently, is one of the “peer-reviewed, published theories” that Attkisson is referring to.
* Child Health Safety is one of the most virulently anti-vaccine websites out there. Don’t believe me? One whole section of the site is devoted to the argument that the drop in infectious diseases like measles and smallpox is not due to vaccines but modern sewage systems and better hygiene. Included among the site’s “Top Posts” are “Japanese & British Data Show Vaccines Cause Autism,” “MMR Causes Autism – Another Win in US Federal Court,” and “Autism Increase Environmental Not Genetic.”
Attkisson’s fealty to the anti-vaccine movement has been an embarrassment to CBS News for years. That she continues to advocate for their cause is nothing short of remarkable.
* If you want to read a PDF of the study, it’s available here, courtesy of Rescuepost, which is maintained by Generation Rescue, the autism organization headed up by anti-vaccine activist Jenny McCarthy.