My manifesto (printed below)ran in USA today as a full-page ad in the weekend issue April 24-26. The broadside is partially a jeremiad on press suppression of the thimerosal issue – the debate that CBS reporter Sharyl Atkinson calls “the most censored and misreported story”of the century. Ironically, my manifesto had already run afoul the Kafkaesque industry taboo that one national reporter has characterized as “a borglike impenetrable cocoon” Before we ran it as a full-page ad, opinion editors at virtually all of the nation’s leading papers rejected a shorter version of the same article. These include; USA Today, the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, Gannett, the Los Angeles Times, the Boston Globe, the Newark Star-Ledger, the New York Post, the Washington Post, the CNN website, the Bergen Record, the Chicago Tribune, the Chicago Sun-Times, the Houston Chronicle, the Dallas Morning News, the San Francisco Chronicle, the Sacramento Bee, the Atlanta Journal Constitution, the Miami Herald, the Austin American Statesman, the Raleigh News and Observer North Carolina, the Minneapolis Star Tribune, and the so-called alternate press: Salon, Slate and the Huffington Post. Sadly, even Mother Jones has swilled the pharma kool-aid.(Kudos to Alternet for having the courage to print it) I’m not sure that USA Today would even have run this as an advertisement. Our misgivings on that front lead us to submit it to the paper’s ad department a few minutes before the paper’s 3 o’clock deadline on Thursday, April 23 along with a $48,000 check in the hopes it would slip by their censors.
On April 19, almost a week before the USA Today advertisement ran, Huffington Post-which has a standing policy against publishing stories on vaccine safety or critiques of corruption at CDC’s vaccine division-mistakenly printed a favorable review of the film Trace Amounts by one of its writers, nine year HuffPo veteran,Tamar Abrams. Thirty minutes after the article went live on the Huffington Post site, the publisher disappeared it. On the same day, Huffington Post ran a sophomoric propaganda rant by actress , Kristen Bell, a acting as spokeswoman for a big Pharma, championing thimerosal. Bell explained that multi-dose vaccines preserved with neurotoxic mercury are more economical for the drug companies then mercury free single dose inoculations. (This explanation is unlikely to hold much water with the parents of brain injured children.) Bell assured the public that, although thimerosal is a word “which doesn’t sound harmless” it’s nevertheless safe to inject into pregnant women and little babies. Bell repeated Eli Lily’s long discredited canard that the ethylmercury in thimerosal is less persistent in the body than methylmercury in vaccines. Of course,the science says exactly the opposite. A 2012 Italian study found that the ethylmercury in thimerosal is 50 times more toxic than Methylmercury to human cells.
The extraordinary censorship on this issue is an old story. Dan Schulman of the Columbia Journalism Review published a bewildered expose of this media scandal in 2005.
“Journalists agree that the thimerosal story is one of the most explosive they’ve ever encountered. . . . Some reporters who have portrayed this as an ongoing scientific controversy have been discouraged by colleagues and their superiors from pursuing the story. A reporter for a major media outlet, who did not want to be identified for fear of retribution, told me that covering the thimerosal controversy had been nearly ’career-ending‘ …. The reporter has decided against pursuing stories on thimerosal, at least for the time being. “For some reason giving any sort of credence to the side that says there’s a legitimate question here—I don’t know how it becomes this untouchable story, I mean that’s what we do, so I don’t understand why this story is more touchy than any story I’ve ever done.”
On June 28, 2005, a group of world renowned scientists lead by Dr. Ezra Susser, Chair of the epidemiology department at Columbia’s Mailman School of Public Health and other department members including Dr. W. Ian Lipkin, a highly regarded neurologist, Mady Hornig, along with the epidemiologist Michaeline Bresnahan sent a letter to the New York Times chiding the paper for its practice of marginalizing scientists and others who explored the connection between thimerosal and brain injury.
“Whether mercury in any form (or any of several factors recently introduced to our environment) has anything to do with autism can and should be resolved with rigorous studies and respectful discourse, not moral indictments and denunciations.”
The New York Times refused to print the letter.
I have my own extensive experience with press censorship.
To take just a few of the many examples; in the weeks prior to the August 2014 publication of my book, Thimerosal: Let the Science Speak, many respected science writers – Phil Plait of Slate, along with Laura Helmut, who is director of Science Writers Guild, Steven Salzberg at Forbes, and Jeffrey Kluger at Time –all published scathing reviews. The weird thing was that none of these writers ever read my book or talked to any of its authors. At the time, we had no copies to send to reviewers. Unwilling to wait to publish their critiques ,and not being conversant with the science ,these writers resorted to straight vilification. They called me a “conspiracy theorist,” a “crackpot,” “anti-science,” “anti-vaccine,” and so on. Since then, I’ve been attacked as a “villain” by the New York Post and have been referred to as a “notorious anti-vaxx celebrity crank.” Other papers published highly personal attacks on me by vaccine industry insiders like Dr. Paul Offit and Dr. William Schaffner, posing as independent health experts. Schaffer diagnosed me as a psychologically troubled “true believer”. As usual, neither writer identified his financial entanglements with the vaccine industry. Keith Kloor of the Washington Post said I’d “done as much as anyone to spread unwarranted fear and crazy conspiracy theories about vaccines.” Time called me “anti-science” and “disreputable”.
The highly personal and vitriolic nature of these attacks is a symptom of the unwillingness of journalists to read the science. Like Kristen Bell they simply parrot CDCs assurance that Thimeresol is safe.Unfamiliar as they are with the studies and unable to carry on a debate on the merits,acrimony, and name-calling become their substitute for argument.
Oddly, I’ve published editorials in almost all of those forums over the years, but none of them will allow me to publish anything if it involves the T-word.
T.V. is even worse.CBS news caster,Sharyl Atkinson calls “frightening”the kneejerk censorship by the TV networks “As an investigative journalist and parent of a fully vaccinated, healthy child, I had no interest in the vaccine-autism story. But when I was assigned to investigate a vaccine injury story for CBS News, I simply followed the facts (as my profession dictates) and was stunned by what I learned over the course of the first year from scientific studies, researchers and—most importantly—government insiders too afraid to speak publicly. When I simply did my job, I and my producer ultimately met with a resistance more formidable than any we had faced to date. Other journalists covering the story in the early 2000’s spoke of similar resistance and were ultimately stopped.
The vaccine-autism controversy is actually a sadly typical story with pangs of familiarity: government conflicts of interest, inappropriate corporate influence, propaganda and media malfeasance. But because of the grip powerful interests have on the medical community, government, media and public information, the story is not treated the way the facts dictate. It is, as I was told by a respected government scientist, the “third rail” that nobody dare touch.
There’s no doubt in my mind that the vaccine-autism issue is the most censored and misreported news story of significance in the past 15 years. The “tell” comes when one considers the daunting combination of factors: the propaganda campaign designed to marginalize and discredit an entire body of peer-reviewed, published science linking thimeresol to a wide variety of neurodisorders, including autism (and the researchers who publish it); the bullying tactics employed against parents whose children have suffered injuries as well as the journalists who dare to report on it factually; the news media’s repeated, false insistence that science has disproven a link; the government’s complicity in the disinformation campaign; and the pharmaceutical-vaccine lobby’s big money advertising influence with the news media and politicians.
The story of vaccines and autism is one of Congressional hearings scheduled, then quietly cancelled behind closed doors by the vaccine lobby; secret meetings by vaccine company lawyers and vaccine industry PR officials with news network executives and managers; government officials lobbying the news media behind the scenes to shape—or better yet stop—news reporting and much more.
History will look back at the news media’s complacency and complicity on this critical issue and will judge us harshly. As well it should”
That’s why we had to pay to publish the USA Today ad. If you take the time to read it, you will be reading information that every newspaper and every television news department in America doesn’t want you to know.