That sounds like the title of the worst children’s book ever written.

I’ve been mostly off the grid for the last few weeks, so I was surprised to see links to a 3 year old post about Jenny McCarthy at something called The Sports Pig’s Blog were sprouting on facebook like mushrooms. “Jenny McCarthy: My bad, turns out my kid doesn’t have autism.”

McCarthy’s latest tweet told a different story:

@jennymccarthy via twitlonger:
Stories circulating online, claiming that I said my son Evan may not have autism after all, are blatantly inaccurate and completely ridiculous. Evan was diagnosed with autism by the Autism Evaluation Clinic at the UCLA Neuropsychiatric Hospital and was confirmed by the State of California (through their Regional Center). The implication that I have changed my position, that my child was not initially diagnosed with autism (and instead may suffer from Landau-Kleffner Syndrome), is both irresponsible and inaccurate. These stories cite a “new” Time Magazine interview with me, which was actually published in 2010, that never contained any such statements by me. Continued misrepresentations, such as these, only serve to open wounds of the many families who are courageously dealing with this disorder. Please know that I am taking every legal measure necessary to set this straight.

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Here’s what the Sports Pig’s blog post states:

Now in a stunning article in Time magazine, it’s revealed that McCarthy’s son NEVER had autism in the first place. It turns out the boy had been misdiagnosed and really has a rare neurological disorder. Fortunately, the child is getting better and no longer displays any signs of autism. However, McCarthy has not apologized for her misdirected zealotry against having children vaccinated. Even if she did, APOLOGY NOT ACCEPTED.

Except that’s not what the Time article said.

Here’s an archived version of the original Time article: The Autism Debate: Who’s Afraid of Jenny McCarthy? by Karl Taro Greenfeld, published Thursday, February 25, 2010. The section in question is from the 2nd page:

She believes she did fix her boy. A psychological evaluation from UCLA’s neuropsychiatric hospital, dated May 10, 2005, was “conclusive for a diagnosis of Autistic Disorder,” and yet here, running toward us on a warm California afternoon, is Evan, shouting out, “Are you here to play with me? When are we going to play?” McCarthy’s boy is a vivacious, articulate and communicative child who seems to have beaten the condition. He is an inspiration, the fact of him as incontrovertible as any study done in any laboratory in the world.

Or is this the truth? There are dark murmurings from scientists and doctors asking, Was her son ever really autistic? Evan’s symptoms — heavy seizures, followed by marked improvement once the seizures were brought under control — are similar to those of Landau-Kleffner syndrome, a rare childhood neurological disorder that can also result in speech impairment and possible long-term neurological damage. Or, as other pediatricians have suggested, perhaps the miracle I have beheld is the quotidian miracle of childhood development: a delayed 2-year-old catching up by the time he is 7, a commonplace, routine occurrence, nothing more surprising than a short boy growing tall. It is enraging to the mother to hear that nothing was wrong with her boy — she held him during his seizures, saw his eyes roll up after he received his vaccines — and how can you say that she doesn’t know what she knows?

That’s not a scientific diagnosis. It’s conjecture by a journalist who repeats “dark murmurings” by unnamed scientists and doctors to identify a potential neurological disorder that this child could have.

I can’t imagine how painful this is for parents of autistic children who’ve suffered abused, guilt or fear as a direct result of McCarthy’s behavior. I certainly get why all parents would be incensed by the idea that McCarthy’s child was never autistic, why all people should be incensed by her actions.

I don’t know whether McCarthy’s child is autistic or not. No matter what, I feel for the poor child. What I’ve been perplexed about is why this story was suddenly mutating and rising from the dead.

I found this informative blog post by Jen Gunter: Jenny McCarthy is still anti-vaccine despite what you may have learned today on Reddit.

Ah, Reddit.

Today I learned: Jenny McCarthy’s son doesn’t even have autism. 1511 comments and it appears no one read the original Time article. I don’t honestly know, I skimmed the top comments and read the original poster’s ongoing defense of her link, but I didn’t invest a lot of time in the venture. (Yet).

It’s fascinating and bizarre how quickly this link to a dead sports blog has spread.

I blogged this because I’m interested in science communication and media literacy and I wanted to capture the evolution of this strange story before links started vanishing.

If you see this story mutating and/or being reported (on a media site, not someplace like your aunt diane’s facebook page), would you take a moment to leave me a note and link in my comments? Thanks!

In the meantime, if you want to read more about why McCarthy’s anti-vaccine crusade matters, here are a few links for your edification:

The New Yorker: “Jenny McCarthy’s Dangerous Views”

Slate, Phil Plait’s Bad Astronomy Blog: “Vaccinating Against McCarthyism”>

Time Magazine: “Viruses Don’t Care About Your View: Why ABC Shouldn’t Have Hired Jenny McCarthy

The Jenny McCarthy Anti-Vaccine Body Count

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One Thought on “Jenny McCarthy and the Sports Pig

  1. The woman infuriates me. As does Suzanne Sommers. The two of them together being held up as medical experts has done such damage.

    And don’t even get me started on anti-vaccine people. I have ZERO patience for them.

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