Oprah Winfrey is the latest hope of the Democratic Party. It seems the Trump era has made other celebrities believe they could be president, too.
Oprah recently won the Cecil B. DeMille Award at the Golden Globe award night. In her acceptance speech she said, “Speaking your truth is the most powerful tool we all have.”
This was well received by her audience of other Hollywood celebrities but Oprah’s brand of “truth” should give pause to those who take her political ambitions seriously. That’s the advice of Julie Gunlock writing in The Wall Street Journal. Ms. Gunlock is a senior fellow at the Independent Women’s forum and leads the organization’s Culture of Alarmism Project.
Gunlock calls attention to the vaccine hysteria that heavily influenced many parents to avoid vaccinating their children to prevent measles, mumps, and rubella (MMR). False information about a supposed connection between MMR vaccination and autism was the cause of this hysteria. The source of this hysteria was The Oprah Winfrey Show.
In 1998, a British doctor Andrew Wakefield published an article in the respected medical journal The Lancet. Wakefield did intestinal biopsies on 12 children with intestinal symptoms and developmental disorders, 10 of whom were autistic, and found intestinal inflammation. The parents of 8 of the autistic children believed their symptoms began after receiving the measles, mumps, and rubella (MMR) vaccine. The published paper clearly said, “We did not find an association between measles, mumps, and rubella vaccine and the syndrome described. Virological studies are underway that may help to resolve this issue.”
However, despite this disclaimer in the paper, Wakefield held a press conference to say the MMR vaccine probably caused autism and he recommended stopping MMR vaccinations. Instead, he recommended giving the vaccinations separately at intervals of a year or more.
Wakefield’s analysis was thoroughly discredited later and he was found to have done questionable research on other subjects as well. The Lancet retracted his original paper. Richard Horton, editor of The Lancet, described the original paper as “fatally flawed” and apologized for publishing it. Ten of the original 12 co-authors published a retraction stating:
“We wish to make it clear that in this paper no causal link was established between the vaccine and autism, as the data were insufficient. However, the possibility of a link was raised, and consequent events have had major implications for public health. In view of this, we consider now is the appropriate time that we should together formally retract the interpretation placed upon these findings in the paper, according to precedent.”
Yet, despite the discreditation of this research, Oprah allowed actress Jenny McCarthy to appear on her top-rated talk show and spin her tale of her son’s autism being caused by a recent MMR vaccination. Oprah read a brief statement from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which accurately stated vaccines “protect and save lives.” However, she did nothing otherwise to challenge the claims of her guest, Ms. McCarthy.
She also failed to mention that major medical organizations such as the American Academy of Pediatrics and the American Medical Association affirm the safety of vaccines. When Ms. McCarthy was asked about her own expertise on the subject she replied, “My science is my son Evan. That’s my science.”
McCarthy became a regular on The Oprah Winfrey Show and other programs including “The Doctors”, “The Larry King Show”, “Ellen”, and “The Rosie Show”. The approval she received from Oprah also landed her a season-long place on “The View.” Here she continued to promote her false message about vaccines.
Measles is not an innocuous disease. Before 1963, when the measles vaccine became available in the U. S., there were more than 500,000 reported measles cases every year, according to the CDC. On average, 432 cases a year resulted in death. By the year 2000 the number of cases had dwindled to 86 and the number of deaths zero.
But the disease made a comeback, thanks in no small part to false information from celebrities like McCarthy, with the aid of Oprah. In 2014 there were 667 cases reported. An outbreak of measles shut down Disneyland for a day. Parents should be aware that the risk of serious neurological disease following vaccination is one in 365,000 doses – but the risk of death with the disease is one or two in just 1,000.
Fortunately, the number of measles cases has been dropping since 2014 because the real truth about vaccine safety has gotten out. The number of cases declined in 2015 to 188, in 2016 to 86, with a slight up-tick in 2017 to 120.
The worst of this vaccine hysteria is hopefully behind us but this experience should not be forgotten when considering any political future for Oprah Winfrey.