With the measles virus outbreak as one of the main news items, the press has been paying close attention to and trying to understand the origins of the anti-vaccine movement. While the campaign was an outgrowth resulting from the events surrounding Andrew Wakefield, The Daily Beast reveals that not only are a number of Hollywood stars and two Republican politicians doubters of vaccines, but the anti-vaccine movement got a huge boost in publicity and credibility with the help of television personality Oprah Winfrey.
After actress and Playboy Playmate Jenny McCarthy launched her crusade—which included a “Green Our Vaccines” march and rally in Washington, D.C. in the summer of 2008—Oprah invited her onto her show.
“You’re mother warriors is what you are,” Oprah said in 2007, praising McCarthy and other moms dedicated to fighting autism. McCarthy’s son was diagnosed with the disorder, and she became convinced that vaccines had something to do with it.
“What number will it take for people just to start listening to what the mothers of children who have seen autism have been saying for years, which is, ‘We vaccinated our baby and something happened,’” McCarthy said during a fawning, sympathetic portrait on The Oprah Winfrey Show.
“Right before [my son’s] MMR shot, I said to the doctor, ‘I have a very bad feeling about this shot. This is the autism shot, isn’t it?’ And he said, ‘No, that is ridiculous. It is a mother’s desperate attempt to blame something,’ and he swore at me, and then the nurse gave [Evan] the shot. And I remember going, ‘Oh, God, I hope he’s right.’ And soon thereafter—boom—the soul’s gone from his eyes.”
McCarthy was allowed to spout this, pushback-free, to Oprah’s massive and adoring audience. (Oprah’s immense popularity and influence was the foundation for a cultural force that was dubbed, “the Oprah Effect.”)
The article also states that in 2009 Oprah Winfrey signed Jenny McCarthy to a development deal which lead to talk of a television talk show for McCarthy with Oprah’s help. Fortunately, McCarthy backed out of the deal in 2011 and instead opted for a spot on ABC’s The View. In fairness, Oprah Winfrey never told people not to vaccinate but she did provide a soapbox not only for the anti-vaccine movement’s best-known blowhard, but also a number of pseudoscientific causes. Oprah Winfrey single-handedly contributed to all of the babies and people who have died or are extremely ill thanks to her enabling doubt about vaccines if not science itself.