On Monday, ABC’s The View announced that Jenny McCarthy would be the show’s newest co-host. She may have gotten her start as a celebrity for being featured in Playboy and on MTV, but today, McCarthy is a huge celebrity activist against vaccinations. This crusade started after her son was diagnosed with autism. Since then, McCarthy has been a prominent figure in the anti-vaccine movement and even started her own organization on the subject, Generation Rescue.
The anti-vaccine movement believes that the Measles/Mumps/Rubella (MMR) vaccines causes autism. Yet, this is scientifically false. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Institute of Medicine of the US National Academy of Sciences have found no link between MMR vaccines and autism. Most recently, the Cochrane Library reviewed scientific studies of over 14,000,000 children and found no credible link either. As National Geographic explains this anti-vaccine phenomenon: “It all started with bad science.”
When celebrities like McCarthy give a scientifically false movement legitimacy, there are devastating consequences. A website formerly titled Jenny McCarthy Body Count, but now Anti-Vaccine Body Count, has a running number of 1,170 deaths and 18,010 illnesses that could have been prevented if the patient had been given a vaccination. Now, it does seem improbable that the anti-vaccine movement is responsible for all of these, but as the website explains “even one vaccine preventable illness or vaccine preventable death is too many.”
Even though science proves that vaccination and autism are not connected, people are still listening to McCarthy, and that is only going to get worse as she is able to speak to her new audience. The View‘s key demographic is women aged 18-49—in other words, mothers and future mothers. It’s not a shock that parents trust celebrities, so why wouldn’t parents believe McCarthy—especially when they see her every morning?
More to the point, The View has a unique place where women’s voices on political issues, cultural issues, and everything in between, a show that extends beyond a bunch of women gossipping, something that has the potential to make women’s voices more reputable around the United States. In fact, the show has been going strong for many seasons and has a sense of integrity. As a New York Times review explains, “The idea that those women should be smart and accomplished is still odd enough to make “The View’’ seem wildly different.”
Do they really want to add someone like McCarthy to their bill and jeopardize all of that?