Jenny McCarthy Is Not Making the World a Better Place

There’s an article up at Yahoo called “7 Celebrity Activists Who Make the World a Better Place” and you’re not going to believe who’s on their list…

Jenny McCarthy.

Who believes, without credible evidence, that vaccines cause autism.

Who urges mothers not to vaccinate their children, making them more susceptible to infections.

Who inspired a “body count” because the ideas she supports have led to the deaths of so many people.

Who was dropped from speaking at a charity event to raise money for cancer research because she “promote[s] views considered dangerous by most of the medical establishment.”

That Jenny McCarthy.

She’s making the world a better place.

That sound you hear is your head exploding. Hell, I’m surprised Chris Brown didn’t make the cut.

(Thanks to Peg for the link)

About Hemant Mehta

Hemant Mehta is the editor of Friendly Atheist, appears on the Atheist Voice channel on YouTube, and co-hosts the uniquely-named Friendly Atheist Podcast. You can read much more about him here.

  • Travis Myers

    This would be like if Ken Ham made the list of the world’s 7 greatest scientific educators.

  • Topher Kersting

    I posted the body count link in the comments on the article page. Hopefully that will vaccinate some readers against Ms. McCarthy’s infectious drivel.

  • Claude

    These anti-vac people are still at it? The theory that vaccinations induce autism has been thoroughly discredited. The British medical journal The Lancet retracted the research paper by Dr. Andrew Wakefield that triggered anti-vaccination hysteria:

  • C Peterson

    If you view this from the perspective that overpopulation is the source of many of the world’s problems, the inclusion of McCarthy in this list makes sense…

  • Jason Mooneyham

    As an autistic adult, I find the anti-vaxxers to be offensive in ways that
    escape words, even when I’m writing those words instead of speaking
    them. Not only are they openly advocating policies that reintroduce
    horrible diseases that have been all but eradicated, but they are
    treating autistic people as rescue projects to stoke their sense of
    self-righteousness. Along with groups like “Autism Speaks,” where
    autistic people are more like poster children than people with actual
    voices, hopes, desires, and feelings of their own, Jenny McCarthy and
    the anti-vaxxers drown out the voices of the autistic and the real
    experts with their own shrill, slimy brand of smugness that does no
    service to her son or the population of autistic people who have a lot
    to offer society. We are not diseased. We don’t suffer from autism.
    We suffer from people like Jenny McCarthy.

  • Arthür Täylør

    Right the hell on brother.

  • observer

    With a death count of 1,103 so far, I highly doubt someone’s going to say “Hmm, maybe we should stop”.

  • rhodent

    Yes, they’re still at it, and it should be no surprise. Science never really had anything to do with why they believed vaccines cause autism anyway, so it should be no surprise that the retraction has had no effect on them.

    I have a friend on Facebook who is an anti-vaxer. Predictably, she has a son with autism. When I had a “discussion” with her and one of her fellow anti-vaxers, I was asked by the other anti-vaxer if I had any children. Because, you know, whether you have children affects your ability to understand medical cause-and-effect. The true irony? I know a couple of people who themselves have autism, and they think the idea that vaccines cause autism is ludicrous.

  • good_creon

    I would be more surprised if Yahoo news didn’t routinely post baffling stories like this

  • Jason Mooneyham

    You can count me among the autistic people who think the anti-vax movement is total bollocks.

  • Achron Timeless

    She’s still going on about her psudoscience? I thought she’d finally gotten ashamed enough to shut up.

    My mistake, just no one thought she was worth reporting on I guess. Maybe she should take the hint.

  • m6wg4bxw

    In a similar vein, I’m sure Jenny McCarthy made the world a better place for “readers” of Playboy magazine.

  • C Peterson

    Yes. Along with those who think we never went to the Moon, that the CIA orchestrated 9/11, that global warming is a hoax. The list is endless. Science deniers and conspiracy theorists demonstrate a kind of mental illness, and no amount of evidence or reasoning will change things. Quite the opposite, the stronger the evidence against these people’s beliefs, the harder they push back, the more entrenched they become (hmmm… sounds a lot like religion).

  • Claude

    I’d think a death count of 1,103 is precisely why someone would say “Hmm, maybe we should stop.”

  • Claude

    But on what basis does your friend still believe that vaccinations promote autism? (I had friends who were caught up in the early paranoia but seem to have recovered.) Why would this become an article of faith, especially when the consequences of not vaccinating children are so profound? Such people are just down the street from the faith healers Mehta posted about a few days ago.

  • Rich Wilson

    without credible evidence

    Zero evidence. That some people who get vaccinated also get autism isn’t evidence, and that’s all she’s got.

  • Michael Waters

    I dunno just reword the paragraph and I can see it. She’s fighting over population and our over consumption of the planets resources by preventing vaccination and increasing mortality rates. Its a tough thankless job that someone has to do!

  • Rabid

    One of the justifications for still buying into the bullshit is identical to the “If God doesn’t exist, why are you so angry with him?” argument.

    They feel that the push back the ideas receive is legitimisation, and it’s all just a cleverly orchestrated attempt by “big pharma” to silence the free thinking critics.

    That’s how conspiracy theorists work. They can justify anything with anything. There’s no “basis”, no rational thought.

  • named

    When I read things like this, I can only think of the Darwin Awards. The idea that things would be better off if the dumber people of this world are killed off or castrated by some stupid mistake so that only the smarter people will breed.

    Granted that, yes, they have already reproduced, but doesn’t this fit in line with the same principles? If all of the anti-vaccination people lose their children, there won’t be anyone to carry on their ideals. It certainly doesn’t qualify for a Darwin Award, but it works in the same manner…

  • m6wg4bxw

    If you think all of the bad ideas, misunderstandings, etc in the world result from inadequate intelligence, then you’re a bad skeptic. To be fair, I don’t know if you associate with skepticism at all.

  • observer

    A sane, resonable person would say that. But these anti-vaxxers arn’t sane or resonable, arn’t they?
    The point I’m getting at here is, even if these anti-vaxxers realize they’re spewing out BS that hurts people, the fact that their actions have already caused deaths is a very bad burden to bear. Not to mention it’d damn their reputations (i.e. these so called heros would be disgraceful murderers).
    So they keep spitting out BS, and spitting it out loudly, just to save their own asses.

  • Claude

    OK, so big pharma is the culprit! To be fair, it’s reasonable to be suspicious of big pharma. But…if a person is impervious to all evidence simply because big pharma is corrupt, you’re right, they’re on their way around the bend.

  • Claude

    OK, I see what you’re saying now. It’s the “Saddam’s WMDs got squirreled away to Syria” rationale.

  • named

    I just generally wonder why it’s widely considered funny when things are labeled as Darwin Awards (see any home movie award show for seemingly endless examples of men’s private parts being shattered accompanied with laugh tracks), but when people endanger their children with their ignorance, it’s considered horrific.

    I suppose it’s more of the name Darwin Awards that bothers me. I don’t know the man personally, but I can’t imagine him laughing like crazy at the notion of people’s suffering and dying. So, why don’t people who claim to be skeptical actively disagree with such nonsense?

  • m6wg4bxw

    I think many people enjoy seeing the troubles of others, especially when it results from what seems like poor reasoning. A search of youtube for “fail” will reveal how popular this kind of thing is. I doubt the title of “Darwin Award” adds much.

    I’ve never been to the website, but I understand how it could be entertaining. Part of what makes it fun(ny) is irony, surprise, exaggeration, and the like — the same devices employed by comedians. So I guess I, a skeptic, don’t actively disagree beyond the defense I made in the previous post. I think everything is fair game for humor.

  • Baby_Raptor

    People want something to blame the bad/hard things in their lives on. It makes it easier to cope with if you have something you can point at (that isn’t you) and say “This is your fault!”

    Note: I am NOT saying people with Autism are bad. What I mean is that the parents of kids with Autism are often highly stressed, overworked, under-supported, ETC. It’s often not a sparkly, easy life. I’ve been accused of being “bigoted” for saying this before, so I wanted to make that clear.

  • Matt Martin


  • Revyloution

    Wait… she’s also advocating for the eradication of HIV/AIDS?
    Does she realize that HIV is a virus, and that the eventual eradication will probably require a vaccine against it?

  • Jason Mooneyham


  • Sergio Castro

    Oh the irony! That’s brilliant, Rev.

  • Michael W Busch

    HIV could also be eradicated by a massive effort to reduce transmission. As long as each case leads to less than one new infection on average, it would eventually disappear (especially since there isn’t an animal reservoir). Until and unless an effective vaccine is available, that is the only viable strategy. But also advocating a less-evil cause does not make the rest of McCarthy’s actions any less contemptible.

  • allein

    My thoughts exactly!

  • Mario Strada

    Eloquently put. Is there an organization that maybe could embarrass the hell out of Jenny? I think it would be very powerful if you and others with autism denounced her for the fraud she is. Coming from us “normals” wouldn’t have nearly the same impact.

  • Mario Strada

    Hey, there are deadly serious people that believe in a flat earth and another group of deadly serious people that believe in a hollow earth (I was actually thinking of organizing a WWF style debate between the two).
    Antivaxxers are far more dangerous but not quite as crazy.

  • SeekerLancer

    I didn’t realize that causing the return of dangerous diseases through ignorance and fear mongering counted as making the world a better place. I’d better get started on some biological weapons so I can make the world better too.

  • Jason Mooneyham

    There are organizations that can, and they are far more eloquent than I am. There is the Autism Self-Advocacy Network and GRASP just to name two. Individual people on the autism spectrum have written very powerful articles denouncing nonsense such as the anti-vax movement. As a matter of fact, GRASP went to testify before Congress, and a group of anti-vaxxers called SafeMinds showed up early and took up all the seats so that people with autism couldn’t get in. They proceeded to shout down the professionals who were testifying against the anti-vax movement. Congress being what it is, sensed an opportunity to pander to a bunch of screeching conspiracy nuts. Here is GRASP’s report of that proceeding:

    To people like Autism Speaks, Jenny McCarthy, and the anti-vaxxers, autistic people were meant to be seen and not heard. More is the shame because we have a lot to say.

  • rustygh

    Jenny McCarthy doesn’t know what she’s doing. More money then brains.
    If you took the time to get close to her you could feed her with anything you wanted to do and she’d end up doing it as long as you let her move forward claiming the idea as her own.
    Which is saying a lot because she can’t think on her own! I cannot believe she made this list, oh wait someone got probably got paid, never mind.

  • Sarah Jane Smith

    I agree with you on the anti-vaxx stuff. But as far as suffering from autism. My son has sensory issues. Can we get a cure for that please? How about cures for the co-morbid conditions? How about a universal translator that converts weird human speak into autistic-human and back?

  • rtanen

    For translation… no perfect solutions, but I have seen students at my school sucessfully using iPads running Proloquo, which speaks the words or images selected.

  • rtanen

    I’ve got Asperger’s, and it sure beats chicken pox or whooping cough. Even if vaccines did cause autism, which they don’t, I still would have gotten them. Does this person really think that autism and Asperger’s are worse than polio or smallpox? The only people who have died of autism were killed by their “caregivers.”

  • Jason Mooneyham

    I have sensory issues as well. That’s part of being autistic. I maintain that “cures” are more for the benefit of the non-autistic than the autistic. To me, talk about a cure for the different aspects of autism is no different than talk about a cure for autism itself. Who really benefits from it: the autistic person, or the people around him or her? I suspect in most cases, it’s not so much for the benefit of the autistic person as to put caregivers at ease. Take for example giving autistic children Risperdal to control irritability. Frankly, it’s unethical to give an autistic person an atypical antipsychotic to control their behavior rather than identifying the cause of the behavior and showing them how to deal with it. Let’s take one of my sensory issues: fluorescent lighting. I can’t stand it. It’s excruciating trying to make sense of the world when it’s doing the 60 Hz shuffle. It’s also maddening to listen to people smacking their food (seriously–it’s disgusting). I get cranky having to deal with those issues every single day. So if I were a child (and I had these same sensory issues then, too), how does taking an anti-psychotic help me in any way? The sensory issues are still there; I am only too sedate to say or do anything. The overload is still there. The pain is still there. So who benefits from the drug? Not me. And I speak from experience. I have had to take anti-psychotics before; thankfully, as an adult. So if I don’t benefit, who does? The only people possible in this case is the people around me. So in that position, I still don’t know how to deal with the sensory issues and I still have the pain from it.

    Far more constructive is to learn how to deal with the sensory issues. I keep noise cancelling headphones with me and polarized sunglasses. I also try to avoid fluorescent lights where possible. But there is a benefit from these sensory issues. I have perfect pitch, which makes me a good musician (I actually play classical and jazz trumpet as well as piano, guitar, and bass; and I compose and arrange as well).

    I have the comorbids as well. Specifically, I have social phobia, generalized anxiety, chronic insomnia (I have not been able to sleep unassisted in 4 years now), and inattentive-type ADD. I find I can manage quite well with a minimal dose of tetracyclic antidepressants and a low dose of Ritalin. The social blindness gets me into some awkward situations, but it also allows me to stay cool during crises, since I don’t attach the emotional value to things that other people do.

    See, at the heart of parents wanting cures for autism and various aspects of it, I see a misguided sense of compassion. Autistic people don’t suffer from autism, as I said. We suffer from other people. We communicate with each other just fine, for the most part. I’ve even communicated with non-verbal autistic children with no problem. When we talk about cures for autism and its various systems, I hear, speaking as an autistic person, that NT’s want us to be like everyone else. That’s not fair to us.

    Instead of trying to make autistic people like everyone else, why not find autistic mentors who understand the sensory issues and have found successful ways to deal with them? Why shouldn’t autistic people be happy with who they are?

  • Noelle

    Well, Jason, it’s called a spectrum for a reason. There are huge differences amongst people with ASD, in presentation, severity, and response to treatment. Overall, there is no one medication across the board that stands out as helpful for most autistics. Risperdal helps a few with violent outbursts, but gives others bad side effects and no help whatsoever. ADHD meds help some with focus and/or hyperactivity, but do nothing for others. Sleeping medication can be helpful for those with insomnia, which is very common in ASD. Antidepressant and antianxiety meds help some, but not others. In fact, the response rate seems to be on par with the general population of neurotypicals trying out an array of psych meds for their issues. Some help some. Some hurt others. Some do nothing.

    You are correct that what seems to be most promising across the board is behavior and sensory therapy, as well as developing tools to aide with communication. However, the field is young and we are still learning what techniques are useful. The medical system and the way insurance companies work are also roadblocks to these non-pharmacological therapies.

    I do not expect any amount of medication and therapy to turn ASD folks “normal”. Perhaps you did not know that most NT’s also do not consider themselves “normal”. Normal is an abstract construct and most of us are weird in our own way. The point of treating at all is to help ASD people become as happy and functional as possible, and lead fulfilled lives. This is what I hope for my 8 year-old son with autism, just as I wish it for my NT 6 year-old daughter. That you have grown to be so eloquent and thoughtful gives me hope for him.

    Thank you for your words. And yes, the anti-vax crap makes me very angry. But that’s another rant for another day.

  • Jan Kafka

    As if there were any doubt that our species is seriously fucked…

  • Jason Mooneyham

    I’m not suggesting therapies, although those can be very helpful. What I’m suggesting are mentors on the spectrum because people on the spectrum get it in ways that even the best intentioned and best educated NT’s do not. Sort of like no one understands beating addiction treatment like a substance abuser who overcame an addiction.

    My entire point here is that lots of people talk about treating autism, or being aware of autism, or helping autistic children become functional, happy adults, and even helping autistic adults become functioning, productive, and happy members of society. At no point in the discussion, though, is the autistic person given any voice. Just like anyone else, it is meaningless to talk about the happiness and well-being of autistic people without listen to what they want or need.

    I stand by what I said: it is unethical to feed autistic children atypical anti-psychotics for no other reason than to control their irritability. That’s not helping them. That’s just chemical restraint. Nothing is addressed so far as the autistic child’s needs go.

  • Houndentenor

    Vaccines aren’t really all that profitable for the drug companies. Especially the ones for which the patents have long ago expired. Why would they push them if they didn’t work? They make far more money from drugs for erectile dysfuction or that slow down male pattern baldness. It’s nonsense but there’s no reasoning with these people. I can’t even convince them that the reason the mail is sometimes slow does not correlate to “Mercury in retrograde”. I fear our species is doomed. how do we deal with global warming when we are still fighting the battles from the 19th century?

  • TCC

    As a parent of two autistic children, I’d just like to point out that I don’t generally hear people whitewashing the kind of strain that having autistic children can have on parents. That’s not the fault of the children, of course, nor is autism something horrible that is like a death sentence, but most people aren’t prepared for the kind of serious undertaking that educating and caring for a child with autism can be. If people are calling you “bigoted” for pointing out how difficult it can be to have a child with autism, then clearly they’re speaking out of ignorance or just having a knee-jerk reaction.

  • Matthew Baker

    The only way Jenny McCarthy has helped the world is she date Jim Carrey for while so others didn’t have to.

  • Noelle

    I would love my child to have a mentor who understands him. We do attempt to address his needs. And though he is young, we include him in this process.

  • rhodent

    I’m not certain what the basis is. I know that she has lots of connections to other parents of autistic children, so I’m guessing that what’s happened is basically that she’s entered an “echo chamber” of sorts where everyone is getting and providing so much reinforcement for the notion that vaccinations cause autism that the retraction of the only journal-published study to ever suggest a link is easily forgotten. Also, the fact that the other anti-vaxer felt the question of whether I had children was relevant to the discussion shows that the critical thinking skills of some of these people leaves something to be desired.

  • R. G. Price

    Because in many people’s minds, “making a difference” simply means “raising money for cause”. She is “well intentioned”, which is all that many people in the “cause” community care about…

  • Joel J. Rogina

    On the upside, all of the top comments are against her being on the list.

  • Per Edman

    That’s an amazing point, Revyloution!

  • mumd0g

    Eh, the article is bad, but Yahoo/Babble are just pumping out SEO friendly crap. Not only does no one read it, folks barely write it. It is just about the clicks.

  • Bill Melater

    Rihanna was on the list but Chris Brown beat her to it.

  • Hellboy

    Jenny McCarthy: Simultaneously fighting for a cure while fighting against a vaccine.