Mish Michaels, who lost her job as a science reporter at WGBH News this week after questions were raised about her anti-vaccine views, issued a statement Thursday night saying her personal beliefs “have been positioned inaccurately.”
Michaels, a longtime former meteorologist at WBZ-TV, had been hired two weeks ago as a science reporter for the WGBH News show “Greater Boston.” But when Jim Braude, host of “Greater Boston,” was alerted to Michaels’ past statements linking vaccines and autism, he raised concerns about Michaels with WGBH News GM Phil Redo and “Greater Boston” executive producer Bob Dumas.
On Wednesday, Michaels was notified that she would not be working for WGBH News after all.
In an email Thursday afternoon, Redo, who had been aware of Michaels’ anti-vaccine views at the time she was hired, declined to comment, saying it was a personnel matter. Michael also was mute - until sending out an e-mail just before 9 p.m. Thursday.
“I am saddened by the sudden end of my position as science reporter at WGBH. I worked tirelessly for more than two decades as a broadcast meteorologist, storm chaser, and science reporter. I have always taken my job seriously and reported without bias. I was eager to return to that role after 8 years of exclusively raising my daughters,” Michaels wrote. “Unfortunately, my personal beliefs as a private citizen have been positioned inaccurately. I have never claimed that I don’t believe in vaccines. I am pro-safe and effective vaccines and pro scientific discovery. As a journalist, I strive to ask hard questions. Scientific consensus does not equal complacency. It is a challenge to scientists to verify the science or push it forward.”
At issue are comments Michaels made before the Massachusetts Legislature in 2011 on behalf of a bill to add parental choice to the list of reasons children without immunizations may attend school. (Currently, children who aren’t immunized may only attend school if they have documentation from a doctor, or if a parent submits a written statement declaring that immunization conflicts with their religious beliefs.) A video clip of Michaels’ testimony was removed from YouTube after the Globe’s story Thursday.
Michaels, who has degrees from Cornell and Harvard, told lawmakers in 2011 that she and her husband have a family member who “contracted leukemia after exposure to vaccines and pesticides.” When she became pregnant in 2006, she said, she began to “avidly research vaccine safety” and pitched stories to her bosses at WBZ-TV about “vaccine-damaged children.”
“Up to that point, we believed what the media told us, that all vaccines were safe and effective,” Michaels told lawmakers. “What I was told time and time again was that there is no story, that the science is settled, that there’s no reason to present stories of this nature on TV because simply these are fringe stories. This was not representing the masses. To me, this was surprising because I thought the media was supposed to be the voice of the people, and clearly at that point, in my newsroom, it was not acting as the voice of the people.”
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and virtually every other public-health agency, the science is settled: There is no link between vaccines and autism. Yet some parents, including Michaels, continue to claim that vaccines may be a cause of autism, and that clearly made some at WGBH News uncomfortable.