Like it or not, people care what celebrities think. So ABC’s decision to hire MTV-star-turned-medical-conspiracy-theorist Jenny McCarthy as a host of “The View” poses a certain risk. McCarthy backs a fringe theory that purports to link vaccines to autism, and the network is giving her a prominent platform that she could use to spread a harmful superstition.
The idea of a vaccine-autism link emerged in the 1990s, and has been thoroughly debunked. There’s just as much evidence connecting autism with vaccines as there is linking the condition to leprechauns and rainbows — that is to say, none. Yet McCarthy, who has an autistic child, has gone to great lengths to keep the theory alive, which has convinced some parents to withhold important vaccinations from their kids.
And that does have an impact: Statistics show that vaccination rates have declined in many states since the 1990s. Not surprisingly, dangerous diseases like mumps, measles, and whooping cough have seen a resurgence.
Autism is an emotional issue for many parents — and it’s also the kind of issue that could come up in discussions on “The View.” ABC should make it clear to McCarthy that she’s been hired as a talk-show personality, not a scientific expert, and the network shouldn’t let her use the show as a platform for her theories. Giving them even a moment’s airtime would be a disservice to the public.