The first of many statements yoking Robert MacNeil to the vaccine-autism canard

Exhibit A in why Robert MacNeil’s “Autism Now” series has been reckless and irresponsible is a press release issued by Alison MacNeil and SafeMinds* titled, “Daughter of Journalist Robert MacNeil States that Son Regressed Into Autism After Vaccines.”

Notice that it does not say “Alison MacNeil believes that son regressed into autism after vaccines,” or “Family member featured on Newshour believes son regressed into autism after vaccines.” Instead, it invokes a trusted, even revered, newsman and links his name to the “statement” that a child’s autism was called by vaccines.

The rest of the press release contains a drum-beat of half-truths presented as fact (the U.S. has the most aggressive vaccine schedule in the world, the U.S.’s vaccine schedule is a “grand experiment”), either-or fallacies and rhetorical sleights of hand (“are we trading the elimination of childhood disease for a lifetime of disability?”), non sequiturs (“one-fifth of all U.S. children take at least one prescription medication”), and scare tactics (“I have never met a family willing to sacrifice their child for the good of the herd”).

Obviously, any group (or person) has the right to release a statement that makes all sorts of claims. The problem here is that by framing the first hour of his autism special the way he did, Robert MacNeil opened himself (and Newshour) to charges that he’s actually promoting a scientifically disproven (and dangerous) theory. I’m sure we’ll be seeing more of this in the days to come.

* SafeMinds is an acronym for Sensible Action For Ending Mercury Induced Neurological Disorders. It is a parent-advocacy group founded in the wake of fears that an ethyl-mercury based preservative used in some childhood vaccines was causing autism. That preservative, thimerosal, was shown in numerous studies not to cause autism; it was also removed from childhood vaccines a decade ago.

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4 Responses to The first of many statements yoking Robert MacNeil to the vaccine-autism canard

  1. Nora says:


    You are wrong. My grandson had a similar reaction as that of Mr. MacNeil’s grandson. Seth, there are too many of us to dismiss what we are saying. You are not protecting the herd, but rather subjecting a whole generation of children to dismal medical conditions that were unheard of in children twenty years ago.

    • Tom says:

      I read your link and there is no mentioned or implied link to vaccines or autism. If I didn’t know the history of the anti-vax movement and Wakefield I would have no idea how that link could be a response Seth’s article above. In fact, since I do know the history I know also that there is no such link.

  2. Jake Crosby says:

    “That preservative, thimerosal, was shown in numerous studies not to cause autism”

    By researchers like Poul Thorsen, who has just been indicted for fraud.

    I wonder how many times you yoked your “personal yoda” Kurt Andersen to the canards such as the “science” manufactured by the likes of Thorsen, Seth. Surely you can’t blame Robert MacNeil for his reporting on public television given the very different state of public radio – with your fingerprints all over it.

    • Andrew says:


      I thought you liked fraud – your employer just admitted to worshipping a fraud-committing doctor as a God. If you start criticizing, you may be expelled from the cult for heresy.

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