At some point in the last several days, Rolling Stone re-posted “Deadly Immunity,” the error-laden piece by Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. that the magazine and Salon.com simultaneously published in June 2005. The story, which was officially retracted by Salon in January, claimed a conspiracy that began during the Great Depression to prop up “the vaccine industry’s bottom line” by covering up the dangers of thimerosal, the mercury-based additive that was removed from most standard childhood vaccines years before Kennedy’s story was published.
At the time of the Salon retraction, I noted that the story appeared to have been disappeared from Rolling Stone‘s site (along with the magazine’s aggressive defense of the piece after it came under fire). It’s re-posting — and for what it’s worth, it’s now only available behind a paywall — was accompanied by this statement:
Editor’s Note: The link to this much-debated story by Robert F. Kennedy Jr. was inadvertently broken during our redesign in the spring of 2010. (We did not remove the story from the site, as some have incorrectly alleged, nor ever contemplated doing so.) The link to the original story is now restored, including the corrections we posted at the time and the subsequent editorial we published about the ensuing controversy.
I’m pretty sure I’m the “some” who were “incorrectly alleged” that the magazine had removed the piece — or at least I haven’t found anyone else who brought it up. I think what the magazine meant was that it didn’t deliberately remove the story — because the piece definitely was missing: The URL where the story had previously appeared led to a “404 – Page cannot be found”; what’s more, searches for “thimerosal” or “Deadly Immunity” on the Rolling Stone site yielded no results…not even broken ones leading to broken links.
It’s a curious time for RS to be digging in. Kennedy’s hypothesis depended on the amount of thimerosal in vaccines actually being harmful, and that conclusion was reliant on the research work of Mark and David Geier, the “only two scientists” who had managed to gain access to the data Kennedy claimed contained proof of the conspiracy.^
“The Geiers,” he wrote, “have completed six studies that demonstrate a powerful correlation between thimerosal and neurological damage in children.” The father-and-son team, for those of you who don’t know, haven’t had the best week: Last month, Maryland suspended Mark Geier’s medical license because of his peddling of the “Lupron protocol,” a bogus cure for autism that involves chemically castrating autistic children.
The other notable news event of the last week is the publication of a study ginning up a new manufactroversy over Vaccine Court data. That study appeared in the Pace Environmental Law Review; Kennedy is a Pace University Professor of Environmental Law.
Off the top of my head, there a couple of questions the magazine’s statement raises:
* Did other articles also disappear during the redesign?
*Why did it take four months from the time when Salon retracted the story (and I pointed out its absence from rollingstone.com) for the magazine to re-post it online?
* Did RFK Jr contact anyone about the piece and it’s absence from the RS site?
I sent those questions to a magazine spokesman earlier today; I’ll post any answers when I get them.
^ Wording changed for clarity.