TLC disappears comments, edits its turd of an anti-vaccine piece. It still stinks.

As discussed yesterday, the folks over at TLC seem to have buried their heads in the sand when it comes to vaccines. Apparently, though, their love of misinformation hasn’t quite overwhelmed their desire not to be publicly ridiculed: Over the past 24 hours, significant changes have been made to their piss-poor excuse of a piece on vaccines and vaccine safety. (Of course, these changes were made without any acknowledgement to readers, which is standard practice at…well, pretty much everywhere. TLC also turned off the comments on the piece and disappeared all the comments that had already been posted; apparently, they share the inability of many anti-vaccine sites to accept criticism.)

The obvious questions are what, exactly, has changed–and do those changes make the piece any less offensive?

The answers are a lot and not really. Start with the headline. Yesterday, it was “Why Shouldn’t We Vaccinate Our Children?” Today that has morphed into “5 Things to Consider When Deciding to Vaccinate Your Child.” Some of the section headings have changed as well; for instance, the bit I deconstructed yesterday, “Vaccines May or May Not Have a Link to Autism,” is now titled, “Why Autism is Part of the Discussion”

Just as we did with the original piece, let’s go through today’s update line by line.

TLC: A debate about whether vaccines cause autism has continued to grow in the United States and other parts of the world.

Reality: This new opening sentence is, I assume, is an attempt to justify running the piece at all. This practice–passively asserting something and using that assertion as justification for your own coverage–is common in journalism. (Let me show you how it works: “Questions about whether Barack Obama was born in the United States continue to swirl.”) It’s a cowardly way to pretend like you’re just reporting what everyone is talking about when, in fact, the reason people are talking about it in the first place is because irresponsible hacks continue to give the story oxygen.

TLC: It’s important to point out that several intensive studies have found no causal link between vaccines and autism spectrum disorder.

Reality: This is essentially a variation of the previous version’s opening line. It remains incredibly misleading for all the same reasons: It’s not that “several” studies have found no causal link; hundreds of extensive studies involving millions of children have shown conclusively that there is no link between vaccines and autism.

TLC: In addition, the study that first suggested a link between measles, mumps and rubella (MMR) vaccines and autism — which was published in the journal Lancet in 1998 — was later retracted, and the study and its author came under fire for deception.

Reality: This is known as a CYA clause — that stands for “cover your ass.” CYA clauses pretend that acknowledging some of the reasons the story you’re writing is total crap makes it all okay. This one is particularly lame. The study wasn’t just retracted; the editor of Lancet said, “It was utterly clear, without any ambiguity at all, that the statements in the paper were utterly false.” The author didn’t come under fire; he lost his medical license for displaying a “callous disregard for the distress and pain of children.” The accusations related to the study didn’t involve “deception”; they involve wholesale fraud.

TLC: In spite of all this, controversy continues to surround reports of an increased prevalence in autism linked to vaccines containing thimerosal.

Reality: This is essentially a reframing of the section’s first sentence. It’s also a bit nonsensical — thimerosal hasn’t been discussed in this section, and the MMR vaccine never contained thimerosal.

TLC: Exposure to heavy metals such as mercury can lead to developmental disorders, and there is a form of mercury in thimerosal, which acts as a preservative in some vaccines.

Reality: That’s like saying, “Jumping off of the roof of your house can cause death” in an effort to justify a claim that jumping off a doghouse is potentially fatal. As I discussed yesterday, the type of mercury that’s been shown to cause developmental disorders is not the type of mercury in thimerosal.

TLC: However, thimerosal contains low levels of a type of mercury called ethylmercury; whether exposure to those low levels of ethylmercury is enough to produce developmental disorders is what’s at issue.

Reality: If this is an attempt to address some of the points I raised yesterday, it’s a failure. And, in fact, that is not the issue–it’s an issue, and one that has been addressed, time and time and time again.

TLC: According to the FDA, “A weak association was found with thimerosal intake and certain neurodevelopmental disorders (such as attention deficit hyperactivity disorder) in one study, but was not found in a subsequent study.”

Reality: Apparently, TLC is hoping that by inserting some hyperlinks, it’ll be able to obscure the fact that it’s relying on out-of-date data about products no longer in use: That FDA quote is referring to studies on pediatric vaccines that were in use before 2001 — in other words, before thimerosal was removed from standard pediatric vaccines. It’s flat-out wrong to imply, as TLC does, that one study showed “a weak association” and another showed no association; over the last decade, many, many, many studies have shown no association and no large-scale, peer-reviewed studies have shown a correlation between thimerosal-containing vaccines and developmental disorders.

TLC: In the United States, thimerosal was removed from most childhood vaccines by 2001, and flu vaccines come in versions with and without thimerosal [source: CDC].

Reality: Another change that has presumably made in response to criticism. The placement of it makes it pretty worthless because the die has already been cast. Wanna see how this works? “Your babysitter was once accused of being a child molester.” Yikes! No way am I going to let her watch my kids! “She was later acquitted and the accuser went to jail for bribery and lying to a grand jury.” OK…but I’m still not going to let that person anywhere near my children.

TLC: If you’re concerned about whether your child’s vaccines contain thimerosal, or whether thimerosal could affect his or her development, you can speak to your physician about the risks and benefits, or request thimerosal-free vaccines.

Reality: If you’re concerned about whether your child’s vaccines contain thimerosal, or whether thimerosal could affect his or her development, you’re either a conspiracy theorist, a dedicated anti-vaccine activist, or someone who has been subjected to false and dangerous stories like this one…because with the exception of some variations of the flu vaccine, standard pediatric vaccines do not contain thimerosal.

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18 Responses to TLC disappears comments, edits its turd of an anti-vaccine piece. It still stinks.

  1. NC Law says:

    A little information is a dangerous thing.

  2. Rufus says:

    Of course, they only seem to have made substantial edits to the thimerosal section. They left in other screaming turds of falsehood, like this one from section 1: “So even though it’s a small dosage, a vaccine is essentially the deliberate introduction of a virus or bacteria into the body. This means that there is a tiny chance the preventative cure will actually lead to contraction of the disease.”

    They need to take this whole piece down and replace it with this: 2 things to consider when deciding whether to vaccinate your child:

    1. Kids used to die, spend their lives on ventilators, or be permanently confined to wheelchairs because of a disease called polio. That was before a vaccine against it was invented.

    2. Dana Mcaffery died of pertussis because few enough people had been vaccinated in her area to increase her risk of exposure before she was old enough to be vaccinated. You don’t just risk your child’s life, you risk my child’s life when you don’t vaccinate.

    Then they need to reprimand the author and the editor who approved the piece, send them somewhere to be retrained in journalism, and explain that if they ever post a piece like this without consulting relevant experts and getting the basic facts straight simply because they want to push their own personal agenda they will never work for any Discovery company again.

    Of course, that will never happen, which is why things like this will continue to appear.

  3. Smarter Than You says:

    Wow, you really are a clueless piece of shit aren’t you Mnookin…You show such elementary knowledge about this subject similar to someone who just googles “vaccines and autism” and researches for 10 minutes and thinks he has it all figured out. You are an embarrassment and a real danger to those who are trying to make educated decisions on what to do with their children. Your book is about to be turned upside down and proven in every way to be false and misleading, and your ties to Dr. Offit, Allison Singer, and big pharma will not be able to help you then. You will be walking around this country with your little tail between your legs knowing you have screwed up in a major way and caused major harm to children. Get a clue Mr. Mnookin, and maybe try researching a subject a little more than 10 minutes before you write a book about it and put every future child in harms way. Oh wait, but “vaccine mercury is the safe mercury”…ha! What an idiot!!!! Try talking to one of the Scientists who have actually studied this you clueless clueless man!!!

    • “Scientists who have actually studied this”

      You must mean Boyd Haley and Mark Geier.

    • Ren says:

      It’s 2012, buddy. We’re still waiting for your promise. Remember when you wrote this?:

      “And yes, I will admit I’m a bit strange, but I know the ins and outs and every answer you all have ever been searching for when it comes to the cause of Autism. And very soon you will all know it too. Like I’ve said before, 2010 is the year something big happens, and you will all finally shut the hell up and bury your stupid little heads in shame.”

      Two years later, this little rant, still promising something, is the best you can bring?

    • WLU says:

      It’s funny because the poster uses the pseudonym “Smarter Than You” and they’re not.

  4. IRS says:

    So when is this evidence to debunk Mr Mnookin’s book going to be available?? Or are you using lawyer’s tactic of blustering your way through an argument when you know you have no evidence to back you up?? Put up or shut up otherwise you’ll just look like the dickhead you appear to be!!

  5. TLC tells me they are deleting the entire story. Should be gone by morning.

  6. Pingback: TLC’s vaccine misinformation piece vanishes into the ether. Do they owe readers an explanation? (Also: Chicago Sun-Times endorsement of anti-vaccine conference remains online.) | The Panic Virus

  7. Pingback: Major medical, science organizations prepare letter to TLC about its vaccine fear-mongering | The Panic Virus

  8. Chris Hix says:

    the flu vaccine with thimerosal is enough to cause serious damage, who cares about TLC or your ridiculous headline. The name of this page is quite appropriate though, they dupe people into believing there’s a pandemic so they can make plenty of dough, then oops, it runs out & out come the preservative laden ones. Flu shots in pregnancy, flu shots to babies, then toddlers.. It means nothing that it was taken out of vaccines, it’s still in flu shots, that are pushed more & more.. until it’s completely gone [& it’ll be awhile] don’t expect those numbers to drop.

    • Ren says:

      Please cite the source for your statement that “the flu vaccine with thimerosal is enough to cause serious damage”.

  9. Roger Kulp says:

    Re Rufus

    Kids used to die, spend their lives on ventilators, or be permanently confined to wheelchairs because of a disease called polio. That was before a vaccine against it was invented.

    They have an answer to that too.

  10. geraldine Rowen says:

    My children were never immunized. Nothing happened to them. My grandchildren neither and my great grandchildren are also doing fine. I wonder who is paying this man to say that everyone should get immunized. It is all a matter of strong immune systems, not eating junk food (mothers and fathers), having a life as described by many: stress free, creating loving kindness in every way possible, no competition, consideration and above all: acceptance of others point of view and life styles., which do not harm anyone.
    Eventually, we all learn where the money comes from and who is paying for one’s strong opinion about things. We all know, like Monsanto, big Pharma, has endless interest in having us all sick.

    • Chris says:

      Please remember to thank all of the members of your community that have vaccinated. Your family is protected by their generosity in providing community immunity.

      Now do your great grandchildren a favor and read them Roald Dahl’s The BFG. Explain to them why it is dedicated to the memory of his daughter Olivia. Think very carefully how much it cost for her last few hours in the hospital after she had a seizure due to her measles infection:

      I hope that makes you even more thankful to your vaccinating neighbors for providing you protection from diseases. Especially one that used to kill almost five hundred American children each year, and permanently disabled thousands more.

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