A retraction, and sympathy for Craig Willoughby

I am blogging about two things today.

Firstly, in 2005 Robert F. Kennedy Jr, son of assassinated senator and presidential candidate Robert F. Kennedy and nephew of assassinated president John F. Kennedy wrote an article named “Deadly Immunity”, which was jointly published in both Rolling Stone Magazine and Salon.com. In it, Kennedy claimed that thimerosal, a mercury containing compound which until 2001 was used as a preservative in some vaccines, had caused an epidemic of Autism. During 2005 to now, Salon.com added several corrections as factual inaccuracies and distortions were exposed. Then, last week Sunday, Salon.com fully retracted “Deadly Immunity”.

Correcting our record

We’ve removed an explosive 2005 report by Robert F. Kennedy Jr. about autism and vaccines. Here’s why

In 2005, Salon published online an exclusive story by Robert F. Kennedy Jr. that offered an explosive premise: that the mercury-based thimerosal compound present in vaccines until 2001 was dangerous, and that he was “convinced that the link between thimerosal and the epidemic of childhood neurological disorders is real.”
The piece was co-published with Rolling Stone magazine—they fact-checked it and published it in print; we posted it online. In the days after running “Deadly Immunity,” we amended the story with five corrections (which can still be found logged here) that went far in undermining Kennedy’s exposé. At the time, we felt that correcting the piece—and keeping it on the site, in the spirit of transparency—was the best way to operate. But subsequent critics, including most recently, Seth Mnookin in his book “The Panic Virus,” further eroded any faith we had in the story’s value. We’ve grown to believe the best reader service is to delete the piece entirely.
“I regret we didn’t move on this more quickly, as evidence continued to emerge debunking the vaccines and autism link,” says former Salon editor in chief Joan Walsh, now editor at large. “But continued revelations of the flaws and even fraud tainting the science behind the connection make taking down the story the right thing to do.” The story’s original URL now links to our autism topics page, which we believe now offers a strong record of clear thinking and skeptical coverage we’re proud of—including the critical pursuit of others who continue to propagate the debunked, and dangerous, autism-vaccine link.

Shamefully, Rolling Stone has also pulled “Deadly Immunity”, but kept its retraction secret. Embarrassed, fellas?
On to the second part of this post. Craig Willoughby is an administrator at the anti-vaxx website Age of Autism and the father to an Autistic son. He believes that vaccination caused his son’s autism. Now, Craig is starting to ask questions about Wakefield’s conduct. Craig’s post looks at the fact that Wakefield had conflicts of interest and that he witheld them from the editors of The Lancet and the general public. He has acquired the full transcript of the GMC hearing into Wakefield (a document over 6 million words long) and is reading it.

“What jumped out at me first was the accusation that Brian Deer brought against Wakefield as to a potential motive for the 1998 Lancet paper. Essentially, Deer says that Wakefield manufactured the Lancet paper in order to scare the British parents into taking the separate M M and R vaccines, then he would market his own Transfer Factor as a potential rival for these vaccines…since Wakefield did not disclose this information when releasing the Lancet article, and in the subsequent media announcement, this is a blatant Conflict of Interest. That is bad, even if you defend Wakefield. This calls his Lancet article into serious question, even before you start looking at the science.”

Also:”Deer alleges that Wakefield was approached by Richard Barr. To me, this is one of Deer’s strongest arguments. Barr admits to soliciting Dr. Wakefield in order to provide him with several patients for an then unheard of condition that Barr claims was linked to MMR. Over the course of the research into the ‘98 Lancet article, Wakefield received about $750 thousand dollars (plus expenses) for his work. This was also undisclosed. Not only bad, but REALLY bad. Wakefield’s defense is to claim that he was using this money to pay for a second study that he was doing, though never released. But, even if you believe Wakefield, the fact that he did not disclose this information is a serious COI.”

Craig, if by any chance you happen to read this, I repeat a comment I made on LBRB under my real name.

“It’s not nice knowing you’ve been had. I’m impressed by your being willing to take a second look at the evidence. That’s very hard for most people to do.

All the best to you, your son and the other members of your family.”



About autismjungle

I am a Software Test Analyst. Shortly before I turned 21 I was officially diagnosed, although I had long suspected I was autistic. Welcome to my blog
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