Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Deja vu, Oprah

Three years ago Oprah lent her weight to a book entitled A Million Little Pieces, written by James Frey. It's an autobiography about his drug addiction and eventual recovery. At least that's what Frey purported it to be. It was soon discovered, however, that Frey had falsified a good number of "facts" and embellished others. His memoir turned out to be largely fictional.

Oprah had made a mistake, a big one--for her endorsement had boosted sales of this title to millions of copies. But Oprah did something very few do--she admitted on a succeeding episode how she had made a terrible mistake. Oprah bit the bullet, swallowed her pride, and apologized to her audience and viewers and even invited Frey and censured him right on her show. She even told a Washington Post columnist who had criticized her as deluded that he was right--that she was wrong and that his criticism was appropriate.

Recently, Oprah committed a far more egregious mistake, one that puts lives on the line. She's endorsed anti-vaccine propagandist Jenny McCarthy. Oprah has practically given Jenny a carte blanche by providing her her own show on the Oprah network.

Three years ago Oprah owned up and showed America her integrity. Hopefully this time around she will do the same.

Shirley Wu has written an open letter to Oprah encouraging her to do the right thing.

...To me, it is clear that a significant number of people look up to you, and trust your advice and judgment. That is why it is such a huge mistake for you to endorse Jenny McCarthy with her own show on your network.

Surely you must realize that McCarthy is neither a medical professional nor a scientist. And yet she acts as a spokesperson for the anti-vaccination movement, a movement that directly impacts people’s health. Claims that vaccines are unsafe and cause autism have been refuted time after time, but their allure persists in part because of high-profile champions for ignorance like McCarthy. In fact, ten of the thirteen authors of the paper that sparked the modern anti-vaccination movement retracted the explosive conclusions they made due to insufficient evidence. Furthermore, it is now clear that the study’s main author, Andrew Wakefield, falsified data to support these shaky conclusions.

Go on over to Shirley's blog and read her missive in its entirety. If you think it's worth it spread the word. And let Oprah know about it if you can. Remind her about Frey.

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