Seafood fearmongers meet Jenny McCarthy


Gavin Gibbons

Published on
November 2, 2012

Mainstream researchers, doctors and dietitians agree that fringe eco-gurus who promote mercury in seafood scare-stories are more and more exposed by ground truth science these days. When the extensive scientific review that went into the USDA’s Dietary Guidelines concludes that “the benefits of consuming seafood far outweigh the risks, even for pregnant women” the debate is pretty much over. Or when the most up-to-date and authoritative review of seafood science from the World Health Organization says the real risk is in not eating enough seafood, you know there’s been a sea change in the scientific community. And when the Washington Post prints an article that says, “Eat more fish; risks overstated,” you know the train has left the proverbial station and only the steadfast fear mongers remain on the platform. Now, it appears they’ll have some company while they wait for the next Pullman to marginalizedville; Jenny McCarthy.

This week the Columbia Journalism Review  (CJR) reports on McCarthy’s new newspaper column and the reception it’s getting in the scientific community.

“The Chicago Sun-Times created controversy this month by hiring Jenny McCarthy — an actress-model, author, and activist who promotes the discredited idea that vaccines cause autism — to blog online five days a week and write a weekly print advice column about sex, love, dating, and parenting.”

Like McCarthy and her vaccines cause autism theory, mercury scare mongers have for decades terrified consumers in the U.S. with unsubstantiated tales. This they did while ignoring the fact that people in Japan eat as much as 10 times more fish per capita than Americans but don’t have the apparent epidemic of neurological problems that they should, if the tales were true. CJR explains the fear of giving McCarthy yet another platform this way:

“It was the possibility that McCarthy might be writing parenting advice that most worried people. Despite popular support for the theory, science is certain: There is absolutely no link between vaccines and autism.”

What’s more the director of the Women in Science & Engineering Program at the University of Illinois at Chicago, derides McCarthy in the CJR as having, “built a career on anti-science rhetoric” noting “for someone of her stature to have a platform like this is really dangerous.”

Meanwhile the CJR points to the headline on a blog post about McCarthy, written by a former medical writer at the San Jose Mercury News that reads, “Chicago Sun-Times Hires Jenny McCarthy as Columnist. Science Weeps.”

As the anti-mercury, scare-story crusaders continue their journey into obscurity it would behoove them to take a look in the mirror. Staring back they may find the reflection of Jenny McCarthy.  A pretty façade, no doubt, but one that hides an ugly underside of marginalized anti-science.

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