SEATTLE – A local pediatrician hopes actress and model Jenny McCarthy, new cohost of “The View,” won't be discussing her controversial and possibly dangerous views on autism at her new gig.
After much speculation in the national media, Barbara Walters announced Monday that McCarthy will be joining the cast of The View as a co-host.
McCarthy drew attention from the medical community in 2007 with claims that her son Evan’s autism was caused by childhood immunizations. For years she spoke out in support of Dr. Andrew Wakefield, whose work was later called an “elaborate fraud” by the British medical journal BMJ. She is also president of Generation Rescue, a nonprofit providing assistance to families affected by autism.
The View has received significant backlash since Monday’s announcement from those concerned McCarthy now has a new platform for dishing out medical advice. There have been several online campaigns urging the show to reconsider their hiring.
“Jenny has a track record of using very loud microphones to discuss her theories,” said Dr. Wendy Sue Swanson, a pediatrician at Seattle Children’s Hospital. “We will be deconstructing her message for years and years.”
While McCarthy’s claims about her son are memorable, Swanson urges the public to remember the actress does not have any medical expertise.
“Although she may be called on to talk about science or health she doesn’t have any training,” Swanson said. “She can’t represent scientific data in the way a physician can.”
Since Wakefield’s claims about autism were discredited, Swanson said families seem less fearful of vaccines than they were years ago.
“People are more in the middle now,” Swanson said. “They’re not quite as scared as they were, and that’s to the credit of pediatricians. We’re working on trying to get the truth to surface.”
It is unknown whether McCarthy plans to discuss medical topics on “The View,” but Swanson said responding to celebrity comments on health is just part of her job.
“What we want is an open, honest discussion to the real risks and benefits of vaccines,” Swanson said. “Jenny’s stories have exaggerated myths and distorted the true ability of families to weigh the risks against the benefits. We can hope that she’ll talk more about her modeling career - since that’s what she knows .”