A Fact-Check for the Four-Color World

Thursday, July 21, 2005

The Daily Show Disappoints

This isn't comic-related in the least, but since I imagine a certain amount of folks out there are "Daily Show" viewers, I felt compelled to share this.

Last night, Jon Stewart's guest was Robert F. Kennedy Jr., who talked about how thimerosal, a mercury-based preservative once common in vaccines, is linked to autism in children. Here's one quote of Kennedy's from the interview: "If you actually read the science...the science is overwhelming that there is a link between the autism and the thimerosal."

Now you may not have picked up on this, since Stewart didn't dispute his guest's allegations at any time during the interview, but RFKJr is lying through his teeth.

For starters, here's a few of the organizations who are not convinced of any such link: the FDA, the CDC, the World Health Organization, UK's Health Protection Agency, the European Medicines Agency, and the the Danish Epidemiology Science Centre.

Kennedy referred to an article he wrote for Rolling Stone and Salon last month. Regarding that, I can only recommend the responses from Respectful Insolence and the Skeptic's Dictionary and Skeptico. In fact, Skeptico has an entire section devoted to anti-vaccination hysteria that's worth a look. The New York Times also has a very good article on the subject.

If you'd prefer some back-and-forth debate, I got most of the health organization links above from this thread debate. Note who cites recognized health agencies and who cites quacks and anti-thimerosal websites while claiming the CDC is part of a propaganda conspiracy.

You want it all summed up in one point? OK, here goes: real scientists submit their research and papers to peer-reviewed journals. Now look at the 'science' linking thimerosal and autism, and see how many have been published in legitimate scientific journals.

I must admit, though, that I take some amusement in Kennedy's Simpsonwood conference conspiracy theory, since that's only a few miles from my home.

I'm most disappointed in Jon Stewart. He's long made a habit of calling guests on the table over unsupported allegations. Sure it's a comedy show, but he can ask the tough questions. I expect him to give a hard time to a creation scientist or a person who claims cell phones cause cancer, but he played right along with Kennedy's nonsense.

Update: Skeptico breaks down the Daily Show interview.