Mounting criticism of CBS News stories on vaccine dangers

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panic1.jpgJournalist/author Seth Mnookin has studied – as he calls it – “the myth that vaccines somehow cause developmental disorders” and has written a book, “The Panic Virus: A True Story of Medicine, Science and Fear.”

In the past few days, Mnookin has blogged twice – on Jan. 28 – and on January 29 about what he calls “the persistence of disinformation” in the reporting by CBS News’ Sharyl Attkisson on vaccines.

He writes that CBS posted a story, “Child Flu Vaccine Seizures?” that included a link to a paper that:

“…didn’t say anything about vaccine-related febrile seizures. In fact, her recent work has showed the high risks of not vaccinating: A December 2010 study in the Archives of Neurology on which Brooks-Kayal was one of the authors detailed “a high rate of serious complications from the H1N1 flu in pediatric patients with neurological problems, particularly recurrent seizures (epilepsy), emphasizing why it is so important for children to receive this vaccination.”

This isn’t the first time Attkisson’s reporting on the issue of vaccine safety has been particularly troubling. In this case, when CBS was alerted to the problem, the network took a page from Rolling Stone’s playbook: In the piece’s current posted version, that last paragraph has simply…disappeared. In my opinion, that’s a weasely way to deal with mistakes. (It’s one reason why I posted corrections to all of my books on my site.) By not publicly acknowledging that she screwed up, Attkisson is not taking responsibility for the disinformation she helped to spread.

And make no mistake: It did (and continues to) spread: For more than a day now, the entire piece has been reprinted, word for word, on Age of Autism — last paragraph and all.”

I’ve blogged in the past about concerns about Attkisson’s reporting on these issues.

I linked to a Respectful Insolence blog post that called her “CBS resident anti-vaccine propagandist.”

I linked to a Science-Based Medicine blog post that called a CBS vaccine story “credulous, noncritical, misinformation.”

And I wrote about how CBS was presenting only one side of the story.

I hope someone at CBS is paying attention.

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February 5, 2011 at 3:35 pm

Several years ago, a vaccine advocacy group faxed a complaint about Attkisson to her bosses at CBS News. That very same day, a copy of the fax was published at, a notorious anti-vaccine website.
From Orac’s blog:
“CBS News clearly has a problem. Whether it’s Sharyl Attkisson (most likely) or someone else, there is a someone so sympathetic to antivaccine groups in its organization that he or she leaked a FAX to CBS almost instantaneously after it was received.”