Friday, February 01, 2013

Why Is Jenny McCarthy Going to Ottawa?

The Ottawa Regional Cancer Foundation raises money to support cancer research and treatment. Here's their Mission Statement.
The Ottawa Regional Cancer Foundation is dedicated to increasing cancer survivorship in Eastern Ontario. We unite those who want to be active in the fight for cancer survivorship, drawing on their expertise and resources to fund the gaps between what can be done and what is being done to reduce suffering and death due to cancer in Eastern Ontario. We support cancer care and research to prevent, detect, diagnose and cure cancer.
Part of their yearly fundraising effort involves "Bust a Move for Breast Health," a "day-long fitness extravaganza" that usually involves a celebrity fitness person. This year they invited Jenny McCarthy the well-known opponent of child vaccinations.

As you might imagine, this move has not been universally praised by rational people. The Ottawa Citizen wrote an interesting piece questioning the wisdom of inviting a quack to an event sponsored by a cancer society [Anti-vaccine crusader Jenny McCarthy to headline Bust a Move Ottawa]. The Center for Inquiry, Canada, and Ottawa Skeptics sent the following letter to the organizers of "Bust a Move."
To Bernice Rachkowski
Leadership Committee Chair
Bust a Move 2013

Dear Ms Rachkowski,

We are greatly disappointed to hear of your decision to select Jenny McCarthy as headliner for the Bust a Move fundraiser this year. As pointed out by the Ottawa Citizen, Ms. McCarthy is well-known for her outspoken support for deeply unscientific and anti-health claims regarding vaccination and autism. As such, she is entirely unsuitable to represent a cancer charity such as the Ottawa Regional Cancer Foundation, and we ask you to please reconsider this unwise invitation.

McCarthy has claimed for years that vaccines cause autism, ignoring copious scientific evidence that there is no such connection. She has used her celebrity to spearhead a public campaign to discredit childhood vaccination, a medical advance responsible for saving millions of lives every year. Her celebrity status - which you cite as the reason for your invitation - has helped her to persuade large numbers of parents to leave their children defenceless against potentially lethal illnesses such as measles and whooping cough. The dangers of such reckless misinformation have become increasingly apparent in recent years with the tragically unnecessary resurgence of several of these diseases.

McCarthy’s campaign against vaccinations should be of particular concern to the ORCF, for declining vaccination rates have an impact on cancer and cancer survival rates. The HPV vaccine, which shows great promise in reducing the incidence of cervical and other cancers, has met with resistance and disappointingly low uptake rates, in part because of the public distrust of vaccination sown by celebrities such as Jenny McCarthy. Moreover, the reduction in herd immunity caused by wide-scale refusal to vaccinate children poses a very real threat to the survival of immunocompromised cancer patients.

By inviting Jenny McCarthy to participate in your fundraiser, you raise her profile within the community, and implicitly give support to her anti-vaccination efforts. Even though she may not mention these views as part of your event, she will gain credibility from association with such a reputable and well-liked charity as the Ottawa Regional Cancer Foundation. At the same time, you bring yourself into disrepute by inviting such a controversial figure to play a prominent part in your campaign. As members of the medical, scientific, and skeptical communities, we cannot help but question the judgement of an organization that would extend such an invitation.

It is not too late. You are reported in the Ottawa Citizen to have said that you would be surprised if people were upset by your invitation of Ms McCarthy. This was clearly a miscalculation. We hope that you will recognize the error that you have made and restore public trust in your organization by rescinding this invitation.


Michael Payton, National Executive Director, Centre for Inquiry Canada

Iain Martel and Steve Livingston, Co-chairs, Committee for the Advancement of Scientific Skepticism

Chris Hebbern, Chair, Ottawa Skeptics

Seanna Watson, Chair, Centre for Inquiry Ottawa
What can you do? Here's some of the things you can do. I've already written to Linda Eagan.
Dear Freethinkers,

The upcoming fundraising event "Bust a Move", held regionally in Ottawa is planning to host Anti-Vaccination Advocate Jenny McCarthy as a headline speaker. McCarthy's writings have contributed substantially to the belief that Vaccines cause Autism and Cancer. Together with CFI Ottawa, CASS and our allies at Ottawa Skeptics we have released the statement below.

Here are three great ways to help motivate the organizers at "Bust a Move" to rethink their choice of speaker:

1) Tweet your thoughts to the event organizers at @OttawaCancer and be sure to use the hashtag #dropjenny

2) Read - the Ottawa Citizen's excellent coverage here and leave a comment expressing your dissatisfaction

3) Write to Ottawa Cancer CEO Linda Eagen - and voice your opinion.


  1. Meh, those lukewarm quotes from the Autism Ontario person are a bit disappointing. She doesn't quite endorse McCarthy, but she seems happy enough to have her on their side.

    Note to autistics and families thereof: quack-med advocates are not your friends.

  2. Dear Freethinkers, feel free to think freely as long as you freely think what I tell you to.

    1. Dear religionists, please don't think at all, and just uncritically accept this unsupported, preconcieved conclusion... OR ELSE.

    2. Just because religionists are told what to believe doesn't mean freethinkers need to follow suit. And how much worse is it when self-described freethinkers simply parrot what they're told without a moment's, ahem, thought.

    3. I'll bet being the world's only genuine freethinker makes you feel really, really smug. Am I right?

    4. So if 2 or more freethinkers are in agreement on any particular issue then this is because they are being told what to think ?

      It couldn't possibly be that they applied evidence and critical thinking (real critical thinking, not the rubbish you spout) and came to the conclusion that uncritical acceptance of Jenny McCarthy's claims have resulted in the needless deaths of other human beings ?

      Your ideas really are repugnant and you apparently pay no heed to the real world consequences of your nasty words. You are a miserable excuse for a human being.

    5. Give me an example of some idea of mine that is repugnant, and sketch briefly, if you would, the real word consequences of me espousing it?

    6. Larry Flint:

      I don't know you from the non-existent Adam but the idea that people who encourage others to learn about science and help them to do it are equivalent to people who either recite ancient books as authoratative or who close their minds to anything that contradicts their uninformed opinions is repugnant. The real world consequences of espousing such views are that it encourages others to listen to washed-up never-weres instead of people who have actual knowledge and are willing to share it. McCarthy and her ilk are responsible for children dying of measles, whooping cough and other diseases, otherwise preventable, that far exceed any complications of vaccinations.

      Real enough for you?

    7. I'm pretty sure "Larry" Flint was unintentional, but you may have meant this fellow?
      Anyway you look at it, I don't imagine that anyone was flattered by the mix-up. ;)

    8. @JohnParrot(or something)

      I would argue the contrary - I would argue that zealots like you undermine science by constantly connecting it with, or treating it as one and the same as, all sorts of wild metaphysical speculation, and that this, allied with your arrogant, deliberately offensive, and unnecessarily confrontational demeanor as you go about your business of belittling many things you clearly know nothing about (in order to further your religio-political agenda), have led to a lot of animosity and distrust of science in general. Moreover, your constant and ridiculous slanders on humanity (pollution, chemical scum, accident etc.) make it very hard to believe you actually care a jot for children's lives (I mean, who cares about chemical scum, right?) and look to me instead like just one more offensive attempt to force your metaphysical nonsense onto everyone else by portraying anyone who disagrees in any way as a child murderer - exactly the kind of thing referred to in my first point just above. Many people, and not just religious people, are simply sick of the sound of your stupid voice.

    9. I'm sure that Larry Flynt is not in the least flattered by the comparison.

    10. @Oberski
      Still waiting for you to back up your silly accusation that my ideas are liable to cause the downfall of civilization or whatever guff it was you spouted. Zzzzz.

    11. Luther (slip of the ... um ... tongue at Larry's blog) Flynt:

      Boy, I said I didn't know anything about you but you seem to know everything about me ... or not. And we are supposed to be the arrogant ones!

      But vaccines are metaphysics? Or was your "point" supposed to be that preventing children dying from preventable diseases requires a metaphysical commitment to science? And are you actually saying that saving children from preventable disease is turning people against science? Well, excuse us!

    12. @Parrot
      I know enough about you from your preposterous post to say what I did with a high degree of confidence that I am right. Anyway, no, vaccines aren't metaphysics. And no, the metaphysical commitment is not to science. And no again, saving children's lives is not what is turning people against science. What turns people against science is, eg, the unedifying sight of so-called serious scientists cavorting naked in front of churches with only a copy of the Origin to hide their modest modesty every time some new fossil is found. What turns people against science is clowns like Lawrence Krauss pretending to have explained how stuff can come from nothing and then abusing all those in the academic community who pointed out he was just making it up and didn't really understand what he was talking about. What turns people against science is arses like Dawkins claiming religion is (like) a (brain) virus and exempting the theory of evolution (and every other idea he likes) from the same description. And, on a lighter note, what turns people against science is the outrageous continuing use of data obtained by the hideous torture of people without any mention of how the data was obtained and without any apology from any scientific organisation to those who were so tortured in order to obtain said data. So it's some mixture of these, and 101 other, kinds of things.

    13. And now Luther deploys the Gish Gallop from his creotard toolkit.

      Getting tired of the logical fallacies are we ?

    14. Tired of yours for sure. Where are these repugnant beliefs I espouse that cause death and destruction on a daily basis. Or were you just talking out your arse as usual? Well, we already know the answer to that.

  3. Subject: McCarthy Dropped from Ottawa Cancer Event - A Victory for Skeptical Activists
    From: "Centre for Inquiry Canada"
    Date: Fri, February 1, 2013 5:10 pm

    Anti-Vaccination Advocate Jenny McCarthy dropped from Ottawa Cancer Event

    Dear Freethinkers,

    As a result of pressure from CFI Canada and other Skeptic Organizations, Ottawa Cancer Foundation has just confirmed
    that they will be removing Jenny McCarthy as the headline speaker for "Bust a Move 2013." This was only made possible
    through the coordinated efforts of CASS , the strong leadership at CFI Ottawa and our great friends at Ottawa Skeptics

    We also want to thank CFI Advisor Dr. Joe Schwarcz for offerring his commentary for the MacLeans Magazine Article on
    this topic and for the many of you who tweeted, wrote in or otherwise expressed your concern to the event organizers.

    Now that the dust has settled and we've won, we should all me congratulating the Organizer's at "Bust a Move" for
    doing the right thing. Changing speakers on short notice isn't easy so let's be sure to give them a hand for their

    1) Tweet your congratulations to the event organizers at @OttawaCancer and be sure to use the hashtag #dropjenny

    2) Make a small donation to their fundraiser . Cancer is a horrible disease and aside from their misstep, we at CFI
    Canada want the event to succeed and for them to reach their goals.

    3) Write to Ottawa Cancer CEO Linda Eagen - and thank her for her decision to support reason
    and science

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