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Brian Deer on CNN, responds to Andrew Wakefield’s wild charges

Posted Jan 06 2011 5:38pm

Brian Deer is the investigative reporter who broke the story of the research fraud that Andrew Wakefield conducted in his autism/MMR studies. Andrew Wakefield made some serious charges against Mr. Deer yesterday, claiming ” He is a hit man. He’s been brought in to take me down because they are very, very concerned about the adverse reactions to vaccines that are occurring to children. Who brought this man in, who is paying this man, I don’t know.”

Mr. Deer was interviewed on CNN today. Here is that segment:

here is the transcript

CHETRY: Yes. And so, this is certainly a bombshell of a story this morning. The study that linked the MMR vaccine to autism caused shock waves when he it was published back in 1988 in the medical journal “Lancet.” But by 2004, most of the paper’s co-authors had withdrawn their support. Then last February, “Lancet” retracted that report saying the research was, quote, “unethical.” Last summer, Dr. Wakefield was then barred from practicing medicine in Britain.

And Brian Deer is the investigative journalist who really blew the lid off of this story. And he joins us live from London this morning.

Brian, good morning.


CHETRY: One of the things I want to ask is: what is the—what was the most motivation then for Dr. Wakefield to falsely link autism to the MMR vaccine in that initial study?

DEER: Well, I believe that his motivation was essentially to make money. Initially to make money from litigation, he was retained as an expert in a lawsuit for which we know he was paid three quarters of a million U.S. dollars. But he also had all kinds of business interests which he thought would make considerably more money through promoting the scare and promoting public anxiety through over the MMR vaccine.

CHETRY: And then the question seems to be: why would there be all of these other co-authors? And why would it make its way into a prestigious journal like “Lancet” and really shape the discussion and the fears about autism linked to vaccine?

DEER: Well, that’s one of the great weaknesses of medicine and medical publishing, is that people can publish things that are false. People talk about peer review and such like. And they imagine they’re some kind of safety system. But, in fact, the whole system works on trust. His co-authors didn’t know which child was which in the study that he published.

And so, it is actually possible for determined cheat to get away with the kind of behavior that Dr. Wakefield has been involved in.

CHETRY: Well, Dr. Wakefield is still continuing to stand by his study and his findings. Anderson Cooper actually talked to him last night. He went after you. He accused you of being part of a conspiracy to discredit him.

Let’s just listen to a bit of what he said. Also, he claimed that you were getting paid to do this—to do this investigation. Let’s listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, CNN’S ANDERSON COOPER 360) DR. ANDREW WAKEFIELD, ACCUSED OF FAKING AUTISM RESEARCH: I have read his multiple allegations on many occasions. He is a hit man. He’s been brought in to take me down because they are very, very concerned about the adverse reactions to vaccines that are occurring to children. Who brought this man in, who is paying this man, I don’t know.


CHETRY: Did you have a financial interest in doing this investigation, Brian?

DEER: I’ve been an investigative journalist working for “The Sunday Times of London” since the early 1980s.

The point you have to remember about this whole issue is, firstly, that it’s not me saying this. It’s the editors of the “BMJ,” a very prestigious medical journal who peer reviewed and checked of the facts which we put forward in our investigation this week. So, it’s not me saying it. It’s the editors of that journal who are behind this.

But secondly, this material has been published in the United Kingdom in extraordinary detail. If it is true that Andrew Wakefield is not guilty as charged, he has the remedy of bringing a liable action against myself, against “The Sunday Times of London,” against the “British Medical Journal,” against television networks here—and he would be the richest man in America.


CHETRY: But he’s alleging that you were being paid to do this article. I mean, you were paid, right, because you were a journalist?

DEER: I was commissioned by the “British Medical Journal” to write the piece, yes. That’s what the journalists do.

CHETRY: What about “The Sunday Times of London” and Channel 4 in Britain?

DEER: I work for them. Right. Yes, of course, they pay, I’m a journalist. I was hired to do a job, like you are.

CHETRY: Right.

DEER: You are being paid to your job and I’m being paid to do my job.

CHETRY: Thank goodness.

The bottom line, though, is he’s questioning your motivations for going after him? Clearly, what are your motivations for going after Dr. Wakefield and his study?

DEER: It was simply a journalist assignment given to me late in 2003. A simple journalistic assignment which I expected would last a week or two weeks. And it just completely opened up when Dr. Wakefield began what we know has established a campaign of lies. When you’re a journalist and you see somebody you’re dealing is lying to you, then you pursue it. He then sued me. He was then required to may my costs. So, I received a check on his behalf, the previous false lawsuit that he began.

And now, what he’s trying to do, cloud the picture by—in the same way as he used to cloud the picture by saying some doctors say the vaccine is safe. Some doctors say it isn’t safe.

Now, what he’s trying to do is to say, well, some people say that he’s a liar and he says that I’m a liar.

CHETRY: Right.

DEER: So, what he’s trying to basically do is to split the difference. On that basis, he can work a nice living which he’s got going. You should see him in Jamaica this weekend, which he’s having a marvelous sometime on the expense of parents of autistic children.

CHETRY: Well, I want to ask you about that. What has been the impact of this safety on calling into question the safety worldwide of certain vaccines?

DEER: Oh, it’s been absolutely devastating because he and a little clique of lawyers and activists around, anti-vaccine activists around him, have been able to spread anxiety, to export it from the United Kingdom, bring it across the Atlantic, the United States, with the result, we’re now seeing parents anxious about vaccination. We’ve seen just the worst outbreak of whooping cough in California since the 1950s.

CHETRY: Are we going to understand autism and what causes it, though? Because we have seen this rise, 50 percent from 2002 to 2006 in children identified with autism spectrum disorder? I mean, why is it increasing like this?

DEER: Well, I’m a journalist, I’m not a doctor. And I don’t give medical advice. I can say from what I understand talking to doctors and scientists is that the (INAUDIBLE) conditions which cause autism, autisms, neurological problems in children, are very complex issues. And science just doesn’t have the answer.

So when someone like Dr. Wakefield comes along that gives a simple answer that blames other people, blames drug companies, now blames me, it’s all my fault, a very small number of parents become misled by that and cling to this. Because their choice is basically blame somebody else or suffer the possibility that they’re left with the guilt of thinking it was their fault that they vaccinated their child. So, it’s a very vulnerable group that Dr. Wakefield preys on.

CHETRY: Well, your reporting certainly is getting attention this morning. All of it is going to be out there along with the editorial as well. We look forward to seeing all of this.

Brian Deer, thanks for joining us this morning.

DEER: Thank you.

  1. Mrs P. A. Sutton:
    I am neither a doctor nor a journalist. I am a 'Nan' with a grandaughter aged 10; incontinent; without speech; in daily distess from colonic pain and other problems - all developing after measles vaccine was given. If Brian Deer had to watch helplessly as a loved one writhed about screaming in pain on a daily basis, he would perhaps be supportive of ANYONE making an attempt to find a possible cause. Dr Wakefield has never been ANTI MMR or anything else. He is PRO looking into possible causes of such distress. It is time doctors (and Brian Deer, and 'the Pharma') did something towards investigating the REAL problem (the possible causes of autism and associated pain and distress) instead of lashing out at those trying to do this. There are times when I am ashamed of British justice.
  2. Nightstorm:
    If Brian Deer had to watch helplessly as a loved one writhed about screaming in pain on a daily basis, he would perhaps be supportive of ANYONE making an attempt to find a possible cause. Personally as adult with autism, I would like it if parents stop turning us into puppets of pity, so they can look like some brave selfless heroes. Emotion is not going to going to find causes or help your grandaughter. Emotion did nothing to help me or my mothers moanings about how hard it is to deal with me and her musings about sending me to a group home because she is had "no idea what to do with me." and I am what the public calls a "High Functioning Autist" Emotion and pity mongering does jack. I never did, and it honestly does more harm than good. I want to see scientists and professionals stop bitching over 'Causes" and look at the facts that we have rising number of autistic people and we have NOTHING to support them. No vocational training, no more effective or personalized education, no independent support services. Jack. Shit. It's more disturbing than the vaccine jargon.
  3. Sullivan:
    Mrs P. A. Sutton, Brian Deer isn't "lashing out" at those trying to find the causes of autism. He is pointing out, correctly so, that Mr. Wakefields claimed attempt to find a cause was fraudulent. Mr. Wakefield has accomplished nothing in 15 years of working with the autism community. No real research, no treatments, no advancement of knowledge. Nothing. His one attempt at a contribution was, again, a fraud. He has since been trying to repair his reputation.
  4. Squillo:
    Ms. Sutton: If anything, Mr. Wakefield has contributed to a delay finding the cause or causes of autism by misdirecting attention and research monies to pursue, and continuing to promote, a bogus hypothesis; one, it now appears, that was designed from the very beginning simply to enrich himself at the expense of families like yours and mine. He continues to enrich himself at the expense of families with autism. I would hazard a guess that he is able to make a far more comfortable living as a celebrity of sorts, doing what he currently does than when he was actually practicing medicine or pursuing valid research.
  5. Joseph:
    It is time doctors (and Brian Deer, and ‘the Pharma’) did something towards investigating the REAL problem (the possible causes of autism and associated pain and distress) instead of lashing out at those trying to do this.
    @Mrs Sutton: In case the facts aren't clear enough, Wakefield never tried to investigate anything at all. What he did try to do is cash in by means of research fraud. The documentation is quite clear, and so far undisputed. I'm not sure what's so difficult to get about this.

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