Jake Crosby: "SafeMinds Ignores Major Allegations While Replying Dishonestly to Other Charges"
Posted Feb 01 2013 12:00am
Editor's note: I declined to run Contributing
Editor Jake Crosby's original article on this topic for reasons outlined here.
Since then, it appeared elsewhere and generated a great deal of comment within our community (and without). We subsequently ran a statement from SafeMinds , the
object of the original piece. Now Jake has asked us to run this
follow-up. Given that the subject is on the table, and that this article
would presumably appear elsewhere in any event, I decided to run it, unedited. -- Dan
By Jake Crosby
On November 29th, SafeMinds
hijacked the Dan Burton Congressional Hearing on autism and vaccines by
pretending to represent autism parent and scientist Dr. Brian Hooker ,
and by changing the topic away from vaccines - thus opening the door to autism
epidemic denialists among other vaccine program apologists. On its website and
on Age of Autism, SafeMinds
responded to my Bolen Report article “SafeMinds
Steals The Show, Literally…” claiming that what I wrote about the
organization were “false allegations.” However, they provided no proof that any
of them were false, completely ignoring some of the more serious allegations.
Instead, SafeMinds’ response was a hodgepodge of outright
falsehoods, obfuscation, and straw man arguments. The organization claimed to
have developed a “professional relationship” with the House Committee on
Oversight and Government Reform (COGR). Who knows what they mean by that? What SafeMinds
never addressed, however, was the fact that no one from the organization was
present when COGR Chair Darrell Issa committed to holding hearings on autism
causation and the vaccine program in a May 18, 2012 meeting with other
congressmen, congressional staffers and Dr. Brian Hooker.
The following claim by SafeMinds
is completely false:
“When SafeMinds became
aware of allegations our organization inappropriately represented ourselves or
used undue or untoward influence with congressional staff at the COGR to create
desired outcomes, we immediately began an investigation.”
Within my own article, I quote Dr. Brian Hooker when he
brought this issue up to SafeMinds' Executive Director Eric Uram on December
“I tried to explain
this to Eric Uram, but he used a lot of double-speak on the phone to deny it.”
This is hardly an immediate investigation.
then claims to have exonerated itself by speaking with the congressional staff
that organized the hearing and being “assured that nothing undue or untoward
occurred in conversations with SafeMinds.” Well, these congressional staffers
are the very folks SafeMinds fooled; so of course they didn't notice anything
“undue or untoward in conversations with SafeMinds.” Had they noticed, the
hearing might have had a much better outcome.
Now, the next two sentences appear to be a tacit admission
that indeed SafeMinds-hired, scientology-tied lobbyist Beth Clay did in fact
misrepresent herself to staffers:
“At no time did
SafeMinds misrepresent our organizational affiliations to congressional staff.
At no time did SafeMinds or any of our affiliates seek the recision of Brian
Hooker’s invitation to testify before the COGR.”
While the first sentence makes very clear that “SafeMinds”
did not misrepresent itself to congressional staff, the second sentence states
that at no time did “SafeMinds or any of
our affiliates (ie Beth Clay)” try to rescind Brian Hooker's invitation to
testify (boldface mine).
If Beth Clay really wasn't misrepresenting Dr. Hooker, SafeMinds
would have been consistent and referred to both the organization and its
“affiliates” as not misrepresenting him to the staffer or having him uninvited
to give testimony. The fact that SafeMinds only included the reference to its
affiliates for the latter sentence but not the former indicates that indeed
Beth Clay had in fact misrepresented Dr. Hooker to staffers. (Furthermore, the
latter sentence is a straw man argument; I did not accuse SafeMinds of trying
to rescind Dr. Hooker’s invitation to testify.)
As a matter of fact, Clay openly admitted
to narrowly defining Hooker’s role as a mere provider of information
and not a key player in resurrecting the Dan Burton autism-vaccine hearings with
Congressman Issa, as evidenced by her email from which I quoted other excerpts
in my previous article:
“In many meetings over
the last year I have explained to others including Congressional staff that the
community works in a collaboratory fashion, different groups and individuals
taking on specific issues and developing areas of focus. I have been very clear
that you picked the FOIA issue as the one you would be point on, something
folks from the entire autism community, and myself greatly appreciate.”
Clay essentially admits that she represented herself to
congressional staff (and who knows who else?) by speaking on behalf of this
fictitious collaboration led by SafeMinds ,
in which Brian Hooker supposedly played one very specific role that did not
include testifying before Congress.
But as I previously cited, Dr. Hooker corrected her:
“We never collaborated,
What does Clay, or SafeMinds
for that matter, think the net result of her actions will be? The net result,
of course, is exactly what happened: Dr. Brian Hooker not being invited to
testify and SafeMinds Government Affairs Committee Chair Mark Blaxill
testifying instead, not to mention SafeMinds successful changing of the topic
of the hearing away from vaccines.
On several occasions, I informed Mark Blaxill of Clay's
misrepresentation of Dr. Hooker to congressional staff. Blaxill responded that
Clay was reporting to others within SafeMinds , but not to him.
He later claimed that he had very little knowledge of Clay’s activities
“through November,” stating that his primary political activities were with
Canary Party members. Yet according to SafeMinds’ Communications Committee
Chair, Beth Clay was helping Mark Blaxill write his congressional testimony.
Despite Dr. Hooker’s very disturbing accusations, there is no
indication that SafeMinds
intends to get rid of Clay as its hired lobbyist. Why would SafeMinds keep her
on if it never intended for her to misrepresent Dr. Hooker to congressional
staff as collaborating with SafeMinds? Perhaps that's exactly what SafeMinds
completely avoided responding to the allegation that it changed the topic of
the hearing from autism causation and the vaccine program to the “federal
response” to the autism epidemic. This wrong-headed strategy, which resulted in
autism epidemic denialists being invited to the hearing, is reason enough to
eliminate SafeMinds from future hearings. Instead, SafeMinds created another
straw man – that the only organization SafeMinds tried to get involved in the
hearing was SafeMinds. My article never accused SafeMinds of trying to have
representatives from the autism epidemic denialist groups ASAN and GRASP or
vaccine program apologist groups ASA and Autism Speaks (even though SafeMinds'
President Sallie Bernard serves on Autism Speaks’ board).
The fact is, Congress would have had no reason to invite any
of these groups had SafeMinds
not changed the topic of the hearing. So Dr. Brian Hooker is probably not the
only person whom SafeMinds prevented from testifying.
SafeMinds' response to my criticism that Blaxill’s testimony
left out vaccines was comic gold. According to SafeMinds ,
the autism community is supposed to be satisfied with vaccines and mercury
being referred to as “Great unmentionables...causation factors” in response to
a follow-up question. Yet, the very members of Congress Blaxill was supposed to
be briefing were the only ones who aggressively challenged vaccine safety that
I had also pointed out that SafeMinds
informed the Coalition for Mercury-Free Drugs ’(CoMeD’s)
Dr. Mark Geier of a
congressional briefing SafeMinds held on May 18, 2012, only to set up a
security trap against him and his son David, also of CoMeD, retroactively
minimizing their opportunity to participate because they want to be paid for
work they've done as expert witnesses. Does SafeMinds reserve that right as
well? How does it expect lawsuits to be won against the government in vaccine
court if expert witnesses like Dr. Mark and David Geier aren't paid for their
work? You can't win a lawsuit without expert witnesses. And yet, SafeMinds
calls the decision to exclude them “outstanding” without explaining why.
repeatedly accuses me of breaching “standard confidentiality.” However, there
was no binding agreement or even a discussion of keeping e-mails and conversations
confidential when I joined SafeMinds' Government Affairs Committee. I stated up
front in my article on the Bolen Report that I had thought long and hard about
sharing private email exchanges, doing so only because I felt it was warranted,
considering the damage to the congressional autism hearings that SafeMinds has
wrought. I was not obliged to follow any confidentiality standards, nor was Dan
Olmsted when he revealed Tim Bolen's email without permission.
The only time the issue of privacy came up was after the fact
- when Mark Blaxill asked me if I wanted to stay on SafeMinds' Government
Affairs Committee after he had learned of my article, indicating I could not
remain on it if I publish discussions. I responded that I would not be participating
on the committee anymore, to which Blaxill replied:
“Sounds good. I’ll take
you off the distribution list.”
After falsely accusing me of “breaching confidentiality,” SafeMinds
then accuses me of taking emails from its members “out of context,” but never
says how any of them were taken out of context.
Attempting to take credit for coming up with the thimerosal
argued that its year 2000 paper "Autism: A unique type of mercury
poisoning" was the first reported link between mercury and autism.
(SafeMinds claims the article was also published in the journal Molecular
Psychiatry. However, a search for the article in the journal archives yields no
Though a well-researched review article, “Autism: A unique
type of mercury poisoning” was not the first reported link between mercury and
autism as SafeMinds
claims. The first reported link was made in 1999 by CDC’s own Epidemic
Intelligence Service Officer Dr.
Thomas Verstraeten , showing that early thimerosal exposure multiplies the
risk of classic autism by 7.62-fold .
This remarkable finding was obtained via FOIA request, but would not resurface
until five years later when it was discovered not by anyone at SafeMinds, but
by David Geier.
in stark contrast, sat on this data for years. In fact, SafeMinds did not
discover the FOIA-obtained or leaked information that definitively proved the
thimerosal-autism cover-up. Like David Geier, Dr. Brian Hooker exposed the
private emails between Poul
Thorsen and his colleagues showing that they had suppressed the fact that
autism prevalence and incidence was declining after thimerosal’s removal from
vaccines in Denmark. The IOM
meeting minutes showed that the IOM report rejecting autism causation by
vaccination was pre-empted from the start as a result of undue intervention by
CDC; these minutes were obtained as the result of an anonymous leak.
In fact, SafeMinds
has a stake in not mentioning any of this information at risk of highlighting
the uncomfortable fact that none of it was discovered by anyone at SafeMinds,
which perhaps sees itself as competing with other advocates and advocacy
groups, not collaborating with them as claimed by Beth Clay. Bringing up the
IOM leaks would be especially awkward for SafeMinds since its president and
Bernard sits on the board of Autism
Speaks , which has endorsed the IOM’s whitewash of the vaccine-autism link.
So SafeMinds has a stake in pretending there is no thimerosal-autism cover-up.
The rest of SafeMinds' response to my article is nothing more
than self-congratulation in which it takes pride in “establishing the
scientific basis on the environmental causes of autism...” Thimerosal – the
mercury based vaccine preservative implicated in autism's rise, not to mention
autism's fall following its removal in some places – went completely
unmentioned, just as it went unmentioned in Mark Blaxill's testimony that
similarly invoked the vague “environmental causes of autism.”
concludes with an expression of gratitude for the autism community's
“continuous support” of SafeMinds. However, “continuous support” was not in
evidence in the comments under several articles that recently ran on this
controversy on Age of Autism. Support may be something SafeMinds hopes for, but
it is not what SafeMinds
Jake Crosby has Asperger Syndrome and is a contributing editor
to Age of Autism. He is a 2011 graduate of Brandeis University with a BA in
both History and Health: Science, Society and Policy. He currently attends The
George Washington University School of Public Health and Health Services where
he is studying for an MPH in epidemiology.