By Jake Crosby
Committee Memberships: Audit (Chair) and Finance (HERE)
Ellen R. Marram was elected to the Board of Directors of The New York Times Company in 1998. Since 2006, Ms. Marram has served as the board’s presiding director.
Ms. Marram also serves on the board of directors of…Eli Lilly and Company. (HERE)
Susan J. DeLuca became vice president, organization capability for The New York Times Company in January 2007. She began her business experience as…a medical representative at Pfizer.
Ms. DeLuca held key leadership and organizational development roles at Glaxo Wellcome where she managed the Glaxo Business School and directed Executive Education. At SmithKline Beecham she was the director of human resource and organization development for consumer healthcare, North America. (HERE)
This could explain why The New York Times has held such a strong position on this controversy, in spite of their superficial grasp of basic facts regarding the debate and complete inability to defend their own positions as evidenced in my exchanges with the newspaper staff. To give you an idea of just what to expect, these folks do not talk like journalists or reporters, not at all. They talk like PR men.
The following is the letter I have sent to Clark Hoyt, NYT public editor, then forwarded to his boss, NYT publisher Arthur Ochs Sulzberger Jr., responses I received from Clark Hoyt and NYT Senior Editor for Standards Greg Brock, along with my rebuttals.
from Jake Crosby < firstname.lastname@example.org >
date Sun, Feb 21, 2010 at 11:14 PM
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date Mon, Mar 8, 2010 at 7:28 PM
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After receiving Hoyt’s unsatisfactory response, I wrote a letter to Sulzberger:
subject Follow-up Re: My Correspondence with Mr. Hoyt
Thank you so much for bringing my letter to the attention of the public editor. I am extremely grateful that you made my concerns known to Mr. Hoyt.
Unfortunately, he did not respond to any points I made beyond the second paragraph of my email. As someone afflicted with an autism spectrum disorder myself, I am especially dismayed by this.
Primarily through health reporter Gardiner Harris, The New York Times has held a firm position on the side of the government and industry regarding a vaccine/autism link, and The Times all but excludes opposing viewpoints, dismissing them as "anti-vaccine" (vaccine safety is not synonymous with anti-vaccine). For the sake of its own credibility and the health of a generation of Americans, however, The Times' should re-examine, with an open mind, its stance on this controversy and be equally receptive to the clear safety concerns expressed by scientists, doctors and parents regarding the government's most heavily promoted drug. My letter to Mr. Hoyt (below) highlights irrefutable evidence that the vaccine/autism link is not only real, but is acknowledged by leading health authorities here and abroad. I implore you to read this.
There is precedent for The New York Times reversing its position with regard to autism causation. The Times portrayed psychoanalyst Bruno Bettelheim, who championed the claim that autism was caused by "refrigerator mothers," as the premiere expert on the disorder - right up to the day after his death. In fact, on February 12, 1967, Bettelheim contributed a major article to The Times entitled "Where Self Begins," prompting a letter in response: "Bettelheim has the right to express his beliefs, but when they are presented in the public print he ought to label them as personal opinions, not to be confused with reality." That letter was written by the late Dr. Bernard Rimland, founder of the Autism Research Institute, who has testified before Congress on the link between autism and vaccinations. The Times has since come around on one of his viewpoints - that autism is not caused by the parents - but has given no consideration to the latter, that vaccination can cause it.
The refusal to consider evidence for an autism/vaccine link is obvious throughout Mr. Hoyt's brief response to me. The only issue I raised that he even acknowledged was the conflict of interest of the reporter in question, Gardiner Harris, whose brother sells lab equipment to drug companies.
Mr. Harris has been writing articles that have overwhelmingly favored government and industry, while criticizing and suppressing the consumer side and the side of proven science. Mr. Hoyt's defense is based solely on government and industry-funded sources such as the Centers for Disease Control and the American Academy of Pediatrics.
He starts by citing a column he wrote two years ago, where he takes the American Broadcasting Company to task for airing an episode of its fictional legal drama, "Eli Stone," during which the main character successfully sues a pharmaceutical company for making a flu shot that contains mercury, causing a child to develop autism. Mr. Hoyt essentially concludes that vaccines do not cause autism, because the government says so.
Ironically, one week after Mr. Hoyt's column ran, David Kirby, author of NY Times Bestseller "Evidence of Harm: Mercury in Vaccines and the Autism Epidemic, a Medical Controversy," broke a story in The Huffington Post about the family of an autistic child, Hannah Poling, being compensated by vaccine court because the government conceded that the five shots she received at once caused her autism. Two of the vaccines contained thimerosal, a total bolus exposure of 50 micrograms of mercury. That's twice the amount in a typical flu shot.
Particularly disturbing is that in my original letter to Mr. Hoyt, I provided a link to a clip from CNN in which the CDC director at the time, Dr. Julie Gerberding, explains to medical reporter Dr. Sanjay Gupta that if children are predisposed like Hannah Poling was, they may receive an adverse reaction to vaccines by way of fever or other immune mechanism, some of the symptoms of which will manifest into characteristics of autism. In other words, she conceded vaccines do cause autism, because the disorder is solely defined by characteristics.
Moreover, Hannah Poling has classic autism as defined in the fourth edition of the Diagnostic Statistical Manuel. Yet, Mr. Hoyt still maintains there is no credible evidence linking vaccines to autism.
Here is credible evidence linking the vaccine preservative thimerosal to autism http://www.autism.com/triggers/vaccine/thimerosalreferences.htm
Here is more credible evidence linking MMR (Measles-Mumps-Rubella) vaccine to autismhttp://www.chem.cmu.edu/wakefield/pro.html
Mr. Hoyt seemed to time his response to me to follow the Reuters report on the recent autism omnibus decisions regarding thimerosal as a possible causal factor of autism. This is a decision all in the autism community were anticipating to come down against the plaintiffs, given the way vaccine court is set up: a system designed to completely shield drug companies from vaccine litigation as it has since the Reagan Administration.
One of the major studies cited in the autism omnibus decision was the well-known Denmark study. One of the coauthors to this study disputing a link between thimerosal and autism, Poul Thorsen, is now under criminal investigation for forgery and fraud. He disappeared with $2 million in expropriated funds, as NBC 11 Atlanta reports, but The New York Times did not report this, even though The Times had previously relied on this study to exonerate thimerosal http://www.11alive.com/video/default.aspx?menuid=149#/News/A+New+Twist+In+The+Controversy+Over+Autism/49906865001/50317397001/71272069001
If one accepted the original premise that the preservative thimerosal in vaccines was the culprit causing rising rates of autism, one would have expected the rates to decrease after thimerosal was removed nine years ago. They have not.
First of all, Mr. Hoyt displays a very basic lack of knowledge concerning this controversy. Thimerosal was not the original premise for the rise in autism rates, the MMR vaccine was. The paper in The Lancet in 1998 which first raised the possibility of an MMR-autism link was published a year before the public even knew that thimerosal was in vaccines, or that it was partially composed of mercury, and three years before studies linking thimerosal to autism even showed up in the medical literature.
Furthermore, his fallacy that autism rates kept increasing after thimerosal was removed so thimerosal cannot cause autism is wrong on both counts.
Autism rates have in fact gone down; artificial changes in the reporting systems, however, skewed new cases towards the youngest age groups, creating an artificial rise in the relevant autism cases. Nonetheless, the decrease is still indirectly seen in the system as a whole. What's more, thimerosal was not immediately removed from some vaccines; it was phased out, and during that time the flu shot became routinely recommended for children. To this day, most flu shots including those given to children still contain the mercury preservative. In fact, I wrote about this for Age of Autism very recently.
Mr. Hoyt is not even acknowledging glaring errors in government and industry studies attempting to exonerate vaccines, nor does he acknowledge studies linking vaccines to autism, the links for which I posted earlier. I am a college blogger with a disability and had no problem tracking down those links. The fact that the public editor of The New York Times is not privy to them suggests he is cherry-picking the facts surrounding this debate.
He then sums up his letter by claiming that the reporter in question, Gardiner Harris, neither has a conflict of interest, nor that The Times' coverage has been in any way inaccurate or irresponsible.
With respect, I disagree. The public editor is not representing the public. I request that you personally investigate this important matter which impacts the health of millions of Americans - and examine it from all perspectives - not just that of government and industry. My original email to Mr. Hoyt and his response are included below. Please read them.
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Dear Mr. Brock,