Monday, April 09, 2007


There are some people in this world who don’t need to use both names to be identified. Oprah is one of those people. She has so woven herself into our culture that the “Winfrey” part of her name has become superfluous. She’s that big a deal. That’s why there was so much anticipation last week leading up to Oprah’s first-ever show on autism.

When the guest line up for the show was announced, it became clear that the episode was not going to focus on cause or controversial treatments, but rather on the challenges of raising autistic children; in other words, it was to be yet another attempt at raising “awareness.” But one of the guests was to be Katie Wright-Hildebrand, which fueled speculation that something just might get uttered that is usually missing from mainstream media: the “v” word.

As most of us are aware, Katie (who has just about become a one-namer in autism circles) is the daughter of former NBC head, Bob Wright. After Katie’s son, Christian, was diagnosed with autism Bob and Suzanne Wright founded Autism Speaks, which has rapidly become the Pac Man of autism organizations, swallowing up other organizations in its path. Although it would be nice to have a single organization that would have a broad-enough outlook to be a clearinghouse, many of us feel that AS does not speak for us. Indeed, mistrust of AS seems to be one of the only views held in common by members of the neurodiversity and biomedical communities.

In any event, it has been the most open of secrets that Katie and her husband, Andreas Hildebrand, believe that vaccinations may have helped trigger their son’s autism, and that they were utilizing biomedical treatments to treat him. Those views do not seem to fit in neatly with the official AS party line, and Katie did not say much about the issue when making any appearances. Lately, however, there were a few rumblings that came close to being public pronouncements. Then came word that Katie was joining the boards of both the National Autism Association and SafeMinds, two organizations that generally share Katie’s opinions on vaccine damage and effective treatments. Those developments fueled anticipation of Katie’s appearance on Oprah, and one question hovered all over the net: would she say it.

I got the call at work. My wife happened to be home and was able to watch the show. My wife was nearly in tears with excitement as her words came over the phone: “She said it!”

It almost didn’t get said. And as we later learned, it would not have been said if the producers had their way. But in the front of the audience, being used as a resource, was Dr. Anshu Batra, and Oprak asked her about causation. While the doctor (reluctantly it appeared) agreed that “environmental” causes may play a role in causation, she flat-out stated that science “has refuted” any connection with vaccines. Dr. Batra didn’t say that “official” reports (fatally flawed reports at that) failed to find a connection, which would have been more accurate but les dramatic; she said it in away to create the impression the connection had been disproved.

And the rest, as they say, is history. Katie asked, and Oprah let her “open the can.” See for yourself the video showing how it all happened here. The go here to Ginger’s blog to read what was said that didn’t make it onto the air.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

so what?
most people who know anything about autism already know about this theory. The rest are just going to wonder about vaccines. The vaccine theory is just a theory. Just like watching too much tv, gene/environment interaction. etc.
why are you so excited? Assuming it was vaccine, Katie just ended up looking like a fruitcake instead of putting her theory forward in an intelligent way. I'm sorry I'm not trying to be rude. I am just saying isn't what we rally want acceptance for our kids first? WE have a long way to go before we have either acceptance or a possible cure or gene therapy........

4/10/07, 8:57 AM  
Blogger jonathan said...

wonder what the vaccine causes autism camp will say when at the end of 2008, when all of the children born after the shelf life of the last thimerosal containing vax ended are 5 years old, when the autism rates are still high. If some study is not done around 2009 or 2010 showing a prevalence of 4/10,000 or less for the 2003 birth cohort they will have some serious explaining to do.

Unfortunately, acceptance is a pipe dream, anonymous, one that won't happen. I say this as a 51 year old man with mild autism who wishes for a cure and does not believe in the neurodiversity movement at all.

4/10/07, 10:58 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I guess by now, you would have the experience to say acceptance is a pipe dream, but as a mother of a 6 year old not so mildly affected son, hope is all I have. I don't believe vaccines caused his autism. In the end all I have is today and hopefully tommorrow. I can't worry about vaccines. I also have a 2 year old and 7 year old who had all their vaccines who are typical.

4/10/07, 11:26 AM  
Blogger Wade Rankin said...


The place of vaccines within the larger umbrella of "environmental causation," and the role of thimerosal within the broader vaccine issue are constantly being studied and better understood. That any part of a very broad hypothesis might be redefined with more knowledge does not equate with utter rejection of the principle. Moreover, I would have to disagree if you are implying that any epidemiological or statistical study would be of anything more than a general help in understanding the scope of the problem.


Although most of us in the autism world knew of the hypothesis, Oprah's show reaches an audience that is sadly ignorant of anything having to do with the epidemic. Moreover, what is usually seen in the mainstream media is a regurgitatin of the official party line, often overstating the line in the same way the doctor did on Oprah (i.e., absence of evidence = evidence of absence). For her part, Oprah at least correctly stated the CDC position without making it seem a closed issue.

Leaving aside the issue of what got edited from the studio conversation, the real impact is two-fold: first that the issue reached the Oprah audience; second, that Autism Speaks may have lost its ability to pussy foot around the issue. All the cards are now on the table.

Finally, let me assure you that I accept my son and love him unconditionally regardless of what may come our way. What I do not accept is the inevitability of his being effected by something that interferes with his daily living. I do not know you, and so I'm not sure what you mean by "acceptance." If you mean that society needs to understand the problem and not discriminate, I'm with you. If you mean that we need, as a society, to remove obstacles to everyone's ability to participate in our society regardless of neurological "differences," etc., I'm with you. If, on the otyher hand, you mean I need to accept my son's autism as simply a naturally occurring difference that is not a disability . . . well, I'll avoid any demeaning "fruitcake" references that you seem fond of and just note a rather strong disagreement.

4/10/07, 12:25 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I meant by acceptance, that people would speak to him and get to know him and include him. Everything my son gets to do has to be "special-needs" regardless to his ability.God how I hate that label at times. Oprah didn't speak to a single autistic child or adult *verbal or non-verbal*. At least Rosie O'donnell did on her show on autism. . She was not afraid or intimidated by autism. Katie Wright seemd a little too "amped" and angry to be a good spokesperson for any position.

4/10/07, 2:21 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"wonder what the vaccine causes autism camp will say when at the end of 2008, when all of the children born after the shelf life of the last thimerosal containing vax ended are 5 years old, when the autism rates are still high. If some study is not done around 2009 or 2010 showing a prevalence of 4/10,000 or less for the 2003 birth cohort they will have some serious explaining to do".

Explaining to do? No. Vaccines, Jonathan. What if you are absolutely correct and it is NOT thimerosal. What if... it is the combination of such a large amount of toxins, live viruses, aluminum, etc. which set these kids off? Who has some explaining to do? Not us.

4/10/07, 5:56 PM  
Blogger jonathan said...

well the topic of wade's post seemed to me to be katie wright. Someone who has joined the board of safe minds, an organization that claims unequivocally that thimerosal has caused a ten fold increase in autism prevalence due to changes in the schedule of thimerosal containing vaccines and is apparently suing pharmaceutical companies and is encouraging as many parents as possible to do so based on class action suits. This is in spite of the fact that autism prevalence tripled by birth year during a time when there was only one thimerodal containing vaccination (DTP) with no increase in uptake during that time and no corresponding decrease in the prevalance of pertussis which would have had to have been of a much greater magnitude than the autism increase. Safe minds asks where are the hidden horde of autistic adults, i say where is the hidden horde of all the people who must have had pertussis in the early 70s which does not show up in health records. thimerosal has been out of vaccines for years and the rates still continue to climb. If katie wright or anyone else can explain these holes to me i welcome their explaination.

as far as a temporal relationship between viruses, aluminum, toxins, etc, that would have any sort of temoral relationship to increases in autism, i would certainly welcome any evidence but there is none that i have seen so far. Also it would be quite a coincidence that it happened exactly the same time special ed legislation was passed making identification of autistic persons much more favorable. The problem is that these wild fishing expeditations will likely not return anything worthwhile and research $$$$ would be better spent on other things to uncover causes of autism and find some real medical answers for this disability and not chelation or other DAN treatments of questionable value

4/10/07, 6:29 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Jonathan I'm sure that you must realize that Katie has mentioned the AMOUNT of vaccines given to young children. On two different occasions I have heard her publicly state the issue in regards to 37 different vaccines given, etc. etc. (actually the first time, I don't know if she specifically mentioned the number but you must get the point). As for her relationship with SafeMinds.... yeah, ok, it's stupid to inject babies with a known neurotoxin. Get it? You have an issue with someone involved in an organization based on that fact? Sounds foolish to me but whatever floats your boat.

4/11/07, 10:08 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Jonathan, you need to do a little more research. Thimerosal is still contained in some vaccines. It's in many flu vaccines, which are now recommended for pregnant women (from what I understand, there are thimerosal-free flu vaccines, but not enough of them available to meet the demand for pregnant women and children... so some of them must still be getting the toxin-laced ones). I believe there are also still trace amounts of mercury in most vaccines, whether they officially contain thimerosal or not. So to say that there is no thimerosal in vaccines today is just plain wrong.

Have you even tried the DAN treatments? Do you know if they work or not? Don't knock it if you haven't tried it. There are people who have seen huge changes in their children. Would you deny them that, just because you don't see enough hard evidence? How is that doing anyone any good?

4/18/07, 2:31 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi Wade,

FAIR Autism Media is premiering a screening of our interview with Katie Wright on Friday night (6:30 to 7:15) at Autism One. Come check it out!

Special guests will be featured.... ;-)


5/11/07, 9:44 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Wade, I lost the Rankin phone numbers. Have Sym ontact me. Alice Boudreaux

10/15/07, 8:11 AM  

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