Did a high ranking whistleblower really reveal that the CDC covered up proof that vaccines cause autism in African-American boys?
EDITOR’S UPDATE 8/28/2014: On August 27, 2014, CDC “whistleblower” William Thompson finally issued a statement through his attorney.
Here we go again.
Regular readers who pay attention to the antivaccine movement almost can’t help but have noticed that last week there was a lot of activity on antivaccine websites, blogs, and Facebook pages, as well as Twitter and Instagram feeds. For all I know, it’s all out there on Pinterest (which I’ve never really understood), Tumblr, and all those other social media sites that I don’t check much, if at all. In particular, it’s been exploding under the Twitter hashtags #CDCwhistleblower, #CDCfraud, and #CDCPantsOnFire. It’s almost impossible to have missed it if you’re plugged in and pay attention to crank websites, as many skeptics do, but here are a selection of the main stories going around over the last few days:
- Whistleblower Says CDC Knew in 2003 of Higher Autism Rate Among African-American Boys Receiving MMR Shot Earlier Than 36 Months
- Vaccine bombshell: CDC whistleblower reveals cover-up linking MMR vaccines to autism in African-Americans
- CDC whistleblower confesses to publishing fraudulent data to obfuscate link between vaccines and autism
- CDC Whistleblower’s Claims Cause Uproar In Autism Community
- CDC Whistleblower Comes Forward: Admits Coverup on Vaccine Link to Autism
- Age of Autism Weekly Wrap: A Torrent of Leaks Reaches Flood Stage
- Rob Schneider Demands Answers on CDC MMR Fraud. (Great. Just what we need, the latest Jenny McCarthy wannabe.
There are quite a few more, but these are a selection of stories appearing on the usual websites. It’s also not a new story, although it might seem as though it bubbled up suddenly out of nowhere just last week, and it comes from two of the usual suspects in antivaccine stories: Andrew Wakefield, whose pseudoscience in the service of antivaccine views we at SBM have written about many times, and Brian Hooker, someone whom you might or might not have heard of. Think of Hooker as a rising star, such as that would mean, in the antivaccine movement.
Who is Brian Hooker?
Before I discuss why there’s far less than meets the eye in this latest conspiracy theory, it’s useful to go into a bit of background, specifically who Brian Hooker is and how he came to be at the center of this latest attempt at relevance by the antivaccine movement. First, Hooker is a biochemical engineer who has now taken a faculty position as an associate professor of biology at Simpson University. He has managed a systems biology research program at Batelle/Pacific Northwest National Laboratory and continues to operate his own consulting agency. He also has an autistic child, whom he describes as “vaccine injured” and is on the board of directors of Focus Autism, an organization that describes itself as “born out of the desire to put an end to the needless harm of children by vaccination and other environmental factors” and runs the antivaccine campaign A Shot of Truth. He has been known for making numerous Freedom of Information Act requests for data and information from the CDC and for having (possibly) persuaded Darrell Issa to hold hearings on the link between vaccines and autism, although it’s not clear that a large campaign contribution from a prominent member of the antivaccine group Canary Party didn’t have more influence.
In actuality, I have written about Hooker before on this blog, way back in March, when I first took note of his conspiracy theory that the CDC has been “covering up” data demonstrating that vaccines cause autism. Think of this latest kerfuffle as just another chapter in the same novel. Last time, Hooker was claiming that the CDC had, through a famous study that failed to find a link between the mercury-containing vaccine preservative thimerosal and autism, whitewashed smoking gun evidence of just such a link. That famous study was Verstraeten et al, published in Pediatrics in 2003. Basically, as I described several months ago, Hooker was resurrecting one of the hoariest of hoary antivaccine conspiracy theories, that of the Simpsonwood Conference, slapping a fresh coat of paint on it, and declaring it a shiny happy new bit of smoking gun evidence that the CDC had covered up the “truth,” something he appeared to latch on to as far back as April 2013 in an appearance on—who else?—Gary Null’s show. At the time, he was criticizing another study published in the Journal of Pediatrics that pretty effectively demolished the antivaccine trope of “too many too soon.” Let’s just say that Hooker’s criticisms were less than convincing. Actually, let’s just say that convincing and Hooker’s criticisms weren’t even on the same continent, maybe not even on the same planet.
What SBM readers who aren’t as heavily into following the antivaccine movement as I am might also not realize is that Brian Hooker has been at the center of a storm currently going on in the “vaccines cause autism” community in that our old buddy Jake Crosby (remember Jake Crosby?) has gotten into a major contretemps with his former allies because of his belief that somehow the crew at a major antivaccine blog and organization (Age of Autism and SafeMinds, respectively) somehow shut Hooker out of a Congressional hearing on vaccines and autism held by Darrell Issa (remember Darrell Issa?) in November 2012 during the lame duck session of Congress. This has led to Crosby turning on his former friends and allies in a five-popcorn-bag drama that led Crosby to cozy up with Patrick “Tim” Bolen, as described in this multi-part epic (part 1, part 2, part 3, part 4, part 5, part 6, part 7).
Of course, just because Brian Hooker has demonstrated many of the characteristics of an antivaccine crank doesn’t mean that he might not have a legitimate criticism this time. Does he? Let’s find out.
Apparently, the CDC has covered up Tuskegee and the Holocaust
The latest “scandal” began in earnest with the publication of a paper published in yet another journal I’ve never heard of, Translational Neurodegeneration (more on that shortly), and accelerated with the release of a YouTube video that claims to name a former high-ranking CDC official as a “whistleblower” for the finding that the CDC has been “covering up” (of course!) the “truth” that the MMR vaccine causes autism. This was announced a week ago on Age of Autism and the usual other antivaccine channels, such as NaturalNews.com. These stories all pointed to a video made by Andrew Wakefield’s Autism Media Channel (which I’ve discussed before) in which Brian Hooker is featured interviewing a CDC “whistleblower,” whom he doesn’t identify other than to say that he’s a “senior official” at the CDC. This senior official is heard, voice masked electronically, saying that he’s “ashamed” at what he did, among other things.
Then, on Thursday night, a new video appeared, CDC Whistleblower Revealed. In this video, Brian Hooker proudly proclaims that the “whistleblower” is William Thompson, PhD, a senior researcher at the CDC, and co-author on quite a few vaccine safety papers, including a particularly important one in the New England Journal of Medicine in 2007.
A partial transcript can be found at—where else?—Age of Autism.
The first thing one notices about the video is how intentionally inflammatory it is. The “malfeasance” (if such it is) being discovered is compared unfavorably—yes, unfavorably—to the infamous Tuskegee syphilis experiment. There are even lurid pictures of patients suffering from advanced syphilis and a mention of Peter Buxton, the Public Health Service investigator who blew the whistle on the experiment, because, apparently, to Wakefield and Hooker autism is just like end stage syphilis and Dr. Thompson is therefore the equivalent of Peter Buxton. The “malfeasance” being claimed is that the CDC supposedly covered up the link between MMR and autism in African American boys, hence the puffed up rhetoric about the Tuskegee syphilis experiment. Before I go into that more, there is one thing that bears mentioning here. The video even concludes with some serious Godwin references to the crimes of Hitler, Stalin, and Pol Pot, because, I guess, when it’s not like syphilis, autism is just like the mass murder of millions, at least in the minds of Wakefield supporters.
So what on earth is going on here?
Brian Hooker’s “reanalysis” of a 10-year-old-study
The central claim in the video is that earlier MMR vaccination is associated with an increased risk of autism in African-American boys and that the CDC has spent the last 13 years covering this linkage up. These charges are based the result of a “reanalysis” by Brian Hooker in Translational Neurodegeneration entitled “Measles-mumps-rubella vaccination timing and autism among young african american boys: a reanalysis of CDC data.” The data which has been “reanalyzed” is from a study by DeStefano et al. in 2004 published in Pediatrics entitled Age at first measles-mumps-rubella vaccination in children with autism and school-matched control subjects: a population-based study in metropolitan Atlanta. That study was a case-control study in which age at first MMR vaccination was compared between autistic “cases” and neurotypical controls. Vaccination data were abstracted from immunization forms required for school entry, and records of children who were born in Georgia were linked to Georgia birth certificates for information on maternal and birth factors. Basically, no significant associations were found between the age cutoffs examined and the risk of autism. I note that, even in this “reanalysis” by Brian Hooker, there still isn’t any such correlation for children who are not African American boys.
The first thing that struck me is the sheer irony of this latest tack on the part of Wakefield and Hooker. To illustrate, let’s just, for a thought experiment, assume Hooker’s study comes to a valid conclusion (which is, given that it’s Hooker, highly unlikely, but stay with me for a moment). If that were the case, these results are no reassurance whatsoever to the vast majority of antivaccinationists supporting Wakefield. This study says nothing whatsoever about, for instance, Jenny McCarthy and her son’s autism, other than that there is no link between MMR and autism for children like him. Remember, the most vocal antivaccinationists jumping all over this are not African-American but instead tend to be UMC or even highly affluent Caucasians. There’s absolutely nothing in even Hooker’s ham-fisted “reanalysis” of this data to tell them that the MMR vaccine caused their children’s autism.
All there is left is a chance to hype up the conspiracy-mongering machine against the hated CDC, because even Hooker’s reanalysis doesn’t support an increased risk of autism with earlier MMR vaccination in white babies. Zero. Nada. Zip. This leads to a bunch of “Tuskegee” handwaving to hide that finding, that even taking his best shot at it the most Hooker could come up with after he tortured the data was a correlation between age of MMR vaccination and autism in African Americans babies—and not just African-American babies, but African-American male babies. Even taken at face value, Hooker et al is a disaster for the vast majority of antivaccine activists. This can’t be repeated often enough. But does the study support an increased risk for African American males, as claimed?
There are a couple of things you have to remember whenever looking at a study that is billed as a “reanalysis” of an existing data set that’s already been published. The first is that no one—I mean no one—”reanalyzes” such a dataset unless he has an ax to grind and disagrees with the results of the original analysis so strongly that he is willing to go through the trouble of getting institutional review board (IRB) approval, as Hooker did from Simpson University, going to the CDC to get this dataset, and then analyzing it. Think, for instance, the infamous “reanalysis” by homeopaths of the meta-analysis of Shang et al. that concluded that the effects of homeopathy are placebo effects. The reanalysis did not refute the original meta-analysis. The second thing you have to remember is that it’s pretty uncommon for such a “reanalysis” to refute the original analysis. Certainly, antivaccine “researchers” like Hooker try to do this all the time. Occasionally they get their results published in a bottom-feeding peer-reviewed journal (Translational Neurodegeneration doesn’t even appear to have an impact factor yet), as Hooker has. It means little.
So what about the paper itself? First, one has to go back to Destefano et al. 2004. Basically, this was a case-control study in which 624 case children were identified from multiple sources and matched to 1,824 control children on age, gender, and school. Porta’s Dictionary of Epidemiology defines the case-control study as: “an observational epidemiological study of persons with the disease (or another outcome variable) of interest and a suitable control group of persons without the disease (comparison group, reference group). The potential relationship of a suspected risk factor or an attribute to the disease is examined by comparing the diseased and nondiseased subjects with regard to how frequently the factor or attribute is present (or, if quantitative, the levels of the attribute) in each of the groups (diseased and nondiseased).” They then see if that risk factor is higher in the case population than it is in the control population. This is in comparison to cohort studies, in which researchers look at groups of people who vary in exposure to a given putative risk factor (for instance, vaccines), each controlled for every other potential risk factor that the authors can control for, and then determine if the condition for which that putative risk factor is suspected to be a risk factor for. A cohort study can be retrospective (looking at existing data) or prospective (the cohorts determined in advance and then followed over time), while case control studies are retrospective.
It’s also not uncommon for epidemiologists to choose more controls than cases in case-control studies. In any case, what Destefano et al. did was to perform a case control study of children in metropolitan Atlanta looking at age at first MMR vaccination (0-11 months; 12-17 months; 18-23 months; 24-29 months; 30-35 months; and 36+ months). They found no statistically significant correlations. They also looked at a subgroup of the groups, children for whom a Georgia birth certificate could be located, in order to test correlations for other traits:
We matched 355 (56%) case and 1020 (56%) control children to Georgia state birth certificate records, which allowed us to obtain additional information, such as each child’s birth weight and gestational age and the mother’s parity, age, race, and education.
There was no significant correlation noted in various groups based on race, maternal age, maternal education, and birth weight. It’s all pretty straightforward, at least a straightforward as an epidemiological study can be. The only hint of a whiff of anything in it helpful to antivaccinationists was this:
Vaccination before 36 months was more common among case children than control children, especially among children 3 to 5 years of age, likely reflecting immunization requirements for enrollment in early intervention programs.
In other words, it’s a result that is likely not due to an actual effect.
Fast forward to Brian Hooker’s study. The first thing I noticed reading it was that it contains a lot of the usual red flags of antivaccine papers. Hooker cites several Mark Geier papers as “evidence” of a correlation between vaccines and autism, to try to make it seem as though there is an actual scientific controversy. He even cites a Wakefield paper. Then there is the methods section. It’s really not very clear exactly what Hooker did with this dataset, other than muck around with it using SAS® software. He keeps referring to “cohorts,” which made me wonder right away whether he was not doing the same sort of analysis as Destefano. Instead of doing a case control study, it looks as though he did a cohort study:
The Pearson’s chi -squared test contained in the SAS® software was utilized for current statistical analyses, and a two-sided p-value < 0.05 was considered statistically significant. This is in contrast to the original Destefano et al.  (CDC) study, where a case–control study design was used, where 3 control children were matched to each case child, and analyzed using conditional logistic regression dichotomized for the three age cut-offs at 18, 24 and 36 months…In the present study, frequencies of cases were determined for first MMR ages of less than versus greater than 18 months, 24 months and 36 months in each separate analysis.
Yep, Hooker did a cohort study. He analyzed data collected for a case-control study as a cohort study. Basically, he looked at the risk of an autism diagnosis in the groups first exposed to MMR at different age ranges. Remember, case control = comparing risk factor frequency in people with a condition compared to controls; cohort = examining risk of condition in people with different exposures.
There’s an old saying in epidemiology (and in science in general) that says that if you torture data enough, eventually they will confess. With this in mind, it’s hard not to think of Brian Hooker as the Spanish Inquisition, only without the comfy chair. I find it very telling that Hooker couldn’t find (or didn’t bother to look for) a coauthor who is an actual epidemiologist or statistician. What training in epidemiology or statistics does Brian Hooker have that qualifies him to do a retrospective cohort study like this? None that I can see. My first rule of thumb doing anything that is more complicated than the rudimentary statistics that I use to analyze laboratory experiments (such as even a “simple” clinical trial) is to find a statistician. While it’s true that Hooker used to lead a high-throughput biology team, which likely required some statistical expertise, that’s a different sort of statistics and experimental design than epidemiology. Basically, if you’re going to do epidemiology, you should find an epidemiologist to collaborate with, and if you’re going to do something that requires some heavy statistical lifting you really need to get a statistician on board as well before you start the study.
So is Hooker’s result valid? Was there really a 3.4-fold increased risk for autism in African-American males who received MMR vaccination before the age of 36 months in this dataset? Who knows? Probably not, though. Hooker analyzed a dataset designed from its inception and collection to be analyzed by a case-control method using a cohort design. Then he did multiple subset analyses, which, of course, are prone to false positives. As we also say, if you slice and dice the evidence more and more finely, eventually you will find apparent correlations that might or might not be real. In this case, I doubt Hooker’s correlation is real. More importantly, even if his statistics were correctly done, his changing the design is highly suspect, particularly when coupled with claims being promulgated by our good buddy Jake Crosby, among others, that the CDC intentionally manipulated the study sample size in order to hide this correlation.
This is an accusation neither Hooker’s study nor anything any antivaccinationist has published thus far provides any tangible evidence for. Requiring the birth certificate was not an “arbitrary” criterion either. It allowed investigators to account for known confounders related to autism risk, such as birth weight, at least in this subset of the case and control groups. I also can’t help but think there is likely to be a confounder that is unaccounted for in this study, particularly given how there increase in risk is found in only one group. In fact, as Reuben at The Poxes Blog explains, there almost certainly was just such a confounder:
Next come the statistics. Hooker uses Pearson’s chi squared test to see if there is a significant association between MMR and autism in children at different ages. DeStefano et al used conditional logistic regression. For the non-biostatisticians out there, the technique that DeStefano et al used accounts for confounders and effect modifiers, different traits in their population that could skew the results. Hooker’s technique doesn’t really do that, unless you stratify results and use very, very large datasets. Hooker’s approach is more “conservative,” meaning that it will detect small effects and amplify them, and those effects can come from anything.
In other words, Hooker used a method prone to false positives. Then:
The nail in the coffin for the Hooker paper is that autism is usually diagnosed by the time a child is three years old. There was no increased risk at 18 months, higher but not by a whole lot at 24, and then the three-fold increase at 36 months. Gee, was it the MMR vaccine, mister? No, the effect is being modified by age. It’s as if I asked you if your shoe size was bigger at 36 months because you drank milk vs because you were 36 months. It’s age. It’s the way that autism is diagnosed. You’re going to have more children diagnosed as autistic at 36 months than you will at 18 months or at 24 months. Using the chi square test doesn’t tease this out, Dr. Hooker! That’s more than likely why DeStefano et al used conditional logistic regression, to take age into account in the analysis.
So why did we not see this in the other ethnic groups or in girls? The answer here is simple, again. Hooker had a limited dataset to work with when he boiled it down to African-American baby boys. In this table, for example, he tells us that he had to modify the analysis to 31 months instead of 36 because he had less than 5 children in that group. It’s the same goddamned mistake that Andrew Jeremy Wakefield wanted to pass off as legitimate science. You cannot, and must not use small numbers to make big assertions…
Quite right. I should have seen that right off the bat. Thanks, Reuben, for pointing it out.
Finally, there’s no biologically plausible reason why one might expect to observe an effect in African-Americans but no other race and, more specifically than that, in African-American males. In the discussion, Hooker does a bunch of handwaving about lower vitamin D levels and the like in African American boys, but there really isn’t a biologically plausible mechanism to account for his observation, suggesting that it’s probably spurious. Finally, even if Destefano et al. is thrown out, it’s just one study. There are multiple other studies, many much larger than this one, that failed to find a correlation between MMR and autism. Even if Hooker succeeded in “knocking out” Destefano et al., it doesn’t invalidate all that other evidence.
So what is really going on here?
Hooker’s incompetent “reanalysis” aside, there still remains the matter of Dr. Thompson apparently having had dealings with Brian Hooker, dealings that Andrew Wakefield became aware of and exploited to this effect. What really happened, though? I don’t consider Andrew Wakefield to be someone whose word is ever to be trusted, and nothing in this video leads me to question that assessment. The first thing I noticed listening to Thompson in Wakefield’s video is just how little he is quoted. Instead he’s paraphrased by Hooker, who portrays himself as Thompson’s “confessor” to whom Thompson is “confessing.” The parts with Thompson’s voice appear highly edited, brief sound bites. They sound, at least the way they are presented, highly damning on first listen. It also seems very odd on first listen. Heck, it sounds very odd on second listen. So what really happened? Again, who knows? You’ll excuse me if I reserve judgment until more information comes in from sources other than Andrew Wakefield and Brian Hooker because I suspect that what we’re seeing is a highly one-sided presentation of cherry picked information. It is, after all, Wakefield and Hooker we’re talking about.
Since Thursday night and Friday, with the identification of the “whistleblower” as Dr. Thompson, there have been several developments. For instance, our old “buddy” Jake Crosby is now claiming that Andrew Wakefield betrayed William Thompson by identifying him in the video without Thompson’s permission:
Andrew Wakefield has betrayed the CDC whistleblower by releasing his name without his consent. On the Autism Media Channel website, a video hosted by Wakefield is up announcing the whistleblower’s name and playing recordings of his voice. In the video is scientist and parent Dr. Brian Hooker, who had been in discussions with the whistleblower and made the catastrophic mistake of sharing his identity with Wakefield. Complicit in the betrayal is Age of Autism, which is promoting Wakefield’s video while repeating the whistleblower’s name.
In commentary to a small group of people later relayed to Autism Investigated, attorney Robert Krakow commented:
“I am very familiar with the information [whistleblower] offered. Disclosure of [whistleblower]’s existence and identity at this point in time is a colossal blunder and an inexplicable error in judgment that damages irreparably the opportunity to use [whistleblower]’s very valuable information and testimony effectively. I know that Brian Hooker did not make the disclosure.”
It remains truly ironic that Andrew Wakefield – a man betrayed by the Lancet editor a decade ago – would turn around and betray the trust of someone who has come forward with valuable information about the fraud committed in a federal agency. Also ironic is that Wakefield similarly betrayed the trust of Dr. Brian Hooker, whose congressional activities have been repeatedly undermined by groups associated with Age of Autism.
Given Jake’s past reliability, I take this with a huge grain of salt. It does have a modicum of plausibility in that, given Wakefield’s history I could totally see him betraying a “whistleblower” like that. However, I don’t for a moment believe that, if it’s true that Wakefield “outed” Thompson without his permission, Hooker didn’t know about it and at least acquiesce, if not actually approve. After all, Hooker spent a lot of time in front of the camera bragging about how he had become William Thompson’s “confessor” and relating what Thompson had said to him, and he didn’t think Wakefield would use that footage? He’s either complicit or an irredeemably stupid and gullible. (Take your pick.) Of course, Crosby now views Brian Hooker as his friend and mentor; my guess is that he wants to protect Hooker from this allegation, and that’s why he made the claim that Hooker knew nothing.
In another “get out the popcorn” moment, Andrew Wakefield himself has appeared in the comments after Crosby’s blog post:
Jake, in light of your serious allegation that I “betrayed” the whistleblower by disclosing his name without permission, I asked you how you knew this. You replied “my sources”. There are no sources other than the whistleblower himself that would know whether or not this was the case since this matter was discussed between the two of us, in several of our conversations. I did, as a matter of fact, have his full knowledge and his permission to do what “I felt best” with the uncensored video.
Although it is a moot point, I remain perplexed as to quite why a man who participated in a prolonged scientific fraud – one that likely resulted in harm to many children – should merit anonymity on his terms. The misinformation you have put out has spread through an already divided community. Your reporting on this matter does you no credit.
So that’s Wakefield’s story, is it? That Thompson gave him permission to “do what he felt best,” but that Thompson doesn’t deserve anonymity on his terms. Why is it that I don’t believe Wakefield’s first claim in light of his attitude expressed in the second part of his comment?
Meanwhile, the antivaccine propaganda machine has gone into overdrive, with a new Autism Action Network Action Alert asking antivaccine activists to click on a link to send Dr. Thompson an e-mail:
No major media outlet has covered this story, and they won’t until you come forward and clearly state what you know to be true. Please come forward as soon as possible and present your vitally important revelations to the public through a major news outlet.
You have crossed a line that you cannot re-cross. But crossing that line will allow you to do far more good and save countless lives. I can’t imagine how difficult this is for you. But you are doing the right thing. I understand you have hired a lawyer who specializes in these types of revelations. I would strongly encourage you to obtain the counsel of experienced public relations people to help you tell your story in the most effective way possible.
Thank you for what you have done so far, and please, I beg you, share your story with major media.
Actually, I would rather agree with the wish that Dr. Thompson share his side of the story with the media, because I rather suspect that what Wakefield and Hooker are claiming to have happened is not what actually happened. Meanwhile, others have started an utterly risible Change.org petition to Lewis R. First, editor of Pediatrics, to retract Destefano et al. Let’s see how far that gets. (HINT: Not very.)
Right now, from my point of view, I can imagine three main possibilities for what happened. The first possibility from what I know is that Thompson had some sort of disagreement with his co-investigators, made the incredibly stupid—yes, stupid—decision to unburden himself to Brian Hooker, who, he must have known or should have known, is an antivaccine crank associated with Andrew Wakefield, and is now paying the price for that decision, much like Flounder in Animal House when he trusted his fraternity brothers with his car. The second possibility is that Thompson wanted to correct something Hooker was doing with the data and let himself be drawn into saying things that could easily be taken out of context. The third, and (I hope) much less likely, possibility is that Thompson’s gone off the deep end and gone antivaccine.
If Dr. Thompson did say what he is represented as having said on the Wakefield video (I don’t trust Wakefield for a moment to have edited the tape of Thompson’s conversations with Hooker honestly), then Thompson has done enormous damage. This is the sort of thing that antivaccine activists like Hooker have been waiting for for years: A “whistleblower” CDC official of senior rank who gives them a seemingly plausible story of malfeasance and cover-up to trumpet to the world. This is not going away. It will become part of antivaccine lore, to be repeated over and over basically forever as evidence that the “CDC knew.” If he didn’t, he really needs to find a way to get out in front of this and give his side of the story now. The longer this festers, the less effective his response will be. Let’s just put it this way. As of yesterday, the latest celebrity Jenny McCarthy wannabe, Rob Schneider, is getting in on the action, claiming he has “copies of the original CDC report that was later suppressed and fraudulently changed.”
In the meantime, remember this. Even if Hooker is “right,” he has just undermined the MMR-autism hypothesis and proven Wakefield wrong, with the possible (and unlikely) exception of a single group, African American males, which makes memes like this that have been proliferating around Facebook and other social media even more ridiculous:
According to Hooker’s own results, parents of Caucasian babies don’t have anything to worry about from the MMR vaccine with respect to autism.
Meanwhile, last night Mike Adams released what is purported to be a letter from Dr. Thompson to Dr. Julie Gerberding, head of the CDC at the time, dated February 2nd, 2004. The funny thing about this letter is that it doesn’t actually reveal evidence of a CDC cover-up in the least. It mentions nothing of Destefano et al. Instead, it expresses concern about Thompson’s having to appear before what he predicts will be a hostile group in front of Representative David Weldon, concern that the CDC is losing the PR war, and a suggestion that Dr. Gerberding respond to Weldon’s letter. None of this supports a cover-up.
Given the dubiousness of his analysis and background, Hooker hasn’t actually convincingly demonstrated a link between MMR and autism for African American males, particularly given the copious other studies that have failed to find a correlation between MMR and autism. What he has done is to have found grist for a conspiracy theory to demonize the CDC, play the race card in a truly despicable fashion, and cast fear, uncertainty, and doubt about the CDC vaccination program, knowing that most of the white antivaccine activists hate the CDC so much that they won’t notice that even Hooker’s reanalysis doesn’t support their belief that vaccines caused their children’s autism. Meanwhile, there is no evidence, at least none submitted by the antivaccine propagandists flogging this conspiracy theory, that there really was a CDC conspiracy to hide anything.
- Andrew Wakefield Tortures History. By Ren
- The central conspiracy theory of the antivaccine movement by Orac.
- Hey, where is everybody? The “CDC whistleblower” manufactroversy continues apace by Orac.
- The CDC “whistleblower” manufactroversy: Twitter parties and another “bombshell” e-mail by Orac.
- Andrew Jeremy Wakefield plays video director while African-American Babies die, or something by Reuben.
- Autism, Atlanta, MMR: serious questions and also how Brian Hooker and Andrew Wakefield are causing damage to the autism communities by Matt Carey.
- Fraud at the CDC uncovered? Probably false. (Snopes.com)
- The CDC, the MMR Vaccine, and Allegations of Whistleblowing and Malfeasance: The Backstory. By Liz Ditz
- Directed Acyclic Graphs and the MMR vaccine doesn’t cause autism. By Ren
- Antivaccine activists throw Twitter tantrum. (Harpocrates Speaks)