Jenny McCarthy: a tale of two tales

28 Oct

I love public libraries. Always have. Sometimes I go a long time without stepping in one, but once I do, I love them all over. I love leaving with a huge stack of children’s books and reading them over and over (and over and over) to my kids.

I went to the library last nigh. Dropped off some overdue books and picked up “Mother Warriors”, Jenny McCarthy’s latest.

No, I didn’t read it all in one sitting. But, I did read some sections that have interested me. If you recall, I blogged recently about Jenny McCarthy’s interview where she talked about her interactions with Barbara Walters on “The View”.

At the time, my focus was on the fact that Jenny McCarthy waited over a year to talk about her story of the behind-the-scenes events of her interactions with Ms. Walters. Silly me, I didn’t realize that not only was she saving that story to create buzz for her book, but that the story was a part of the book. But, let’s see what I wrote then:

Story line two: Let’s go all the way back to September, 2007. Jenny McCarthy is on “The View” for her first autism-book tour. Barbara Walters committed a terrible “sin”: she actually treated it like an interview and questioned Jenny McCarthy. I’d like to show you the video, but the video is now pulled from YouTube and the link to the video from the more recent story (which included the bit from “The View” also doesn’t seem to work anymore.)

Some short time after taping “The View” Ms. McCarthy was at a TACA picnic where she is said to have made some rather rude suggestions towards Ms. Walters.

Fast-forward to the present. On September 29th, Ms. McCarthy “forgave” Barbara Walters.

No, really. After Ms. McCarthy got a bit cross on the show and then took it out on Barbara Walters at the TACA picnic, she “forgives” Barbara Walters.

Boggles the mind, doesn’t it?

In that same interview, according to Ms. McCarthy (and only according to her, since Ms. Walters seems above responding to this), there was a bit of a heated exchange backstage with Ms. Walters after taping “The View”. Ms. McCarthy gives no indication of whether she (Ms. McCarthy) lost her cool at all.

You can imagine that when I saw chapters on Barbara Walters in the new book, I had to read them.

In “Mother Warriors”, Jenny McCarthy tells about how before she went on the The View, “a girl” who worked for the show came to Jenny’s dressing room and told her that Barbara Walters got a call from someone at ABC who said that the treatment that Ms. McCarthy was talking about was B.S.. Jenny got called in to talk to Ms. Walters before the show, and, according to Ms. McCarthy, the exchange was somewhat heated and Ms. Walters told Jenny how to answer a question that would come up in the interview. (“The answer is YES, most doctors do not agree with anything you are saying”).

So, Jenny McCarthy went on anyway and, as the title of the book says, “Against All Odds”, told her story and stood her ground.

The chapter finishes with:

Barbara tried her best to ruffle my feathers during the rest of the interview but I stayed focused, stayed within my heart chakra, and just stuck to my story.

The show was over and as I left The View that morning, all I could think was, “I could really use a big hug from Oprah right now.”

Damned good drama.

Anyone else remember “Two Minute Mysteries”? I loved those books as a kid. Every story was told with one little detail that allowed the inspector to see that someone wasn’t telling a consistent story. Did you catch this one? Take a look at what I wrote in my previous blog…this time with some emphasis:

In that same interview, according to Ms. McCarthy (and only according to her, since Ms. Walters seems above responding to this), there was a bit of a heated exchange backstage with Ms. Walters after taping “The View”. Ms. McCarthy gives no indication of whether she (Ms. McCarthy) lost her cool at all.

Yep, in the interview Ms. McCarthy recently gave, the heated exchange came after the interview on The View, but in the book, it came before the interview.

I’d love to show that video—but as noted, it was pulled.

So, it’s Sullivan’s word alone. My “anecdote”. Or, is it?

When the video came out, Jenny McCarthy’s organization plugged it on their blog, the Age of Autism. Let’s take a look at what they had to say, with a little emphasis added by me:

Jenny McCarthy on Access Hollywood

Access Hollywood talks to Jenny McCarthy about her heated dressing down by Barbara Walters after she was on The View during her promotion for Louder Than Words. Jenny explains that she didn’t understand where Barbara’s anger and refusal to believe Evan was in recovery, was coming from, until she learned that Ms. Walters had a sister with special needs.

There’s no embed code, but you can click to the Access Hollywood on the OMG! site HERE.
http://omg.yahoo.com/videos/barbara-walters-jenny-mccarthy-feud-resolved/5446

Anyone want to venture a guess as to why the video interview in that last link was pulled from the OMG site?

This is not a minor, “look, there’s a mistake in Jenny’s book” issue. At least one of Jenny McCarthy’s stories about the events of that day are wrong. And, in the end, I think I need Barbara Walters and people like her. What I don’t need are autism “advocates” who tell inconsistent stories that could serve to alienate the press from the “autism community”.

But, this also serves as an example of anecdotes and memory. The events on The View were, by Jenny McCarthy’s account, rather traumatic. She tells in her story about how her mother always wanted Jenny to someday be on one of Barbara Walter’s specials, and how that dream was shattered. Jenny McCarthy wrote about her side of the events in her book. And, yet, when she was interviewed, she told a different story.

Why do I think this is important? Take a look at another quote from the book. This is what Ms. McCarthy relates as her thoughts after Oprah Winfrey read the statement from the CDC (that there is no science to support the connection between vaccines and autism) during the “Louder than Words” book tour:

“Who needs science when I’m witnessing it every day in my own home? I watched it happen.”

There is an excellent discussion going on at AutismStreet about anecdotal evidence. Prometheus made some good comments, one of which I quote here:

In science, anecdotes are a form of data, albeit of the lowest quality. A series of consistent anecdotes can be used to construct a hypothesis, which can then be tested by experimental means.

The anecdotes from Ms. McCarthy give a good example of why anecdotes are the “lowest quality” form of data. Her stories just do not jive.

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21 Responses to “Jenny McCarthy: a tale of two tales”

  1. Kev October 28, 2008 at 20:09 #

    Very kind choice of words at the end there Sully. This is also a woman who seems to change the status (recovered/in recovery/autistic/cured) of her child depending on what impetus the story she is trying to tell needs.

  2. Sullivan October 28, 2008 at 20:37 #

    Here is a short discussion of the events of that day, as related in a Yahoo Answers page.

    I liked this one because the responder was someone with the handle “kirby”

    That response also takes the line that the event (if it happened at all) happened after the interview.

  3. Bunny October 28, 2008 at 20:57 #

    Giving Jenny McCarthy the benefit of the doubt for a second, maybe Walters talked to her before and after her appearance on the View, with both exchanges being heated (the pre-View discussion heated because Jenny was angry at being asked to admit her deal was BS, and the post-View discussion heated because Walters was angry at Jenny for not giving the disclaimer as asked).

  4. Sullivan October 28, 2008 at 21:32 #

    Bunny, it is possible. I would find it very odd that Ms. McCarthy would go into such detail on the “before” show part and then completely leave out the “after” part. Especially if it added to the drama of the day.

    If so, why pull the video of the interview? Again, perhaps it was pulled for another reason.

    Why not talk about the before-”The View” drama at the interview?

    So, I will leave it for people to interpret for themselves (or for Ms. McCarthy to explain).

  5. Bad mommy October 28, 2008 at 21:41 #

    The problem really stems from the disconnect between the value that we assign to anecdotal (witness) accounts, and how accurate those accounts are in reality — which is directly inversely proportionate to the “trauma” involved in the scene being recounted.

    Witnesses make huge mistakes. Perception reforms things, the brain purposefully ignores facts in order to keep one’s worldview manageable, and memory fails or paints in details that were not directly observed in order to provide a coherent picture.

    But to the average person “I was there – I saw it!” is the most powerful evidence that there is.

    This person has a history of thinking with her emotions, and doing it publicly. She has further denegrated other types of proof in favor of the anecdotal and experiential. I am sure that she is certain that she was right, and continues to be right.

    Percipere veram est (I’m sure I’ve declined that wrong, but you get the idea).

  6. Bunny October 28, 2008 at 21:49 #

    And here ends my unprecedented, inexplicable urge to give Jenny McCarthy the benefit of the doubt.

  7. Liz Ditz October 28, 2008 at 22:33 #

    I tried to construct a timeline of what happened to Ms. McC’s son when, based on her books.

    Couldn’t do it — the woman does not seem to have a coherent memory of what happened when.

    And if she

  8. CS October 28, 2008 at 22:35 #

    Why is this important? Sorry, I don’t mean to be combative, but how does this help with inclusion, opportunity, legal justice, accommodation etc.? What did this bit of news do to help autistic children/people? Its just gotcha stuff. J. Mac. isn’t important as I see it. She is but a distraction, “gorilla dust” if you know what I mean. Talking about her or arguing with her or even acknowledging her is “gorilla dust”. She is distracting from real issues and help we all need for our children’s future lives as well as the adults living in terrible conditions and in fear. We need to move on from this stuff. To me a better angle would be “why is Jenny ignoring real and substantive issues”? or “Isn’t it time that Jenny stops talking about what Jenny does and starts talking about what Evan and other autistic children are going to face in their lives (ie abuse, discrimination, societal induced depression, unemployment because of laws that don’t protect the developmentally disabled, etc.)”

  9. Sullivan October 28, 2008 at 23:03 #

    The basic idea: Jenny McCarthy’s stories aren’t consistent, has little to no impact on first look.

    But, these are the reasons why I chose to take the time to write this

    1) There is a discussion ongoing prompted by the video interviews on Newsweek (hosted by AutismVox) and picked up by autismstreet on the value of anecdotal evidence in the discussion of autism and, specifically, in the court cases ongoing.

    2) I think that (1) is important because the autism/vaccine question has the potential to consume the autism community’s resources. In particular, attempts to focus undue amounts of research time and money into the question rather than focusing on issues such as adult services are important to me. Further, Ms. McCarthy’s organization has tried recently to impose a political end-run around the existing process (the IACC) and create an governmental panel that they could attempt to dominate. Pointing out that Ms. McCarthy’s stories are not always consistent, to me, goes partly towards the idea that she and her organization should not be representing the “autism community”.

    3) I see Ms. McCarthy’s stance, and that of her organization, as dangerous to public health. That alone is worth pointing out that her stories are not consistent. The impact that could happen from outbreaks of disease–blamed on the autism community–is doubly frightful to me. If reducing the momentum by just a little bit might help in that matter, I will take the effort.

    4) I am incensed that Ms. McCarthy could alienate a respected member of the press–in the name of “autism advocacy”. As noted above, I feel that we need people like Barbara Walters. The press is vital to keeping a level of support to people with disabilities from falling. A person like Ms. Walters, with firsthand experience of the lives of people with disabilities, should be encouraged to work with us, not against us. I’d like people in the press to realize that there are segments of the autism community who side with them when they disagree with people like Ms. McCarthy.

    It is difficult to make public the idea that the autism “community” is divided strongly on some issues. But, it is more difficult to let the message be carried by those with whom I disagree strongly.

    Further, it is difficult for a news reporter to be seen disagreeing with an “autism parent” like Ms. McCarthy. I’d like those reporters to know that Ms. McCarthy certainly does not have the full support of the community.

    Yes, Jenny McCarthy truly is distracting from the real issues. The question is, should people allow this distraction to grow?

  10. Bunny October 28, 2008 at 23:24 #

    Well, CS, I understand your position. Still, Evan isn’t going to face any of those things you list, because he has been “cured.” This is why Jenny talks about what Jenny does instead of what Evan does. She knows the cause and the magical cure, but the government and Barbara Walters are trying to silence her. Unfortunately, she can’t be ignored, because she is profoundly influencing a whole generation of parents of autistic kids. She is considered by many, including Oprah (who has incredible power and a massive viewership), to be the “expert” on raising a child with autism.

  11. CS October 28, 2008 at 23:55 #

    “Unfortunately, she can’t be ignored, because she is profoundly influencing a whole generation of parents of autistic kids. She is considered by many, including Oprah (who has incredible power and a massive viewership), to be the “expert” on raising a child with autism.”

    Thus my line of question for Jenny because no matter how you come down on the issue of vaccines, the larger issues are of more importance. Its what Obama has been able to do against McCain. Shame her on why she isn’t talking about what is important, she is throwing up “gorilla dust”, distracting from the abuse autistic children face in school. Just do a simple google search to see the real epidemic of physical and psychological abuse being done in US school systems. This is all diverting attention and resources from helping children and adults TODAY! There will always be people who are susceptible to quackery. We are not going to change that! Force these people to start talking about real issues that will effect autistics throughout a life span. Quackery is short lived in the lives of children. Dangerous quackery I agree should be attacked. But really, the “road” I’m asking for everyone to travel on is a lot harder and less rewarding on an immediate basis. Yes, it is fun to poke at people like JMac, but its a distraction. Can we agree on that?

  12. Sullivan October 29, 2008 at 00:37 #

    The basic idea: Jenny McCarthy’s stories aren’t consistent, has little to no impact on first look.

    But, these are the reasons why I chose to take the time to write this

    1) There is a discussion ongoing prompted by the video interviews on Newsweek (hosted by AutismVox) and picked up by autismstreet on the value of anecdotal evidence in the discussion of autism and, specifically, in the court cases ongoing.

    2) I think that (1) is important because the autism/vaccine question has the potential to consume the autism community’s resources. In particular, attempts to focus undue amounts of research time and money into the question rather than focusing on issues such as adult services are important to me. Further, Ms. McCarthy’s organization has tried recently to impose a political end-run around the existing process (the IACC) and create an governmental panel that they could attempt to dominate. Pointing out that Ms. McCarthy’s stories are not always consistent, to me, goes partly towards the idea that she and her organization should not be representing the “autism community”.

    3) I see Ms. McCarthy’s stance, and that of her organization, as dangerous to public health. That alone is worth pointing out that her stories are not consistent. The impact that could happen from outbreaks of disease–blamed on the autism community–is doubly frightful to me. If reducing the momentum by just a little bit might help in that matter, I will take the effort.

    4) I am incensed that Ms. McCarthy could alienate a respected member of the press–in the name of “autism advocacy”. As noted above, I feel that we need people like Barbara Walters. The press is vital to keeping a level of support to people with disabilities from falling. A person like Ms. Walters, with firsthand experience of the lives of people with disabilities, should be encouraged to work with us, not against us. I’d like people in the press to realize that there are segments of the autism community who side with them when they disagree with people like Ms. McCarthy.

    It is difficult to make public the idea that the autism “community” is divided strongly on some issues. But, it is more difficult to let the message be carried by those with whom I disagree strongly.

    Further, it is difficult for a news reporter to be seen disagreeing with an “autism parent” like Ms. McCarthy. I’d like those reporters to know that Ms. McCarthy certainly does not have the full support of the community.

    Yes, Jenny McCarthy truly is distracting from the real issues. The question is, should people allow this distraction to grow?

  13. CS October 29, 2008 at 01:02 #

    “Yes, Jenny McCarthy truly is distracting from the real issues. The question is, should people allow this distraction to grow?”

    No, but the better approach is to find common ground with her supporters by shaming her choices as not real to the lives of their children and adults and to confront her on her distraction. Barbara Walters is no friend to the disability community. http://autisticconjectureoftheday.blogspot.com/2006/03/barbara-walters-disability-and.html

    Both of you guys are guilty of stealing our energy as I see it, but that’s my opinion, and not one that I think is shared by anyone else other than a few on the HUB.

    ” I think that (1) is important because the autism/vaccine question has the potential to consume the autism community’s resources. In particular, attempts to focus undue amounts of research time and money into the question rather than focusing on issues such as adult services are important to me.”

    And we accomplish the shared goal of focusing on issues such as inclusion, abuse, opportunity and services by focusing on the vaccine issue by proclaiming that another part of the autism community is pro-vaccine? I don’t get it. Jenny should be attacked for ignoring these larger, more important issues. That is the way to attack quackery, by mocking its self claimed importance.

  14. Bunny October 29, 2008 at 03:14 #

    “Both of you guys are guilty of stealing our energy as I see it”

    Ummm, who is stealing your energy exactly?

    Why would Jenny McCarthy ever talk about “inclusion, abuse, opportunity and services” when she thinks autism is something that can be cured in childhood? Her point, I think, is that if we “green our vaccines,” we won’t have any more autism. So the anti-vaccination agenda is standing in the way of your “inclusion, abuse, opportunity and services” discussion.

    Although I like your idea of shaming Jenny for her “choices,” I think we’re past the point where that would make a difference. Nearly every parent of an autistic child (or even a child who is “sickly” somehow) I meet thinks vaccines are the cause of everything. If autism continues to be seen as a government conspiracy, I don’t think we’ll be seeing any grand-scale fundraising to support programs that might actually be helpful to autistic people.

  15. CS October 29, 2008 at 03:40 #

    Ok Bunny, your right. Its all about vaccines.

    “Ummm, who is stealing your energy exactly?”

    Its not about me Bunny.

    ” So the anti-vaccination agenda is standing in the way of your “inclusion, abuse, opportunity and services” discussion.”

    Yep, your right, those ideas were all mine. What was I thinking? Of course, its about the vaccines, stupid. No time to discuss “my” ideas until we end the anti-vaccine agenda.

    Thanks for making my point.

  16. Kev October 29, 2008 at 08:28 #

    CS – this is a blog. In this blog, the authors have free reign to discuss any idea they feel like. If you don’t like it, then you can say so, either here or on your blog but it won’t change the idea that LBRB authors are free to talk about whatever they want. No energy is being stolen, no ideas are being chased away.

    Some people feel that the idea that vaccines cause autism is the single biggest issue in autism right now. Others don’t. Thats why we all own different blogs I guess.

  17. Patrick October 31, 2008 at 23:35 #

    I think that establishing the credibility (or incredibility) of the witness is helpful. When someone exploits the opportunity to use a lapse of conciousness event and equate it to temporary death I can see that it is not beyond them to use hyperbole to make their argument more emotionally endearing to those inclined to emotional responses. My mother certainly didn’t claim that I had died when I had a muscle spasm that drained all the color from my face and stopped my breath in a flash of pain. I don’t want to get to picky about that situation yet, as I need to re-read accounts of the temporary death and see if the situation involved use of CPR and or a defibrilator. But hearing that the story seems to evolve or change as time goes by follows along with some of the suggestions made by folks like Prometheus/Orac/DoC and more, that some of the anecdotal claims that things happened in a particular way, or along a certain timeline, are indeed subject to change and maybe inneed of a fact check.

  18. Sullivan November 1, 2008 at 00:06 #

    Ms McCarthy has stated that in at least one seizure, her son went into cardiac arrest:

    From her Larry King Live interview:

    Evan was diagnosed with autism just before the age of three. He started having seizures is what made me lead to look for more answers. One of the seizures went into cardiac arrest. It’s something that we still, you know, have to deal with. But soon after those seizures, he was diagnosed with autism.

    I believe this is the incident she refers to in her discussion of her son dying in front of her.

    I know people (knowledgeable people) who take issue with calling that “died”, but that is not what bugs me about the statements. I am annoyed that people have assumed that her son “died” immediately following vaccination. That needs to be clarified.

  19. Bree November 3, 2008 at 02:01 #

    A cardiac arrest is usually associated with a variable period of brain anoxia, where damage results because oxygen is not supplied to the brain.

    This story seems to provide a perfectly good explanation for why Evan developed “autism” after the cardiac arrest.

    Has no-one ever considered this probability?

    (What triggered the seizures in the first place is a different matter)

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. Autism Blog - » Blog Archive » Generation Rescue and Change.Gov - January 2, 2009

    [...] example, remember how Jenny McCarthy’s story about her encounter with Barbara Walters changed dramatically between her book version and her [...]

  2. Jenny McCarthy angling for a spot on The View? | Left Brain Right Brain - July 15, 2013

    […] making herself into a brave “warrior” mom. Only, the story that she gave in the book was very different from the version she gave in a televised interview. In other words, at least one of the stories appears […]

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