Dan Olmsted suffers by comparison

9 Sep

Ever since his unexplained sudden departure from UPI, Dan Olmsted has been working on his Magnificent Octopus entitled ‘Mercury Rising’.

He keeps his keen investigative journalism skills to the fore by writing the occasional blog piece for Age of Autism. These skills have included the scintillating exposé

“Where are the autistic Amish?” he asked. “I have come here to find them, but so far my mission has failed, and the very few I have identified raise some very interesting questions about some widely held views on autism.”

Except that Dan Olmsted never visited Clinic for Special Children in Strasburg, where

Dr. Kevin Strauss, MD, a pediatrician at the CSC. “We run a weekly vaccination clinic and it’s very busy.” He says Amish vaccinations rates are lower than the general population’s, but younger Amish are more likely to be vaccinated than older generations.

Strauss also sees plenty of Amish children showing symptoms of autism. “Autism isn’t a diagnosis – it’s a description of behavior. We see autistic behaviors along with seizure disorders or mental retardation or a genetic disorder, where the autism is part of a more complicated clinical spectrum.” Fragile X syndrome and Retts is also common among the clinic’s patients.

This is backed up by the fact that in April of last year, a study was published that showed that the Amish vaccinate.

Responses were received by 225 (60%) of the 374 Amish households in the community with children aged <15 years. An additional 120 responses were received by households without children. A total of 189 (84%) households with children reported that all of their children had received vaccinations; 28 (12%) reported that some of their children had received vaccinations; and 8 (4%) reported that none of their children had received vaccinations.

Among all respondents who knew their own vaccination status, 281/313 (90%) reported that they had received vaccinations as children.

As we can see, Dan’s investigative journalism is of the highest order.

Today, he has decided to maintain his high standards by doing what he does best – speculating wildly. This time its an absolute doozy.

Determined to hang on to the thiomersal idea at all costs (despite the fact that thiomersal has been out of all paediatric vaccines since 2002 and autism rates are still climbing in the US, just like the UK and just like Japan), Dan takes every bit of evidence that someone once walked past the house of a man who’s first cousin worked at a paint factory as highly suggestive of metal poisoning. In order to justify his new tome (entitled ‘mercury rising’ – don’t bother looking for it anywhere) he _has_ to keep interest in mercury up. Despite the fact that its quite clear to anyone with an ounce of common sense that the thiomersal hypothesis’ time has come and gone, without it, he has no book, hence no book deal, hence no prestige.

So, back to Dan’s latest genius reportage. Dan has just finished reading Autism’s False Prophets and is quite clearly not pleased with the coverage given to Kathleen.

Kathleen, you see, is everything that Dan Olmsted is not. He is slapdash, she is thorough. She checks sources, he thinks they’re what you pour on your dinner. She uncovers _actual_ wrongdoing, he thinks wrongdoing is solely confined to anyone with the title ‘Dr’.

Offit describes Seidel moving to New York City “where she met her future husband, a guitar player. She worked for Project Orbis, a flying ophthalmalogic surgical teaching hospital. …”
Whoa. A flying ophthalmalogic surgical teaching hospital? I suppose it’s possible she just booked their flights and never set foot on the plane, but assuming she was part of the team, I strongly suspect Kathleen Seidel was exposed to thimerosal occupationally.

Ever the principled and thorough reporter, Dan utterly fails to do what any n00b reporter would know to do – check your facts. There was one easy way Dan could’ve saved himself a fair amount of embarrassment over this blog post: he could’ve (get ready for the novel idea Dan!) _asked Kathleen_ . And when he did, she would’ve told him that booking flights did indeed fall under her remit *as a Secretary*. So did dictation, typing and general filing. Knowing Kathleen’s pretty awesome taste in music, I suspect the closest she got to any kind of metal was attending a LedZep gig or two.

Olmsted goes on to say:

Laugh me off if you want, but I have spent a lot of time looking for plausible links between parents’ occupations and autism in their children, and I know them when I see them.

Please, join with me:


36 Responses to “Dan Olmsted suffers by comparison”

  1. notmercury September 9, 2008 at 14:24 #

    What a dweeb. Must feel nice to be Mark Blaxill’s ventriloquist dummy. Go back to investigating Lariam, Dan.

  2. isles September 9, 2008 at 14:35 #

    Oh, no, notmercury. Blaxill may not be the sharpest tool in the shed, but I’m pretty sure only Olmsted could have dreamed up this little gem.

    Joining Kev: Snort! Hee! chortlechortlecackle.

  3. Joseph September 9, 2008 at 14:40 #

    Unbelievable. Wouldn’t it be better to try to address what Kathleen writes, rather than trying to discredit the messenger by leveling unsubstantiated insinuations?

    Dan Olmsted: A complete ass-wipe or the greatest ass-wipe to ever live?

  4. Anthony September 9, 2008 at 14:48 #

    I read the word mercury on your blog.

    Should I go and have a course of chelation?

  5. Tom September 9, 2008 at 14:51 #

    Can’t wait for the reviews of Dan’s forthcoming book. Those are sure to be comic gems.

  6. TheProbe September 9, 2008 at 14:52 #

    If Olmsted did not use logical fallacies, he would not use any logic at all.

  7. Broken Link September 9, 2008 at 15:04 #

    I think Dan Olmsted’s book will suffer the same fate as the movie version of “Evidence of Harm”. Cancelled.

  8. Ageofignorantpsychos September 9, 2008 at 15:10 #

    Dan Olmstead, Kim Stag, JohnBest and Mark Blaxill are clearly on equal par wrt scientific understanding, ethics, and the ability to make themselves look idiotic.

    I’ll laugh at him with you all.

  9. Ringside Seat September 9, 2008 at 15:39 #

    You’re right about Kathleen. Her stuff is all to such an exceptional standard, it’s scary. Maybe she could run for veep in 2012.

  10. Cynic for Special Children September 9, 2008 at 15:44 #

    Stop it! Just stop it everyone! You’re making Kim cry!

  11. kristina September 9, 2008 at 16:16 #

    I look forward to Dan Olmsted’s book and anticipate more non-toxicity (word?) in it than anything.

  12. Anne September 9, 2008 at 18:03 #

    Although his conjectures about Kathleen are based on a false assumption, Dan Olmsted’s “toxic mommy” hypothesis for autism causation is certainly thought-provoking. One thought it provokes in me is that Age of Autism Managing Editor Kim Stagliano, mom of multiple autistic kids, may have quite a colorful employment history. I look forward to Dan’s in-depth reporting on this subject.

  13. Sullivan September 9, 2008 at 18:33 #

    Is it funny that Mr. Olmsted’s “reporting” is so poor? It isn’t even a case of “I disagree with him”, the reporting is empirically bad.

    By the time that book comes out, another couple of studies will come out and will likely show no link between thimerosal and autism. But, this book and the likely continues “advocacy” will just paint segments of the autism community as unable to accept good science. This will hurt us all in the long run.

  14. Regan September 9, 2008 at 19:02 #

    This time it’s an absolute doozy.

    That’s putting it mildly. Ai-ai-ai.

  15. Ms. Clark September 9, 2008 at 19:02 #

    Is he saying that somewhere in the middle of her career she became a surgical nurse, but just hasn’t told anyone about that? Is her supposed exposure to mercury supposed to discredit what she has written?

    Kathleen’s “exposure” to mercury caused her to have a neurotypical kid and then an ASD kid… so I guess Stagliano’s exposure to mercury must have been much greater because all three of her kids are autistic. And that’s with the idea that each kid takes away a big chunk of the mom’s body burden of mercury… so maybe Stag’s had loads of ongoing exposure. That’s must be it.

    Full disclosure. My mother and father and I, my ex-husband and our children (one typical one ASD) were all born on planet EARTH which, shockingly enough, contains mercury.

  16. Dr Aust September 9, 2008 at 19:57 #

    Unbelievable. This guy really once had a job as a journalist? Someone actually paid him? Seriously?

    I’m with Joseph on Mr Olmsted.

    Still, maybe he could get a job as Jenny McCarthy’s ghostwriter for her next book. It appears an ability to check facts is not required, so the job should suit Olmsted perfectly.

  17. Prometheus September 9, 2008 at 20:52 #

    I would suggest to Mr. Olmsted that he keep the title of his book (“Mercury Rising”) and toss everything else.

    He could write a “startling documentary” of how people got caught up in the weak hypothesis that mercury causes autism and then, as data showing that the hypothesis was false mounted higher and higher, “circled the wagons” and refused to see what was plainly before their eyes. He could describe how “mercury-causes-autism” went from a fringe “hypothesis” to a vague and undefined “hypothesis” (“something-in-vaccines-causes-autism”) and finally to a cult.

    He could write an entire section of the book on how a small number of marginal medical practitioners leveraged their fuzzy understanding of human physiology and a willingness to “overlook” data that contradicted their “clinical experience” into a lucrative business. He could document – as only an insider could – the obscene fees they charged, the nonsensical “therapies” they promoted and the amazing stories they told desperate parents.

    At least one chapter could be devoted to the handful of gullible “journalists” who did all they could to keep a dead hypothesis alive, thereby allowing the “alternative” practitioners to keep making money and trapping more parents in the cycle of false hope and misery.

    Just a thought.


  18. qchan63 September 9, 2008 at 21:14 #

    What’s even more jaw-dropping than Olmsted’s comical journalistic stylings (if that’s possible) is the kind of comments his post is evoking. Someone at AofA actually said this of Kathleen and her theorized “toxicity”:

    “What else could explain her aggressive, obsessive, hateful demeanor.
    Somebody toss this woman a DMSA, please!”

    DMSA — that’s a chelator, right? And these people use it to treat autism, right? So the implication is that “aggressive, obsessive, hateful” behavior is characteristic of autism.


    Actually, that kind of slander (talk about “hateful”) fits perfectly with these people’s relentless denigration of autistic people in their desperate efforts to cling to bankrupt theories.

    It’s positively amusing that AofA will happily post comments like that (and another one today expressing a hope that “all the Pharma thugs burn in hell”), yet can’t see fit to post my recent comment inquiring gently as to why the site’s “managing editor” is recycling columns from eight months ago.

  19. Orac September 9, 2008 at 22:44 #

    It’s positively amusing that AofA will happily post comments like that (and another one today expressing a hope that “all the Pharma thugs burn in hell”), yet can’t see fit to post my recent comment inquiring gently as to why the site’s “managing editor” is recycling columns from eight months ago.

    The answer why columns are being recycled is obvious. To stay listed on Google News, a certain amount of new content is required every day. Recycling old content is a way to achieve that end, as I highly doubt Google’s algorithms check back eight months for duplicate postings.

  20. Dr Aust September 9, 2008 at 22:53 #

    While it would be nice to see Dan-O follow Prometheus’ advice and pen a “Mea maxima culpa” in his book, I shan’t be holding my breath.

  21. abfh September 9, 2008 at 23:13 #

    She checks sources, he thinks they’re what you pour on your dinner.

    Hilarious — and I’m sure it’s true too!

  22. TheProbe September 10, 2008 at 11:08 #

    AoA censored my comments:

    Olmsted bleated:
    “Well, I don’t think every case of autism is caused by mercury poisoning — just that mercury, as a matter of simple fact, is implicated in the rise of autism.”

    If it is so simple a fact, why can’t your mercury mental minnows find some real proof?

    Olmsted brayed: “It’s a free country and a reasonable public health debate, whether Paul Offit and Kathleen Seidel object or not (and boy, do they).”

    No, they do not object to a reasonable public health debate. The problems YOU have, are that 1) you need a strawman to help you, and 2) your conception of ‘reasonable’ is not rational.

    But, PUHLEESE, keep up your bleating and braying. It only proves the paucity of your arguments.

    Note that I do not expect this to be posted, but, I will save it, and post it as a response at every blog and mention your censorship.

  23. Kathleen Seidel September 10, 2008 at 12:50 #

    Kev, thanks for setting the record straight. But let’s cut Mr. Olmsted some slack. Maybe he’s not a careless and malicious propagandist with a fondness for making stuff up and an aversion to fact-checking. Maybe he’s an uncommonly imaginative independent journalist just trying to keep his phone bills down. 😉

    Thanks, too, for sparking the walk down musical memory lane. When Led Zep played the L.A. Coliseum in 1973, Robert Plant’s voice was so powerful I thought, damn, the man doesn’t even need a microphone.

  24. alyric September 10, 2008 at 15:59 #


    You are a true gentlewoman. I couldn’t be that polite.

    Oh yes. the censorship on AoA is fullblast. L got censored too and all i said was that perhaps he’d like to check with Kathleen before the situation became any more embarassing than it already was. What’s wrong with that?

  25. Leila September 10, 2008 at 18:08 #

    I laughed with Kev’s post, but I have to say a lot of the comments here were even funnier. “Olmstead bleated/brayed” … I have tears of laughter right now.

  26. Dr Aust September 10, 2008 at 20:48 #

    Kathleen, your Olmsted put-down is so perfect I may have to steal it.


    Oscar Wilde (on hearing a particularly witty remark made by James McNeill Whistler): “I wish I had said that”

    Whistler: “You will, Oscar, you will”

  27. RJ September 10, 2008 at 23:36 #

    You all are complaining AoA blocks your postings, at least they have to read them (and, oh boy, I bet that just gets them sooo riled up!). I do not even have that luxury. Alas, they have blocked any and all postings coming from my IP addresses.

    And Kathleen, you are my hero! Keep up the exceptional work!

    One day we might get a 60 Minutes piece on these phonies and see what the real deal is with their “operation”. It sure as hell ain’t helping families with children with autism, or the truth in science and medicine for that matter.

  28. Ms. Clark September 11, 2008 at 01:06 #

    If you read “Autism’s False Prophets” you can get a good idea of how the mercury moms and dads and the biomuddled and anti-vaccine parents have been taken for a ride, and been taking the media and some politicians for a ride for about 10 years now.

    I think it’s a huge story that deserves a series in TIME magazine and all kinds of TV news covereage. The thing is there would have to be massive admissions on the part of the media that they were too stupid or easily gulled to see that they were being taken for a ride. It never was that hard to get at the facts, it’s just that most reporters took whatever the parents said at face value. For that matter people at the NIH and CDC took people like Lyndelle Redwood and Sallie/Sally Bernard at face value and refused to question their stories about children horrifically transformed by vaccines.

    After Dr. Offit’s book there could be two or three more just as detailed to cover the kind of fraud and stupidity that has been going on in the media (and on Yahoo! groups and places like “autismweb.com” and in the minds of leaders of Autism Speaks and Autism Society of America. “Debacle” is a good word to describe what happened. “Scandal” is an other one. I can think of a dozen or so people who ought to be pilloried for their disgusting and greedy behavior that has led directly to many children being harmed. I think we are going to see a “tsunami” of kids with PTSD and serious damage to their health from all the experimentation they’ve beens subjected too. I seriously expect a big cancer cluster among kids who were treated by DAN! quax.

    Boyd Haley’s OSR seems to be causing problems that look like diabetes already. It might not be diabetes but it’s seriously weird for a kid to suddenly have a lot of thirst and a lot of urination.

    Kids have had caustic chelators applied as suppositories so that the parents report that the skin outside damaged if the chelator leaks out of the kid. What kind of damage is going on inside???

    I can’t even think what kind of harm has been done to kids who have been on very restrictive diets. Lupron has anything but a good safety profile and some kids have been getting massive doses of Lupron for a year or more. Oh, and they aren’t cured, either.

    The folks on AoA should be put in a position where they have no credibility in their work or in their communities. I think we may see where these people lose a lot of money from being sued, too, and perhaps like Mark Blaxill or Dan Olmsted lose their jobs.

  29. HCN September 11, 2008 at 01:45 #

    Nice rant, Ms. Clark!

    I would also like to remind you that it is not just AoA, but the insidiously bad information permeates all the areas that new parents get support. Recently on Steven Novella’s blog a parent came blazing in with all the standard bits about there being contradictory information, why can’t the MMR be split up, why can’t there be a delay, etc… It turned out that she was getting her information from a local parenting forum:

    I know from personal experience that there are folks pushing the anti-vax message, and others pushing their treatments, supplements, and other stuff on listservs and forums for parents with disabled kids. I’ve seen those parasites on both the dyspraxia, epilepsy and hypertrophic cardiomyopathy boards I have visited.

    (um… didn’t Mark Blaxill and Dan Olmsted both lose their jobs already?)

  30. Ms. Clark September 11, 2008 at 02:01 #

    I believe that Mark Blaxill was asked to leave his position as a partner in some kind of fancy investment firm or something. And Olmsted is formerly of UPI… he was downsized or something… David Kirby’s employment history seems a little odd. He is a blogger now… I don’t know what else he does. I can’t imagine that his blogging pays that well, but maybe I can’t imagine it because I never made a penny from blogging. My guess is that Kirby reports earnings to IRS as a PR man for the antivax lawyers, but maybe he’s inherited a bunch of money, doesn’t need to work and terribly interested in what happens in vaccine court. Kirby used to claim he was with the NYT. There’s an account of that in Dr. Offit’s new book.

    Amazon.com tells me that my 2 copies of Dr. Offit’s book are in the mail. I’m going to donate one to the UCD Library, I think, or maybe to the MIND Institute’s library…

  31. Sullivan September 11, 2008 at 02:56 #

    It would be unfortunate if anyone lost their jobs for advocacy positions. As long as it doesn’t take over your job life/time, it shouldn’t be a consideration.

  32. Ms. Clark September 11, 2008 at 03:39 #

    True, people shouldn’t lose their jobs over their beliefs, but some people let their advocacy take over their common sense. There was a mercury mom who posted information about the disabilities of the students in her school, taking the info from some internal document, if I recall. People knew where she worked so could conceivably figure out the diagnoses of the kids in the school based on what she had posted to a group.

    So like if your child’s teacher posted to the Internet using her name and location, “I have 7 kids in my classroom who have diabetes and 3 with asthma and 2 who were born with cleft palate….” or something like that, it would be a breach of ethics on her part.

    That teacher who did that didn’t lose her job, as far as I know, but I would imagine that some of the mercury parents would jeopardize their jobs that way. I know a few have lost their spouses for going off the deep end over DAN!, Geier or Buttar.

    If there’s a local outbreak of measles and the boss’s child ends up in a hospital, fair or not, an antivaxer might find himself without a job. I wouldn’t advocate for it, it’s just that those things do happen.

  33. David N. Andrews M. Ed. (Distinction) September 11, 2008 at 13:15 #

    “Kathleen, you see, is everything that Dan Olmsted is not. He is slapdash, she is thorough.”

    She has a post-graduate degree in information science; I can’t find reference anywhere that he has an undergraduate one.

    Certainly, one would expect that he’d have some training in his chosen career practice (and that would certainly be covered in a BA in journalism). Nonetheless, from what we have seen, his ability to understand and use information appropriately is… at least suspect.

  34. Navi September 12, 2008 at 00:10 #

    oh, wow. and um, staying at home causes autism! in a small town, with no factories close to it! because, um, well that’s what I was doing when preggers w/ tristan. I was between jobs. yay.

  35. David N. Brown October 16, 2009 at 01:25 #

    I am working on a new hatchet job on Olmsted. Something I’ve uncovered: Most of his experience before AoA seems to have been as an editor, not a reporter. Maybe he was a good editor, but not a good reporter. Or, maybe he just used editorial powers to avoid being caught.
    If anyone knows of evidence of fraud by Olmsted before 2005, I would be interested to hear about it.


  1. Science-Based Medicine » Steven Higgs: Another antivaccine reporter like Dan Olmsted in the making? - April 12, 2010

    […] a clinic in the heart of Amish country that treats autistic Amish children. Unfortunately, facts didn’t stand in the way of a good myth, which has only grown in the five years since Olmsted first imagined […]

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