An open letter to the National Whistleblowers Center: David Lewis and the outing of a CDC whistleblower

11 Sep
Dear National Whistleblowers Center,
I appreciate the work you do but I would like some clarification on recent events.
A gentleman came forward from the CDC to provide information about what he felt were inappropriately withheld results on an old autism study.  This gentleman guided someone outside the CDC to reproduce the result.  These results were published and with that publication a public relations campaign was started.  This is where your board member, David Lewis, comes into the story.  Mr. Lewis can be seen in the video produced.  That video can be found here:
The original video was produced with the whistleblower’s name censored and his voice modified.  However, his gender was given, making it rather simple work for the CDC and everyone else to work out who this was (only one male was an author on the paper in question).  Within 3 days of the release of the video, the online version was replaced with the uncensored version you see now–the version with “whistleblower revealed” as a title.
Since that time the whistleblower has released a statement including noting
1) he never consented to having his phone calls taped
2) he never consented to having his identity released
3) it appears, thus, that the video was not shown to the whistleblower, so he could not have approved of the rather ugly race-baiting angle it took.
Here are some other problematic details in these events.
1) Mr. Lewis is in the employ of the organization which did this study, Focus Autism.  Both Mr. Lewis himself and his charity/church have been paid according to public tax forms from Focus Autism.
2) Mr. Lewis does not make this conflict of interest known in the video.
3) Mr. Lewis has a history of working with the director of the video, Andrew Wakefield.  This includes soliciting donations through Mr. Lewis’ church with the purpose of using those funds to support Mr. Wakefield. 
4) Mr. Wakefield has major conflicts of interest in this video as he is trying to rebuild the reputation he damaged with his unethical actions (as deemed by the U.K.’s General Medical Council).
5) These COI’s are not disclosed in the video, although most in the autism community are well aware of Mr. Wakefield’s.
6) The video takes a very ugly race-baiting approach.  It takes what the whistleblower suggests is a scientific dispute and frames it as CDC officials partaking in a new “Tuskegee” experiment an compares the CDC officials unfavorably to Hitler, Stalin and Pol Pot.  This includes civil rights pioneer Marshalyn Yeagan-Allsopp.
Mr. Lewis has not issued a statement that I can find distancing himself from the actions of his team: the breach of confidentiality of the whistleblower nor the cynical use of the whistleblower for political and public relations gain by Mr. Wakefield.   I can not see how the treatment of this whistleblower by Mr. Lewis’ team can be construed as appropriate. In the video we can see Mr. Lewis making use of the opportunity for product placement of his book, “Science for Sale”.  Given Mr. Lewis’ tacit approval of this video, again one put together for his own benefactor Focus Autism, I see his actions as “opinion for sale”. 
I write for a website called  You will see I have been highly critical of the actions of the team that outed this whistleblower.
Could I ask for a statement from your organization?  Do you believe these actions to be within the bounds of appropriate behavior for one working with a whistleblower?  If so, could you elaborate, because recording a whistleblower without his permission, outing a whistleblower, and using the whistleblower for such an ugly public relations campaign without his approval seem far outside the bounds to me.
I look forward to your reply,
Matt Carey

27 Responses to “An open letter to the National Whistleblowers Center: David Lewis and the outing of a CDC whistleblower”

  1. Science Mom September 11, 2014 at 16:12 #

    Thanks for writing this Matt, I hope you get a response. It’s disturbing, to say the least, that an organisation supposedly devoted to protecting whistleblowers would have a member with such staggering conflicts of interest and would not only participate in the illegal recording of a potential whistleblower but exploit and expose him for his own gain. It makes me wonder what kind of place this National Whistleblowers Center really is.

  2. Science Mom September 11, 2014 at 16:17 #

    Here is part of their mission statement: “Our board members are committed to facilitating improved protections for employee whistleblowers to speak out without fear. ”

    Kind of hard to do when one of their own board members basically announced that your anonymity and protection as a potential whistleblower doesn’t mean anything.

  3. reissd September 11, 2014 at 16:23 #

    Well said, Dr. Carey and ScienceMom. Andrew Wakefield’s and Brian Hooker’s actions here seem to promote exactly the opposite of the National Whistleblowers Center goal. Their behavior may be legal (I am still not convinced about the recording), but it’s ethically problematic and would not encourage future whistleblowers in any area of government to speak up – quite the reverse.

  4. Lawrence September 11, 2014 at 17:28 #

    “National Whistleblowers Center” – now sounds like a typical Orwellian name, based on current experiences…

  5. Goldy September 12, 2014 at 00:09 #

    Massive hypocrisy here Matt. You go after the small guys and ignore the big conflict of interest issues such as Merck president Julie Gerberding and the fact that she didn’t divulge was her motivation for leaving her job as director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)—an agency charged with overseeing vaccines and drug companies—and join Merck in the first place, back in January 2010.

    If you don’t see the enormity of the influence her former high-level ties to the CDC can have, just consider the fact The vaccine industry is booming, and it’s become quite clear that profit potential is the driving factor behind it.

    • Chris September 12, 2014 at 00:33 #

      ” the fact that she didn’t divulge was her motivation for leaving her job as director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)”

      Actually the reason for her resignation from CDC is well known:

      Dr. Julie Gerberding, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, will leave her post by noon on January 20, the day President-elect Barack Obama is to be sworn in to office.

      In an e-mail to the staff at the Department of Health and Human Services, which includes the CDC, outgoing HHS Secretary Michael Leavitt asked Gerberding and several other senior officials from his team to submit their letters of resignation.

      She was asked to leave so that the new administration could put in a different team. What was she supposed to do for a job as an infectious disease specialist? Become a school nurse?

      Also, how does her position in Merck affect policies at at an agency, the CDC, that she is no longer associated with? Through a time machine?

    • Chris September 12, 2014 at 01:00 #

      Comment in moderation. The Obama administration asked several administrators to resign from many federal agencies to be replaced with another team. That is why Dr. Gerberding left the CDC.

      So where do you expect an infectious disease doctor do for a job, become a school nurse? It was either academia or a pharmaceutical company.

      • Sullivan (Matt Carey) September 12, 2014 at 04:22 #

        comment now out of moderation 🙂

      • Goldy September 16, 2014 at 23:53 #

        Matt – one of the most debilitating and socially isolating conditions is tics. There is an incredibly high suicide rate amongst sufferers. Our Whistleblower William Thompson has something very important to say about these:

        In an extremely revealing recording of the conversation between whistleblower Dr. William Thompson and Dr. Brian Hooker, we can clearly hear Thompson state:

        “Thimerosal from vaccines causes tics. You start a campaign and make it your mantra. Do you think a pregnant mother would want to take a vaccine that they knew caused tics? Absolutely not, I would never give my wife a vaccine that I thought caused tics. I can say tics are four times more prevalent in kids with autism. There is a biological plausibility right now to say that Thimerosal causes autism like features!”

        How can you – Lilady and others keep defending mercury in flu vaccines for pregnant women?

      • Sullivan (Matt Carey) September 17, 2014 at 17:49 #

        Interesting how old topics the vaccines-cause-autism groups have ignored for years are suddenly interesting to them again.

        Did you read the paper or just listen to the YouTube video with carefully cut and prompted comments?

        Here’s the paper. Here’s the sentence of interest, written by Mr. Thompson, in that paper:

        Increasing exposure to mercury was associated with a greater likelihood of tics in one HMO population and language delay in another; in the third HMO, no significant associations were found.

        So, thimerosal causes tics…but only if you are in 1 out of 3 HMO’s? That’s what Neurologist Steven Novella correctly referred to as noise.

        Here’s the table 2 from the paper. “Association between Prenatal Thimerosal Exposure and Neuropsychological Outcomes.”

        Do you see any statistically significant results in that? Correct, there are none.

        Here’s table 3 from the paper “Association between Thimerosal Exposure and Neuropsychological Outcome, According to Age Range”

        You see two statistically signficant results, don’t you? One that is being used now to claim thimerosal causes tics, and one that you and your colleagues are ignoring–where the calculation is that thimerosal prevents tics.

        The top of the table is cropped, but the columns are

        Full model (birth 7 months), Boys (birth 7 months), Girls (birth 7 months). Then there’s Full model (birth to 1 month), boys (birth to 1 month), Girls (birth to 1 month).

        So, in boys with exposure to 7 months there’s an increase. But in girls, birth to 1 month–there’s a 2x reduction in the risk of tics. Are you now going to support giving more thimerosal to newborn girls? Because, according to your logic, this is a valid result and one could reduce the suicide rate in girls by increasing exposure to thimerosal?

        Or, is it that you see that there are spurious results, both positive and negative?

    • Sullivan (Matt Carey) September 12, 2014 at 01:42 #

      As I recall, the director of the CDC is a politically appointed post. And I recall reading that Mr. Obama was not going to keep Ms. Gerberding. Hence her motivation for leaving. Not all that difficult or sinister.

      I’ve discussed Ms. Gerberding’s departure for Merck before. So, I guess it’s a massive hypocrisy that I don’t repeat that every time I talk about any other topic?

      Care to comment on the topic above? As in, a “whistleblower” expert participates in the betrayal of a man who may or may not have wanted to be a whistleblower. All we know is he wanted to get one result out and chose extremely poorly in whom to trust. We don’t have any evidence that he wanted to be a whistleblower. In fact, the evidence right now points to him *not* wanting to be a whistleblower.

      Have you noticed what lawfirm is behind the “national whistleblower center”? And which lawfirm Mr. Thompson is working with?

      Let’s say you want to get a result into the public domain. You approach someone and give him that information. He is allied with a “whistleblower expert”. Let’s say you are happy with how things went. Would you work with the team your new friend the “whistleblower expert”epresents?

      Which is a long way to say, right now I’m leaning towards the “whistleblower” not being pleased with recent events.

  6. Helene September 12, 2014 at 06:19 #

    Soooooo you have no problem with the fact that the CDC may have deliberately harmed generations of children but instead you have a big problem with the men who refused to keep the confessors identity a secret in an attempt to stop more kids from being harmed? Am I on glue or is that completely ass backwards and a ridiculous argument ? Yeah. I was hanging onto my fan feelings for this blog by a thread but you have officially lost me on this one.

    • Julian Frost September 12, 2014 at 07:55 #


      Am I on glue or is that completely ass backwards and a ridiculous argument ?

      I don’t know what you’re “on”, but your argument IS ridiculous, or at the least draws a very long bow. Also, you’re using incomplete data.
      It is not unknown for subgroups to be excluded from studies for various reasons. How you got from that to “may have deliberately harmed generations of children” is, as I said above, drawing a very long bow.

      • Lawrence September 12, 2014 at 11:39 #

        @Julian – it is quite probable now that Hooker’s “paper” is going to be withdrawn & completely discredited (due to both inaccurate results and issues with peer-reviewers) – as such, for the ant-vax brigade to try to use assertions of fact around such a paper, shows just how out of touch with reality they are.

    • Science Mom September 12, 2014 at 13:17 #

      Am I on glue or is that completely ass backwards and a ridiculous argument ?

      I’ll go with both. You have already assumed that Thompson’s assertions and Hooker’s “re-analysis” are correct; they aren’t which makes your question a complete strawman. Whether you think Hooker was correct or not, that is no excuse to illegally record conversations and then exploit them. If you think the ends justify the means then your lot are even more morally-bankrupt than I thought.

      • Sullivan (Matt Carey) September 12, 2014 at 15:31 #

        Even if we take Mr. Hooker’s analysis as correct, extrapolating from that to Mr. Hooker’s interpretation (the one he believes, not the one which is in the paper. That one is that more study is needed) is a huge stretch.

    • Sullivan (Matt Carey) September 12, 2014 at 15:20 #

      I have discussed both sides of this story. It is you who is not.

      You believe the CDC have “Deliberately harmed generations of children” and you claim that you were a fan of this blog? If you were a fan of this blog you would have seen the multiple articles I have on these recent events so far and would know that (a) the result Mr. Hooker presented in his “reanalysis” is weak and does not show that the MMR causes autism (b) that had this result been discussed 10 years ago the result might have been that more studies would be performed (c) that more studies were performed and the MMR/autism hypothesis failed but (d) I wish these results were discussed 10 years ago.

      You appear to believe the story put forth in the video Mr. Wakefield produced to advertise these events. In which case I would ask you to come back to it someday in the future with a critical eye and ask yourself, “was I being misled?” Mr. Wakefield was so far over-the-top with that video that I am stunned and shocked that the vaccines-cause-autism groups would taint themselves with it.

      So, did you miss the public statement of Mr. Thompson that vaccine benefits far outweigh their risk and he wouldn’t recommend that people-of any race-not vaccinate?

      But let’s get to the subject at hand–why don’t you care that this man was betrayed? Do you not see that this makes it harder for whistleblowers to step forward? Also, do you not see that this is not the way in which a whistleblower should step forward? Do you see the strong possibility that this man didn’t intend to be a “whistleblower” but just to leak some information to the public (which, frankly is

      So, you are hanging your interpretation of these recent events on the spin placed on them by Andrew Wakefield (fraud and liar), Brian Hooker (a man who acts as a “priest” in order to record and betray someone who trusts him) and David Lewis (a man who poses as a whistleblower expert but joins with the people who pay him when they abuse a whistleblower’s rights).

      I’ll stick to the data and the public statement for now.

      If you want to frame this as “if you only talk about one side of this it is a ridiculous argument”, then go ahead. You are the one presenting only one side of this argument–and presenting it with the spin imposed by unethical people.

  7. Goldy September 12, 2014 at 10:29 #

    According to Dr. Thompson’s statement, “Decisions were made regarding which findings to report after the data was collected.” Thompson’s conversations with Hooker confirmed that it was only after the CDC study co-authors observed results indicating a statistical association between MMR timing and autism among African-American boys, that they introduced the Georgia birth certificate criterion as a requirement for participation in the study. This had the effect of reducing the sample size by 41% and eliminating the statistical significance of the finding, which Hooker calls “a direct deviation from the agreed upon final study protocol — a serious violation.”

    • Sullivan (Matt Carey) September 12, 2014 at 15:29 #

      Mr. Thompson’s statement “Decisions were made regarding which findings to report after the data were collected, and I believe that the final study protocol was not followed.”

      You are aware that study protocols are changed all the time. One can find instructions of how to change study protocols on the web. And you are aware that not all data collected are reported in papers, right? The initial study results called for doing additional analysis. They did that–and study sample sized get reduced in those analyses all the time. Take a look at large studies and you will find charts of the initial sample size and what criteria were used for analysis and the impact on sample size.

      Brian Hooker is, well, not a very good scientist and a man who makes rather unethical decisions. But, hey, ends justify the means and he was doing it “for the greater good”, right? Mr. Hooker’s spin on this paper has been enormous. To the point of making outright lies (e.g. the birth certificate criterion was only applied to African Americans). And, let’s not forget, resorting to a race-baiting video when his data were not convincing.

      So if you believe his spin, good for you. Don’t come here and ask me to join you.

      • harold September 19, 2014 at 16:41 #

        Hi Sullivan, isn’t the point made by Thompson that he thinks that the protocol was violated? The protocol was not changed, Hooker claims he has the final protocol but he has only provided a few lines. After the data were in a consensus was reached on how to proceed. Thompson seems to regret going along.

      • Sullivan (Matt Carey) September 25, 2014 at 22:23 #

        sorry this comment was so delayed in getting published. It was in the spam queue.

        Has he even shown the actual “final protocol”? I have serious reasons to doubt that Mr. Hooker is presenting the facts.

        One note on the video–that silhouette segment is very cheesy. They need to post that this is a reenactment. It’s almost certainly not Thompson and the actor doesn’t even seem to be saying the same lines as in the voice over. Mr. Wakefield has been demonstrating for a long time that he is far from an excellent film maker. For someone trying to get himself acknowledged as a “director”, these videos are quite embarrassing.

  8. Phillip Brandon Holmes September 12, 2014 at 17:53 #

    Let’s make a deal. If you’re right about vaccines doing no harm and tens of thousands of parents that have witnessed immediate regression in their children within days and sometimes hours of the jab, the anti-vax community will disperse and move on.

    If you’re wrong, we (the federal government & CDC) can disband the federal vaccine injury court and they can retroactively bill YOU for the $2.7 billion in vaccination injury settlements they’ve already made to parents and all future claims from the parents you’ve misled will be billed directly to you. Deal?

    Please supply your mailing address if you agree.

    • reissd September 12, 2014 at 18:00 #

      Childish challenges are not support for your case; they show you have none. Nor are your points in any way valid.

      A. No serious person says vaccines cause no harm. What we point out – and the evidence shows – is that serious harms from vaccines are very rare. That doesn’t mean that those rare injuries shouldn’t be compensated: they should. Although the NVICP’s lax standards mean that many cases compensated probably were not because of vaccines, some certainly were, and those people deserve the faster, more certain mechanism of a no-fault scheme.

      B. The question whether vaccines cause autism has been asked, and answered, in many studies, time after the time. The anti-vaccine movement has rejected the answers it didn’t like, however well supported. So a promise to disband means nothing: past experience suggests they will never accept error.

      C. Publicly speaking up and explaining what the science says is not an offense, and is not a tort. It wouldn’t be even if you’re wrong. The closest you can get is the tort of negligent misrepresentation that causes physical harm – and for that you’d need to show negligence. It’s much more likely to be shown against the promoters of anti-vaccine misinformation.

    • Chris September 12, 2014 at 19:40 #

      “If you’re right about vaccines doing no harm”

      Do you also assert that the diseases do no harm? Please provide the PubMed indexed studies by qualified reputable researchers showing the MMR causes as much injury as measles.

      “the $2.7 billion in vaccination injury settlements they’ve already made to parents”

      How well do you do fractions? Go to table of NVICP statistics since 2006. Go to the bottom of the page and take the number that represents the total number of vaccines given, and then go over an find the total number of claims that have been compensated. Take the first number and divide it by the second number.

      Is the result large or small? What does it mean?

    • Sullivan (Matt Carey) September 12, 2014 at 19:46 #

      The court you mention is part of the system whereby we, the people of the U.S., have taken responsibility for the vaccine program directly. As such I and all my fellow citizens are taking responsibility.

      That said, where did I ever state that vaccines “do no harm”?

      More to the point, you might want to watch the presentation on regression and autism given at a recent IACC meeting. Regression exists in a significant fraction of the population, but the very sudden dramatic regression that people describe and claim is vaccine induced is very rare. The speaker, who is one of the world experts on autism and has been working with autistic kids for decades, said that she knows of only a few examples.

      By the way, you present this as though you are some leader who can speak for “the anti-vax community”. Why do I doubt that? And, wow, I appreciate that you think I have the power to change such a major program as the Court of Federal Claims, but that power does not rest with me.

      If my child gets a vaccine preventable disease–some small fraction of people don’t develop antibodies to vaccines–are you volunteering to pay my family’s medical bills? Seems only fair given your statement.

      Lastly–what do you have to say about people lying to, misleading and betraying a “whistleblower”? That is the topic above. Apparently something about this gets a big reaction from you. Surely you can speak to the actual topic at hand.

    • Lawrence September 12, 2014 at 20:24 #

      @Phillip – your new “hero” is quite full of it….

      • novalox September 13, 2014 at 05:34 #


        So, will you email me your credit card information and public address if my family or someone I know gets a VPDs d/t your ignorance in order to pay for their medical bills? I volunteer at a hospital where there are many sick individuals, some with compromised immune systems, and last year had patients with whooping cough d/t unvaccinated patients. I’m sure you would be willing to pay for their medical bills.

        Seems only fair.

        Back on topic, I would hope that the antics done by the anti-vax brigade doesn’t have a chilling effect on actual whistleblowers.

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