Andrew Wakefield to Grace Hightower: “your family’s life [has] been blighted by autism”

22 Apr

One thing I have noticed over the years–those who are antagonistic towards vaccines are quite willing to use the disability community, but are rarely willing to offer us respect. Consider Andrew Wakefield, who introduced one book with a fictionalized account of a mother murdering her autistic child. He framed it as an act of love by the mother. Or his film, “who killed Alex Spourdalakis”. Alex was an autistic young man with extraordinary needs. Andrew Wakefield tried to make Alex’s life  into an episode for his (now failed) reality TV show. When Alex was brutally murdered by his mother and another caregiver, Wakefield took his footage and made a film.  It was an apology piece for the murders, using Alex as a hammer to attack mainstream medicine.

So now we have Wakefield apparently leaking his celebrity emails and showing again his misunderstanding for and contempt of autistic people. This is discussed at length by ScienceMom at JustTheVax: Paging De Niro and Hightower…Wakefield isn’t really in it to help autistics

I’ll just quote one email:

On Mar 29, 2016, at 9:18 AM, Andy Wakefield wrote:
Grace, whatever may have happened – and I guess I will never know – in truth my heart goes out to you and Bob. Not only has your family’s life been blighted by autism, but you have experienced some of the relentless and ruthless pressure that has been my life for as long as I can remember.
In truth and healing

Andy Wakefield
Autism Media Channel

Just to be clear, Mr. Wakefield:

My child is not a blight. On me, my family or on anyone else.
My child is not blighted.
My life is better for my child. Challenges, struggles and all.

Just to be clear Ms. Hightower: if you didn’t respond to Mr. Wakefield in a way similar to the above, shame on you. But, while I am at it, shame on you for promoting this man and his damaging message. If you believe him, take a moment and ask yourself: if he’s lying (he is) how much harm has he caused to me, my family and mostly my son?

When you dehumanize people Mr. Wakefield, you make it easier for people to murder my child. You made it easier for people to abuse my child. You make it easier for people to disrespect my child. It is already a struggle to get adequate supports and assistance. How much will people be willing to help the “blighted”?

My child doesn’t need the charity of pity. My child needs the helping hand of respect.

And you, Mr. Wakefield, are in the way of that.

People ask me why do I spend my time countering your misinformation. This is why.

By Matt Carey

13 Responses to “Andrew Wakefield to Grace Hightower: “your family’s life [has] been blighted by autism””

  1. Science Mom April 22, 2016 at 20:48 #

    I find Grace Hightower’s sympathetic response to Wakefield as galling as Wakefield calling autism a blight on their family. Wakefield is a known fraud and charlatan in the autism and scientific communities but it’s obvious he can still manage to slime his way through his grift because of parents like De Niro and Hightower.

    • Sullivan (Matt Carey) April 22, 2016 at 21:59 #

      You can see part of Wakefield’s methods in the emails.

      First and foremost, pander to the parents. Tell them they are right. And they are suffering. For example, the bit about her being under such pressure.

      Also, tell parents that they are in a hell. Tell them their lives are “blighted”. Take away hope so that the only source is his movement.

      Wakefield also relies on getting others to keep his talking points alive. Del Bigtree is a great example. But you see it all over the internet. “He gave up his country, his career, his this and that, all for the children”. “this movie is about corruption”. Nope. Sorry. It takes about 30 minutes to get through introducing the main people in the film–Wakefield, Bigtree, Hooker, the Tommy’s, Mark Blaxill. The main reason to bring in Thompson is to put Hooker into the story.

      • sadmar April 24, 2016 at 00:38 #

        [Please refer to this more detailed screen-cap of the e-mail exchange as it briefly appeared on Farber’s site:
        To amplify Matt’s comment on Wakefield’s methods: I was really struck by how manipulative he was in those emails with Hightower. He starts out nasty “Did YOU share our confidential movie!!’ All but accused of being a traitor, Grace coughs up the Intel: De Niro shared with Rosenthal, Rosenthal shared with Rollins. Thus, Andy has gotten the info he needs: enough to spin a conspiracy chain — Pharma—>Rollins—>Rosenthal—>Censorship-of-Vaxxed. So he immediately lets Hightower know she’s back in his good graces: His heart goes out to her, they are one “in truth and healing” [vomit], and the whole point is to spin the martyr card — whipsawing Hightower: She goes from suspicion of sticking another spear into his side, to sister in sympathy because she is just beginning to learn how hard it is to be Andy Wakefield: He who suffers for the sake of saving the children. But this is the Mel Gibson take on Xtian theology: what follows crucifiction isn’t forgiveness, but Payback! So the path to Get Right With Andy given to Grace to make up for Bob’s leak: She is to work her hubby to get him to turn on his long time Tribeca collaborator, Jane Rosenthal.
        [Lest anyone protest Andy’s not smart enough to be this calculatingly diabolical, it’s probably closer to ‘instinct’ than ‘calculation’…]

        This is why I must take issue with Science Mom [we’ve been there, done that, right SM? 🙂 ❤ ] directing ire at De Niro and Hightower, who are, after all, victims of a highly-skilled scam-artist. Andy is using these people as fronts. The closer you look at Andy, the quicker the 'hero maverick doctor' image crumbles revealing a greedy, power-hungry, narcissistic, vengeful, mendacious snake. So, despite his ego, he doesn't really want anyone but the anti-vax faithful to look too close at him. He wants them to encounter anti-vax through more sympathetic surrogates. Like 'concerned' parents who just happen to be celebrities with a sterling record of community service {De Niro's foundation having been founded to help revitalize the Tribeca neighborhood post 9/11).

        Trashing Hightower and RDN is playing into Andy's hand. The thing to do is say: ‘OK, the De Niros are speaking for Andrew Wakefield. Let’s turn away from the projected celebrity image, and look at the man behind the curtain. For a very ugly picture that is."

  2. reissd April 22, 2016 at 21:51 #

    Your words a quizzed my heart. Your child is as lucky to have you as you him.

    Wakefield isn’t worthy.

    • reissd April 22, 2016 at 21:52 #

      “Squizzed.” Really, autocorrect.

    • Sullivan (Matt Carey) April 22, 2016 at 22:11 #

      Thanks for the good words.

      Wakefield is a blight on the autism community. He’s taken so much. Caused so much harm. And returned nothing.

  3. Kathy Sayers Hennessy April 22, 2016 at 22:15 #

    Hey Matt, the first para ends with “but a……” Where’s the rest?

  4. sadmar April 24, 2016 at 01:06 #

    This. A million times this…
    I have been arguing for years now that the push-back against anti-vax has largely taken the least effective tack in terms of affecting public opinion. The problem is that the primary opponents of anti-vax are pro-science folks whose instincts and larger agendas lead them to attack it first, and often exclusively, for it’s rejection of scientific consensus.

    There’s much more traction against AV available with:
    • victims of VPDs [c.f. The Texas Children’s VPD book].
    • Wakefield’s fraud, lies, and greed.
    • The awful stigmatization of ASD.

    Celebrity spokeshead like the De Niros take the spotlight away from all these things. They’re sincere. You can’t confront them with “You really hate your kid, don’t you?” without appearing utterly unsymapathetic. They set the agenda of discussion as far away from VPD outbreaks as possible…

    So, RDN goes on Today and gets a softball question about scientific consensus, which he parries fairly effectively with “It’s more complicated.” Then Today has one of their talking heads do a ‘balance’ piece from the ‘science’ side with a few short clips from a pediatrician who isn’t even mic-ed properly… yawn.

    Now, just imagine what Today could have done by flipping the agenda and have De Niro address either the fraud or VPDs:
    “Are you concerned that the representation of Dr. William Thompson in Vaxxed is thoroughly contradicted by the transcripts of his phone conversations with Brain Hooker?”
    “I’d like to read you part of an essay Ronald Dahl wrote about the death of his daughter Olivia, and get your reaction.”

    Or what if the talking head piece had included:
    • Dissection of the fraud in the TVaxxed trailer per Matt’s spot-on analysis.
    • Interview w. parents of immuno-compromised kids on the threat posed by the unvaccinated.
    * Interviews with young adult ASDs, near tears, saying “I am not broken, damaged, destroyed…”

    Matt wrote:
    “When you dehumanize people Mr. Wakefield, you make it easier for people to murder my child. You made it easier for people to abuse my child. You make it easier for people to disrespect my child. It is already a struggle to get adequate supports and assistance. How much will people be willing to help the “blighted”? My child doesn’t need the charity of pity. My child needs the helping hand of respect. And you, Mr. Wakefield, are in the way of that.”

    That’s ‘the lead’. “Make that your mantra.” That, and the threat of serious illness and death, is why this matters. These things are why we’re here. These are why people will listen.

    • sadmar April 24, 2016 at 01:11 #

      …and, I forgot to add, why “countering misinformation” isn’t enough, or even the first order of business. “Your family’s life has been blighted by autism,’ isn’t misinformation. It’s emotional manipulation, and an appeal to prejudice. That can’t be countered by information. It’s countered by expanding on the spirit of _this_ OP.

  5. Awake May 17, 2016 at 18:33 #

    Matt Carey,

    The pharma industry front group must be paying you a lot of money to make up such ridiculous non-sense about Andrew Wakefield and the film Vaxxed. Anyone with any common sense would understand that the CDC is nothing more than a revolving door for pharma that cannot be trusted. RFK Jr. called it, ” A cesspool of corruption”…. “Four scathing federal studies, including two by Congress, one by the US Senate, and one by the HHS Inspector General, paint CDC as a cesspool of corruption, mismanagement, and dysfunction with alarming conflicts of interest suborning its research, regulatory, and policymaking functions. CDC rules allow vaccine industry profiteers like Dr. Offit to serve on advisory boards that add new vaccines to the schedule. In a typical example, Offit in 1999 sat on the CDC’s vaccine advisory committee and voted to add the rotavirus vaccine to CDC’s schedule, paving the way for him to make a fortune on his own rotavirus vaccine. Offit and his business partners sold the royalties to his rotavirus vaccine patent to Merck in 2006 for $182 million. Offit told Newsweek, “It was like winning the lottery!” A 2009 HHS Inspector General’s report found that the CDC certified financial disclosure forms with at least one omission for 97% of committee members—and most forms had more than one type of omission. The same report stated that as many as 64% of committee members had potential conflicts of interest that CDC did not identify or resolve before certifying their forms. In addition to lucrative business partnerships with Merck, Offit holds a $1.5 million research chair, funded by Merck, at Children’s Hospital in Philadelphia. From this industry sinecure, he broadcasts vaccine industry propaganda and annually publishes books urging unlimited vaccinations and vilifying safe-vaccine advocates.”

    • reissd May 17, 2016 at 18:47 #

      A. Dr. Carey isn’t paid. He is speaking up because as an autism dad, he cares about the harm this does to the autism community.

      B. Mr. Kennedy’s opinion is clear. He has believed there is a conspiracy at least since his grossly inaccurate article in Rolling Stone – and has persisted in his claim in the face of evidence. For that reason, it may be a good idea not to quote him on these issues. For example, the inaccurate article you are quoting is wrong in –

      1. There are no federal studies saying this. There are a few politically motivated reports. And see:
      2. Dr. Offit did not vote rotavirus onto the schedule. He joined afterwards. the amounts are wrong too.

      In short you are drawing on an inaccurate source that supports a conspiracy theory with unfounded personal attacks on a pediatrician. An error.

    • Sullivan (Matt Carey) May 18, 2016 at 19:49 #


      Apparently you didn’t read the article above. Wakefield is calling autistics a blight. That’s you, if I recall correctly, as well as your kid. A blight. Happy with that?

      When did you lose your way? When did you abandon even spending part time trying to make a better life for autistics and focus instead on wasting vast amounts of time on a social media campaign to advertise for people like Wakefield?

      Can you tell me what Wakefield has done for our community? You can’t. Because he’s done nothing. Nothing positive that is. Sure, he spreads his message of despair and hate to a new group of parents, but what has he actually done?


      Let’s say for the moment that Wakefield was actually right about MMR and autism. He wasn’t, but let’s go with that argument.

      We was given the opportunity to work with full support to verify his claims. That was back at the Royal Free Hospital. He left rather than actually do that work. Are you happy with that? He abandoned a position where he could actually prove his point. That was in 2000/2001.

      He then appears to have floated for a while, linking up with another charlatan, Jeff Bradstreet.

      What then? Oh, yeah, he helped found Thoughtful House. He had the backing of Jane Johnson, a very wealthy woman, autism parent, and proponent of alt med and (at least back then) the idea that vaccines cause autism.

      Wakefield put together his own team, including Arthur Krigsman. He had a stead stream of kids coming in to the clinic, kids whose parents would be happy to sign the kids up for research.

      Did he prove his “MMR causes autism” idea? Nope. Doesn’t appear to have even tried (one suspects they did try, and failed. And didn’t tell anyone).

      You happy with that?

      What did Wakefield do his last year at Thoughtful House? That’s right, he went off to the UK to fight to keep his medical license. A license even Wakefield admitted he no longer needed. Instead of working hard to help autistic kids or to prove his theories correct, he went off to the media circus (of is own making) of the GMC hearings. Heck, his Facebook page to this day uses a picture from those hearings as is background. Because that was the highlight of his career? Being in the media limelight while ignoring his charges at Thoughtful House?

      Funny how Wakefield never talks about being let go from Thoughtful House. He and almost his whole team are gone. Thoughtful House has renamed itself (the Jane Johnson Center), and there is no mention of Wakefield on their website today.

      Was that “Big Pharma”? Some grand conspiracy? Not in the least. He failed and failed hard at Thoughtful House. $270k a year for something like 5 years. Years of opportunity to work on therapies and–the only thing that seems to matter to you–proving that vaccines cause autism. And he failed hard.

      What then? Oh, yeah, he created the “Strategic Autism Initiative”. It’s stated purpose was to fund autism research but it was clear to everyone this was just a way to funnel money to Wakefield as a tax deduction.

      And what did he do? Well, he paid himself a lot of money. Over half the money taken in by SAI went to him last I checked. SAI failed. Not just as a charity, but failed to produce any results whatsoever. Over $600k and years of opportunity thrown away.

      But he’s a hero, right? This monumental failure is a hero. What was he doing while running SAI? That’s right, he was trying to make a new media circus by suing Brian Deer and the BMJ. Even if he was right (he wasn’t), what was this going to do except put Andrew Wakefield in the media again? I’ll answer: nothing. But, hey, tweet away and keep him in the minor limelight of your community. Pretend him wasting time and money on a self-serving litigation attempt had something to do with making a better life for autistics. All the while he was running SAI into the ground. Yep, he’s got you chasing the smoke and mirrors and ignoring his failures to actually deliver.

      Then what? Oh, yeah, his failed reality TV show. Not only did “the Autism Team” fail, but he used and abused the Spourdalakis family, filling them with false hope and walking away with his video. And what happened when Alex was brutally murdered by his mother and caregiver? Wakefield seized an opportunity to, yes, once again put himself center stage. He used the murder, used the tragedy, to make a piece apologizing for murder and as a hammer to attack medicine. Yep, per Wakefield people who murder autistics should be excused, but you all lapped it up.

      And then, wow, the William Thompson thing fell into his lap. And he made a horrific, race baiting video. And you wonder why main stream media didn’t pick up the story. Aside from that junk video, your community trusted the story to someone who has made a career of playing the media. And as Wakefield was clearly crafting a story, clearly holding back information, clearly creating a story that didn’t make sense, you all applauded him. As he failed to get anywhere with it.

      And now, wow, he has a full feature length film. Once again putting himself front and center. And you all are jumping all over yourselves to help him advertise himself. Did you check the facts? Did any of you even care that Wakefield didn’t let you? That he held back the documents and just knew none of you would question him? Nope. He’s played you so many times he knows he can count on you to not check the facts or question a word he says. All he has to do is tell you to trust your own instincts and you never question.

      The last 16 years of Wakefield’s career has been one failure after another. And not just failures in terms of spreading misinformation and fear. Failures to deliver to your community.

      And here you are defending him. Never questioning, just defending. Just like he knew you would.


  1. The conspiracy circle is complete: Brian Hooker claims “The Man” has gotten to the #CDC whistleblower – Respectful Insolence - April 26, 2016

    […] Hilariously (and appropriately) the Q&A was moderated by antivaccine “journalist” Sharyl Attkisson and included Brian Hooker, Andrew Wakefield, Polly Tommey, Stephanie Seneff, Del Bigtree, and . Attkisson’s introduction of the panel is nauseating, too. Her nose was so far up Wakefield’s nether regions that she could probably tell what Wakefield had for dinner, as she it all the tropes about his being a persecuted truth teller and how science is supposedly broken. She continued on about the HPV vaccine, which she seems particularly to dislike. So busy is Attkisson buffing Wakefield’s credentials and, even more so, hers, that it isn’t until nearly 9 minutes into a 31 minute Q&A before she actually gets to the questions, and even then starts things rolling with an utter softball question to Wakefield, which gives him the opportunity to repeat the same lie that Thompson is an “inside source” at the CDC who has accused the CDC of fraud and repeat a variant of his offensive sentiment about how autism is a blight.” […]

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