Hillary Clinton jumped into the vaccination fray this week with a tweet hashtagged #GrandmothersKnowBest, but does that knowledge extend to the choice of medical adviser? The Daily Caller’s Chuck Ross wonders about that too, considering that the Clinton’s personal physician co-wrote a book with anti-vaccination activist Robert F. Kennedy claiming a link between thimerasol and autism — the same claim that a debunked study made in 1998. Dr. Mark Hyman even appeared on TV to promote the core anti-vaccine argument on Dr. Oz:
Dr. Mark Hyman most recently expressed those skeptical views in a book he co-wrote with Robert Kennedy Jr. titled: “Thimerosal: Let the Science Speak.”
In the book and in a recent TV appearance on “Dr. Oz,” Hyman and Kennedy expressed concern that the mercury in thimerosal, a preservative used in some vaccines, is associated with autism, developmental delays and certain illnesses.
That belief is considered controversial in the medical community.
While Hyman has claimed that he is not a so-called “anti-vaxxer,” he has questioned whether people should get the flu vaccine and has supported the theory that the measles, mumps and rubella vaccine (MMR) can cause autism and other issues.
Just to make this clear: the MMR vaccine used in the US has no thimerasol or mercury in it. The FDA did two reviews of the hypothesized thimerasol/mercury link to autism and found no evidence to support it. Only the flu vaccines have trace elements of either.
Ross isn’t the first to report that Hyman is the personal medical adviser to the Clintons. In April of last year, the New York Times did an extensive profile of Hyman, noting that he had spent the last decade helping Bill Clinton remain healthy after a quadruple bypass. Not only had Hyman become their personal physician, the Times’ Amy Chozick reported, he had become one of their inner circle:
Dr. Hyman was charged with helping the former president after a 2004 quadruple bypass surgery. In the time since, the doctor has become part of the Clintons’ circle of friends and advisers, but one with an important difference.
The Clintons, after all, have a small army of aides who offer political and policy advice, but not many who can tell a former and potential president to lay off the ranch dressing. …
Dr. Hyman, who made a name for himself advising the moneyed urbanites who retreat to Canyon Ranch in Lenox, Mass., met Mrs. Clinton at a fund-raiser in New York when she was in the Senate. The two quickly dived into a wonky conversation about childhood obesity and his philosophy of healthful eating. “She then called me and we’ve just become friends,” he said.
Chozick included testimonials from both Clintons in the article:
The Clintons have, in turn, referred several friends to Dr. Hyman. “In his other life, this guy is a real doctor,” Mr. Clinton said during a 2012 panel discussion with Dr. Hyman, Jillian Michaels (of “Biggest Loser” fame) and Billie Jean King, among others, at a health conference hosted by the Clinton Foundation.
“He did amazing blood work on me and a lot of other people I know,” Mr. Clinton said, adding that it all started with “a very sophisticated biomedical analysis and he basically gave them their whole lives back.”
In other words, Ross is correct: Hyman is a close adviser to the Clintons, especially on medical issues. How does one resolve that against Clinton’s tweet:
— Hillary Clinton (@HillaryClinton) February 3, 2015
He’s not just a political aide with an opinion, or a doctor who may have had a passing curiosity about test results. He’s an activist for vaccination skepticism, and he’s the same doctor Hillary and Bill have been referred to their friends and colleagues for years. Will the media go after Hyman and the Clintons the way they went after Republican candidates who said much less this week?
In my column for The Fiscal Times, I conclude that this all seems … very familiar:
Meanwhile, the media has preened over the last few days about “settled science” while not taking a very close look at their track records. Jon Stewart spent Tuesday night railing at Paul, Christie, and the “mindful stupidity” of “science-denying affluent California liberals,” without noting that Stewart himself offered his platform to Robert F. Kennedy Jr in 2005 to promote the same kind of science denial from an affluent Massachusetts liberal.
The Washington Post, where Ruth Marcus cast this issue as a Republican episode of science denial, had just one week earlier offered an explainer that the problem wasn’t entirely limited to the left.
The policy positions staked out by Christie and Paul are also virtually indistinguishable from the White House, too. Both urged parents to vaccinate, but didn’t endorse a governmental mandate requiring it. That’s precisely what the White House says, too, according to White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest. “The President believes it shouldn’t require a law for people to exercise common sense and do the right thing,” Earnest replied on a question specifically asking about the measles vaccine and the state-based regulations that allow parents to opt out for personal and/or religious beliefs.
In other words, most of the “news” along these lines is actually not news at all. It’s reminiscent of the way the media blew up the non-issue of contraception into a “war on women” in the 2012 cycle. Few are willing to force parents to vaccinate, while every potential candidate believes that vaccinations – especially the core vaccinations – are safe and necessary. Perhaps at some point we can get back to issues that truly matter in the next presidential race, such as national security policy, federal spending, and the economy, rather than chase media-created rabbits down non-existent holes.
It’s gonna be a long, looooooooong primary.