vaxxed

It’s recently been revealed that The Huffington Post has continued to block articles that appear to cast any favorable light on the controversial film “Vaxxed,” as two articles contributed by British writer Sally Beck were removed shortly after publication.

Beck wrote an article, titled “VAXXED, should we watch this movie?”, and it was published on the UK version of The Huffington Post on February 21st. She went on to co-author an article titled “The MMR vaccine: why it’s sensible to worry about the way it has been regulated” shortly after the “Vaxxed” article.

“Vaxxed is based on extensive recorded interviews with whistleblower, Dr William Thompson, a former senior scientist at the CDC, (Centres for Disease Control) the US agency concerned with safeguarding public health,” Beck wrote. “The film looks at whether his claims – that he, and four others at the CDC, skewed data in an important study looking at whether the MMR jab (measles, mumps and rubella) can cause autism – are true. Dr Thompson said: ‘I have waited a long time to tell my story and I want to tell it truthfully. I was involved in deceiving millions of taxpayers regarding the potential negative side effects of vaccines. We lied about the scientific findings.’”

The article “VAXXED, should we watch this movie?” served mainly as a review of the film’s content, while the MMR article expressed support for parents who have concerns about the safety of MMR vaccines. Both articles appear to show some graciousness toward Thompson as well as controversial figures Andrew Wakefield and Brian Hooker.

An archived version of the “Vaxxed:” article can be seen here, and her followup article, “The MMR Vaccine:” can be viewed here. 

These articles illustrated how Beck was intrigued by the claims made in this movie, particularly a bold charge made by Thompson that, during a study regarding a potential link between African-American boys, the MMR vaccine, and autism which was published in 2004, he and his co-authors removed data that led to an indication that young African-American males who received the MMR vaccine before the age of 36 months may be at an increased risk for autism.

In 2014, Thompson released a statement that alleged he and his fellow co-authors eliminated data in the study:

“I regret that my co-authors and I omitted statistically significant information in our 2004 article published in the journal ‘Pediatrics’. The omitted data suggested that African American males who received the MMR (mumps, measles and rubella) vaccine before age 36 months were at increased risk for autism. Decisions were made regarding the findings of the report as the data was collected and I believe that the final study protocol was not followed.”

“Vaxxed” has been condemned by most of the medical community as well as the bulk of mainstream media as a whole, mainly because of the controversy surrounding Dr. Brian Hooker’s involvement with Thompson as well as the fact that it was directed by Andrew Wakefield. Wakefield lost his medical license and was essentially exiled from the scientific community after he published a study in 1998 suggesting that the MMR vaccine was linked to autism; his study was retracted following claims of fraud surrounding the study.

Hooker was subjected to intense criticism after publishing a similar MMR study of his own serving as a “re-analysis” of Thompson’s study; his paper was published in the journal Translational Neurodegeneration and it too was ultimately retracted.

Thompson’s willingness to admit wrongdoing at the CDC was quite abrupt, but ignored by most media. It turned out that Thompson’s claims had originally been made privately to Hooker. Unbeknownst to Thompson, Hooker had been recording these private discussions and it appears that Thompson went public because he was about to be exposed by Hooker. Thompson’s 2014 statement concluded that he was not aware that Hooker “was recording any of our conversations, nor was I given any choice regarding whether my name would be made public or my voice would be put on the Internet.”

The MMR study, the secret recordings, Thompson’s statement, and the release of the CDC documents of the study are indeed rife with controversy. While Wakefield and Hooker can be viewed as polarizing figures, the central theme of Beck’s “Vaxxed” review is mostly rooted in Thompson’s claims of CDC data manipulation.

However, the majority of news outlets tend to instead focus on Hooker and Wakefield. In-depth coverage specifically regarding Thompson’s claim that data in a study was omitted- quite a serious topic that some view as worthy of discussion- is difficult to be found among corporate media.

This is not the first time that The Huffington Post has pulled a review of “Vaxxed.” Lance Simmens, a former contributor for The Huffington Post, told journalist Celia Farber last year that his review of the movie was pulled with no explanation. “I saw a premier of VAXXED the other evening and was so moved by the presentation and discussion that followed that I felt compelled to write a piece asking that we at least begin a serious national dialogue on the allegations contained in the documentary,”Simmens told Farber. “I also drew attention to the spate of events that have unfolded over the past several years, where there has been a massive governmental failure to do its essential job, which is to protect the health, safety and welfare of the citizens.” 

Simmens shared his frustration that the article was removed from The Huffington Post with no explanation. “It never crossed my mind that this might be some sort of censorship because it has never happened to me and the article, while provocative, is not beyond any bounds of journalistic or political propriety,” Simmens noted.

The debate over vaccine safety can be difficult to navigate. Arguments can be heavily subjective, and there are clearly strong convictions present on both sides of the controversy: there are those who believe that vaccines are critical and that federal agencies should be spared scrutiny for the sake of preserving public health, and those who hold more doubt, seeking accountability regarding the science behind vaccines and believing that corruption exists within the pharmaceutical industry and the government. While The Huffington Post has the ultimate authority over what is published on its site, it is notable that their removal of Beck’s posts seem to point to an unwritten policy that expressly forbids discourse on this issue.

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New Hampshire-based writer Annabelle Bamforth is focused on breaking the left/right paradigm through new media and local politics. Annabelle is the editor-in-chief of Emmy-winning journalist Ben Swann's Truth In Media Project and a producer for Mr. Swann's Truth In Media episodes.