Cancer fundraiser defends headliner choice
Jenny Mccarthy ‘funny ... vivacious’
Jenny McCarthy might be coming to Ottawa to raise money for health care, but she’s bringing along the controversy that surrounds her views on medical science.
The Ottawa Regional Cancer Foundation is bringing McCarthy to town March 2 to headline its annual Bust a Move fundraiser as a guest fitness instructor.
But the actress, author and former Playboy playmate is perhaps best known these days for her unconventional views on autism, specifically her anti-vaccination writings.
Her son Evan Joseph was diagnosed with autism in 2005, but McCarthy says now her son is in “recovery” and is doing much better.
McCarthy has claimed in interviews that her son was healed by experimental and unproven biomedical treatments, and she blamed the MMR (measles, mumps and rubella) vaccine for giving her son autism.
Yet despite her views, for which scientists have labelled her a menace to vaccination efforts, McCarthy was the choice of the cancer foundation for the fundraiser, to be held at the Ottawa Athletic Club.
Funds raised from the event will go to the foundation to support breast cancer programs throughout Eastern Ontario.
Bernice Rachkowski, chair of the event, said McCarthy was not chosen for her views.
“We chose her because she’s funny, she’s very much a people person, she’s vivacious and full of life. That’s what we look for in a celebrity,” Rachkowski said.
“She also appeals to our target demographic because we want to engage younger women in being aware of breast cancer, how to prevent it and to be aware of all the help that is available if they, their aunt or mom are going through it,” she said.
Dr. Gary Freed, a professor of pediatrics at the University of Michigan and former chair of the National Vaccine Advisory Committee of the United States, said inviting McCarthy to the event, even if it’s not to lecture on her views and even if it’s for a good cause, is a bad idea.
“It’s disappointing that someone who peddles in pseudo science and has had such a negative impact on the health and well-being of so many children would ever be invited to participate in any type of legitimate health care program,” Freed said Tuesday night. “It, unfortunately, could be viewed as a sign of legitimacy of her dangerous, damaging and totally inaccurate pronouncements regarding the importance of vaccines.
“Her actions have potentially caused innocent children to be unprotected from potentially life-threatening illnesses. That is inexcusable and should never be given a public forum.”
Rachkowski said she’d be surprised if people were upset by the choice of McCarthy as a charity headliner. She said McCarthy was booked as a celebrity spokesperson for the event and not because of her beliefs on autism.
“We hope people understand that we’re bringing Jenny here as an entertainer and not for her personal views,” said Rachkowski.
Anne Bey-Schwartz, family support co-ordinator at Autism Ontario (Ottawa chapter), said her organization doesn’t have a problem with McCarthy’s visit to Ottawa but she stopped short of giving the actress a ringing endorsement. She said her organization looks at “evidencebased” studies on autism and recommends Applied Behavioral Analysis (ABA)-based strategies because they support the gains and success of children with autism.
She said her organization doesn’t have the evidence yet to support any of McCarthy’s views on the causes and diagnosis of autism.
“With the vaccines there has been research and it’s either been inconclusive or proven not a link (to autism). I don’t share her opinion because I don’t have the evidence to support,” said Bey-Schwartz.
She said McCarthy is a wellknown American actress and television star and she is seen by many young mothers as a role model.
The latest statistics indicate that one in 88 children born in Canada will be diagnosed with autism and it is more prevalent among boys, she added.
“We’re all looking for a solu- tion and an answer. She’s just one of the louder voices,” she said.
McCarthy, 40, has appeared in several films and television series and is also the author of seven books, including her latest, Bad Habits: Confessions of a Recovering Catholic. She has written books about parenting, and has become a controversial activist promoting research into environmental causes and alternative biomedical treatments for autism after her son was diagnosed. She began her Playboy career in 1993 and was later named the magazine’s Playmate of the Year.
This year’s Bust a Move Ottawa will feature a Great Canadian kitchen party workout with Tracy Cipryk, a fitness dance revolution with Gina Adams, a yoga class with Donna Davis, a kick-boxing workout with Heather-Ann Bratty, urban-dance routines with Marc-André and Bill, and a celebration wrap-up party. Richard Simmons was last year’s celebrity spokesperson and the event raised about $350,000.
Actress Jenny McCarthy has been selected as headliner for the Bust a Move Ottawa cancer fundraiser March 2.