Can­cer fundraiser de­fends head­liner choice

Jenny Mccarthy ‘funny ... vi­va­cious’

Ottawa Citizen - - CITY - TONY LOFARO AND ZEV SINGER

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.

DAVID LIV­INGSTON/GETTY IM­AGES

Ac­tress Jenny McCarthy has been se­lected as head­liner for the Bust a Move Ot­tawa can­cer fundraiser March 2.

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