As Hillary Clinton officially became the Democratic Party’s nominee, interest in Green Party presidential candidate Jill Stein grew exponentially. Several establishment journalists, including those known for their open contempt for dissent, turned their attention to Stein to marginalize her campaign before it picked up more than a small amount of support from disaffected Bernie Sanders supporters.
One false and slanderous claim against Stein has picked up a huge amount of traction in the press: the idea that Stein is an “anti-vaxxer,” opposes vaccines, or has pandered to individuals who believe vaccines cause autism.
The Washington Post is primarily responsible for this smear. It had two of its reporters, Sarah Parnass and Alice Li, interview Stein. David Weigel, another Post journalist, wrote about the interview, and a Post editor gave it the following headline, “Jill Stein on vaccines: People have ‘real questions,'” which was extremely misleading.
At the moment, over a dozen media outlets have picked up the interview and chastised Stein for supposedly having anti-science views. Some of the pieces on Stein’s interview are mean-spirited, written by journalists who would have found something to make her look like a crank even if the Post had not spoken with her about vaccines.
It is not as if vaccines are critical to her platform or her campaign. This is not a pressing issue she raises on a regular basis. Why was a question asked about vaccines?
The answer is Stein participated in a Reddit Ask Me Anything (AMA) chat back in May. A Reddit user asked her, “What is your campaign’s official stance on vaccines and homeopathic medicine?” She replied with her “personal stance” on the issue and noted her campaign did not have an “official” stance.
The United States Green Party’s past positions on homeopathy and medicine in general have been treated as a metric for judging the party’s presidential candidates. When the Post made the decision to ask Stein this question, the intent was to call attention to whether the party still is a home for quacks or not.
Now, because Stein’s remarks have garnered so much media attention, here they are in full. Anyone with basic reading comprehension skills can tell she is focused on the influence of pharmaceutical companies on government regulatory agencies, like the Food and Drug Administration, not pandering to some anti-vaccine crowd:
I think there is no question that vaccines have transformed public health and have been absolutely critical in ridding us of the scourge of many diseases—small pox, polio, etc. So, vaccines are an invaluable medication. Like any medication, what should we say? They should be approved by a regulatory board that people can trust. I think right now that is the problem, that people do not trust a Food and Drug Administration—or even CDC [Center for Disease Control] for that matter—where corporate influence, where, for example, Monsanto lobbyists help run the day in these agencies and are in charge of approving what food is or isn’t safe.
There is rampant distrust of our institutions of government right now. The trust level for the presidency is somewhere around 15 percent. The strong confidence in Congress is somewhere around 4 percent, and the same is true of our regulatory agencies. So our overarching solutions here—
You know, as a medical doctor, there was a time when I looked very closely at those issues and not all those issues were completely resolved. There were concerns among physicians about what the vaccination schedule meant, the toxic substances like mercury, which used to be rampant in vaccines. There were real questions that needed to be addressed. I think some of them have been addressed. I don’t know if all of them have been addressed.
At the same time, we have a real compelling need for vaccinations. It requires an agency that we can trust to sort through all of those concerns, to assure the American public, whether it’s administering estrogen to treat symptoms of menopause, or at one point it was the solution to prevent Alzheimer’s and then it was discovered, oh my goodness, it may actually contribute to Alzheimer’s. It’s very important that the American public have confidence in our regulatory boards so that all of our medical treatments and medications actually are approved by people, who do not have a vested interest in their promotion. In my experience, this is not a radical idea. This is basic common sense. [emphasis added]
Stein does not say that all the questions are unresolved. She says she does not know. She also says she had real questions. From the interview, it is clear that she does not have them anymore.
President Barack Obama said during his 2008 presidential campaign, “We’ve seen just a skyrocketing autism rate. Some people are suspicious that it’s connected to the vaccines. The science right now is inconclusive, but we have to research it. Part of the reason I think it’s very important to research it is those vaccines are also preventing huge numbers of deaths among children and preventing debilitating illnesses like polio.”
Yet, similar to Stein, Obama no longer has these questions or concerns about vaccines.
Stein unequivocally stated vaccines are invaluable to the public’s health, which is clearly at odds with the anti-vaccine community. Therefore, her views on corporate influence in the FDA and the CDC should be viewed separately as an expression of her views on the potential dangers of crony capitalism.
More generally, The Washington Post reported in 2013 that pharmaceutical firms paid to attend meetings held by a panel that advises the FDA on the “safety and effectiveness of painkillers.” The Post also reported in 2012 on the vast influence major pharmaceutical companies, like GlaxoSmithKline, have on medical research. Undoubtedly, such potentially biased research in journals like the New England Journal of Medicine has some influence on the FDA’s regulation of medicine.
In a letter to the editor published by the St. Louis Post-Dispatch on February 7, 2015, Dr. Ed Weisbart, chairman of the Missouri chapter of Physicians for a National Health Program, wrote:
Why is there such distrust of vaccinations today?
The answer is simple: Pharmaceutical manufacturers have repeatedly proven themselves as undeserving of our trust.
In 2010, AstraZeneca was fined $520 million for an array of illegal promotions of antipsychotics for children, elderly, veterans and prisoners. That fine sounds large, but it amounted to only 2.4 percent of the $21.6 billion that they made on Seroquel sales the preceding 12 years.
They’re not alone. Glaxo was fined $3 billion for the illegal promotion of two antidepressants and for hiding safety problems with a diabetes drug. Johnson and Johnson was fined $2.2 billion for the illegal marketing of Risperdal. Again: just tiny fractions of their total sales.
Their strategy seems to be “pay the ticket, but keep on speeding.”
We should be able to rely on the Food and Drug Administration to protect us, but the FDA’s advisory boards are now stacked with people who have a financial interest in the very drugs being regulated. Moreover, the FDA’s funding is dependent on the pharmaceutical companies.
Of course, this is not really about whether Stein is a vaccine truther. It is about journalists, especially left-leaning journalists, feeling insecure about Stein’s presence in the election. They recognize a Green Party presidential candidate enjoys unprecedented popularity among parts of the Democratic base as a result of how Clinton chose to dispatch Sanders and his supporters. So, they immediately deployed vitriol against Stein.
That is why we already have the next smear to further marginalize her as a wackadoodle candidate: Jill Stein thinks Wi-Fi harms children’s brains.
Boing Boing’s Rob Beschizza snidely declared, “She’s angling to pick up another marginal constituency—people who think vaccines and radio waves fry their children’s brains—in the vain hope of turning 2% into 2.5%. It’s a lesson about the nature of people who become professional politicians: they’re egomaniacal freaks who desperately need to win, and every vote is another molecule of supply for their narcissism.”
It is impossible to tell if Beschizza applied this lesson to Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton, but the reality is last year a study was published on the effect of radiofrequency electromagnetic fields on children. It suggested children and fetuses absorb “more microwave radiation” since their bodies typically are smaller, and they have thinner skulls and more absorbent brain tissue. Forbes contributor Robert J. Szczerba wrote, “It should open up the discussion about different safety levels for adults versus children.”
Yet, let’s reiterate: this is not about whether Stein is opposed to vaccines, fearmongers on the impact of Wi-Fi internet on children, or believes there are self-replicating nano-fibers within citizens’ bodies, which will inevitably turn us into cogs for the corporate state.
This is about a latent anti-democratic prejudice toward candidates who run for president outside the two-party system.
The above only begins to address the hostility and panic from multiple journalists over the past days. Unfortunately, for those who recognize the need to break away and free the country from the stranglehold the Republican and Democratic Parties have on politics, these hacks have only just begun to churn out their most insufferable and hysterical diatribes against including more voices and choices in our elections.