From: Susan Martin (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Sent: Wednesday, February 13, 2008 2:29 PM
Subject: parent spokespersons
As part of our ongoing response to media stories regarding autism and vaccines, the AAP communications department is compiling a list of parents who support the AAP and are available for interviews. We are looking for two types of parents who could serve as spokespersons:
Parents of children with autism spectrum disorders who support immunization and who do not believe there is any link between their child’s vaccines and his or her autism.
Parents of children who suffered a vaccine-preventable illness. This could be a parent who declined immunization, whose child became ill before a vaccine was available, or whose child was ineligible for immunization.
We are asking for your help identifying parents who would be good spokespersons. They do not need to be expert public speakers. They just need to be open with their story and interested in speaking out on the issue. We will contact candidates in advance to conduct pre-interviews, to offer guidance on talking to reporters and to obtain a signed waiver giving us permission to release their name.
If a parent were placed on our list, we would offer their name and contact information to select media. We hope to build a list of parents from a wide range of geographical areas.
As the Jenny McCarthy and “Eli Stone” stories illustrate, this issue is likely to recur in the national and local media. The AAP is committed to doing all we can to counter such erroneous reports with factual information supported by scientific evidence and AAP recommendations.
The anti-vaccine groups often have emotional family stories on their side. The ability to offer a reporter an interview with a similarly compelling parent who is sympathetic to the AAP’s goals is a powerful tool for our media relations program.
Please contact me if you have any questions or to suggest a parent to interview.
Susan Stevens Martin
Director, Division of Media Relations
American Academy of Pediatrics
The outspoken JB Handley of Generation Rescue responds to the architect of this manufactured PR blitz (while it is still in the manufacturing stage) by calling attention to the fact that while she needs head hunters to find her parents to make vaccination look appealing, all you have to do to find parents who can tell the story of the destruction that vaccination has brought into their family is to swing a dead cat.
As has now become the norm in this country, rather than taking responsibility for bad practices, dangerous policies and harmful products, the AAP adopts the corporate model of 'why fix the problem when a PR campaign is so much cheaper and easier!'
I wonder how hard Ms. Martin would have to look to find parents who not only had a sympathetic story to tell about why everyone should vaccinate, but to find parents like those of us who have spent thousands of (unpaid) hours on trying to get their vaccine message out. Because those of us with autistic, vaccine injured children who have become active activists are kind of everywhere. We can't leave home too often to give interviews, and writing is our best tool, but we are everywhere.
I am reproducing Handley's article in full, and I will add this to his comments:
Dear Ms. Martin,
You and the AAP need to realize that continuing on the course of denying your blinding love affair with vaccines combined with the permanent damage to our kids health from over vaccinating them (both of which are readily apparent to anyone with eyes) is destroying your credibility very quickly.
Conversations on the playground between mothers about their children's health is not, "Well the AAP says vaccines are safe, thank goodness. I am going to stop by today and get a flu shot for Johnny". They are about your conflicts of interest, your failure to take the questions asked by parents seriously, and "I am not going back to Dr. Smith because he yelled at me when i asked him if getting 4 shots at once was safe for my three month old baby. Do you know of a pediatrician who is OK with not vaccinating on schedule or at all?"
No one disagrees that viral infections suck, but no one on the playground knows any children who have died or suffered long term problems from getting a viral infection. Sadly, most of those mom's saw what happened to little Jimmy with their own eyes. He looked completely normal to them last month, and now, after being vaccinated and getting a little sick right after, Jimmy can't come to the playground any more because he is in therapy and will be for the rest of his childhood. And many of them have sat and cried at the kitchen table with Jimmy's mom who thought she was doing the right thing when she gave him all his shots, and doesn't understand why her pediatrician keeps saying that they could have nothing to do with his autism. Isn't it as obvious to him as it is to her and everyone else who knew Jimmy before?
Please, stop playing PR games and face the problem. Too many vaccines, too close together, not tested in combination, given to soon, to children who have no medical history and are not screened in advance to see if they have a healthy enough immune system to handle the vaccines, is adding up to tens of thousands of children with life long health problems and developmental disabilities.
The AAP has over estimated what children could handle and it is time to roll back the vaccine program and put common sense safety measures in place.
And Please... Please... stop your pediatricians from sticking their heads in the sand and ignoring vaccine reactions in children. Unexplained fevers and crying for three months is not something that just happens. Years of constipation and bowel problems cannot be explained away with, "some kids are just like that". The answers that my pediatricians gave me when I raised these concerns with them about my child were malpractice and they were fed to them by you.
After Chandler was diagnosed and I went back into my ped with all my research and tried to get him to read the safety and risk information on the actual package insert on the first vaccine my child reacted to. Although he was nice about it, he told me he didn't have time to read what I had to give him because he could barely keep up with all that you had to give him. When I asked him, 'who do i talk to about this then', he said, 'Talk to the AAP, I go by their direction'.
But you don't listen to me. Who cares if I raise reasonable and important questions about the shoddy research you use to promote vaccine safety and can offer you video tapes of my son before and after his 18 month vaccination/autistic regression, right?
After all, I am just another "scientifically illiterate" and "desperate" parent looking for someone to blame for my son's autism.
(Wait a minute, so if the public is supposed to dismiss autism parents stories about vaccine triggering their children's regression because those parents are emotional and not scientific experts, then shouldn't the public also be dismissing the stories of the parents that you are planning on trotting out because their tragedy has made them emotional and they are not scientific experts? Are people supposed to be listening to parents anecdotal stories or not... I am confused...)
I stopped listing to you when you stopped listening to me. Parents are asking questions, lots and lots of parents. If you stop listening to those questions, and pass on giving real answers, not thinly veiled BS flackery, but truthful and earnest answers, they are all going to stop listening to you too.
Admit that there is a problem and fix it. Any other faux solution, like this stupid PR move, is just throwing your time and money, and many children, down a black hole.
Ginger Taylor, M.S.
AAP WAGS THE DOG: FIND US SOME SICK KIDS PRONTO!
American Academy of Pediatricians email reveals panic and new low in “media planning.” (Full email at end of post.)
By J.B. Handley
Dear Ms. Martin:
I understand you are the Director of Media Relations for the American Academy of Pediatrics. I read your email of February 13th to medical practitioners (that I have included below in its entirety) describing a nationwide search for parents that, in your words, fit one of two profiles. First:
“Parents of children with autism spectrum disorders who support immunization and who do not believe there is any link between their child’s vaccines and his or her autism.”
“Parents of children who suffered a vaccine-preventable illness. This could be a parent who declined immunization, whose child became ill before a vaccine was available, or whose child was ineligible for immunization.”
Apparently, you are trying to establish connections with these families because:
“The anti-vaccine groups often have emotional family stories on their side. The ability to offer a reporter an interview with a similarly compelling parent who is sympathetic to the AAP’s goals is a powerful tool for our media relations program.”
It sounds like you have a system in place to prepare these parents to meet the media, according to your email:
“We will contact candidates in advance to conduct pre-interviews, to offer guidance on talking to reporters and to obtain a signed waiver giving us permission to release their name.”
As the father of an autistic child and the leader of a national autism organization, I found myself sitting at my desk, my chin nearly hitting the floor, in stunned astonishment as I read your email. Where, exactly, has the AAP’s humanity and moral compass gone?
Ms. Martin, let me give you a little insight into my world. If I wanted to find parents who had autistic children and who believed their child’s autism was impacted by vaccines, I wouldn’t need to email the nation’s pediatricians hoping I might find one or two. I could just open my window and yell, because these parents are everywhere in my neighborhood and town! Worse, our numbers continue to grow.
You see, not a day goes by without Generation Rescue receiving an email from a new parent who watched their child decline following a vaccination appointment with their pediatrician. While you search for the handful of parents with autistic children who may support immunizations, we can’t respond to emails fast enough from the thousands we hear from who feel vaccines contributed to their child’s autism. You may think our organizations have some sort of well-orchestrated system for having “emotional family stories” teed up for reporters. What’s actually true is that within a phone call or two, any reporter worth their salt could find parents anywhere in the country who feel exactly like I do.
And, that gets us right back to the problem with your organization as many of us see it. When Generation Rescue rented a booth at your national convention 2 years ago, we were stunned by how many AAP members came to our booth, quietly mentioned that they supported what we were doing, and encouraged us to keep fighting for the kids.
Let me repeat that: Hundreds of your members congratulated my organization for fighting for the kids!
Meanwhile, employees of the AAP like yourself have your head in the sand:
Where is the media story of the AAP sounding the alarm that the prevalence of autism continues to rise?
Where is the media story of the AAP digging into the growing number of stories of children recovering from autism?
Where is the AAP when parents return to the pediatrician and explain to the doctors they trust that their child disappeared after receiving multiple vaccines?
Where is the AAP to help protect our kids from a growing, devastating epidemic of Autism, ADHD, PDD-NOS, asthma, food allergies, learning disorders, and other autoimmune issues?
You are nowhere.
You are looking for the needle in the haystack parent with the autistic child who supports vaccines.
You are looking for the parent with the illness to exploit to scare the masses.
What you should be looking for, Ms. Martin, is your own soul, which you seem to have lost somewhere along the way. Worse, particularly if you are a parent yourself, you also seem to have lost the ability to listen to the parents and to put the needs of our kids first.
Shame on you, Ms. Martin, for planning such blatant manipulation of the media.
Shame on you for being part of an organization that has done nothing to respond to the growing epidemic of autism.
Shame on you and your organization for never exploring the growing body of stories of recovered children.
With deep disappointment and disgust,
JB Handley is Co-Founder of Generation Rescue and Editor at Large for Age of Autism.