Move over Jenny McCarthy.
You’ve probably heard about the HPV vaccine debate by now. Governor and presidential hopeful Rick Perry has been taking heat for his executive order that young women be offered Gardasil to inoculate against the virus linked to cervical cancer.
This isn’t the place to debate the wisdom of “being forced to receive inoculation,” as Perry’s political opponents have characterized it. We might linger here just a moment to note that the mandate contained an “opt-out” provision, a fact that is conveniently ignored.
What is troubling is the tactic being employed by rival Michele Bachmann, who recently stated that she has been told that the HPV vaccine causes mental retardation.
“I had a mother last night come up to me here in Tampa, Florida… she told me that her little daughter took that [HPV] vaccine, that injection, and she suffered from mental retardation therafter. It can have very dangerous side-effects… This is a very real concern, and people have to draw their own conclusions.”
It’s not news that politicians like Bachmann enjoy using weasel words; we can trace that practice back to Demosthenes. The trouble is the utter alarmism, in a culture already witnessing sliding vaccination rates for other diseases, and the outright lie.
And another woman told me that UFOs cause autism.
Even if we assume this unnamed woman from Tampa exists, the fault rests with Bachmann for transforming this absurd anecdote into a proclamation that the HPV vaccine “can have very dangerous side-effects” and “is a very real concern (relating to it causing mental retardation”) and then to lamely shift gears with the anemic postscript of “people have to draw their own conclusions.”
Anderson Cooper called her words “incredibly irresponsible.”
It’s worse than that. Jumping aboard the anti-vax bandwagon for the sake of cheap points with a low-info constituency is sensationalism to the level of treachery.