Newsweek’s Newspeak: Pharma’s Weapon Against Oprah

Age of Autism

By Jake Crosby

June 8, 2009

On the cover of last week’s Newsweek issue was a photo of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, President of the Islamic Republic of Iran, with a huge scowl on his face. On his forehead were the words, “EVERYTHING YOU THINK YOU KNOW ABOUT IRAN IS WRONG.”

Ahmadinejad received considerable attention for denying the Holocaust. He held a convention inviting well-known Holocaust deniers including former Ku Klux Klan leader David Duke, and launched a Holocaust denial cartoon contest. And yet, Newsweek oprah Oprah Winfrey was not portrayed any better on the cover of Newsweek’s latest issue, showing an outrageous photo of her, the title over her face reading, “CRAZY TALK.”

Newsweek will portray a prominent TV show host as horribly as it did a Holocaust denier, but will take the rather bizarre views of a neurodiversity proponent little known outside the autism community seriously. Two issues ago, the magazine gave coverage to the ND Ari Ne’eman, ignoring requests of other autistics including myself for an interview. I wrote a letter to Newsweek in anticipation of Ari’s’s article asking the magazine to give equal time to a non-ND autistic person, receiving nothing more than an automated response. I then submitted what I sent to the magazine as an open letter to Age of Autism thinking that might pressure Newsweek to at least publicly acknowledge the counterpoint to neurodiversity among autistic people. No such thing happened. Then the Ari Ne’eman piece ran online a week later and then in the May 25th issue, where he professed his anti-cure views while expressing an unfounded fear of the unproven idea that autism can be prevented through eugenics. (HERE)

Now Newsweek’s June 8th issue has solidified my worst fear: that my open letter to them had been written in vain. The cover article was a 9-page hit piece on Oprah Winfrey, of all people. (HERE) I read in Newsweek’s issue prior to the one where the Ari Ne’eman article ran that the magazine is operating in the red. (HERE) Now why would a faltering magazine write a smear issue of a celebrity who owns a net worth of several billion dollars and whose TV show is among the highest ranked in history? A big hint can be found in the subtitle, “Wacky Cures & You.”

Since Oprah has given Jenny McCarthy her own show, I can guess what one of those “Wacky Cures” would be. Sure enough, under the overblown title of the story that is even larger than the one on the cover, was the “wacky cure” I expected: “Eradicate Autism!” Strange the magazine would call this “wacky” after publishing an article two issues ago interviewing Ari, who not only fears an eradication of autism but that it will be done by eugenics, as if that’s anywhere close to being a possibility. And yet, the authors in the latest issue think it is “wacky” that Oprah interviews Jenny McCarthy who says she cured her son of autism with widely used treatments. Perhaps Newsweek takes the neurodiversity line that “autism is not a medical mystery that needs solving.” That would explain this discrepancy, though I tend to doubt it.

More likely, the explanation is that 10 of the 31 pages of ads are for pharma, 5 of them for Wyeth, including an inside-cover triple-page ad. Naturally, a failing magazine is going to want to receive more ad dollars by running more articles pleasing to sponsors. It seems practical and makes sense, though unethical, dishonest, defamatory and morally reprehensible all at the same time.

The first portion of the article slams Oprah for inviting Suzanne Somers on the show for promoting her own “natural” hormone replacement therapy. It involves hormones synthesized from plants rather than the typical horse urine, saying what Somers uses is not actually natural nor FDA-approved. Fair enough, I don’t have an opinion on the benefits or problems with HRT, but perhaps Newsweek can also run an article on the 5000 lawsuits Wyeth is facing for the damages attributed to its own, admittedly unnatural, FDA-approved version. If they did, it would help their case of proving Ms. Somers’ alleged belief wrong, that “the media” is “in the pocket of the pharmaceutical industry.” But I guess that’s about as likely as Newsweek interviewing me to balance out their coverage given to Ari Ne’eman.

After criticizing Oprah for interviewing Suzanne Somers came the expected criticism of her interviews with Jenny McCarthy. The very first thing the article makes clear is that she is a former Playboy model, as if having large breasts has to do with anything. I think a J&J manufactured, FDA-approved autism drug, Risperdal, growing milk-producing breasts on boys is more relevant, but that’s just me.

Then Newsweek makes the statement that “researchers” have not found a link between vaccines and autism. This, however, is hardly surprising, especially since Wyeth, a company that gave Newsweek ad money to run this piece was the same company to give grant money to the scientist-for-hire that led the most recent sham study obfuscating the vaccine-autism link published in Pediatrics earlier this year. Presumably, only the researchers who’ve received money from the same source as this magazine count. Hypocritically, the article then lamented that McCarthy’s views went “virtually unchallenged.” Leaving one-sided views “unchallenged” is precisely the problem with this magazine.

The hypocrisy doesn’t end as Newsweek then accused Oprah of doing to CDC officials exactly what it did to me in anticipation of its article for Ari Ne’eman: not inviting someone representing the counterpoint for equal coverage. Only in my case, I requested equal time and was ignored. It is true that Oprah read a CDC statement to offer an alternate viewpoint instead of having a guest from the agency appearing on her show, but blaming her for that is blatantly absurd and ignorant.

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Author: Leslie Carol Botha

Author, publisher, radio talk show host and internationally recognized expert on women's hormone cycles. Social/political activist on Gardasil the HPV vaccine for adolescent girls. Co-author of "Understanding Your Mood, Mind and Hormone Cycle." Honorary advisory board member for the Foundation for the Study of Cycles and member of the Society for Menstrual Cycle Research.