Autism Investigated and a Longtime Reader Challenge Peter Hotez
Not since Autism Investigated’s founding has the editor challenged the vaccine people at their own events. But on March 6, vaccine developer Peter Hotez came to University of North Florida to deny he poisoned his daughter Rachel into autism. He transcribed his denial into a book, titled Vaccines Did Not Cause Rachel’s Autism. Compared to past encounters between 2011-2013, both Hotez and the venue that hosted him were surprisingly friendly. The level of nonsense spewed was about the same, however.
Although the event was an “Autism Symposium,” Hotez spent much of his talk discussing infectious diseases. Among those were the neglected tropical diseases that he spent his career researching. He spent relatively little time discussing his daughter, although he was clear that she was very severely afflicted. He repeated the usual mantra of no link to autism, of course, mentioning the fraudulent retraction of the seminal autism-vaccine study. Hotez went even further to deny there is not even an autism epidemic. “It’s really better diagnosis.” The one good thing about his talk was when he plugged and read from Autism Investigated’s meme about him.
Autism Investigated attended with event with Maurine Meleck, a longtime reader, advocate, author and grandmother of two men diagnosed with autism. One of them is recovered, but the other is still disabled and she cares for him. Unexpectedly, she was the first to ask a question. When she brought up the recovery of one of her grandsons and the improvement of the other, Hotez completely denied recovery was even possible for autism. “You don’t recover from autism,” he said.
She continued, “Schools are exploding with children in special education, many of whom have autism. How could you deny there’s an epidemic?”
“I didn’t say there’s no epidemic,” he said.
Hotez doubled down on his denial, stating that by “better diagnosis” he meant better diagnosis of girls with autism. “The key take away from my talk is that whatever causes autism, vaccines are not to blame!”
A few more people answered questions after that. One was a woman who admitted she delayed the MMR vaccine for her child. Hotez didn’t approve, “I wouldn’t do that!”
Another questioner said she felt there was a real autism epidemic. Then the mic finally was passed to Autism Investigated.
Hotez was then asked about the seminal 1998 autism-vaccine study coauthors’ fraudulent retraction of the interpretation. Hotez didn’t even know about the coauthors’ retraction, “I think it was an expression of concern.” He was corrected, having been told how the coauthors’ retraction had nothing to do with the accuracy of the conclusion but was really a statement in favor of vaccines, making it a fraudulent retraction. Hotez mentioned that the lead author Andrew Wakefield lost his medical license. When Autism Investigated informed him that it was because he didn’t cosign the fraudulent retraction, Hotez deferred to talk afterwards.
After the event ended, the editor and Maurine Meleck both introduced themselves. Meleck gave Hotez a copy of her book Rooting Out Bedhead: Autism and Other Brushes with Chaos. Upon the introduction of Autism Investigated’s editor, Hotez nervously laughed, “Oh, so you’re Jake Crosby! You write such mean things about me!”
Giving Autism Investigated his business card, Hotez said, “I have to run to the airport, but would love to talk more!”
He did compliment Autism Investigated’s post on JB Handley, ironically, saying, “You’re one of the nice ones.” Of course, that’s comparing the editor to someone who’s not nice to other vaccine skeptics simply because they don’t think he’s the smartest man in the room.
The event was ultimately one giant paradox. It was an event that was strangely out of sync with other events where the response by other pro-vaccine speakers like Paul Offit were overtly hostile. Yet the event was ultimately the same in its pushing of nonsense to promote toxic vaccinations. Hotez will never stop being in denial of his daughter’s autism, for it would mean that vaccines were involved.
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