ABC has just announced that Jenny McCarthy will be joining The View as a permanent co-host this upcoming fall, replacing comedian Joy Behar. The actress and former Playboy playmate has previously made 17 appearances on The View and guest-hosted the show eight times. So the announcement came as very little surprise, especially because it had long been rumored that McCarthy was in talks with the television station to fill a host’s seat. About the choice, Barbara Walters said, “We love her because she’s fun, she’s uninhibited, and she’s opinionated enough to help us begin the latest chapter in The View history.”
Jenny McCarthy is indeed opinionated, particularly about one important issue: childhood vaccines. Recently, McCarthy has been best known for her staunch opposition to childhood immunization, which she believes caused her son’s autism, whom she claims has since been cured. The only problem? No correlation between autism and childhood vaccination has ever been proven. In fact, Andrew Wakefield, the scientist responsible for first linking the MMR vaccine and autism, has been exposed as “an elaborate fraud” and has since had his medical license revoked.
The View has never shied away from controversial characters or opinions. In fact, one could argue that that is what makes the morning talk show so engaging to viewers. But controversy should not be courted for controversy’s sake, and giving voice to a different opinion should not come at the cost of scientific misinformation, especially about a serious public health issue. That’s precisely the risk ABC runs in hiring Jenny McCarthy as a co-host. At best, even if McCarthy steers away from this public health issue about which she is so misinformed, ABC has given a tacit approval and credibility to the actress’s dangerous claims by hiring her as a co-host. At worst, this new platform, which reaches millions of viewers per day, will be an extension of her dangerous pseudoscientific beliefs.
Sure, it’s great that McCarthy is “uninhibited.” But when someone (totally lacking in medical and scientific merit, mind you) says, “I do believe sadly believe it’s going to take some diseases coming back to realize that we need to change and develop vaccines that are safe,” uninhibited starts to look crazy and dangerous. If she won’t hold herself accountable (in the name of being a “mother warrior”) for providing scientifically verified information to the public, television networks should do so for her. Seeking increased ratings at the expense of serious public health issues ultimately does few favors for viewers, and while expectations for serious conversations on The View are not high, even they should be better than this.