Go away, Jenny McCarthy

McCarthy is still around, and she has just issued a “call to action” — the anti-vaxxers are supposed to rush out and promote a book by JB Handley.

Yeah, JB Handley. Anti-vax, autism-obsessed crank. I think both of them can crawl back into the hole they crawled out of.

This JB Handley:

How did your life change when you discovered your son had autism?

Everything changed from the day it happened. It was an immediate nightmare. It was 30 days of six, seven, eight hours of nonstop crying by both me and my wife. It was the painful realization that my son may not have the kind of life that I expected for him. And once the grief had passed just enough to get up off the floor, it was a mandate to do whatever I could do with the rest of my life to give him the best possible life.

There’s a kind of annoying selfishness there. Guess what? Your children generally will not have the life you plan for them. Learn to appreciate them for who they are.

They just cried non-stop for a month? Over-react much? It’s like hearing that someone melted down when they discovered their child had a birthmark. Calm down. There are degrees of autism, and none of them are a death sentence.

Even more bizarre, he then declares that his son is now “recovering dramatically, getting all his words back, going to a normal school”. Maybe the diagnosis didn’t warrant a month of bawling? Autistic children are children — they grow and change. Freaking out over autism is just silly.

So this is the guy who has a new book. I don’t care, and am not interested. This is the guy who has Jenny McCarthy excited — I am unimpressed with the endorsement.


  1. llyris says

    So he found out his son is autistic and “everything changed from the day it happened” ??
    No it didn’t. His son didn’t change; it’s a diagnosis of an existing condition, not a car crash. He might have been super freaked out about his father sitting around bawling for a month though. That can’t have helped his mental or behavioural development.

  2. Phrenomythic Productions says

    As a parent to 3 kids with autism, I endorse PZ’s message here. Make no mistake: It’s no walk in the park! It’s stressful and tough for us as parents and it’s a hard life for them and the entire family. They miss out on a lot of normal things in life, even attending school is in constant jeopardy for them, despite their high intelligence. In fact, the schooling of our eldest is entirely in tatters now, so no diplomas for her. We may potentially have to take care of them well into their adult life. Looking at how other kids go about their lives compared to ours has been heartbreaking. But we adapt and we do what we can to make things work.

    And they’re wonderful human beings; they’re creative, intelligent, deeply engaged in their interests and have thus broadened our own horizons. We’re used to their many quirks and love them unconditionally. It doesn’t really matter in the grand scheme of things. If we have to keep them around at close range for another 10-20 years from now, at least we’d be together as a family.

  3. mijobagi says

    PZ, I think you’re great and have no doubt that this guy is an ass. However the quote you choose to highlight that is horrible.

    People are allowed to be upset when they get a diagnosis of autism for a child, and no, this is not the same as realizing your child won’t have the life you planned for them. Autism isn’t a death sentence, and they can certainly lead fulfilling lives. But sometimes they won’t, and it definitely is not an easy road. The comparison to a birthmark is completely ridiculous.

    They are allowed to cry, for days and weeks if they want. They are allowed to be upset that their child will not lead a normal life and they are allowed to be upset that they will have a child with a high probability of being highly dependent on them for the rest of their lives. These emotions are normal and can tear families apart due to the guilt of having them and the conflict it creates when one half of a couple comes to terms with the diagnosis faster than the other. Dismissing this fact doesn’t help anyone.

    PZ, I love you, but fuck you for suggesting that the diagnosis is not a life changing, emotional experience that not everyone is equipped to deal with right out of the gate.

  4. marcoli says

    I have a son with Aspergers’. You never get over it, but no I certainly never over-reacted like that! We just take the good and the bad and have long ago adjusted to the fact that he may never be fully independent.
    A sad irony about McCarthy’s damaging role in the anti-vacc movement is that her initial reasons for being involved in it was that she had a son that was diagnosed to be on the autism spectrum. But that diagnosis has long ago been doubted (evidence being that he has a different issue). But it looks like she is still claiming autism that has been alleviated by various quack treatments.

  5. Hairhead, Still Learning at 59 says

    To #4 mijobagi – I am the parent of 19-year-old on the autistic spectrum. I had to give up my ft job and go pt to ensure that my child was supervised and well-served in the public arena (schools, etc.) You said, “They are allowed to cry, for days and weeks if they want . . . ”

    No. Just . . . No.

    Neither the parents, nor the children are well-served by such hysteria. I have worked with persons with mental and physical disabilities for over twenty years, some congenital, some acquired. Imagine being told your child is a paraplegic,or a quadriplegic, or is going blind, or has cancer, or has developed schizophrenia, or any other serious accident, syndrome, or disease. You don’t hear about 2 adults crying eight hours a day for a month about these frequently-occurring personal disasters. The hysteria accompanying a diagnosis of autism, an hysteria which you justify and support is in the main out of proportion to the seriousness of the condition, when compared to all of the other things that can and do happen to our children.

    It is responsibility of adults to react in an adult manner and to take necessary steps without catastrophizing the situation, which is unnecessarily stressful to the parents, and horribly stigmatizing to the child. (The child hears the parents and internalizes their distress, and frequently takes on the responsibility for the situation — not a healthy thing.)

    Take your time and adjust to the diagnosis, sure. Be upset. For a while. Acknowledge possible bad outcomes. But then get on with it. (BTW, about the “birthmark” crack – imagine a full-face, purple, bubbly, inoperable birthmark — that’s a serious difficulty in a world such as ours where appearance is everything.)

  6. mijobagi says

    To #6 Hairhead. I never said anything about hysteria. Obviously crying continuously is not great but you don’t get to dictate how people react. People will come to terms with their drastically changed future in different ways. Everyone is different and just because you apparently got over it quickly doesn’t mean everyone will and they shouldn’t be shamed for taking a while to get themselves together.

  7. says

    As someone who was finally diagnosed with autism at the ripe old age of 39, all the talk here about how it ruins your life and destroys your ability to exist in the world is incredibly condescending. It’s called a spectrum for a reason, and for those of us who actually can adapt and deal and succeed in your neurotypical world, being mourned is bloody weird and disturbing.

  8. frog says

    Meanwhile, parents I know who have autistic children mostly reacted to the news with, “At last, we have an official diagnosis and can get the aid and accommodation our child needs.” Like, they already knew their child was on the spectrum. It was not a surprise.

  9. Hairhead, Still Learning at 59 says

    to miyobagi: Got over it? Got over it? I’m still living with it! (As are you.) My point is that crying for 7 hours a day for 30 days is a ridiculous indulgence of yourself, disruptive to the rest of your family, and often cruel to person who has been diagnosed. (viz. #7 above). You are adults, and if you can’t act like an adult, you should be ashamed. You don’t indulge your emotions to the detriment of others.

  10. Curious Digressions says

    As a parent of an autistic kiddo, I have a couple of reactions. (1) If you didn’t have an inkling that something was wrong, you wouldn’t have an autism diagnosis. We had classic presentation and it still took a load of doctors and testing that we had to actively pursue in order for a health care provider to actually code an autism diagnosis. Why would a parent be so shocked when one’s kiddo already Just. Isn’t. Adapting. the way other kids are? If he was that surprised by the diagnosis, he wasn’t paying attention. Generously, I’ll take the month of crying on the floor as hyperbole for reasonable grief that that the kiddo is going to have to face more challenges than other folks. (2) It’s reasonable to have a period of grief when realizing that you are the parent of a disabled kid, but it’s important to realize that the grief is about you. Then, you get over it or put it aside and do what needs to be done to take care of your kid, who is an awesome person. (3) It sucks that someone you love will have it harder or will have to work harder than other people to get the same outcomes. (4) It sucks that you’ll have to work harder as a parent because society offers minimal social support for neurotypical kids. If your kid can’t get by on that, you’ll have to fill in the gaps. (5) Fortunately, in my experience with my kiddo, autism has been both a bug and a feature. It’s part of who he is. It causes him issues, but some of his autistic characteristics are what makes him very cool. If it was ‘cured’, he’d be a different person. I like the person he is.

  11. says

    @frog (9): ” “At last, we have an official diagnosis and can get the aid and accommodation our child needs.” ”
    Absolutely! I knew from the time my son was three something was going on. I went to doctors and tried to talk with them and was just put off. One told me “just sign him up for baseball, he’ll be fine.” Another asked me “Why do you need your child to be ill?”
    Life for my son was hell up until junior high. He is of exceptional intelligence and tried so hard to make it through, and to cover up how difficult it was to be in a noisy classroom etc. He never had friends, always had stomach aches, always came home so exhausted. I finally found one of his teachers who also had concerns. Working with her we finally found a doctor who got us to a specialist. Like frog said, we could FINALLY know what was going on, and get the help and treatment he needed. There was no tears at the diagnosis of high-function autism but relief, especially even for him.

  12. freemage says

    The link at the start of the article (to Ms. McCarthy’s ‘call to action’ is now showing on Facebook as a dead link). This means that PZ Meyers told her to go away, and she did!

    Quick, PZ! Wish Trump and Pence away to the cornfield! You can do it! We believe in you!

  13. gijoel says

    I say we keep the telephone hygienists and put the anti-vax activists on the B-ark.

  14. blf says

    put the anti-vax activists on the B-ark

    As a reminder, the B-Ark crashed on Earth. The antivaxxers, et al., then proceeded to drive the local life into extinction.

    Not satisfied with that “success”, they are attempting to drive themselves into extinction. Unfortunately, “themselves” includes those of us B-Ark survivor descendants who, had we been alive at the time, would presumably not have been on the B-Ark.

  15. screechymonkey says


    And before her son’s autism diagnosis, McCarthy was big into something called Indigos and Crystal Children and believed that her son was one of these specially gifted children who would save the world. So she was into fringe woo-woo theories to begin with.

  16. methuseus says

    You’ve been put down pretty effectively by others here, but I wanted to add a bit: 6, 7, 8 hours of crying for a few days is certainly understandable. But spending a month wallowing in your own sorrow without doing anything to help the kid, without living life somewhat normally, without doing everything possible to make this have as little impact as possible on a “normal” life for your family, is a disservice to yourself, your family, and anyone else that has to deal with you in any way. Yes, some people react differently to others. Yes, you have the freedom to deal with stuff however you need to. But you don’t get to put life on hold for a month while you wail and gnash your teeth about this happening. If he said the same about a cancer diagnosis for his son, I’m sure you’d be wondering why he wasn’t bringing the kid to specialists and getting treatment during that month. But no, autism is so much worse and more special even though it’s not a death sentence like many cancers can be for children.

    As others have said, if you’re searching for a diagnosis where autism comes up, you’re already doing something to mitigate things, to help your child who doesn’t react the way other kids do to things. Why the wailing and gnashing of teeth for a whole month when you knew something was wrong anyway? Especially when the child wasn’t even two and the diagnosis is necessarily incomplete at that point anyway?

  17. secondtofirstworld says

    Unfortunately, it’s yet again time to point out that you caught the smaller fish. You know who’s a bigger danger? Matteo Salvini. As he’s an ardent anti-vaxxer, Italy has just stopped any and all compulsory vaccinations, endangering countless lives.

    Let that sink in, that a) Americans like Italy as a travel destination and b) through family connections, unvaccinated children can enter the US. Jenny McCarthy doesn’t run a country, and hope she doesn’t read this either ’cause she’ll be on the first flight to Rome.