Should An Anti-Vaccine Activist Be a 'View' Host?

There's a rumor that vocal anti-vaccine advocate and actress Jenny McCarthy is being considered to replace Joy Behar on The View . Over at Slate, Phil Plait is very concerned that giving Jenny a public platform will do further damage to vaccination in America. While I understand and respect Plait's concerns, I don't think that the possibility of Jenny McCarthy hosting The View is something people should be super-concerned about. It's not a "tacit acceptance" of her ideas of about vaccines.

Plait should remember that The View is entertainment, first and foremost. The View isn't in the business of providing thoughtful, balanced, scientific information to the American people, and that's not going to change, whether Jenny McCarthy appears on the show or not. The producers of the show are interested in ratings and controversy, both of which McCarthy will likely bring in spades. Speaking out against her hosting the show will, honestly, make her look like that much more desirable of a candidate, especially if controversy develops before she's even confirmed to appear.

Jenny McCarthy is a public figure, and although I don't discount that her activism against vaccines has been both dangerous and dangerously pervasive, she's not the only celebrity that spouts ridiculous nonsense. Marion Cotillard apparently is a 9/11 conspiracy theorist, Chuck Norris doesn't believe in evolution, and Suzanne Somers is continually taken to task for her controversial views on alternative treatments for cancer. Elisabeth Hasselbeck, who recently announced that she's leaving The View, regularly said patently untrue things on air, like that the morning-after pill is equal to abortion. Hasselbeck was made fun of in the media all the time; who's to say the same won't happen if McCarthy goes on the show? I can easily see shows like The Soup and blogs like Gawker taking McCarthy to task for saying anything even the slightest bit weird, silly, or scandalous, especially if it's related to health.

Granted, most people that watch The View don't read Gawker, but that doesn't mean that all the daytime TV viewers (ahem, mainly women) in America are brainless drones ready to believe anything they hear on a television show. I know that McCarthy has made a significant impact on vaccine choice already (whooping cough is on the rise again, for example, and experts attribute it to the anti-vaccine movement), but let's not totally write off the fact that people are entitled to do their own research and make their own decisions, no matter what some actress who was popular in the '90s might say. Perhaps having McCarthy on The View might even be an opportunity for public health and vaccine professionals to regularly refute and tear down her damaging arguments about vaccines, providing a way for actual science to reach a larger audience.

If McCarthy does happen to spew some anti-vaccine pseudoscience, I feel pretty sure Whoopi Goldberg or another one of the smart women on the show will engage her in a discussion to show viewers that McCarthy's point of view is just that: a point of view.