News & Politics

HuffPost Gets Shamed for Peddling Anti-Vaxx Hysteria

(Image credit: Dave Haygarth via Flickr)

While the mob-rule internet public shaming we see so often these days is creepy and sending the country down a very bad path, some good old-fashioned professional accountability shaming — or at least the threat of it — is sometimes not a bad thing.

America is facing a measles problem that it shouldn’t be and it is all because of a throng of conspiracy mongers who believe that vaccinations, which are intended to prevent diseases, are in fact causing diseases.

The anti-vaxxers have been thriving on the internet for years. As the measles infection numbers have been steam-rolling to new records since the disease was supposed to have been eradicated, the major social media platforms have been distancing themselves from the vaccine conspiracy crowd.

Insider.com did a deep dive into one of the largest purveyors of anti-vaxxer conspiracies — the Huffington Post — and discovered that it may have been a primary driver in the early days of vaccine paranoia:

Under Huffington’s leadership in the 2000s, the site was one of the largest platforms for the then-novel allegation that vaccines, or certain ingredients used in vaccines, could trigger autism in young children. It was in part through their frequent posts on the site, then known as the Huffington Post, that McCarthy and Kennedy became so publicly associated with the discredited theory. But it wasn’t just by virtue of HuffPost’s status as an open platform for celebrities that the conspiracy theory took hold there; INSIDER has learned that Huffington actively recruited at least one writer who questioned the safety of vaccines to air his views on her site.

Arianna Huffington was making the transition from conservative-ish to liberal back then and, like all libs, was enamored of anything celebrities had to say. That’s how a former Playboy Playmate became the well-publicized spokesperson for a nascent movement of anti-science zealots.

The Insider post does a great job of chronicling and linking to a lot of the anti-vax hysteria that HuffPost has been peddling. The author gave HuffPost a chance to explain:

INSIDER reached out to HuffPost on Wednesday, and received a reply from a spokesperson for Verizon Media, who asked for additional time to respond to our questions because certain employees were returning from the Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity. The spokesperson did not respond to follow-up emails or phone calls.

On Friday morning, HuffPost editor-in-chief Lydia Polgreen asked an editor at INSIDER for an hour to respond to our questions.

Respond they did:

Score one for the specter of public embarrassment.