I was recently tipped off to a defamation case which was lodged on December 23rd by Barbara Loe Fisher, from the National Vaccine Information Center (NVIC) for USD1 million against Paul Offit, Amy Wallace and the publishers of Wired magazine, Conde Nast Publications in the United states District Court.

You can read the entire case as a pdf here.

The case revolves around the article written by Amy Wallace called ‘An epidemic of Fear, One Man’s Battle Against the Anti-Vaccine Movement’ (pdf here) published in WIRED in November 2009. The offending paragraph which Fisher is claiming has defamed her character appears below (quoted from the lawsuit);

20. The following passage contains the principle attack on Plaintiff Fisher’s honesty, character, and integrity, culminating in the per se libel (quoted from Offit) that Plaintiff Fisher “lies:”

‘”Kaflooey theories’ make him (Offit) crazy, especially if they catch on. Fisher, who has long been the media’s go-to interview for what some in the autism arena call ‘parents [sic] rights,’ makes him particularly nuts, as in ‘You just want to scream.’ The reason? ‘She lies/ he says flatly.

And

21. Plaintiff Fisher is not a liar. The statement “she lies” is without a basis in fact. Plaintiff Fisher depends on her reputation for honesty and integrity in all of her business, professional, and personal relationships. During her 28 years at the center of the vaccination debate, Plaintiff Fisher has never made a representation that she knew to be false and has scrupulously told the truth. In fact, Plaintiff Fisher is well known for taking special care to document the written statements she makes about vaccination with numerous references from original sources in an effort to be accurate, transparently honest and trustworthy. The accusation that Plaintiff Fisher is a liar is malicious, spiteful, the product of ill-will, and is an overt attempt to discredit and destroy her reputation for honesty and integrity out of Offit and Wallace’s zealous commitment to mandatory, universal vaccination.

The overall tone of the suit is one of Fisher as the underdog fighting for the rights of children damaged by vaccines whereas Offit, (co-inventor of RotaTeq the vaccine against rotavirus) is driven purely by profit, is deeply in the pockets of Big Pharma and promotes anyone who opposes vaccination as; “ignorant of science and negligent, placing all others in society at risk of illness, injury or death”.

The reasons for Wallace also being sued are detailed here;

Before publishing the article, Wallace engaged in a lengthy interview with Plaintiff Fisher by phone and in communications with her via electronic mail. She never questioned in that interview Plaintiff Fisher’s honesty or integrity and did not thereafter confront her with the Offit charge that she was a liar and invite her to respond.

In confirmation of Wallace’s bias against those who oppose mandatory, universal vaccination, Wallace wrote and published the libel specifically choosing it as the climax of her article’s characterization of Plaintiff Fisher and following her defamatory positioning of Plaintiff Fisher as “the brain” for an entire vaccine
safety and informed consent movement which Wallace deliberately mislabeled as “anti-vaccine”
and that she condemned as unscientific and opportunistic.

Wallace knew Fisher not to be opposed to the availability and use of vaccines but to be opposed to forced use of vaccines and to vaccination without fully informed consent, yet falsely described her as a leader of the “antivaccine movement,” thus associating her within the article as a vaccine opponent who is unscientific, opportunistic, and dangerous to society. Wallace published the statement “she lies,” quoted from Offit, with knowledge of its falsity. Wallace aided and abetted Offit’s aim to discredit, debase, and defame Plaintiff Fisher by accusing her of being a liar.

Further;

After labeling supporters of informed consent and vaccine risk awareness as irrational individuals blinded by fear, after identifying Plaintiff Fisher as the “movement’s brain,” and after lionizing Offit as the leading expert on vaccination whose views the public should trust, Wallace portrays Plaintiff Fisher, in reliance on a quote from Offit, as a liar, impugning her honesty, character, and integrity.

I’ll keep you updated on further developments as they come to hand.

Tip o’ the hat to Michael


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  • Chris

    I just went and checked NVIC’s information site on pertussis (which they are still calling whooping cough). There is no reference less than twenty years old. This is significant because the vaccine has changed from the DTP to the DTaP. It is also extreme cherry picking (especially since research in last ten years indicates the DTaP vaccine prevents SIDS!).

  • Chris

    Mr. Johnson, the lawsuit was dismissed. Ms. Wallace has a copy of the order here:
    http://www.amy-wallace.com/2010/03/10/1-million-lawsuit-dismissed/

    It is an interesting read.

  • Frank Johnson

    Most of the arguments here make no sense. I do not believe she is suppressing opinion, she is attempting to correct a “false statement of fact.”. Instead of “she lies”, could have been “in my opinion she lies”, instead of the author not contacting fisher and writing a complete story, she could have.

    Fisher should defend herself as I am sure most people here would have. She is suing to correct a LIE against her. I guess she should allow atrocious “opinions” to be spread as “facts”

  • @lemming, I suspect you will never come back to read this thread “because no-one actually goes to this site.” Oh hang on. Irony anyone? But just in case..

    I’m interested to know why you plonked this comment on this particular post. If you read the post, you will see it is about an anti-vaxer suing a journalist, the publisher and an expert in vaccination, because they exposed some falsehoods about the anti-vax lobby.

    Since you appear to be against “Big Pharma” I thought this would be good news to you. The Dr embroiled in the case supports vaccination and presents evidence that mercury does not causes autism. He has even written books about how damaging the anti-vax movement is to the health of kids. And he is the co-inventor of the vaccine for rotavirus, RotaTeq.

    Take a closer look at the post. Big Pharma (who you thinks pays for this site) is getting sued for USD 1 million.

  • You have to love a good Poe. 🙂

  • “Don’t be a lemming,” scepticsbook.com is brought to you by our corporate overlords at Scientific Method™.

    SM™ is also heavily involved in other conspiracies like fooling the sheeple into thinking that computers have electronic bits in them instead of the UNDENIABLE TROOF ‘they’ suppress about the little gnomes with paintbrushes who live inside your monitor.

  • Jim (a real person)

    Oh dear what a sad comment above. Well I’m one of the many thousands of people who DO visit this site, and who love to read Dr Rachie’s articles and blog and listen to her speak at conferences. We don’t trust the pharmaceutical industry unquestioningly, we require evidence. Maybe if more people did the same there would be fewer people dying unnecessarily of AIDS, flu, hepatitis, malaria, cancer, etc, around the world.

  • Don’t be a lemming

    Thank goodness no one actually goes to this site. What a bunch of garbage this site spews. Lies, lies and more lies. Wonder which drug company sponsers them.

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  • Grendel

    When you can’t fight with scientific evidence you fight with lawsuits.

    Tobacco companies were masters of this technique and it is a lesson that has been well learnt by many in the Alternative Medicine crowd.

  • Thanks for blogging this. My favorite part of the complaint reads:

    “If defendants are correct, Plaintiff Fisher is not a person to be believed and because her stock and trade is information and opinion derived from it, she has no business worthy of acceptance and use, honesty being the foundation of every such reliance.”

    They make it so easy for us, don’t they?

  • You are kidding me??
    I knew the anti-vaxxers hated this article with a passion, but I never thought that they would take legal action to get one of the few scientifically accurate vaccination articles out there removed.