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Presenting 'Both Sides' Of Vaccine Debate Gets Tricky During KCBS Interview With 'Age Of Autism' Author

KCBS Morning Anchor Stan Bunger offers this commentary on an interview Thursday morning with a vaccine skeptic:

After weeks of listening to people revile the parents who don't get their kids vaccinated, I thought it would be a good idea to ask the people who question the childhood vaccination program why they think the way they do.

So we put one of them on the air for an interview. Dan Olmsted edits the website "Age of Autism" and believes vaccines are a significant part of what he calls the "autism epidemic."

It may have come as a shock to those who assume these folks foam at the mouth, but Olmsted speaks in a calm voice and doesn't rant or rave. He DOES, however, toss off lines that, well, aren't quite true.

When he floated the generally-debunked claim that the vaccine preservative thimerosal was causing autism in kids, I challenged him, pointing out the fact that thimerosal is no longer used in childhood vaccines. He rebutted, saying it's in the flu vaccine--again, KIND of true, because it is used in the multi-shot version of the flu vaccine that the vast majority of people don't get--but nowhere else.

It's a clever tactic: calmly suggest that the flu vaccine we all know and love might be dangerous, too. And it puts us in the position of having to play the "heavy," which of course only plays into the belief of many that the "mainsteam media" are part of the problem. And on it goes.

Reaction to the interview? At least one colleague thought I came off sounding like I hated the guy. We got tweets praising our diligence and others accusing us, in the words of one, of giving a "group of fools a platform from which to espouse their idiocy."

Look, here's my take: I believe fervently in the role of journalism. We're supposed to be society's proxy, seeking truth as best we can. I'm not sure how we can cover a matter of grave public import WITHOUT putting these people in the spotlight.

I wasn't trying to "win" the interview, merely allow the vast majority of people who might think these folks are nuts to hear their message, and challenge them on the facts as best I could. A tricky proposition!

Want to hear the interview for yourself? Click below:


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