Tribune Watchdog Or Tribune Skunk? Part 1

By Teresa Conrick 

January 19, 2010

It has been almost two months since the Chicago Tribune did their second malicious and biased report on the biomedical treatments for autism.  They have since done a third which also smells suspicious.  Many of the treatments that the Tribune incorrectly reported in that November 23rd article are medically based and focus on restoring normal function to organs and systems damaged by chronic bacterial, viral, and fungal infections as well as metals such as lead, aluminum and mercury.  Many of these toxins are found in vaccines.  The Tribune has appeared to make it a mission of theirs to try and paint a picture of desperate parents doing voodoo to treat children who have some sort of genetic and incurable developmental disorder.  Hardly the reality as we now look at 1:100 children developing autism and a 50% increase from just 2 years: Prevalence of Autism Spectrum Disorders --- Autism and Developmental Disabilities Monitoring Network, United States, 2006.

I decided to check out the Trib website and see if any of our many letters sent to Trine or the Editor addressing the benefits of biomedical treatments were posted.  There were just 2 letters on their website for Trine Tsouderos and Patricia Callahan's shoddy piece and they were an interesting pair.

The first letter was from a local doctor and attempted to negate and belittle the idea of neuroinflammation in autism.  It was absurd yet seemed part and parcel to letter number two, an ad nauseam, cheerleading effort on the dangers of medically treating autism.  It seemed eerily familiar yet I was unaware of the organization, Association For Science In Autism Treatment,  but a quick look at their website explained quite a lot: Association for Science in Autism Treatment - Board of Directors ....  Here was another "association" formed to show us the "science" in autism treatments yet looking on their Advisory Board, I saw three names that jumped off the page hinting towards deep conflict of interest.

What then is the purpose of the Association For Science In Autism Treatment? Looking at these names and their involvement in autism might shed some light:

1- Dr. Stephen Barrett : His website describes him, "Stephen Barrett, M.D., a retired psychiatrist who resides near Chapel Hill, North Carolina, has achieved national renown as an author, editor, and consumer advocate" but there are numerous websites sharing a different opinion, for example: HERE and HERE QuackPotWatch.

Wikipedia lists numerous accomplishments: Wiki Barrett; yet I found this (Wiki Mediation Cabal) addition so the issues seem to be ongoing.  I should mention that he has one whole website just devoted to bashing most biomedical treatments for autism: dietary supplements, chelation, homeopathy, hyperbaric oxygen, IVIG, oh, and how interesting that when you click on that link, it takes you  directly to the infamous Trib article Autism Watch.

2- Dr. Bennett Leventhal : I am very familiar with Dr. Leventhal as he was here in Chicago for many years. He was also coincidentally quoted in an article which I was also in that was reported by the Chicago Tribune (2006). I am in that article discussing my daughter, Megan, and my thoughts on thimerosal and her regression.  Dr. Leventhal's statements, "Chelation, for instance, could strip the body of essential minerals as well, said Dr. Bennett Leventhal, a University of Illinois at Chicago psychiatrist, an expert on autism and the director of an Illinois task force on the disorder. Furthermore, Leventhal is convinced mercury does not trigger autism."If mercury was the cause, we'd be all over it," he said. "It might help shed some light on what areas of the brain are damaged and it might give us some clues to the genetic susceptibility and help us find some answers. But unfortunately, it just isn't turning out to be the case."

Quite a mouthful especially since he now also has become an expert witness for Respondents in the Autism Omnibus Cases. He and fellow genetic autism, psychiatry, researcher Dr. Ed Cook, who is also now known for his Respondent testimony in the Autism Omnibus cases, have been a team looking for those elusive autism genes for MANY years (HERE.)

They also have another common bond.  It appears that they have each been involved with Eli Lilly (HERE). Dr. Cook reported to receive Consultation Fees (include scientific advisory boards) for Eli Lilly. (HERE)

Dr. Leventhal is a bit more popular: Dr. Leventhal received "research support from Abbott, Eli Lilly, GlaxoSmithKline, Shire, Pfizer, and Forrest Laboratories; he is on the speaker bureaus of Eli Lilly, GlaxoSmithKline, Pfizer, and Bristol-Meyers Squibb/Otsuka; and he has consulting relationships with Abbott, Eli Lilly, Janssen, McNeil, Pfizer, and GlaxoSmithKline"

3- Dr. Eric Fombonne : "Eric Fombonne, M.D., is professor of psychiatry and head of the Division of Child Psychiatry at McGill University. He also directs the Department of Psychiatry at the Montreal Children’s Hospital and serves as the Canada Research Chair in Child Psychiatry.  His research focuses on epidemiological investigations of child psychiatric disorders and the risk factors associated with them, with a particular focus on the epidemiology of autism."  (Abstract Here)

Dr. Fombonne also has similar interests like Dr. Cook and Dr. Leventhal.  Rigorous and unwavering research on genes as the sole cause of autism, also an expert witness for Respondents in the Autism Omnibus cases, guessed it...."In the United Kingdom, Dr Fombonne has provided advice on the epidemiology and clinical aspects of autism to scientists advising parents, to vaccine manufacturers (for a fee), and to several government committees between 1998 and 2001. Since June 2004, Dr Fombonne has been an expert witness for vaccine manufacturers in US thimerosal litigation."  (HERE)

Now how is it possible that expert witnesses in cases regarding vaccine injury and autism, including thimerosal, could possibly be unbiased when they have received money from these same companies that have been involved in making vaccines or manufacturing thimerosal?  How can a paper like the Chicago Tribune post letters from an "association" and doctors who have such conflict of interest on the topic of vaccine injury, autism, and the treatments that are helping those children?  Where are all of the other letters sent to the Tribune?

I'll leave you with one more question.  How is it possible that two letters from two different states end up being posted on the Tribune website with identical and synchronized titles that are different from the original article?

"On behalf of the Association for Science in Autism Treatment, we would like to commend you for your recent article "Tribune watchdog; Dubious medicine; Research hijacked for autism; 'People are abusing science' to justify experimental treatments" (Page 1, Nov. 23)."

and then:

"This is in response to "Tribune watchdog; Dubious medicine; Research hijacked for autism; 'People are abusing science' to justify experimental treatments" (Page 1, Nov. 23).

yet -- the complete, histrionic Tribune article title was:

Autism treatments: Risky alternative therapies have little basis in science
Alternative therapies amount to uncontrolled experimentation on children, investigation finds

I love a good mystery.

Teresa Conrick has two beautiful daughters. When she is not teaching, she is researching the biomedical implications of autism, both past and present.