Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Integrity and Honesty, Part 2

J.B. Handley
Integrity and honesty are pretty important to me. If someone gives their word about something, I expect them to keep it. If, through no fault of their own, they fail to follow through on their word, that's one thing. But if they make a promise to do (or not do) something and then break that promise, well, let's just say that it does not reflect well upon them. Even worse when that breach of trust comes amidst other comments that demonstrate a disregard for ethical conduct.

I try to give people the benefit of the doubt unless I have really good evidence otherwise. Even if I disagree with someone, my first response, in general, is to assume that they have good intentions and mean well. Perhaps it's a naive approach, but I would rather approach others how I would like to be approached. I don't want to be prejudged, so I try not to do so to others. But that can only last so long in the face of contradicting evidence.

Such is the case recently with J.B. Handley, founder of Generation Rescue.

I've written about Handley before, mainly in the context of his foolishly declaring that Matt Carey (who at the time wrote under the name "Sullivan" at was actually Bonnie Offit, wife of pediatrician Dr. Paul Offit. It was a very silly thing for Handley to say, leading him to make the following promise:
Bonnie Offit, or Sullivan for that matter, I have a simple offer:

If you can produce a dad with a child with autism with a remarkable grasp of the medical and scientific literature who blogs under the name Sullivan, a man who has an inordinate grasp of the details of your husband’s patents, lawsuits, published studies, and web habits, I will make sure that the website is given to you and your husband for good.

In fact, if you can produce this father, I promise to never, ever publicly write about or utter the name “Paul Offit” again.
Handley was forced to eat his words not long after his gaffe, when "Sullivan" revealed his identity. Prior to this revelation, the web site contained defamatory material about Dr. Offit. Within a couple days of Carey's revelation, the Handley posted a short article on Age of Autism (the blog of Generation Rescue) stating he would turn the site over and keep his word. The web site then changed from having defamatory remarks to simply having a picture of Monsters Inc.'s Sulley, which Carey had used as his avatar.

Over the next couple weeks, I kept an eye on the site. When the content reverted to defamatory material, I called Handley out on it. Based on the information available, it was a reasonable conclusion that Handley had broken his promise and not turned the site over. As it turned out, a third party had been in control of the site and was the one responsible for the delay. The explanation was something that could easily have been cleared up if Handley had shown me evidence rather than simply complaining in the comments and calling me an asshole. Indeed, Dr. Offit and Carey forwarded the email chain to me showing when the domain was actually handed over. I updated my post with the new information and expressed my appreciation that Handley kept his word.

Until now.

Handley fell off the radar for a while. He stopped writing articles for Age of Autism and did not show up in comments very much over the last few years. However, with the recent CDC whistleblower manufactroversy, Handley came out of hiding. He either created or dusted off a Twitter account and started commenting on blogs. And his comment have shown that, despite his umbrage when accused of being less than honest, he really does appear to not value honesty and integrity very highly.

A few examples jump out. For instance, Handley reneged on his deal not to mention Dr. Offit any more:

J.B. Handley breaks his word
The text of that reads "Paul Offit is a leading proponent of making vaccine choice illegal. This is not a rational position in a free society." Now, I'm quite ready to admit when I'm wrong, but I think that this is an example of Handley talking about Dr. Offit, despite giving his word that he would "never, ever publicly write about or utter the name “Paul Offit” again". [Edit to Add: I went back and took a look at his Twitter feed and counted at least 22 instances of Handley writing about Dr. Offit between August 28 and 8:00pm on September 11.] So much for holding up his deal.

As for Dr. Offit, I reached out to him for comment on this tweet. He responded:
I don't think it is our inalienable right to catch and transmit potentially deadly infections. Neither of the two legal options make sense:

First, philosophical exemptions. Phila, love; sophos, wisdom. Where is the wisdom that says it's better not to get a vaccine than to get one. And what philosophy is this? Nietzsche? "That which doesn't kill us makes us stronger."

Second, religious exemptions. The choice to put one's child in harm's way by exposing them to a potentially deadly disease is a profoundly unreligious Act. If nothing else, religions teach us to care about our children and our family and our neighbors.

Let's call these exemptions what they really are. Something like "I've read a lot of scary things on the Internet and facebook and I don't really see these diseases and I really don't want to have to get all of these shots and I don't trust pharmaceutical companies exemption." At least that would be more honest.

Medical exemptions are, of course, valid. If, for example, a child is severely allergic to gelatin, then he or she shouldn't get gelatin containing vaccines. Same holds for ovalbumin, which can be found in some preparations of influenza vaccine, or latex, which can be found in a number of vaccines.
Then we have Handley's comments regarding how the alleged CDC whistleblower was treated. The CDC's William W. Thompson's conversations with Brian S. Hooker were recorded without Thompson's knowledge, and published in YouTube videos by Andrew Wakefield without Thompson's permission. I have to say that anti-vaccine activist Jake Crosby actually got it sort of right when he criticized Wakefield for outing Thompson. The secret recording and subsequent outing of a whistleblower who apparently wished to remain anonymous was reprehensibly from an ethics perspective and a gross violation of that person's trust. It not only hurt the anti-vaccine community's efforts, but hurts whistleblowers who come forward with legitimate, serious concerns. People will be less likely to provide information if they fear that their identities will be revealed by those they entrust.

At any rate, Handley shows in some of his comments on Jake's blog that honesty and upright dealing are not high on his list of values. In one comment, he again breaks his word about never, ever publicly writing about or mentioning Paul Offit. And then in another comment, he writes:

Handley argues that the ends justify the means.
In particular, he justifies Wakefield's lack of ethics by writing (emphasis added):
At the end of the day, I could care less. If Andy outed the whistleblower without his permission,, so what? That’s not the story. The story is the story: CDC employees being told to manipulate outcomes to hide the vaccine-autism relationship. I’m guessing Andy’s goal here is for FEWER CHILDREN TO GET AUTISM. Heck, maybe the whistleblower has been dragging his feet for years (I’m not an insider on this whole thing, just an exuberant bystander)….maybe Andy felt it was now or never? It doesn’t matter, what matters is the facts.
When accused of being less than honest and upright, Handley takes great offense and responds belligerently (well, he responds belligerently in general, but especially when his honor/word, such as it is, is called into question). Yet when Jake, who is relatively on his side of the vaccine issue, offers legitimate criticism of unethical and dishonest behavior on the part of Andrew Wakefield, Handley gives Wakefield a pass and calls the criticism "ego-tripping and infighting".

Chet Donnelly, played by Bill Paxton
I have always thought of J.B. Handley as a brutish boor and a bully. Imagine Chet from the movie Weird Science, except not around for comic relief. And after the whole Bonnie Offit episode, which finally resulted in him turning over the domain name to Dr. Offit and his wife, I thought that maybe he was at least someone who kept his word and would demand similar conduct of others. For all his bluster about how the science-based community, in his view, betrayed the trust of parents, I expected that he would hold his own community to that same standard. I thought that maybe, just maybe, he would call out dishonesty and betrayal of trust within his own community, too. I admit, again, that this was, perhaps, a rather naive view, but I was giving Handley the benefit of the doubt.

Instead, Handley just proves, at least to me, that he cannot be trusted. He's shown that he cannot keep his word, even with something as simple as not writing about Dr. Offit ever again.


  1. Mr. Handley also repeated, on twitter, the anti-vaccine misrepresentation of Dr. Offit's article about the number of antigens an infant can tolerate. And said other things. Thanks for calling this out.

  2. Eh, I have low expectations of someone like Handley who is nothing more than a classless, chauvinistic thug who holds organisations' and individual’s domain names who he dislikes hostage, so colour me surprised.

  3. J. B. Handley? Just another in a long line of wealthy benefactors who are science illiterates.

    Here, on Jake Crosby's blog, as he attempts to defend Andrew Wakefield's disgusting vile video outing the purported "CDC whistleblower", he shares with us how he is "recovering" his autistic child. Handley is apparently suffering from delusional parasitosis:

    "- In 2005, when my wife and I launched Generation Rescue, I genuinely believed that “autism is a misdiagnosis for mercury poisoning” and that chelation would bring my recently-diagnosed son back to me, particularly after the early results of chelation were very positive. After 2 years of chelation, my son didn’t recover, and I continued to search for answers for how to help him.

    - Anti-viral therapy was also helpful, but he didn’t recover

    - Anti-fungal therapy was helpful, but he didn’t recover

    - Anti-parasite therapy, our present focus, has been far and away the most helpful, and he’s the best he’s ever been."

    The crass, coarse Mr. Handley who has spent hundreds of thousands of dollars to advance the "vaccines done did it" causes of autism, will never back down and apologize to the autism community or to the many scientists, researchers, doctors and bloggers who he has defamed and continues to defame. He just doubles down:

    "The MMR-Thimerosal connection is perhaps the most confusing part of this whole epidemic. I have met SO MANY (thousands!) parents who claim their child went off a cliff after MMR, which of course doesn’t include Thimerosal. If MMR doesn’t include mercury, can we ONLY blame mercury for the epidemic? Not in my mind. Did the foundation of mercury make MMR more damaging? More than likely. Would MMR have caused damage if mercury hadn’t been introduced first? I have no idea!!"


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