Sunday Times’ London Editor Must Quit Over False “Wakefield MMR Data Fixing” Story

Another World Exclusive

The position of John Witherow, Chief Editor of the internationally published British broadsheet newspaper The Sunday Times, London is looking untenable in the escalating row over freelance journalist, Brian Deer’s now shown-to-be-false Sunday Times’ story alleging former London Royal Free Hospital surgeon and gastroenterology specialist Mr Andrew Wakefield “fixed” data in a Lancet medical journal paper to show a link between the MMR vaccine, autism and serious bowel disorders in children: MMR doctor Andrew Wakefield fixed data on autism – Brian Deer, The Sunday Times, London – February 8, 2009.

The Sunday Times’ story was improbable and shown to be false: Sunday Times Journalist Made Up Wakefield MMR Data Fixing Allegation.  Late last night the companion story was amended online with a statement “This article is the subject of a legal complaint” [Hidden records show MMR truth Brian Deer, The Sunday Times – February 8, 2009].

For the allegation in freelancer Brian Deer’s story to be true meant that for 10 years the claimed single-handed action by specialist surgeon Mr Wakefield had gone unnoticed by the other 12 eminent former and current London Royal Free Hospital medical authors.  10 of the authors in March 2004 partially retracted the  suggested interpretation in the paper of a possible link between the MMR vaccine and autism in an attempt to alleviate the outcry from British politicians and Government health officials.  The bulk of the Lancet paper still stands and has been replicated in other scientific studies [See end].

A letter received by Editor Witherow late yesterday charges:-

The journalist Brian Deer and The Sunday Times, London have breached the overall obligations of the PCC Code regarding the “duty to maintain the highest professional standards” and The Sunday Times is also in breach by publishing such a story.  The journalist Brian Deer has demonstrated a remarkable lack of professionalism, a disregard for professional ethics and an obsessive interest in Dr Wakefield, belying the detachment, objectivity and impartiality of a modern professional journalist in the 21st Century.

Mr Deer has demonstrated gross breaches of professional ethics in his behaviour and reporting, including his personal interest in making the complaints which have led to the extraordinary and intensive General Medical Council proceedings against Dr Andrew Wakefield.  In short, Mr Deer stands to lose professionally should his complaints to the GMC prove not to be upheld and he has a personal interest in publishing stories to prejudice the GMC panel against Dr Wakefield to see that they are, which seems could well be one of the purposes of the story under complaint.  Very much the same charges could be levelled at The Sunday Times itself in its reporting and that of its sister paper, The Times, London.“  [Full text below]

Writing in The Spectator, political commentator and respected British journalist Melanie Phillips said following ChildHealthSafety’s exclusive worldwide disclosures:-

What the Sunday Times did not report was that the GMC investigation into Wakefield was triggered by a complaint from… Brian Deer, who furnished the allegations against him four years ago. He has thus been reporting upon the hearing into his own complaint. Since when has a reputable paper published a story by a reporter who is actually part of that story himself — without saying so – and who uses information arising from the disciplinary hearing which he himself has instigated and which is investigating allegations he himself made in the first place?

The witch-hunt against Andrew Wakefield Wednesday, 11th February 2009

If media rumours that Roger Alton, the Chief Editor of The Observer another quality London, England broadsheet newspaper left in 2007 following an MMR-vaccine-to-autism story claimed to be an unreliable scare but which ChildHealthSafety reveals here exclusively worldwide is now shown to be true and sound journalism, this does not look promising for the prospects of The Sunday Times’ Chief Editor John Witherow over a Sunday Times’ story now shown to be false.

The July 2007 MMR vaccine-to-autism story in The Observer by staff journalist Denis Campbell is rumoured in media circles to have led to a row ending with the The Observer’s Chief Editor quitting in December 2007.  Campbell’s story was in fact true and “stood up”. Roger Alton was appointed Chief Editor of The Independent, London in 2008.

Denis Campbell’s story claimed to have unearthed leaked details of research from work by a group led by Cambridge University autism  expert Professor Simon Baron Cohen that the true rate of autism in the UK was a startling 1 in 58 children.  Campbell was unable at the time to produce hard information from his confidential sources to back up the claims.  The online version of the story was removed from The Observer’s website: New health fears over big surge in autism. Questions over triple jab for children Denis Campbell, The Observer July 2007.

However, ChildHealthSafety is now able to reveal exclusively that the data was subsequently presented at a London, England international scientific autism conference, submitted for formal publication  in a journal and is referenced in a textbook on autism.  The figure in Campbell’s story of 1 in 58 was presented a year later as 1 in 60 at IMFAR [International Meeting for Autism Research (London, May 15-17, 2008)].  The paper revealed the real autism rate by accounting for previously unknown cases.  The paper states [emphasis added]:-

Conclusions: The prevalence estimate of known cases of ASC, using different methods of ascertainment converges around 1%. The ratio of known to unknown cases means that for every three known cases there are another two unknown cases. This has implications for planning diagnostic, social and health services.

Commenting late last night by ‘phone The Observer London journalist Denis Campbell said regarding the publication of the data “If it is available I would be intrigued.  The Times reported Professor Baron Cohen as I recall as saying the figures were merely ‘jottings’“.

Mr Wakefield speaking to ChildHealthSafety from his home in Austin Texas USA, where he now works at Thoughtful House as Research Director when asked if he will consider exercising his right to reply to The Sunday Times’ story under the UK’s Press Complaint’s Commission Code of Practice said “Yes“.

Critics of Denis Campbell’s 2007 Observer story included Director of The Science Media Centre Fiona Fox.  Writing in her blog Ms Fox stated at the time:-

…. the SMC reacted to the article primarily by coordinating a joint media statement by 14 institutions involved with child health and vaccination to back the safety of the jab which we issued to coincide with the GMC hearing. However I did also send a note to Denis Campbell, the journalist who wrote the article and a friendly contact of ours, to make sure he knew that the SMC was unable to defend the piece to the angry scientists who were contacting us. The result was an invitation to meet with him, the readers’ editor and a variety of other Observer news editors at their offices. So, with two leading MMR experts at my side, I went to highlight the concerns.Why we need the best journalism on public health stories – Wednesday, 18 July 2007

However, Ms Fox’s profile in LobbyWatch.Org reveals another side to the activities of The Science Media Centre along with other critics of the controversial link between the MMR vaccine and autism, including Spiked-Online, Living Marxism Group, Dr Michael Fitzpatrick and Lord Taverne the latter two being sometime trustees of similarly critical organisation Sense About Science .

A press release issued recently jointly by 20 child health safety organisations, Mr Wakefield and several other authors revealed that:

In an interview with Dr Richard Halvorsen for his book The Truth about Vaccines, one of the lead authors of the Cochrane Collaboration’s review of MMR vaccine safety said, The safety studies of MMR vaccine are crap. They’re the best crap we have but they’re still crap“. Dr Andrew Wakefield Demolishes Ignorant US Vaccine Lobby

Dr Halvorsen was unavailable for comment at the time of writing.

The Sunday Times UK journalist Brian Deer is being challenged to explain his role in assisting George Bush’s US Departments of Justice and Health and Human Services, leading to  the failure in the USA last week of three lead cases of over 4500 pending cases of claimed vaccine injured US children: Sunday Times Journalist Challenged Over Role in US MMR Cases

Mr Witherow took over in 1994 as The Sunday Times Chief Editor from the controversially appointed Andrew Neil.   Mr Neil  as Chief Editor had long supported the former Sunday Times’ Health Editor Neville Hodgkinson’s work writing about another medical controversy – the HIV/AIDS theory.  The controversy first started by Nobel Prize nominated Berkeley University USA Professor Peter Duesberg and separately The Perth Group in Australia, continues unabated despite similar obstacles encountered to those faced by Mr Wakefield over the vaccines-to-autism issue.

Complaining to the PCC

Anyone can make a complaint.  The Sunday Times is published worldwide including online.

To make a complaint to the UK’s Press Complaints Commission see the links here, but you should first write to The Sunday Times, and allow at least a week for a response and preferably two:-

Email addresses (use both as the story was online and in print):-

How to Lodge a Complaint With The PCC

You need to ensure your complaint cites the provisions of the PCC code  you rely on in your complaint.

The PCC is run by the British press and has many senior newspaper editors and others involved in news publishing dealing with complaints. They are not independent. That is not a reason to be put off complaining, but do not expect any complaint, even a powerful to be upheld.

The PCC exists to forestall any statutory system of control over journalism being introduced into the UK by government.  It has a reputation for fudging and avoiding upholding complaints, except in a number of case where it seems a journalist has written something not favourable to the MMR vaccine.  ChildHealthSafety has heard there have been a number of such examples.

Related Stories:



Vaccine Risks Outweigh Risk of Disease

Autism – A serious problem being ignored

19 Children A Day – 4 in 5 is a Boy

Autism in Britian outstrips all other major disorders affecting British children combined and is substantially more serious than measles.  Every day 19 British children develop autism spectrum disorders:

  • this will be 600,000 British children and adults in the future (birth rate approx 600,000 p.a.)
  • and horrific prospects for expectant parents
    • 1 in every 54 boys will be on the Autistic Spectrum
    • autism affects 4 times as many boys
    • so 1 in 215 girls are affected as well

[* 19 a day and 1 in 54 come from: Baird et Al Prevalence of disorders of the autism spectrum in a population cohort of children in South Thames: the Special Needs and Autism Project (SNAP); Lancet 2006;368:210 –15.  This research revealed 1 in 86 British children are being diagnosed with autistic spectrum disorders (116.1 in 10,000).

4/5   x   116.1/5000 =  1 in 54 (4/5ths of the 116.1 are boys and approx 5000 of the 10,000 children affected will be boys)]

Measles Comparison

See here how the risk to children in Western economies from measles is now insignificant for the vast majority Measles – The Official UK Statistics.

For the USA see US Measles Data and generally see Risk to Children & Government Scaremongering.

Cost of Autism in The UK

At the Parliamentary and Scientific Committee 17th June 2008 MPs and Peers heard Cambridge autism expert Professor Simon Baron-Cohen concede to a questioner that more research into the vaccine/autism connection is needed and that a recent study indicates autism costs the UK £28 Billion pa.  The £28 billion figure includes hidden costs, like costs of people taken out of the economy, whether those affected or their carers.  [LSE “Economic Consequences of Autism in the UK” – Study by team led by Professor Martin Knapp [Executive Summary] [NB. The main defect in the research is the assumption there are 433,000 are adults (aged 18 and over) who have autistic spectrum disorders.  We have the research to show there are approximately 107,000 children but there is not such a number of adults, the 433,000 being a projection based on the numbers of children.]

For more see:  AUTISM – US Court Decisions and Other Recent Developments – It’s Not Just MMR


The evidence in this rechallenge study of a large number of children is strong proof confirming the association and was presented by Dr Wakefield in closed session to the US Institute of Medicine before issuing a report which neither confirmed nor denied the link – the data was ignored and no transcript of the IoM session has been disclosed:-

Wakefield A, Stott C, Limb K. Gastrointestinal comorbidity, autistic regression and Measles-containing vaccines: positive re-challenge and biological gradient. Medical Veritas: 3 (2006) 796–802.

This study also confirms the association:-

PERSISTENT ILEAL MEASLES VIRUS in a Large Cohort of Regressive Autistic Children WITH ILEOCOLITIS AND LYMPHONODULAR HYPERPLASIA: ReVisitation of an Earlier Study

Walker, S.J., Hepner K., Segal, J., & Krigsman A., Department of Physiology & Pharmacology, Wake Forest University School of Medicine, Winston-Salem, NC 27101 USA

Conclusions: Preliminary results from this large cohort of pediatric autistic patients with chronic GI symptoms confirm earlier findings of measles virus RNA in the terminal ileum and support an association between measles virus and ileocolitis /LNH.

As do these studies:-

Elevated levels of measles antibodies in children with autism. Singh VK, Jensen RL. Pediatr Neurol. 2003 Apr;28(4):292-4.

Abnormal measles-mumps-rubella antibodies and CNS autoimmunity in children with autism. Singh VK, Lin SX, Newell E, Nelson C. J Biomed Sci. 2002 Jul-Aug;9(4):359-64.

Serological association of measles virus and human herpesvirus-6 with brain autoantibodies in autism. Singh VK, Lin SX, Yang VC. Clin Immunol Immunopathol. 1998 Oct;89(1):105-8.

There are many studies addressing childhood developmental disorders and gastrointestinal disease:-

CDD and Gastrointestinal Disease

1. Wakefield AJ, Anthony A, Murch SH, Thomson M, Montgomery SM, Davies S, Walker-Smith JA. Enterocolitis in children with developmental disorder. American Journal of Gastroenterology 2000;95:2285-2295

2. Furlano RI, Anthony A, Day R, Brown A, McGavery L, Thomson MA, Davies SE, Berelowitz M, Forbes A, Wakefield AJ, Walker-Smith JA, Murch SH. Colonic CD8 and gamma delta T-cell infiltration with epithelial damage in children with autism. Journal of Pediatrics 2001;138:366-72.

3. Wakefield AJ. The New Autism (Invited Article) Clinical Child Psychology & Psychiatry 2002;7:518-528

4. Wakefield AJ., Puleston J. Montgomery SM., Anthony A., O’Leary J.J., Murch SH Entero-colonic encephalopathy, autism and opioid receptor ligands. Alimentary Pharmacology & Therapeutics. 2002;16:663-674

5. Torrente F., Machado N., Perez-Machado M., Furlano R., Thomson M., Davies S., Wakefield AJ, Walker-Smith JA, Murch SH. Enteropathy with T cell infiltration and epithelial IgG deposition in autism. Molecular Psychiatry. 2002;7:375-382

6. Wakefield AJ, Ashwood P, Limb K, Anthony A. The significance of ileo-colonic lymphoid nodular hyperplasia in children with autistic spectrum disorder. European Journal of Gastroenterology and Hepatology 2005: 17

7. Ashwood P, Anthony A, Pellicer AA, Torrente F, Wakefield AJ. Intestinal lymphocyte populations in children with regressive autism: Evidence for extensive mucosal immunopathology. Journal of Clinical Immunology, 2003;23:504-517.

8. Ashwood P, Anthony A, Torrente F, Wakefield AJ., Spontaneous mucosal lymphocyte cytokine profiles in children with regressive autism and gastrointestinal symptoms: Mucosal immune activation and reduced counter regulatory interleukin-10. Journal of Clinical Immunology. 2004:24:664-673

9. The Gut-Brain Axis in Childhood Developmental Disorders: Viruses and Vaccines. Wakefield AJ., Collins I., Ashwood P. Invited chapter in Infectious Disease and Neuropsychiatric Disorders Chapter 21, pp 198-206. Ed. S.H. Fatemi

10. Wakefield AJ. The Gut-Brain Axis in Childhood developmental Disorders. Journal of Pediatric Gastroenterology and Nutrition. 2002;34:S14-S17

11. Wakefield AJ, Murch SH, Anthony A, Linnell J, Casson DM, Malik M, Berelowitz M, Dhillon AP, Thomson MA, Harvey P, Valentine A, Davies SE, Walker-Smith JA: Ileal-lymphoid-nodular hyperplasia, non-specific colitis, and pervasive developmental disorder in children. Lancet 1998 Feb 28;351(9103): 637-41

12. Ashwood P, Wakefield A. Immune activation of peripheral blood and mucosal CD3+ lymphocyte cytokine profiles in children with autism and gastrointestinal symptoms. Journal of Neuroimmunology: 2006 Feb 20.

13. Wakefield A, Stott C, Limb K. Gastrointestinal comorbidity, autistic regression and Measles-containing vaccines: positive re-challenge and biological gradient. Medical Veritas: 3 (2006) 796–802.

Etiology of CDD

1. Wakefield AJ and Montgomery SM. Autism, viral infection and measles mumps rubella vaccination. Israeli Medical Association Journal 1999;1:183-187

2. Montgomery SM, Morris DL, Pounder RE, Wakefield AJ. Paramyxovirus infections in childhood and subsequent inflammatory bowel disease. Gastroenterology 1999;116:796-803

3. Kawashima H., Takayuki M., Kashiwagi Y., Takekuma K., Hoshika A., Wakefield AJ. Detection and sequencing of measles virus from peripheral blood mononuclear cells from patients with inflammatory bowel disease and autism. Digestive Diseases and Sciences. 2000;45:723-729

4. Wakefield AJ and Montgomery SM. Measles, mumps, rubella vaccine: through a glass, darkly. Adverse Drug Reactions & Toxicological Reviews 2000;19:265-283

5. Uhlmann V., Martin C, Shiels, Wakefield AJ, O.Leary JJ. Possible viral pathogenesis of a novel paediatric inflammatory bowel disease. Molecular Pathology 2002;55:84-90

6. Bradstreet JJ., El Dahr J., Anthony A., Kartzinel J., Wakefield AJ, Detection of Measles Virus Genomic RNA in Cerebrospinal Fluid of Children with Regressive Autism: a Report of Three Cases Journal of American Physicians and Surgeons. 2004.9:39-45

7. Wakefield AJ. Enterocolitis, autism and measles virus. Molecular Psychiatry. 2002;7:S44-46

8. O’Leary JJ, Uhlmann V, Wakefield AJ. Measles virus and autism. Lancet. 2000;356:772 (letter)

9. Wakefield AJ. MMR vaccination and autism. Lancet. 1999;354:949-50 (letter)

10. Stott C., Blaxill M., Wakefield AJ. MMR and Autism in Perspective: the Denmark Story. Journal of American Physicians and Surgeons 2004;9:89-91

11. Wakefield AJ. Entero-colitis, Autism and Measles Virus. Consensus in Child Neurology. 2002;6:74-77


Notes on terminology:-

In the US the official diagnostic definition of what we call “Autism Spectrum Disorders” or ASD are  instead called “Pervasive Development Disorders” or PDD for short.  That is under the “Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (4th edn)” or “DSM IV” for short.

“Autistic Spectrum Disorder” is the term applied internationally under the “ICD” or “International Classification of Disease”

Many refer to ASD and PDD as “autism” but “autism” is a subset of the spectrum and is often referred to also as “childhood autism”, “typical autism” and “Kanner autism”.  [The common behaviours like hand flapping, loss of eye contact and suchlike in young children are unmistakable, whereas other spectrum disorders like mild Aspergers Syndrome can be more difficult to diagnose.]

Copyright ChildHealthSafety 2009 – The authors hereby assert their moral rights.  All rights reserved.

5 Responses

Chris MacDonald, on February 19th, 2009 at 4:24 pm Said:

I’m relatively new to this debate; it’s a hard one for “outsiders” to get a grip on, given the bitterness of much of the correspondence.

The “facts” seem to have ping-ponged back and forth. For example, this blog entry *seems* to provide evidence that Deer was *not* a complainant against Wakefield, but merely answered questions posed by the Medical Council.

Can somebody — without venom or sarcasm — explain whether the evidence quoted there is true and relevant?


[ED: It is very simple and all set out in the stories on this site. Deer lodged the complaints with the GMC which brought about the GMC proceedings against British surgeon Mr Wakefield. There is a legal Court judgement also confirming this citing three of Deer’s letters of complaint. Deer has also disclosed he was corresponding with the GMC over a three years period. Deer now denies he is the complainant – because the GMC are pursuing the proceedings and have not named him as complainant-of-record. Deer is however complainaint-in-fact. He cannot back up his denials of being the complainant who brought about the proceedings by publishing his letters of complaint because they will show he was the original complainant. For Deer as journalist in particular, the making of denials and then the failure to back them up in the light of these facts simply serves to confirm the facts as already known.]

Alan Foos, on February 20th, 2009 at 12:48 am Said:

Wakefield aside, the observations of thousands of intelligent parents are that vaccines clearly cause autism, and these are far more believable than the “studies” published by med/gov and media pundits where research designed for more subtle effects could not possibly miss both the correlation and criteria for cause and effect. With substantial academic and applied research credentials, I can state that a broad range of severely damaging effects includiing autism in my own family has been caused by vaccines/amalgams, and that these conclusions fit standard statistical criteria to the most highly significant degree. There can be NO doubt that vaccines cause autism and numerous other syndromes… I also used to work for the gov, and no lie or criminal deed is beyond them…

johndstone, on February 20th, 2009 at 9:19 am Said:

Just to elucidate, the warning “This article is the subject of a legal complaint” appears over the longer inside article by Deer from the Sunday Times of the week before last, and remains there at the time of posting:

GMC case on Dr Wakefield falls apart. « In These New Times, on March 14th, 2009 at 10:46 pm Said:

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