- How the Wakefield vilification campaign was initiated by a Murdoch editor seeking “something big [on] MMR”; how it was hatched and launched in Murdoch’s Sunday Times
Dr. Wakefield was caught in the crosshairs of Rupert Murdoch’s global news media empire whose journalistic specialty is using “fear and smear” to destroy reputations. By 2000, Murdoch New Corporation owned over 800 companies in more than 50 countries– employing 53,000 – reaches more than a billion people. Murdoch’s pernicious, inordinate influence on UK politics is amply documented; News Corp. has been described as a “toxic corporate culture” that operated like a “shadow state.”
“Gutter journalism” is the cornerstone of the Murdoch media modus operandi
The pernicious Murdoch journalism methods came into public view during Parliamentary hearings (2011 & 2012) when the phone-hacking scandal (2005—2011) was laid bare., The Murdoch brand encouraged reporters and editors to use any means in pursuit of “a story.” The Murdoch tabloid reporting methods to obtain personal information in confidential files include: bullying, intimidation, deception, bribery and criminal methods such as phone hacking, and Mafia methods. These tactics have been described as “unbridled aggression” within “a culture of no accountability.”
The information obtained was used to ruin reputations and careers, and to unduly influence public policies and elections; when necessary, the threat of blackmail was used. Murdoch’s media empire has subverted the function of journalism to support Murdoch’s corporate business interests. Under the stewardship of his son, James,more than 27 different journalists ordered more than 1,000 illegal searches.
Rupert Murdoch has been described by the editor of Newsweek as “the man whose name is synonymous with unethical newspapers.” His tactics earned him the epithet, “Leader of a Crime Syndicate.” Harold Evans, the former editor of The Sunday Times, quoted Rupert Murdoch stating: “I give instructions to my editors all around the world, why shouldn’t I in London?” Murdoch used /uses journalism to entrench himself in the UK power structure to ensure the most favorable climate for Murdoch businesses. Murdoch and his operatives developed close ties – including sexual relationships – with high ranking UK government officials including: Prime Ministers, Parliament, public agencies, the police, the justice system and the press – all of whom became agents for the Murdoch media empire.
This interconnected web of relationships facilitated: “dictating public policy, dragging down ministers and governments, overriding democratic, judicial and police processes and intimidating, humiliating or marginalizing all who got in their way.”
“Murdoch’s papers possessed the ultimate deterrent: the threat to investigate and publish details of the private lives of anybody who crossed them. Even those whose cupboards were empty of skeletons feared their families might be vulnerable. That is what gives a dominant media company its unique power: in effect, it can, tacitly if not explicitly, blackmail almost anybody, and it’s no use going to the police because, if they’re not actually being paid by the press, they’re scared too.”
Even prime ministers live in fear of a Murdoch media “expose.” Former Prime Minister, Gordon Brown, whom Rupert Murdoch opposed, testified about the vicious political maneuvers the Murdoch media empire engages in to ensure that the Murdoch family’s commercial interests come first. An example was bullying an employee of the National Health Service to divulge medical information about Brown’s son’s cystic fibrosis, and then publishing the story in a front-page tabloid headline.
“in 1995 Blair made a transcontinental pilgrimage to a News Corp conference on Hayman Island off Australia, where he spoke to the assembled executives of News Corporation and held talks with the Kingmaker… According to the diaries of Piers Morgan, the former News of the World editor, an apologetic Blair told him; ‘Piers, I had to court him. It is better to be riding a tiger’s back than let it rip your throat out. Look what Murdoch did to former Labour leader Neil] Kinnock’. ”118
The series of defamatory articles by Brian Deer were commissioned in 2003 by Paul Nuki, the Features editor of the Sunday Times. The Sunday Times was acquired by Rupert Murdoch in 1981, and in 1983, it published fabricated “Hitler Diaries” claiming this to be a “world scoop.” When the truth was revealed, an editorial apology to its readers stated: “Serious journalism is a high-risk enterprise.” Indeed, as has been documented,107,111 the culture at Murdoch publications –its editorials and newsrooms endorse the credo:
“do whatever it takes to get the story, take no prisoners, destroy the competition, and the end will justify the means.“ As Deer tells it in the BMJ, Nuki told him “I need something big [on] MMR”6 as “litigation was pending in the High Court over alleged damage to children from the MMR vaccine.”
The request for “something big on MMR” likely came from a government health official by way of Nuki’s father, Professor George Nuki, was a member of the UK Committee on Safety in Medicines that had approved GSK’s MMR vaccine, Pluserix, disregarding the risk of meningitis. (See, Appendix 2) In 2007, Paul Nuki left the Sunday Times for the National Health Service whose Information website “NHS Choices” he managed until 2015.
In December, 2003, a sympathetic, made-for-TV movie, “Hear the Silence”, about Wakefield and families with autistic children was shown. The film was viewed by 1.2 million on the first night that it screened. It was acclaimed by some – including Dr. Ben Goldacre who called it “moving and convincing” and The Guardian, which called it “very well done.” But Murdoch columnist, David Aaronovitch panned it, calling it “a travesty of truth.” Dr. David Salisbury, the chief MMR strategist, boycotted a discussion about the MMR-autism link following the screening of the film, and encouraged doctors to do likewise. The attacks were so vicious that Juliet Stevenson, the actress who played a mother of an autistic child, stated:
“It was devastating to find we live in a country where you can’t ask questions, particularly in the crucial area of the wellbeing of tiny children. I was in bad shape for a while after that. I just wanted to hide away.” (2008)
Why the features editor of Murdoch’s Sunday Times sought out Brian Deer to attack Dr. Wakefield is explained by Deer himself. In an email, dated August 6, 2010, which Deer sent to Dr. Fiona Godlee, he bragged about his special talent: “I freely admit to being semi-notorious for packing into [a] single highly readable and apparently bland sentence rats’ nests of complexity and implication.“
Deer’s articles in The Sunday Times and The Times of London set in motion an unrelenting inquisition aimed at destroying Dr. Wakefield’s professional reputation by undermining his credibility as a scientist and doctor. Murdoch’s brand of journalism, through Deer, transformed Andrew Wakefield into an unscrupulous, conniving, greedy villain who subjected vulnerable, disabled children to horrific invasive tests not medically justified. Furthermore, he betrayed the public trust, putting children at risk of infectious diseases long eradicated in the industrialized world. Deer described his Wakefield series as “the largest Sunday Times medical investigation since thalidomide.”6