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Anchored by Jake Tapper, The Lead airs at 4 p.m. ET on CNN.

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July 16th, 2013
06:44 PM ET

Backlash over Jenny McCarthy's 'View' on vaccines

ABC has chosen comedic actress Jenny McCarthy to join its powerhouse morning program "The View."

"She's funny and opinionated enough to help us start a new chapter here on 'The View,'" Barbara Walters, the show's creator, said Monday.

But some of those opinions are, according to her critics, potentially lethal to children.

The actress, and former Playboy Playmate is compelling, but she is also an outspoken and, many doctors and scientists say, irresponsible voice on the topic of vaccines. McCarthy believes immunizations led to developmental problems in her son Evan.

"Without a doubt in my mind, I believe that vaccines triggered Evan's autism," McCarthy told CNN in 2008. "So you ask any mother in autism community if we would take the measles, the mumps over autism any day of the week. I think they need to wake up and stop hurting our kids."

The problem is far more informed minds on this topic – the credible medical and scientific communities – say she is wrong, citing to numerous studies have found no link between vaccines and autism.

Critics say that in this celebrity-suffused culture, McCarthy's words could have a potentially deadly impact by scaring parents away from vaccines.

"That message that she's given out has been roundly disproved time and time again and I think it's an unfortunate and almost dangerous step that ABC has taken," said M.I.T. professor Seth Mnookin, who wrote about the campaign against vaccines based on falsehoods in an award winning book, "The Panic Virus: The True Story of the Autism-Vaccine Controversy."

"Obviously she's not being hired on the view to talk about vaccines or childhood health but I think what ABC has done here is legitimize her views and those are views that have been shown not only to have no founding in science but to be potentially really dangerous," said Mnookin.

CNN reached out to ABC Entertainment for comment, but has not heard back.

McCarthy is a force to be reckoned with.

She has written three books about "healing" autism through the environmental changes she says cured her son. McCarthy is also president of Generation Rescue, a national organization that provides support for the autism community.

"When you do raise concern about an environmental trigger there is another side that wants to label you, especially us, as an anti-vaccine movement which is absolutely not true," McCarthy says in a video on the group's website.

McCarthy maintains she is not anti-vaccine, telling CNN in 2008, "I'm not saying don't vaccinate our kids! I don't understand why it's so freaking hard to comprehend? We. Need. Safe. Shots!"

Vaccines without preservatives McCarthy advocates for are not considered a viable alternative by most experts.

"What she's advocating is a return to vaccines that don't have preservatives in them that both keep them safe and also make sure that those vaccines are contaminated in any way. She's proposing something that isn't a realistic option," said Mnookin.

As for her new position on "The View," McCarthy released a statement saying in part, "I look forward to making hot topics a little bit hotter."

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