Jenny McCarthy the Carpetbagging Autism Lottery Winner

Yesterday's mail included a Jenny McCarthy article from a well-meaning friend of my mother's who wanted to know my opinion on everyone's favorite Warrior Mother.

I emailed her back, and told her that Jenny McCarthy's son is not like my son. And when people assume that our sons are alike, that I haven't tried to "save" my son, it makes me angry.

I wrote that basically, Jenny's son won the lottery, and Leelo didn't. So, of course there is some jealousy there, because who doesn't want to hit the jackpot? I want Leelo to feel comfortable in his skin, like her son. I want him to have the ability to tell me what he's thinking, what he wants, what would make him happy, what would keep him from being so frustrated and anxious all day long. But I am not bitter or resentful about Jenny's son's development, because I have observed the developmental trajectories and family efforts of enough children with autism to know that Jenny lucked out, that she got a kid with a variation on autism that is nothing like Leelo's.

But most lottery winners know that their good fortune came through luck, and they do not go on national TV telling other hopefuls how they, too, can be mega-winners. They do not ignore researchers who tell them that while there may be a system for winning the lottery in the future, right now all we can do is keep playing.

I don't even begrudge winners like Jenny for making more money by telling their own story. We all have that right. But she should know better than to exploit desperate wannabe-winners by selling or promoting products that will help them win, too. This is carpetbagging, this is peddling snake oil, and -- unless she intends to pull a Paul Newman and donate proceeds to families still struggling with autism -- this is vile opportunism. And it disgusts me.

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  1. Anonymous1:22 PM

    Well, you couldn't see me pumping my fist in the air, but when I read this, that's what I was doing. I'm with you, all the way on this one.

  2. HURRAY! Well said! You rock!!! B!tch also had the millions to get all the treatment he needed & could employ all the developmental therapists, etc.

  3. @meghatronsMom: Thanks. I agree with you that JM is more financially fortunate than most, but if memory serves her son's diagnosis hit at a point in her life when getting therapies was not always easy (yes, I am a sucker for unattended copies of People magazine).

    Also, while I appreciate your enthusiasm, I'd like to avoid the kind of mean-spirited and off-topic name calling that has made the comments section on sites like Age of Autism completely useless. I am calling JM out on her actions, specifially. I am not passing judgment on her in general.

  4. @meghatronsMom except I just re-read the title of this post. Well, we are all conflicted, aren't we? Try to play nicely, everyone.

  5. It's vile, what she's doing. And honey, I'd hardly say that calling someone a "carpetbagging autism lottery winner" is anything more than purely declarative.

  6. Anonymous5:42 AM

    It seems to me, if you read and listen to everything McCarthy has put out there (if you can stomach listening to her), that her son is epileptic and once he was on the right medication development continued on coarse. I have a very hard time believing her child was ever autistic to begin with. I think she has little talent (no one can argue that! What has the woman really done?) who has finally found a way to make money off of vulnerable parents.

  7. Anonymous9:47 AM

    Such an autism mommy crush on you right now. And I am so sorry Jenny McCarthy is now a part of our lives in this way. Sigh.

    I am however very, very, very happy for her and her son. He is a cutie.

  8. Anonymous9:45 PM


    It makes me sad and angry that "we" are perceived as not doing enough or the right things for our children because we havne't 'cured' them. Um, I'm sorry...there's variations to everything. That's what makes us all unique. Why would anything fathom that autism would be any different.

  9. I totally agree with this post. I listened to her first book on tape and found my skin crawling throughout. It was torture to listen to but I had to make up my mind. Not only was so much of the stuf she was saying false but I imagine it sends many parents on a wild, exhausting goose chase to "heal" a child that is beautiful just as they are.

  10. I have nothing to add, other than that I am sick and tired of people sending me copies of her book for birthday and Xmas gifts. I'd rather have Offit's book.

  11. Preach it! Amen! All that. I want to trip her, and then point and laugh. Oh, yes I do.

  12. @Haddayr, I am glad we are in agreement on the points above. However I would respectfully point out that there is a difference between asking someone to stop behaving in a manner that is harmful, and actually wishing them harm.

    Like @sneadwoman, I do not wish to deny JM her happiness. But it is irresponsible and deplorable for her to tell vulnerable parents that all they need to do is follow her path, and they can have that happiness, too.


Respectful disagreement encouraged.