WASHINGTON -- Those who opened an email from former Sen. Scott Brown (R-Mass.) on Wednesday expecting an announcement that he is running for Senate in New Hampshire received a surprise instead: a message from a doctor and noted vaccination opponent claiming that vaccines, and even too much exercise, lead to Parkinson's and Alzheimer's Disease.
"Dear Patriot," wrote Brown. "I thought you might be interested in the offer below from our sponsor Newsmax Health," the medical advice affiliate of the popular conservative news website. The email includes a video titled "5 Signs You’ll Get Alzheimer’s," which touts the claims of "renowned neurosurgeon and nutritionist Dr. Russell Blaylock."
In it, Blaylock warns people not to drink fluoridated water or use toothpaste to avoid the "dramatic destruction of cells" seen in patients with Alzheimer's Disease. The video also touts research showing that those who get a flu vaccine yearly for 3-5 years increase their risk for Alzheimer's "ten-fold," a claim that has been repeatedly debunked. In fact, a 2001 study in the Canadian Medical Association Journal found that flu vaccines may actually decrease the risk for Alzheimer's.
The video also addresses other brain disorders, warning that the following ubiquitous items cause "brain inflammation" that leads to Parkinson's: pesticides and herbicides; harmful ingredients in foods and beverages; toxic metals in the air, water and consumer products; various sugars and sugar substitutes; omega-6 fats; vaccines (including flu shots); and even "too much aerobic exercise." The Michael J. Fox Foundation is much less certain about the causes, stating, "the exact cause of Parkinson's disease is unknown, although research points to a combination of genetic and environmental factors."
Blaylock has helped spread numerous conspiracy theories about the danger of vaccines. In a 2012 article, he compared mandatory vaccinations to "policies strongly resemble those policies found in National Socialist empires, Stalinist countries, or Communist China." He also called herd immunity -- the widely held theory that vaccinating a high proportion of the population prevents those who cannot be vaccinated against a disease -- a "myth."
In a 2009 email, he warned that the Swine Flu vaccine could "damage your brain" and that it contained a full dose of mercury. While some vaccines contain thimerosal, a mercury derivative used as a preservative, there is no medical evidence linking it to autism, according to the Centers For Disease Control. Moreover, as a precautionary measure, the chemical is not used as a preservative for childhood vaccines.
Brown's choice to use his email list to give a platform to someone with such views on medicine is strange, especially if he is indeed planning to run for Senate this fall in New Hampshire, as many have speculated since he moved there in December. Most of his emails have focused on criticizing President Barack Obama and the Affordable Care Act, and the alleged dangers of vaccination are not a conservative cause célèbre, though the issue has gained a following on the Internet. The rise in anti-vaccine theories has coincided with outbreaks of preventable diseases in the United States and Europe.
The email is not unique to Brown. The same message from Newsmax Health went out over former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee's (R) email list earlier this month.
UPDATE: 1:25 p.m. -- Brown told The Huffington Post via a personal email account that he would end the relationship with Newsmax immediately.
"Like other elected officials, you are aware that we often rent out our lists. I have done so with the guidance of counsel and am very selective on who we rent to," he wrote. "With regard to this vendor, I was exploring entering into an occasional rental agreement with the vendor that send [sic] out the email this morning."
"While the issues of Alzheimer's is personal to me and an issue I have been working on for years, I did not approve or authorize the sending of this particular email," he added. "Due to this and other issues, I am terminating my relationship with this vendor effective immediately."
UPDATE: 2/6, 5:15 p.m. -- Christopher Ruddy, CEO and founder of Newsmax Media, defended Blaylock in a statement to The Huffington Post.
"Dr. Blaylock is a respected medical doctor, neurosurgeon and natural health expert. He has argued that fluoride and vaccines pose certain health risks. His arguments are supported by the medical evidence he cites," he said. "While we at Newsmax recognize that not all medical experts agree on his views, we believe consumers should be aware of the diversity of medical opinion on these and other health issues and that a discussion of all medical viewpoints ultimately serves the public interest."
This article has been updated with comment from Scott Brown and to include details of a similar incident involving former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee.