Autism Parents Reply to CNN: ‘Hear This Well’

Correspondent's remark sparks grassroots video campaign in which parents tell their stories
By Celia Farber
Celia Farber
Celia Farber
September 4, 2014 Updated: March 27, 2016

As the confession of CDC whistleblower Dr. William Thompson appeared to be getting corked into a bottle of sorts last week, the story took a rogue and unexpected turn, by way of an accidental citizen reporting campaign.

It began on the evening of Aug. 27, when CNN aired a segment in which three anchors sought to dismiss all concern that vaccines could be unsafe or cause autism—citing “67 studies,” that showed otherwise. The question of whether vaccines could cause autism was alive because Thompson had issued a press release on Aug. 27 confirming that he had been part of a team that had altered data for a scientific study in order to reach the conclusion that vaccines do not cause autism.

CNN Senior Medical Correspondent Elizabeth Cohen, who has a masters degree in public health, addressed the population that media often deride as “anti-vaxxers” (though they are all parents who did vaccinate their children) in tones that sounded quite condescending: “Vaccines are safe,” she said, leaning forward. “Autism is not a side effect of vaccines or to say it another way because some people don’t hear this well, vaccines do not cause autism.”

MORE: Vaccinegate: CDC Whistleblower Admits Claims of Data Fixing Were True, Complains at Being Recorded and Outed

Little did she know what she would soon spark—a social media campaign among afflicted families that has come to be called the “Hear This Well” revolution.

Epoch Times Photo

Catalyzing Event

It all started with Polly Tommey.

Tommey, veteran vaccine safety advocate, and director of the Autism Media Channel, which broke the whistleblower story last week, was at home in Austin, Texas when somebody sent the CNN clip to her.

Tommey has two vaccinated grown children. Her daughter is fine, but her son suffered what she describes as a classic regression immediately after getting his MMR and DPT shots in the UK 17 years ago. He is now 18, and though improved through diet and gut restoration, still severely autistic.

“Exactly the same story as every parent tells,” Tommey told Epoch Times when asked about her son. “He was totally normal at 13 months before he got his shots. As soon as he got them, he got the raging fevers, seizures, high pitched screaming, all of it. Then we lost him. He lost eye contact, didn’t know who his parents were, he had horrendous bowel disease, diarrhea, bashing his head into the walls. The classic, unfolding stream of disasters.”

Tommey says she felt something shift inside when she watched the Cohen clip. “It was awful … The fact that she made such a public, categorical declaration. I realized that thousands of mothers with newborn babies around the country would hear that, believe her, go vaccinate and possibly land in the same hell we all live in, daily. I couldn’t let it go.”

Tommey quickly created an amended clip, in which Cohen’s voice, saying “Vaccines do not cause autism,” was slowed down, until it sounded male, then sounded monstrous. Then the clip cuts to Tommey herself, saying her name, and explaining that her son was damaged by vaccines. “Some people don’t hear that well,” she stressed, raising her voice.

She posted it to her group of fellow parents.

“People started to say, ‘Can we also make videos?’ And I said yeah, that’s a great idea.” It quickly snowballed into a catalyzing event for this extremely pained community.

Mothers, father, grandmothers, grandfathers, children, siblings, and even unaffected people began recording videos ranging from 10 seconds to a minute and a half, telling very short versions of their stories, along with the line, “Some people don’t hear this well,” or just, “hear this well: Vaccines can and do cause autism.”


Each story is unique, yet with a deeply troubling thread that stays consistent. Each testimonial reports a normal child, developing extreme symptoms within hours, or sometimes even minutes of getting certain shots—often, but far from only, the MMR vaccine (MMR stands for measles, mumps, rubella).

Soon a YouTube page was set up, and by Labor day, there were some 300 videos posted. They are also trickling in from other countries, in foreign languages.

The truth is, few of us have seen, witnessed, or heard “autism,” unless we are living through it. Now the images, the stories, the faces, the reality, is coming through in the simplest way.

One mother recorded the groans of her grown autistic son, whose head she stroked, as she said, “hear this well.”

Another held a photo of her daughter who died after years of struggling with adverse effects following vaccinations.

A young couple described one very sick vaccinated child and one perfectly healthy unvaccinated child. As the mother struggled to compose herself, her voice about to crack from tears, she makes herself say the words: “Vaccines do cause autism.”

Epoch Times Photo


On a discussion page, the parents encouraged one another, cried together, and renewed their vows to end the possibility of this horror being inflicted on others.

They tweet, and post each video on various social media as it comes in, and are aiming to get an apology from CNN, or from Cohen, though they don’t have high hopes.

This is a community that, in addition to the daily devastation of taking care of, in many cases, grown children who are still in diapers, non verbal, and in extreme pain—are routinely attacked in pro-vaccine blogs with words like “loons,” “crazies,” “anti-vaxxers,” and so on.

“As the parent of a vaccine-injured child, our voices have been silenced, ignored, and we have been relegated to the tinfoil-hat-wearing wacko-sphere,” said Alison MacNeil, daughter of PBS’s Robert MacNeil. “To hear us speaking our truth in unison is emotionally very powerful.”

“We know what happened to our children is no “mystery,” said Debbie O’Leary. “We are willing to stand up and be counted.”

“We’ve all lived it,” said Jill Donley Rege. “Sharing it like this is a game-changer.”

Perhaps the most devastating video of all came from an elderly man nobody knew. He was not a known member of the vaccine safety community. He held up a photo of his son as a baby.

“This is my son,” he says slowly. “He was a normal baby. By the time he was 8 months old he was well ahead of developmental expectations. He could walk and he could talk …”

He describes how the active, curious not quite one year old would even unscrew screws around the house with his father’s screw driver.

His voice drops when he says, “Then he got his shots. He could no longer crawl, let alone walk. He couldn’t talk.”

A short pause.

“Now he’s in his bedroom, wearing a diaper. He’s 32 years old. Vaccines do cause autism.”

‘Destroyed My Family’

A single father, Erik Nanstiel, describes how he is raising his non-verbal 15 year old daughter alone, while her mother is in a nursing home. She caught measles after her daughter shed the live virus following immunization. The mother then developed MS. “Vaccines have destroyed my family,” he says.

As of Sept. 3, Nanstiel’s video has gotten 2,831 shares on Facebook alone.

Nanstiel expresses a determination that is characteristic of this community. “There was a time when I would have shied away from public statements, ” he told Epoch Times. “But I live a life that is forever, indelibly marked by my daughter’s vaccine injury. At this point, I will face the devil and tell what happened before I will be silenced.”

Karen Kain, whose daughter died at 15 after numerous complications following vaccinations, travels the country listening to families. “I hear the same story,” she says, “and meet families with multiple vaccine-injured children. What is happening to our children is criminal.”

“My son’s autism could have been prevented if we were just told the truth,” said Carol Noel Waters. “To me, that’s not an accident. It’s criminal. How do I justify that? How do I explain that to him?”

‘Holding Hands Through Social Media’

Major media outlets have not picked up the story of the CDC whistleblower or acknowledged the grass roots campaign in which the autism parents tell their stories. Twitter is emerging in a kind of Radio Free Europe role in all this, giving the parents a channel that allows them to get their stories out.

Tim Welsh, father of an autistic boy, is central to the group’s Twitter campaign, which has been relentless and very successful.

“Our current campaign is being driven by a fuse lit by the admission of fraud by the CDC whistleblower and then to compound the insult the silence of mainstream media. To add insult we were screamed at by a CNN reporter,” Welsh commented in an email.

“In response Polly Tommey invited us all to submit videos under the hashtag #hearthiswell. Following a couple of twitter storm sessions we are primed to go where this community has never gone before. Holding hands through social media we are witnessing a new era for our families,” Welsh wrote.

Epoch Times Photo

More Earthquakes

Tommey, meanwhile, has her sights set on new earthquakes to come. And she would know. Autism Media Channel, which she runs with Dr. Andrew Wakefield, is like a wire service for emerging data, as well as a confession booth for guilt-ridden medical professionals.

“There are more whistleblowers coming out. We know who they are and we’ve spoken to them. They’re petrified, but if they come out together … the CDC can’t cover up all the whistleblowers.”

“These sources make Thompson pale in comparison, some of them. They know the MMR is a massive problem, data has been corrupted, they’ve been told to hide things …”

Tommey says flatly, “Some people say autism is a gift. I say no, it isn’t. There is nothing good about it. I sometimes wish these reporters could spend one single day in our lives, dealing with the screaming, the head bashing, the diapers, the agony. Just one day. Or one hour. Then maybe they would think about what they say.”

Autism Media Channel follows several autism families and chronicles their journeys to find relief for their kids, through alternative healing modalities and especially gut restoration and diet change, which has had an impact. Tommey’s son got his speech back via this protocol.

Asked how, or whether, the “hear this well” video grassroots campaign is different from the community’s countless years of efforts to break the media silence, Tommey says: “The thing that makes this different is, there’s no medical paper, there’s no research that can stop what’s happening now because it’s real. It’s there. People are just coming out with heartfelt messages, saying please don’t put yourselves in the position we are in.”

“We’re a very strong community, but we have been divided, splintered. This has really united us again.”

Celia Farber writes and lives in New York City.

Celia Farber
Celia Farber