Book Review: ‘Master Manipulator’ Accuses CDC of Manipulating Science on Autism

'Master Manipulator: The Explosive True Story of Fraud, Embezzlement, and Government Betrayal at the CDC' by James Ottar Grundvig, introduction by Robert F. Kennedy Jr., Skyhorse Publishing, 2016, 296 pages, $24.99
July 4, 2016 Updated: July 21, 2016

Dirty deeds often require dirty people.

The cover of James Ottar Grundvig's book, "Master Manipulator: The Explosive True Story of Fraud, Embezzlement, and Government Betrayal at the CDC." (Skyhorse Publishing)
The cover of James Ottar Grundvig’s book, “Master Manipulator: The Explosive True Story of Fraud, Embezzlement, and Government Betrayal at the CDC.” (Skyhorse Publishing)

For the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Dr. Poul Thorsen—the subject of James Grundvig’s just-released book, “Master Manipulator: The Explosive True Story of Fraud, Embezzlement, and Government Betrayal at the CDC” (with an introduction by Robert F. Kennedy Jr.)—was the right man at the right time.

In the late 1990s, the CDC’s Vaccine Safety Division, led by Dr. Coleen Boyle, was facing a growing public realization that autism was reaching epidemic levels. Many parents and some scientists suspected vaccines were the culprit in triggering the catastrophe. They pointed the finger at the increasing levels of thimerosal, a mercury-based preservative used in many vaccines. In a stunning failure of oversight, no government regulatory agency caught the fact that mercury exposure in childhood vaccines vastly exceeded safety limits.

The secretary of Health and Human Services (HHS) was facing billions of dollars in compensation claims under the National Vaccine Injury Compensation Program (NVICP), in what would later become the Omnibus Autism Proceedings.

Grundvig reveals internal emails—acquired through Freedom of Information Law filings—suggesting that the CDC, an agency administered by the secretary of HHS, needed data to exonerate vaccines. The pace of events Grundvig lays out, along with internal CDC emails, implies that the government officials needed it fast.

Enter Thorsen, a visiting Danish scientist with lavish lifestyle ambitions, little talent, a poor work ethic, and an eye for the ladies. With an overabundance of grandiosity, Thorsen created a research group called the North Atlantic Neuro-Epidemiology Alliance (NANEA) in 1999.

The ‘Danish Studies’

Poul Thorsen is currently in Denmark and is awaiting extradition to the United States. (Office of the Inspector General, Secretary of Health and Human Services)
Poul Thorsen. (Office of the Inspector General, HHS)

Thorsen had access to Denmark’s national disease registry, a health care database of all Danish citizens that would be used to “back test” data for studies that would gin up statistics to show that autism rates in Denmark went up after the removal of thimerosal, thereby proving that increases in autism incidence rates could not be blamed on the preservative.

As Grundvig demonstrates in “Master Manipulator,” Thorsen and his NANEA cohorts excluded the data that showed the rates dropped by 30 percent when the mercury was removed in Denmark. Noticing the data manipulation, leading scientific journals (JAMA, New England Journal of Medicine) refused to publish the paper.

The Journal of Pediatrics ultimately published Thorsen’s paper. Before it did, a CDC executive, Dr. José Cordero, urged the journal’s chief editor to do so in a letter, which was also acquired through Freedom of Information requests.

Dr. José F. Cordero is the first Gordhan L. and Virginia B. "Jinx" Patel distinguished professor in public health at the University of Georgia's College of Public Health. For 27 years, he served in the U.S. Public Health Service at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). (Screenshot/UGA College of Public Health/YouTube)
Dr. José F. Cordero is the first Gordhan L. and Virginia B. “Jinx” Patel distinguished professor in public health at the University of Georgia’s College of Public Health. For 27 years, he served in the U.S. Public Health Service at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). (Screenshot via UGA College of Public Health/YouTube)

Grundvig notes that the CDC officials who are alleged in the controversial documentary “Vaxxed” (which was pulled by the Tribeca Film Festival after pressure from unknown members of the scientific community) to have committed research fraud were the same scientists who brought in Thorsen.

Grundvig highlights the CDC’s role as sponsors of hiring the rogue Danish scientist in Chapter 8, “2001: A Data Odyssey,” by capturing the May 30, 2001, email exchange between CDC’s Dr. Marshalyn Yeargin-Allsopp and Cordero.

Yeargin-Allsopp wrote: “As we discussed on Friday, we have become aware through Poul Thorsen of an exciting opportunity to study the role of MMR vaccine and autism using several registries/existing studies and the repository of biologic specimens and laboratory capabilities in Denmark.”

There were two principal legal theories being tested before Special Masters presiding over the Omnibus Autism Proceedings in the NVICP: whether the MMR vaccine caused autism and whether thimerosal caused autism as well.

Thanks to Thorsen, the CDC had what it needed to help the secretary of HHS avoid responsibility for both the MMR vaccine and, later, thimerosal’s role in the autism epidemic. The “Danish Studies”—six of them in total—would be used to kick out thousands of vaccine-injured claims from vaccine court in 2011. One of the cases dismissed was for Grundvig’s son.

Indictment

Then Thorsen’s recklessness caught up with him.

Grundvig traveled to Denmark and interviewed Thorsen’s associates while Thorsen himself avoided the journalist, declining repeated requests to tell his side of the story. In addition to reaching out to Thorsen through his colleagues, Grundvig contacted the fugitive scientist’s lawyer and his ex-CDC epidemiologist girlfriend Dr. Diana Schendel.

Grundvig learned from sources on the ground in Denmark that Thorsen had begun siphoning money out of NANEA, stopped paying his employees, and then left them with a hefty tax bill. Many of these complaints against him were levied by his underpaid staff, but were not recorded in the U.S. Department of Justice’s 22-count indictment. They were exposed in a separate 2012 Danish trial on Thorsen’s own tax-evasion issues, all of which were investigated and reported by several Danish journalists.

Demonstrators carry signs decrying the use of mercury in vaccines during a protest at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C., on July 20, 2005. Some 300 people marched demanding that mercury not be used in vaccines anymore amid growing concern that it is the cause of autism and other neurological diseases in children. Thimerosal is a mercury-based product used in vaccines. (Nicholas Kamm/AFP/Getty Images)
Demonstrators carry signs decrying the use of mercury in vaccines during a protest at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C., on July 20, 2005. (Nicholas Kamm/AFP/Getty Images)

The 2011 Department of Justice indictment against Thorsen showed his desire to be “upwardly mobile,” buying a $500,000, four-bedroom house in a tony Atlanta suburb, and a classic Harley Davidson motorcycle, plus two other vehicles, including a Honda SUV. The reader will learn that all of this was allegedly done with falsified invoices on CDC letterhead, used to steal more than $1 million in U.S. taxpayer-funded grant money meant for autism research.

Remarkably, no one at the CDC seemed to have noticed the exorbitant purchases until the Office of the Inspector General of HHS did so after picking up on a 2009 Aarhus University internal investigation of Thorsen and the forged CDC invoices.

Somehow, the CDC and the rest of the federal government public health community continues to claim that Thorsen’s science was sound and proved that vaccines don’t cause autism. In other words, “bad guy, good science.”

Fugitive in Denmark

Despite the indictment and the clear data manipulation, Thorsen’s research has never been retracted. But that story is not over yet. Grundvig discovered that the principal investigator on two of the studies, Kreesten M. Madsen, a Ph.D. candidate at the time, claimed that Thorsen did none of the work—a violation of the Vancouver Protocol for peer-review papers. If that claim is true, then protocol would require that Thorsen’s name be removed and that the studies be retracted due to scientific fraud.

The headquarters of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in Atlanta, Ga. (James Gathany/CDC, Public Domain)
The headquarters of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in Atlanta, Ga. (James Gathany/CDC, Public Domain)

Was Thorsen’s alleged stealing from the CDC due to a feeling that he should have gotten more money for saving the agency from the damage of being held accountable for the autism epidemic? Did he commit the alleged crimes because CDC executives were incompetent? Or did the CDC executives let Thorsen slide, because they were afraid to be indicted if he was ever caught?

We may never know. While Thorsen is a fugitive from American justice, he is living openly in Denmark, seemingly without a care in the world. He works at a hospital that still receives CDC money, while his name appears on several studies published as recently as 2015. The scientific community continues to embrace Poul Thorsen.

In “Master Manipulator,” Grundvig paints a picture of a CDC where science is manipulated by people with a shocking lack of conscience. For example, Boyle issued a memo asking employees to include children too young to have an autism diagnosis in autism data. Such an inclusion would have the effect of reducing the recorded rate of autism. In her April 25, 2000, email to longtime CDC colleague Dr. Frank DeStefano, she wrote:

“Since most of the dx’s [diagnoses] are generally not picked up until the 2nd or 3rd year of life, had you considered eligibility criteria of at least 18 months or 2 years? What happens if you do this?”

This damning email strongly supports Grundvig’s assertion that Boyle was willing to manipulate data to get the outcome desired.

And Grundvig goes further—he reveals that before assuming her role at the CDC Vaccine Safety Division, Boyle helped cloud the truth about what Agent Orange did to Vietnam veterans exposed to dioxin, in the compelling chapter “Agent Orange is the New Black.”

As his book supports its main thesis—poisoned soldiers, poisoned children—it’s clear that Thorsen wasn’t the only master manipulator in this sad tale of abuse of power and misuse of government health care funds.

The CDC and Poul Thorsen deserved each other. James Grundvig’s “Master Manipulator” shows that America deserved much, much better.

Louis Conte is the father of triplet boys, two with autism. He has written widely on the vaccine/autism controversy including a novel, “The Autism War;” co-authored a nonfiction book with Tony Lyons, “Vaccine Injuries: Actual Documented Adverse Reactions to Vaccines;” and co-authored a seminal article on the controversy, “Unanswered Questions From the Vaccine Injury Compensation Program: A Review of Compensated Cases of Vaccine-Induced Brain Injury,” which was published in the peer-reviewed Pace Environmental Law Review.

Views expressed in this article are the opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Epoch Times.

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