Family Matters

Why Jenny McCarthy Doesn’t Matter

The former Playmate is posing nude again for Playboy. Will McCarthy's fee bolster the cause of Generation Rescue, her autism research organization that rejects vaccines as dangerous?

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Jemal Countess / Getty Images

Would you pose nude to raise money for a good cause? That just might be what Jenny McCarthy’s up to, returning to the X-rated pages that launched her career. Just shy of her 40th birthday, McCarthy — sex kitten, mom, autism activist, actress, model, anti-vaccine crusader — is stripping down for the July/August double issue of Playboy, nearly two decades after being named Playmate of the Year.

No word on how much she’s getting paid, but an interview she did in 2010 with Access Hollywood may provide a clue:

“I would [pose again], for like, $2 million towards autism. Yeah, I might do something like that again. But I feel like, you know, the puppies have gone south and left and right,” she laughed, motioning to her chest. “I’d have to, like, scoop them!”

Um, TMI. But then again, nearly everything about McCarthy screams Too Much Information — or at least the wrong kind of information.

Most notable — aside from her breast-baring — is her outspoken insistence that vaccines cause autism. Her son, Evan, was diagnosed with autism in 2005; he’s since been “cured,” according to McCarthy. Perhaps another mother with the same sorts of outlandish claims would be ignored or dismissed as a quack. But McCarthy’s celebrity status has meant that her affiliation with Generation Rescue, an organization that links autism with immunization, has spooked thousands of parents, encouraging them to reject vaccines for their children — the same vaccines that are responsible for saving lives around the world.

Every major medical association promotes immunization, and yet a study published last year in Pediatrics found that 24% of parents surveyed placed “some trust” in the contrarian vaccination viewpoints of celebrities. The most vocal of these celebs? McCarthy.

“I don’t understand why when a celebrity says something about which they have no training, that is reported more than someone who has done rigorous scientific training,” Gary Freed, study author and director of the Child Health Evaluation and Research Unit at the University of Michigan, said last year. “Celebrities are juxtaposed to medical experts as credible sources of information by the media. As long as that continues to occur, the public will continue to assume they are as credible as credible sources really are.”

Autism myth propagation aside, McCarthy’s parenting choices also appear cause for concern. While I’m a big proponent of not judging other mothers, it’s hard not to raise an eyebrow at McCarthy’s craving for a self-esteem boost via a nudie mag spread. Two weeks ago, scores of readers took Jamie Lynn Grumet to task for baring much of her breast on TIME magazine’s cover while nursing her almost-4-year-old; what will her poor son think when he’s older, they wondered? With McCarthy baring a heck of a lot more, any responsible observer might be curious how she’ll spin her centerfold for her son. And will the public’s outrage approach similar levels now that it’s nudity for titillation’s sake — pun intended — as opposed to nudity for the sake of nutrition and comfort?

Speaking of titillation, McCarthy indulged in some girl talk last month, sharing with Us magazine the details of her elementary-school-aged son’s inaugural jaunt to the Playboy Mansion. For an Easter bunny hunt, of course. Evan’s mom lost track of him for the better part of an hour and found him hanging out in the infamous whirlpooled Grotto, presumably with some scantily clad babes. She told Us that Evan’s already got two girlfriends, including a 29-year-old who was also in attendance at Chez Hugh Hefner:

“And I went in there and he’s laying there going, ‘Hey.’ And I said, ‘Yeah?’ and he said, ‘You know I like chicks, right?’ And I said, ‘That’s great!’ And he goes, ‘I like pretty chicks.’ … I’m like, Oh. My. God! He’s 9! So you can imagine, if Hef’s parties are still going on in a few years, I’m in trouble!”

A few years? Frankly, it sounds like McCarthy’s already in way over her head.