| briandeer.com | ABEL AND ANDY: HADDEN AND WAKEFIELD



Abel Hadden aided Wakefield: struck off over dishonesty and abuse of children

This page is material from the award-winning investigation by Brian Deer for The Sunday Times of London, the UK’s Channel 4 TV network and BMJ, the British Medical Journal, which exposed vaccine research fraudster Andrew Wakefield | Investigation summary

In 20 years of investigations, including interviews with Nobel laureates and experts of international distinction, Deer had never found a doctor shielded by public relations consultants. But in Abel Hadden, of Bell Pottinger Communications, Wakefield had a facility to avoid being exposed to critical questioning. Like barristers, one assumes, publicists sometimes have the most vile and shady clients


To: Abel Hadden

29 December 2003 17:50

Dear Abel,

Mercifully, I wasn't expected to rush out a quicker story on MMR than I would have wished. In any event, it would have seemed somewhat incongruous to run an investigation of this subject alongside the magazine piece by the music journalist.

Anyhow, I'm still very much on the case and have pretty much reviewed the science, which you will know stands at something like 99.999 per cent recurring in favour of there being no link between MMR and autism. Indeed, I am not aware of any authority in a plausibly relevant specialty who says otherwise. This strikes me as surprising. During a previous vaccine scare, over DTP, many senior specialists, including paediatric neurologists and epidemiologists of the highest distinction advanced the theory that pertussis shots caused neurological injury. And they were found, on the balance of probability, to be wrong.

Inevitably, an inquiry of the sort I'm conducting will focus intensely on your client Dr Wakefield. Although your telephone message before Christmas suggested that he was busy, I'd be grateful if you would let him know that my work continues and that I would appreciate an opportunity to discuss my findings with him. Unless, for example, a measles outbreak suddenly pushes the issue up the agenda, I'm available at almost any time up to January 16.

It seems that you also represent Visceral (at least you call The Sunday Times when I call them). Could you also let them know that I am likely to focus on that body as one of a number of organisations and individuals who are campaigning against the national immunisation programme on the basis of what appears to me to be a negligible base of persuasive fact.

MMR is a serious matter, touching on grave issues of public safety. You will know that, on this basis, I interviewed Mrs Rosemary Kessick of your campaign and, in four hours of recorded material, found her account of events surrounding her son's vaccination and history to be unsatisfactory. It is my belief that a great deal of material placed before the public is also of a misleading nature.

Having studied the media coverage of MMR, I appreciate that Dr Wakefield and the others have for the most part exposed themselves to journalists they might take to be sympathetic to the crusade against the vaccine. I have no such sympathy. If on that basis they do not wish to speak with me - which is certainly the impression I get - that must be a matter for them.

With best wishes, and happy new year

Brian Deer


From: Abel Hadden

8 January 2004 06:49 :

Apologies for my delay in getting back to you, as you know I was out of the office until Monday. As Dr Wakefield is off to America next week he hasn't a slot for an interview but he has said that he is happy to work as late as is necessary to give you written answers to any direct questions that you'd like to put to him. I know that you particularly wanted to talk to him face to face and I'm sorry that this won't be possible but if you let me have your questions as soon as you can I will endeavour to get him to answer them before he departs. I look forward to hearing from you, AH


To: Abel Hadden

09 January 2004 10:45

Dear Abel,

Thanks for your reply to my request to speak with Dr Andrew Wakefield. I too am under some pressure of work, and for this reason I'm glad to be able to extend the suggested time frame within which I would be available to talk with Dr Wakefield.

Perhaps you might suggest some time before Friday 23 January. I'm sure you would agree that it would not be appropriate for me to submit written questions, and that the conduct of public affairs should not be carried forward in such a manner. If Dr Wakefield remains incommunicado I will, in due course, supply you with a concise statement of the thrust of my report and will take account of any statement he chooses to make in response.

When my research is complete, it will be a matter of months since I first requested an opportunity to discuss my work with him. During your complaint to Sunday Times executives on the same day that I approached you, you were made aware that I am a serious, medically-orientated investigative reporter, who might be taken to know something about matters of childhood vaccination. I have been employed by The Sunday Times under various arrangements since 1981. In these circumstances, I had hoped you would see merit in Dr Wakefield having the opportunity to help shape my research agenda: to point me in what he might regard to be the right direction.

Even now, I invite you to suggest to Dr Wakefield that the most sensible course - on a matter of such serious public concern as the safety of children - would be to for him to negotiate an opportunity for us to talk on the telephone.

With best wishes,

Brian Deer


From: Abel Hadden

12 January 2004 11:49

Thanks for getting back to me.

Unfortunately Dr Wakefield is off to America in the next day or so and therefore really doesn't have any time left for a face to face meeting- and experience has taught him not to do telephone interviews with journalists he does not know. Your kind offer of extending the deadline doesn't help either as he is still going to be overseas on the 23rd. However Dr Wakefield has asked me to repeat his offer to respond to any questions you may wish to put him, he'd hate you to have to submit an article on this subject without him being able to have the opportunity to comment.

Incidentally, and it's only a very small point, my initial contact with the Sunday Times in this regard was not a 'complaint'! I look forward to hearing from you, Abel H


From: Abel Hadden

21 January 2004 10:01

I am concerned that I haven't heard from you since my note of a little over a week ago, though I do appreciate that these things can go missing. I have marked this one high importance and tagged it to let me know if you receive it. Dr Wakefield is in America but he has sent me a note asking whether you had any questions for him as we discussed. I look forward to hearing from you, Abel H


To: Abel Hadden

21 January 2004 10:19

Dear Abel,

Thanks for your reminder. I'm sorry I didn't let you know I received it. I didn't realize you were expecting an acknowledgement. I hope to be in contact with you again shortly.

With best wishes,

Brian Deer


From: Abel Hadden

22 January 2004 11:33

Thanks for this - when do you think your piece might appear?

Robert Sawyer at the charity Visceral sent me a note a while back following one of your emails to make the following point: **His statement that 'Visceral is one of a 'number of organisations and individuals who are campaigning against the national immunisation programme' is misinformed. Charities may lobby, but they may not campaign. Visceral has not conducted any activities of a campaigning nature. The Trustees of the charity have been scrupulous in their observation of this point, as have AW and myself. In any event the members of the charity support the principle of mass immunisation and have been careful to make this clear in all our activities. We have refused funding from organisations opposed to immmunisation. Any statement or inference that suggests that Visceral is in any way campaigning will be answered in the strongest possible terms. You should note that the law on this point is well documented. **

I look forward to hearing from you,

AH


To: Abel Hadden

22 January 2004 11:48

Dear Abel,

Thanks for your email. Mr Sawyer is not in fact correct in his understanding of charity law. I have some background in this area, and for your convenience attach an appropriate link. There is nothing at all to stop charities campaigning, and a great many do. They must not, however, involve themselves in party politics. I hope Visceral finds this helpful.

These kind of misunderstandings can be very time-consuming, and I really would suggest to you that an open and frank discussion between us is by far the most sensible way to proceed. I have called Mr Sawyer a couple of times. The first time he declined to answer a couple of trivial questions. The second time, he declined to come to the phone.

This doesn't seem to be a very constructive way to proceed over a matter as serious as the health and safety of children. The aggressive tone of the communication from Mr Sawyer, which you have passed on to me, is really quite unnecessary.

I think it would be helpful if you could use your good offices to ensure that a proper dialogue is established.

With best wishes,

Brian Deer


From: Abel Hadden

22 January 2004 01:09

I'll try but as I said before a number of people, who might otherwise have been quite happy to talk to you, are worried by the experiences of Rosemary Kessick who is well-known to them. What is your current view as to the possible timing of your article appearing? A


To: Abel Hadden

Sent: 22 January 2004 13:37

Dear Abel,

As far as I am concerned, the issues you allude to with reference to Ms Rosemary Kessick are twofold.

Firstly, I researched that aspect of my inquiries into MMR under a different name to my usual by-line. I believe this was wholly justified in the public interest, was reported to my manager and legal advisors before the fact, and was a strategy thoroughly born out by what Ms Kessick told me. I was anxious to obtain a forensically certain account of what Rosemary Kessick says now about the circumstances of her child's undoubted misfortune. I am proud of the work I do and am not apologetic for denying Rosemary Kessick the opportunity to Google me before our four-hour interview.

Secondly, that interview was recorded. The email circulated by Rosemary Kessick following our meeting, when she did not in fact know that I had used a different name to my byline, contained multiple untruths and was plainly intended to damage my standing in the eyes of my principal employer. Rosemary Kessick may be entitled to some latitude, given her situation, however I should tell you that the contents of that email were intended to be defamatory and were substantially false.

Despite her conduct, I regard the matter of Rosemary Kessick to be closed. My questions for her have been asked and answered. I have questions for you and your clients Andrew Wakefield and Visceral. I cannot compel you to answer them, or to have any dealings with me at all. However, as I have said before, I am investigating MMR and the conduct of those who have campaigned for and against it. This is a matter of serious public concern and I am a journalist who might reasonably be taken to be appropriate for such an inquiry.

Again, I hope you will see the wisdom of engaging in the kind of open dialogue that I believe the public would expect.

With best wishes,

Brian


From: Abel Hadden

22 January 2004 02:10

I wasn't present during your interview and therefore don't hold any views on whatever did or did not take place. However many of the people to whom you wish to talk, have known Rosemary Kessick for a long time and therefore trust her and this, I believe, is making your article the harder to research. As I thought I had explained, neither Dr Wakefield nor Visceral are clients, in the sense that they don't currently pay fees to Bell Pottinger, though two years or so ago I did give them some advice for which they paid (before I worked here). The best I can offer is to make your case to them and report back, as I have been doing for some time now. Also I do need to have some idea of the timing of your article in the Sunday Times because as I've said, Dr Wakefield is away in America. I am trying to be as helpful to your needs as I can,

AH


To: Abel Hadden

22 January 2004 14:38

To: Abel Hadden

Dear Abel,

I fear we may now have a problem. You say that Andrew Wakefield and Visceral are not your clients. On that basis it is not possible for me to continue this conversation with you. I understand that you have communicated my desire to speak with them, and the reasons, for which I am grateful.

If you would be so kind as to suggest who, if anyone, they wish to nominate to receive communications, which may be legally privileged, I would be grateful if you could let me know.

I would also be grateful if you would regard this exchange as confidential, other than to Dr Wakefield and Visceral.

Thanks for your help.

With best wishes,

Brian


From: Abel Hadden

22 January 2004 14:50

I am nominated to receive media communications on their behalf. If I wasn't, we wouldn't have been exchanging emails! I must ask you again, what is your likely timing on this article, please?

A


To: Abel Hadden

22 January 2004 15:24

Dear Abel,

Please don't think that I am being disrespectful or awkward, but when one is dealing with matters of reputation my experience tells me that certain formalities should be observed. One of the most important is that information of a potentially critical nature about an individual should normally only be shared with persons who have an interest in that material and where there is a duty to supply it. I have found that these concepts sound simple, but can actually be quite narrowly defined. To give a specific example: if Mr X was your client, and I were to tell you that I believed he murdered his mother-in-law and buried her body under the patio, that communication - assuming I believed it to be true - would be legally privileged. Even if I was wrong about the death, where the body was buried, or indeed the family status between the alleged perpetrator and victim, Mr X would find it difficult to profitably sue me. On the other hand, if I just told anybody of my suspicions, and the mother-in-law emerged safe and well after a well-earned holiday on the Costa Brava, I could be in some difficulty.

I should make it clear that I have no knowledge of any dealings between Andrew Wakefield, Robert Sawyer, mothers-in-laws or patios, but I do I need to be quite sure as to whether you professionally represent them or not. You say they are not your clients, and I had previously assumed that they were. If you are simply an interested bystander kindly helping out, I fear I must find more direct channels through which to engage with them.

As for publication dates: I realize that it was you who told me when The Sunday Times magazine piece by the music journalist was intended to run (I wasn't paying that much attention), but decisions about publication are taken by those of the great and good who have responsibility for such matters. In my experience, this information is rarely shared with outsiders except where that is required for professional reasons. In short, I don't know - and I doubt whether at this moment anybody else does either.

The request and offer to talk with Dr Wakefield and Mr Sawyer to discuss important matters relating to the safety of children remain on the table.

Best wishes,

Brian


From: Abel Hadden

22 January 2004 17:26

Having been closely involved with Visceral, its trustees and Dr Wakefield since 2002 I am a great deal more involved 'than simply an interested bystander'.

However, if you feel unable to act through me, so be it. Robert Sawyer asks me to assure you that Visceral's articles prevent them from campaigning. He apologises if you felt his words came across as aggressive - it was not his intention.

I appreciate what you say about face to face meetings but with Dr Wakefield in America and all that we have gone over beforehand, questions submitted is going to be the only realistic way forward. Both Dr Wakefield and Robert Sawyer look forward to receiving your questions in due course.

AH


Abel Hadden: What Goes Around Comes Around

Press release: 09 - 05 - 03

Abel Hadden returns to Bell Pottinger Consultants

Abel Hadden, one of the first consultants to join (what was then) Lowe Bell Communications in 1987, has returned to (what is now) Bell Pottinger Consultants in Curzon Street.

During his time away, Abel ran the 100-strong London office of Edelman for four years with specific client involvements including freight specialist UPS (across Europe), insurance giants Commercial Union, publisher HarperCollins, Orangina, Food from Sweden and Eli Lilley.

In 1998, Abel left to form his own reputation management agency, Abel Hadden & Company. Clients included the Royal Albert Hall, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, the Jill Dando Fund, the National Greyhound Racing Club, unique cruise liner The World, Dr Andrew Wakefield/MMR and Diageo’s range of Classic Malts.

Abel’s expertise lies in the management of complex and wide-reaching reputation issues for organisations, brands and individuals. Sometimes planned and sometimes not, the media, in today’s climate, and how it is handled almost always plays a pivotal role in the positive resolution of such situations.

At Bell Pottinger Consultants, Abel is reunited not only with a number of colleagues, but also with HM the Sultan of Brunei for whom
he handled personal media relations prior to 1994.

END


Postscript: In the event, Andrew Wakefield refused under any circumstances to be interviewed by Brian Deer. When he eventually met three Sunday Times journalists in February 2004, none of whom knew much about medicine or MMR, and so couldn't follow-up on many important questions, it was strictly on the condition that Deer was not present at the meeting. Wakefield paid the price for his conduct, however, and was later erased as a doctor, fired from his job and saw his research retracted. Deer won an award



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