You are hereClark Baker - Ex-cop and homophobic right-wing blogger
Clark Baker - Ex-cop and homophobic right-wing blogger
by Jeanne Bergman
Clark Baker is a former Los Angeles police officer who was fired in 1991 after being convicted of battering a jaywalking immigrant. The conviction was later overturned on appeal—not on the facts of the case but on grounds of prosecutorial misconduct.1 Baker has since worked as a licensed private investigator, often, he says, without pay. Baker has a few blogs and websites where he posts his own reactionary opinions2 as well as pieces by other conservative conspiracy theorists.
Baker says that he knew nothing about HIV/AIDS until 2008, when, through his relationship with an obstetrician named Gil Mileikowsky, he became involved with members of the Semmelweis Society International (SSI), a small group of physicians opposed to the abuse of professional peer review. SSI was embroiled in controversy: Miliekowsky had engineered the giving of its “Clean Hands” award to denialists Celia Farber and Peter Duesberg and many members, when they learned that these are HIV denialists, objected. Baker, who has no training or professional experience in science or medicine and apparently no college education at all, muscled his way into control of Semmelweis and rocketed to the forefront of the HIV dissident movement’s scientific and strategic leadership.
Baker has given varied accounts of how he became involved in HIV denialism. He writes that SSI then-president Roland Chalifoux, an osteopathic neurosurgeon, asked him “to conduct an independent investigation of Farber and Prof. Duesberg, citing [Baker’s] investigative experience, independence, and almost complete lack of knowledge about HIV and AIDS.”3 But in a panel presentation in Nashville in April, 2009, he said that an AIDS physician asked him to investigate allegations that denialist Peter
Duesberg is guilty of genocide for the AIDS deaths of millions in South Africa. When his investigation progressed, he said, that same physician tried to get him to stop, presumably because Baker supported the denialists. Baker’s stories don’t match up, but in any case, his “investigation” resulted in an incoherent and error-riddled “report” that he called “HIV, AIDS, and Gallo’s Egg.” He has posted it widely on denialist websites and right-wing blogs.
In “Gallo’s Egg,” Baker lurches back and forth between copying internal Semmelweis emails about Farber and Duesberg and, in his “Investigator’s Response” to the issues raised, regurgitating well-worn denialist falsehoods and misinterpreted anecdotes. Throughout the document, Baker demonstrates his complete lack of basic knowledge about disease processes, viruses, the immune system, HIV screening and diagnosis, scientific research and publication protocols, and medicine. Here is a small sample of his compound errors of fact and analysis from a much longer list:
- Baker claims that HIV doesn’t cause AIDS in chimps, and therefore it can’t cause AIDS in humans. This canard is wrong both factually and logically.4
- Baker challenges the proven fact that HIV is spread through sex by citing Nancy Padian’s study, reiterating other denialists’ misinterpretations of her evidence, which shows that safer sex prevented transmission of HIV in a sample of serodiscordant heterosexual couples.
- In search of evidence of a pharma-funded conspiracy, Baker contrasts the FDA’s decision to give Crixivan approval six weeks after Merck applied for it to “110 clinical tests before approving Splenda.” In fact, the FDA gave accelerated approval of Crixivan in 1996 after 14 clinical trials (clinical trials must precede the request for approval) and traditional approval in 1998, after additional longer and larger studies. 5
- Baker confuses the immune system’s creation of antibodies to external pathogens with “the autoimmunity response.”
- Reviewing an internal Semmelweis email from member Kevin Kuritzky that describes a lecture by Duesberg, Baker concludes the “anecdote is doubtful,” because Duesberg teaches at Berkeley and Kuritzky was at Emory, “three time zones east.” Unfamiliar with academic settings, Baker may not know that professors often give lectures on campuses other than their own.6
- Baker improperly and randomly references single studies to make false claims. He charges, for example, that perinatal ARV prophylaxis “is dangerous for both mother and child,”7 and cites just one 15-year-old AZT study. In fact, the evidence is overwhelming that ARVs effectively prevent vertical HIV transmission and pose no significant risk of harm to mother or baby.
- Baker thinks the standard term “antiretroviral medications” is “Orwellian,” and that the “primary ‘medicine’ is AZT.” The term is an accurate description of the drugs’ purpose and effect, and, while some combination therapies still include AZT, zidovidine is neither “the primary medicine” nor is it toxic at currently prescribed dosages.
- In an effort to dispute the accuracy of HIV testing, Baker writes: “To prevent terrorists from boarding planes (or HIV in our blood supply), HIV test sensitivities are set so that Jimmy’s orthodontics and Grandma’s titanium hips activate the alarms. Once those alarms sound, the tests brand them as suspected terrorists.” Baker’s thinking here is chaotic and disorganized—HIV screening tests react to the presence of antibodies in the bloodstream, not to metal, and are not used to screen for terrorists—but he is partially right to analogize the ELISA tests to pre-flight screening. What he doesn’t understand is that his analogy illustrates the screening function of the antibody test: it is not designed to diagnose HIV without confirmation. Both pass-through metal detectors and ELISA tests are highly sensitive screening technologies that react to potential problems that must then confirmed (or cleared) by additional tests. For HIV antibodies, the confirming HIV is the Western Blot (the gold standard), and for airport screening, a wand or pat search. In both cases, further positive results generate additional investigation.
Baker’s core thesis, which emerges only gradually and partially in “Gallo’s Egg” but that he states more aggressively elsewhere,8 is that Dr. Robert Gallo’s work on HIV was fraudulent, and that the discovery of HIV and the determination that it causes AIDS by destroying the immune system was unsupported by evidence then and has not been replicated since. Baker is wrong on every one of these points. He doesn’t understand the nature of the controversy over the co-discovery of HIV by Gallo’s lab at the National Cancer Institutes and the Pasteur Institute’s Luc Montaignier and Françoise Barré-Sinoussi.9 Baker apparently believes that Gallo’s discoveries were merely theories floated without evidence, and that they were never replicated. He refers to Gallo’s “original opinion” (as opposed to evidence-based findings) and claims that it is “disingenuous for any scientist to argue any research that is based upon Dr. Gallo’s theory without proof that HIV a) actually exists, b) kills white blood cells, and c) causes AIDS. Consensus, based upon unproven hearsay, is not proof.” He seems not to know that all of these things have indeed been proven, beyond any doubt. HIV has been isolated thousands of times since 1984, and that there is abundant, indeed overwhelming, published evidence that the retrovirus HIV actually exists (even Duesberg has shown this), and that HIV infection results in destruction of CD4+ T-cells (what Baker calls “white blood cells”). The result is a marked defect in the T-Helper arm of the immune system, without which opportunistic infections can rage unchecked.10 This state is advanced HIV disease—AIDS—which, without treatment, will in almost all cases lead to death.11
Emboldened by the denialists’ enthusiastic admiration of “Gallo’s Egg,” Baker broadened his scientific theorizing. In a post on another of his websites, www.cwbpi.com, he reviews the narrative of HIV+ denialist Karri Stokely and concludes
that the antiretrovirals Combivir and Sustiva are actually addictive antidepressants—he specifies that they are SSRIs and MAOIs—because Ms. Stokely says that she was unwell for months after quitting treatment. “Intentional or not, by marketing this class of drugs (MAOIs and SSRIs) as ‘AIDS medications,’ the pharmaceutical industry has built into its HIV cocktails a mechanism that punishes HIV patients when they interrupt their drug use.”12 Incredibly, Baker seems actually not to know that the chemical composition and biological action of a medication are relevant to the classification of the drug. He does not know what kind of drugs Crixivan and Sustiva are, or what they do, or even why patients are urged to taper off many medications, not just antidepressants.
So what does Baker say is the cause of AIDS, if not HIV? “It’s a lifestyle disease,” he asserted in Nashville in April. And in a spasm of vicious homophobia on the Semmelweis website, which he took over and now uses as another of his personal blogs, he wrote that AIDS began when “a small group of promiscuous, addicted, nitrite-huffing, gonorrheal and syphilitic bath house veterans began to get sick.” 13 “Faced with the imminent loss of funding, Gallo and his goons needed a new virus that they could frighten Americans with. At the same time, gay activists wanted the world to believe that their lifestyle had nothing to do with their symptoms. If lifestyle was blamed, individuals would be responsible.” 14 Baker has exhumed the oldest and most stigmatizing lie about HIV disease: that gay men and other people get it not from an infectious pathogen but because they lead immoral, irresponsible lives. This scientifically illiterate homophobe is the man whom Duesberg, Farber, and the rest of the HIV denialists have embraced as their researcher, colleague and spokesperson.
June 9, 2009
1 According to the L.A. Times, Baker’s conviction was overturned on appeal in 1994 when the Superior Court found that “the prosecutor improperly invited jurors to reform the Police Department after other LAPD officers were acquitted of beating Rodney King” just 8 months before. “The judges ruled that prosecutor David Sotelo's repeated references to the King case during an emotionally charged period had denied Baker a fair trial, and in effect made Sotelo an unsworn witness at the trial. The judges also found misconduct by Judge McBeth, saying she failed to curb Sotelo's remarks, and ruled that defense attorney Bob Wilson, by not objecting to the remarks, failed to provide effective counsel.” Ann W. O’Neill, “Court Voids Policeman's Conviction - Jurisprudence: Appeals panel throws out the case against a Valley traffic officer accused of assaulting a jaywalker.” L.A. Times, April 29, 1994.
2 See, for example, “Obama sows the Seeds of Fascism,” posted on Baker’s blog exlibhollywood.blogspot.com on May 2, 2009, or his tirade against affirmative action, Judge Sonia Sotomayor, and Barack Obama in “The Problem with Race, Empathy, and Social Justice,” posted on May 26, 2009.
3 exlibhollywood.blogspot.com; posted July 20, 2008.
4 Novembre, F.J. et al. Development of AIDS in a chimpanzee infected with human immunodeficiency virus type 1. Journal of Virology 71(5): 4086-4102. May 1997.
5 Not surprisingly, drugs urgently needed for life-threatening illnesses are handled differently by the FDA than are artificial sweeteners like Splenda. AIDS activists have pressured Pharma for expedited, responsive drug development protocols and access to affordable treatment from the earliest days of the epidemic. Baker lacks the most basic knowledge of the drug development and approval process.
6 Celia Farber, who told the NY Post’s gossip columnist that she is suing Kuritzsky and two others for libel, references the same email in the lawsuit in an attempt to impeach Kuritzsky’s truthfulness. She says Kuritzsky “falsely represented himself as a student of Dr. Duesberg” (posted at http://www.scienceguardian.com/blog/celia-farber-fights-back.htm). Clark Baker is proud of his close association to Celia Farber and has said that “evidence” he collected is the basis for her lawsuit. Baker and Farber are wrong: Kuritzsky didn’t write that he was a student of Duesberg’s—he just wrote that Duesberg gave a lecture. A competent journalist or investigator would have fact-checked this.
7 Emphasis in the original.
8 In a May 5, 2009, blog posting, Baker wrote that Gallo’s “unproven opinions have since become the basis for all of AIDS policy in the US and around the world at a cost that approaches $1 trillion in US taxpayer dollars since 1981. The fact that Dr. Gallo’s Institute of Human Virology still receives millions of research dollars annually despite having been found guilty of scientific misconduct in 1992 is equally troubling. But like Bernie Madoff’s pyramid scheme, Gallo’s initial fraud gave birth to a trillion dollar fraud scheme that is now simply too big to fail.”
9 At issue was whether Gallo had himself had first isolated the retrovirus, or if the retrovirus he found was from a sample sent to him by Montagnier that had contaminated Gallo’s culture. It has since been proven that Montagnier’s lab in fact first isolated HIV, using techniques developed by Gallo, and that Gallo was the first to show that HIV causes AIDS. Years later, the Office of Scientific Integrity Review, part of the US Department of Health and Human Services, concluded that Gallo had committed scientific misconduct by making statements about the French virus that were untrue, thereby promoting his own laboratory’s ascendance in HIV research. (HHS withdrew that finding in 1993, around the time Baker was appealing his conviction for battering a civilian.) For a thorough, if awkwardly written, overview of the history of the messy discovery of HIV see Anders Vahine’s “A Historical Reflection on the Discovery of Human Retroviruses,” Retrovirology 2009, 6:40 (www.retrovirology.com/content/6/1/40, and posted on www.AIDStruth.org.
10 Defects in the B-cell antibody producing arm of the immune system do not appear to be as severe as in the T-helper arm. Fungi, cancers, and certain viruses like CMV are characteristic of AIDS. For more on exactly how HIV damages the immune system and accurate responses to other denialist lies, see Nick Bennett’s posts on his blog, especially “Latest BMJ Rebuttal” on October 1, 2004, at http://aidsmyth.blogspot.com/2004_10_01_archive.html, and his June 8, 2009 post, “HIV Kills T Cells...And Doesn't Need Help to Do It” at http://aidsmyth.blogspot.com/2009/06/hiv-kills-t-cellsand-doesnt-need-he....
13 http://semmelweis.org/2009/06/02/doctors-without-boundaries/. Emphasis mine.