Before you meet our Top 50 Health Influencers, meet the top five health negative influencers, who sometimes seem to exist in an alternate reality — one in which vaccines are harmful and climate change isn’t an actual thing.
1. Jenny McCarthy and Jessica Biel
They’re certainly not alone among celebrity non-professionals questioning the safety and efficacy of vaccines (spoiler: Vaccines are safe and efficacious). That said, McCarthy has long ranked among the loudest and most persistent anti-vax voices in the debate.
Biel, for her part, walked back her testimony before California lawmakers — she spoke against a measure, since signed into law, giving the state power to reject certain vaccination exemptions — after she was lumped into the anti-vax camp. Biel’s “it’s about parental choice, not the vaccines themselves” response remains the mother of all vaccine-related straw man arguments.
2. Tom Cruise
Cruise’s great strength as an actor lies in his ability to convey empathy, whether playing a super-spy in the Mission: Impossible franchise or a dissembling misogynist in Magnolia.
And yet he has opined multiple times over the years that psychiatry is a “quack” profession, as opposed to one proven to help individuals navigate mental-health challenges. Whether or not this opinion is fueled by Cruise’s religious beliefs, and notwithstanding attempts to debunk it by some of the leading professional associations, it’s an unfortunate one for someone with such broad influence to air publicly.
3. Sen. James Inhofe (R-OK)
If you believe that climate change is or ultimately will be a health issue — and if you don’t, we’ve got some seaside property in Miami to sell you — then the senior Oklahoma senator should rank high on your pay-no-mind list. We tend to focus on Inhofe’s “if it’s cold outside, how could there be global warming?!” stunts, like bringing a snowball onto the Senate floor. But his stubborn resistance to even considering the evidence at hand, available from the CDC and the WHO, makes him perhaps the top climate-change denier — and thus the top denier of health risks that will stem from the inevitable warming — in the upper ranks of government. And yes, we’re aware of how much competition he has for that title nowadays.
4. K.C. Crosthwaite (Juul)
Juul’s recently appointed CEO doesn’t tweet and hasn’t publicly addressed the public health crisis that, fairly or not, his new employer is perceived to have played a major part in creating. But it’s hard to be optimistic about the lifelong tobacco executive’s ability to manage the crisis, given that his first statement as Juul CEO was packed with bromides about “inviting an open dialogue” and “striv[ing] to work with regulators, policymakers and other stakeholders.”