There is no scientific link between vaccines and autism, according to the Centers for Disease Control.
McCarthy recounted her short-lived stint on the daytime talk show to reporter Ramin Setoodeh in his upcoming book, Ladies Who Punch: The Explosive Inside Story of “The View,” and said that her conflicts with Walter began during a 2007 appearance on the show, prior to her hiring in 2013.
McCarthy was there in 2007 to promote her book, Louder Than Words: A Mother’s Journey in Healing Autism, where she claims that her son Evan, now 16, developed autism at age 3 after getting the MMR — measles, mumps and rubella — vaccine, despite extensive studies that prove there is no correlation between autism and vaccines. She also makes unsubstantiated claims that she was able to heal her son’s autism by switching him to a gluten-free diet, giving him cod-liver oil and vitamins and enrolling him in behavioral therapy.
“I walked into her dressing room and she blew up at me,” McCarthy said. “She was screaming, ‘How dare you say this! That autism can be cured?’ My knees were shaking. I remember my whole body was shaking.”
McCarthy said she told Walters that she never said autism could be cured, and Walters responded: “You’re such a liar!”
During filming, McCarthy said she was “terrified,” but assured in her beliefs, as Walters calmly questioned her on how autism could be cured.
“It was not like I was trying to prove a scientific fact. It’s my story,” she said. “I knew she couldn’t outsmart me in this interview because she can’t tell me what happened with my child. I was able to calm myself down.”
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McCarthy said she believes that Walters may have been angry because of her sister Jackie, who died in 1985 and whom Walters has said may have been autistic.
“Back then, there really wasn’t anything you could do about it,” Jenny said. “She didn’t want to hear that there was maybe a possibility that her sister could have gotten better.”
Walters’ rep declined to comment when contacted by PEOPLE.
McCarthy said that her 2012 appearance on The View, to promote her second book, Bad Habits: Confessions of a Recovering Catholic, was the polar opposite, and Walters “was hugging me, loving on me.” That led McCarthy to seek out a spot as a co-host on The View and her eventual hiring a year later.
The announcement led to wide media criticism due to McCarthy’s vaccine beliefs, though she believes that it all part of a smear campaign from one, unnamed group.
“I had to deal with a hurricane, a tornado,” she said in the new book. “I consider myself to be pro-vaccine, but pro–safe vaccine. There’s another group, they go out and try to get me fired from every job I’ve ever done. They are invisible but powerful.”
McCarthy has long claimed that she is “pro-vaccine,” but she still believes that vaccines led to her son’s autism. She instead advocates for a delayed vaccination schedule where each one is spaced out over time, however scientific studies have refuted this claim and said that it will only “increase the time during which children are susceptible to vaccine-preventable diseases,” said one 2008 study in the journal Pediatrics. The Centers for Disease Control also says that there is no “known benefit” to delaying vaccines, and agrees that this system only places children at risk of serious illness.
McCarthy said that once she officially joined the show, she and Walters were frequently at odds over the pop culture topics she was brought on to discuss, her wardrobe choices and office hygiene. McCarthy said that she started to “hide” from Walters, but eventually started feeling bad for the longtime newscaster, who confirmed on May 13, 2014, after months of speculation, that she would leave the show three days later.
McCarthy decided to leave the show as well at the end of the 2013-2014 season, a few months later.