As far as we know, Brinkley did not actually reference Semmelweis in this hearing. However, Semmelweis was a real person and his story is more or less as Brinkley describes it, and quacks absolutely love to tell this story. Why? Because it is real example of a “paradigm shift” in science, one of those rare occasions about which it is accurate to say, “Everything we thought we knew was wrong!” Because Semmelweis was persecuted for his beliefs, the quack can also place his inevitable trouble with authorities into a much more beneficial “underdog” narrative framework: from “he must have done something wrong to be in so much legal trouble” to “he is a persecuted genius ahead of his time.” Note how much exciting a story the latter is.
In the libel trial that comes later in our film, Brinkley’s counsel really did force Fishbein “to agree it had taken many years for the medical profession to accept the theories of Harvey, Jenner, Koch, Semmelweis, and other medical giants.”