Mr. Kennedy, if you know the science, why did you claim that the MMR vaccine contains mercury?

16 Nov

Robert Kennedy (son of Robert F. Kennedy) has been focused on reducing mercury exposure for some time. His advocacy against mercury led him to focus on vaccines (infant vaccines used to contain a mercury compound as a preservative). And, the main argument against mercury in vaccines is the (now totally failed) idea that mercury in vaccines causes autism.

It’s important to keep that autism is not his priority. It’s his tool to allege dangers of vaccines. He’s not out to help us out, but instead to use us to help him.

Add to this that he’s a lawyer, not a scientist and he’s from a very political family. Three are lawyers and politicians actually understand science. Mr Kennedy claims he is in that number (he’s “rabidly pro-science”), but in reality he either doesn’t understand the science or the facts are just be a political tool for him.

That Mr. Kennedy feels the need to instill in us the message that he understands science may stem from the fact that his first attempt at discussing autism and vaccines met with disaster. He published an article “deadly immunity” (because, you know, very pro-vaccine people use terms like “deadly immunity” to discuss vaccines, right?). This article was published both in Rolling Stone and In Salon’s Correcting our record, We’ve removed an explosive 2005 report by Robert F. Kennedy Jr. about autism and vaccines. Here’s why we read:

In 2005, Salon published online an exclusive story by Robert F. Kennedy Jr. that offered an explosive premise: that the mercury-based thimerosal compound present in vaccines until 2001 was dangerous, and that he was “convinced that the link between thimerosal and the epidemic of childhood neurological disorders is real.”

The piece was co-published with Rolling Stone magazine — they fact-checked it and published it in print; we posted it online. In the days after running “Deadly Immunity,” we amended the story with five corrections (which can still be found logged here) that went far in undermining Kennedy’s exposé. At the time, we felt that correcting the piece — and keeping it on the site, in the spirit of transparency — was the best way to operate. But subsequent critics, including most recently, Seth Mnookin in his book “The Panic Virus,” further eroded any faith we had in the story’s value. We’ve grown to believe the best reader service is to delete the piece entirely.

“I regret we didn’t move on this more quickly, as evidence continued to emerge debunking the vaccines and autism link,” says former Salon editor in chief Joan Walsh, now editor at large. “But continued revelations of the flaws and even fraud tainting the science behind the connection make taking down the story the right thing to do.” The story’s original URL now links to our autism topics page, which we believe now offers a strong record of clear thinking and skeptical coverage we’re proud of — including the critical pursuit of others who continue to propagate the debunked, and dangerous, autism-vaccine link.

“…critical pursuit of others who continue to propagate the debunked, and dangerous, autism-vaccine link”. Not exactly a ringing endorsement of Mr. Kennedy’s approach nor the “science” he still promotes.

One take a moment here to discuss Mr. Kennedy’s strong record of advocating for real changes that would benefit autistics. Or we could if there were such a record. Again, we aren’t his focus. We are his tool.

So, given this long introduction, what about the claim that that the MMR vaccine contains mercury? It is in this video Mr. Kennedy produced recently. And while it may seem like a small thing, it is a clear example of misunderstanding or ignoring simple facts in order to support his argument that mercury in vaccines cause autism. Mr. Kennedy is jumping on the controversy that Brian Hooker and Andrew Wakefield tried to make last year about the MMR vaccine.

Now for those who have a basic understanding of the science, one will immediately wonder, “why is Kennedy latching on to this MMR story when there is no mercury in the MMR vaccine?” Not only does the MMR vaccine not contain mercury, it can’t contain mercury. The MMR vaccine is a live virus vaccine. Mercury is a preservative; it’s specific purpose is to kill bacteria (mostly) and viruses.

Let’s leave out the other huge warning flags here–such as the current MMR controversy Wakefield and Hooker tried to create is based on a huge amount of misrepresentations. Let’s ignore that and ask, surely Mr. Kennedy wouldn’t claim that the MMR vaccine contains mercury, right? Because that would mean either he doesn’t care about the facts or doesn’t understand the facts. It would suggest that sticking to very simple facts is taking back seat to political advocacy.

Why care, one might ask? Politicians have been ignoring facts for millennia. I care beause of the harm Mr. Kennedy brings to my community. I care because he is be scaring parents, especially African American parents, needlessly and convincing them to avoid a vaccine which prevents three very serious diseases. But more, he’s instilling in a new community the guilt and shame that comes with belief in the vaccines-cause-autism idea.

Given that long intro, here’s the video where Mr. Kennedy sends out his message to the African American community:

You can jump right to the point I’m discussing (6:45 into the video).

“…it proved that these vaccines, these mercury containing vaccines particularly, were causing autism”

When he’s talking about the William Thompson story, he’s talking about this study, Age at first measles-mumps-rubella vaccination in children with autism and school-matched control subjects: a population-based study in metropolitan atlanta. He’s talking about the MMR vaccine.

Again, the MMR doesn’t contain mercury. Never has. In fact, it can’t. And there’s no good reason why after all these years why Mr. Kennedy would not know this. In his book “Thimerosal, let the science speak”, Mr. Kennedy on two occasions (Kennedy MMR-not thimerosal 1 and Kennedy MMR-not thimerosal 1) notes that the MMR vaccine does not contain mercury.

Again, this may seem like a small thing–he got this fact wrong. So what?

There was a time when I thought that the leaders of the movements that promote the idea that vaccines cause autism were just misguided. Probably good, decent people who somehow got themselves to believe wrong ideas. It’s not that hard to believe in something false, and just because you are wrong doesn’t mean you are lying.

Well, in my opinion, that doesn’t describe Mr. Kennedy. And as I’ve noted, the consequences for my community are huge. And I don’t appreciate Mr. Kennedy what appears to be Mr. Kennedy using us as his tool.

By Matt Carey

16 Responses to “Mr. Kennedy, if you know the science, why did you claim that the MMR vaccine contains mercury?”

  1. Dorit Rubinstein Reiss November 17, 2015 at 00:01 #

    If he knows the science, why claim thimerosal causes autism?

    • Sullivan (Matt Carey) November 17, 2015 at 00:26 #

      “I know the science”, in my opinion, not accurate when it comes from Mr. Kennedy

      “thimerosal causes autism”. Not accurate at all.

  2. louveha November 17, 2015 at 13:15 #

    I think you quoted the same bit from his book twice (the pictures are strictly identical).

    But yes, such a claim (thimerosal in MMR) shocked me coming from a man who wrote an entire book on the subject.
    This is not the first time this is mentioned either :

  3. Brian Deer November 17, 2015 at 15:26 #

    What an extraordinary individual. Not only does he come out with his “cesspool of corruption” fabrication, in which he alleges that a senate committee, the OIG and so forth charged against CDC, but he doesn’t even know that the black subgroup analysis is nothing to do with mercury,

    This guy is up there with David Lewis – the crank who the dental equipment guy the anti-vaxxers pulled out of life’s dumpster to aid Wakefield.

    He publishes a book on the subject – as with Lewis through that guy Lyons – and doesn’t even know that thimerosal would inactivate MMR, making it useless.

    But he’ll just keep saying it, I’m sure of it.

    • Brian Deer November 17, 2015 at 15:28 #

      It’s organic, I’m telling you.

  4. Inconvenient Truth November 21, 2015 at 16:03 #

    Thank you for you story about 1 person discussing 1 ingredient in 1 vaccine.

    It would be nice to also see a well rounded story, possibly including statements from CDC researchers who admit ‘omitting’ statistically significant correlations between the timing of the MMR vaccine and Autism in one of their seminal studies.

    • reissd November 21, 2015 at 16:06 #

      If you search this blog you will find that it discussed the unfounded claims of the #cdcwhistleblower manufactroversy in depth.

    • Chris November 22, 2015 at 02:54 #

      ” timing of the MMR vaccine ”

      The kids who got the MMR vaccine at the normally scheduled time were fine. It was those who waited who seemed to have higher levels of autism.

      Though the more logical explanation is that they were diagnosed with autism before the vaccine, and were getting the MMR in order to attend public special ed. preschool.

      By the way, Hooker’s paper was withdrawn because it was poorly done.

    • Sullivan (Matt Carey) November 23, 2015 at 19:01 #

      “Thank you for you story about 1 person discussing 1 ingredient in 1 vaccine”

      Let’s see–Kennedy is talking about the MMR vaccine and Thimerosal. So, one vaccine and one ingredient not in that vaccine. The whole point of the article, which I doubt you read. Why challenge your views, when you can find websites that actually support them?

      Here’s a question for you–1 ingredient. Thimerosal. Studied intensively. Doesn’t increase autism risk. Are you willing to admit that? No one who makes the “they’ve only studied one vaccine and one ingredient” argument ever does. MMR–studied intensively. Doesn’t increase autism risk.

      You want it both ways–you want to complain that the focus has been on MMR and Thimerosal (at the request of those who claim vaccines cause autism, by the way), but you won’t admit that those results have shown time and again that the MMR and that thimerosal don’t cause autism.

    • Sullivan (Matt Carey) November 23, 2015 at 19:37 #

      I always appreciate it when people with junk websites decide they need to advertise on my blog.

      Let’s look at your website, shall we? It starts with:

      “CDC Whistleblower
      Exposes potential scientific fraud related to vaccine safety research”

      I bet you didn’t do any research. Here’s an indication: your page states “Read the entire CDC article here: LINK”. The link is the abstract. Not the entire article. Do you understand the difference? Have you bothered to find and read the actual article?

      You make this claim:

      “2. Decreasing the sample size from 230 to only 137 autistic African American boys eliminated the statistically significant association between the age of MMR vaccination and autism in the 2004 CDC study. ”

      “Please do your own research on this but remember that these three points are not addressed in most reports and are critical to determine whether this was deliberate scientific fraud.”

      I have. You are repeating lies without substantiating them.

      I find it quite ironic that you hide the owner of your website. Why use domain privacy when registering it?

      More to the point, did you read the protocol? Because here’s another statement you made “1. The original study protocol was altered and there is no legitimate reason why race was not used as a co-variate for the entire sample.”

      Link to the protocol, please. And tell me what was changed. You can’t. If Wakefield and Hooker could have, they wouldn’t have changed the wording of the protocol in their complaint to the CDC.

      Didn’t you find it interesting that Wakefield and Hooker didn’t put the protocol online? I did. As in did put it online. I don’t find it strange that they didn’t because I found that what Wakefield and Hooker claimed about the protocol wasn’t true.

      You gotta hand it to Wakefield. He was such a mediocrity as a researcher, but he has become so good at manipulating his audience.

    • Sullivan (Matt Carey) November 23, 2015 at 19:44 #

      And the last statement on your site:

      “Note: It is also important to highlight that the official findings from that 2004 CDC study showed a statistically significant, 67% increased risk of autism in entire male sample who received the MMR vaccine before 3 years old yet no additional investigation appears forthcoming by CDC researchers on this topic”

      Really? (the answer to that question is no). There’s a ton of work done since 2004 on the MMR and autism. And let’s not forget, 2004 is also when we started to learn that Wakefield’s initial scare paper was junk. Not just, “can’t be replicated” junk, but unethical junk.

      How many MMR studies have been performed since then? And what’s the result? That’s right, no increased risk of autism from the MMR.

      I found it highly ironic that Wakefield and Hooker spent 10 years not caring about the above statistically significant result. It’s right there in the paper. Has been since it was published. But these faux “autism advocates” didn’t care.

      Which is as it should be because there’s a mountain of evidence that says that’s a spurious result.


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