Robert Kennedy Jr. has been for many years pushing the failed idea that vaccines cause autism. He’s particularly interested in mercury–you know, that preservative thimerosal that was removed from infant vaccines but didn’t cause autism rates to drop. A while back he actually got the ear of President Trump, coming away with the claim that he would be appointed to run a vaccine safety commission. The Trump team pushed back a bit on that claim, but, seriously, what was Trump doing wasting his time with Kennedy? I can say one thing, as the parent of an autistic child: Trump is doing the autism communities no favors. None at all.
Kennedy held a press conference today, apparently renting some space at the prestigious National Press Club. In order to pull some attention, he had Robert DeNiro along (although DeNiro’s contribution amounted to “I agree with what Kennedy said”). Kennedy has long been short of facts. So he didn’t present any new facts, or even alternative facts today. Instead he pulled out another attention grabbing gimmick: he says he will pay a journalist $100,000 if said journalist can present a study that shows mercury in vaccines is safe.
Lacking in the offer is a definition of safe.
Say, for example, we define safe as per how Kennedy usually defines unsafe: is the rise in autism diagnoses due to mercury in vaccines? Well, there are many studies which show that mercury in vaccines did not cause the rise in autism (and, since this is the backbone of the “mercury causes autism” argument, that argument fails as well).
But Kennedy knows the studies. He’s already denied their results.
What he also knows is that California pulled thimerosal from vaccines a long time ago (2006 to be exact). Infants and pregnant women in California get thimerosal free vaccines. And the number of people diagnosed with autism has continued to rise ever since. Heck, that’s got to be worth at least $10,000.
He got more press than I expected. Not much but some. Here’s some examples:
Cause: Vaccine safety. Specifically the debunked link between mercury found in early childhood vaccines and autism, a claim the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has unequivocally refuted
This picture (from Buzzfeed if memory serves), pretty much sums it up.
By Matt Carey