Anti-vaccine Robert De Niro morphs into Jenny McCarthy

I thought this story was dead and buried. The Tribeca Film Festival, Robert De Niro’s baby, was going to show the fraudulent documentary (hereinafter, fraudumentary) from the epic fraud himself, MrAndy Wakefield’s, fraudulent anti-vaccination movie “Vaxxed: From Cover-Up to Controversy.” Suddenly, the anti-vaccine Robert De Niro has jumped back into the discussion about pseudoscientific link between vaccines and autism.

To quote De Niro’s co-star from the Godfather movies, Al Pacino as Michael Corleone famously stated, “Just when I thought I was out, they pull me back in.”

I guess I’m being pulled back in.

Anti-vaccine Robert De Niro said what?

 

Yesterday, on the Today Show, and American morning news and entertainment show, De Niro was promoting the Tribeca Film Festival. That’s fine, and for me, quite boring.

Then suddenly the conversation moved to the “controversy” about the fraudulent documentary from Wakefield. Here’s the interview:

The key part of the video should start around the 2:10 mark when the anti-vaccine Robert De Niro starts his pseudoscience “commentary.”

Here’s what De Niro says about Tribeca pulling the fraudumentary:

[infobox icon=”quote-left”]I didn’t want it to start affecting festival in ways that that I couldn’t see. But definitely there’s something to that movie and there’s another movie called Trace Amounts. And these movies have a lot of information about things that are happening with the CDC, the pharmaceutical companies, there’s a lot of things that are not said. I as a parent of a child who has autism am concerned. I want to know the truth, and I want to know the truth, and I’m not antivaccine. I want safe vaccines.[/infobox]

We all want safe vaccines. But guess what De Niro – we already do. Unless, you’re a fan of the Nirvana fallacy, where if something isn’t perfect, it must be junk. No vaccines aren’t perfect, but they are probably safer than any medical procedure out there.

Let’s take a closer look at his nonsense.

Yes, I went there. The two-time Oscar winning and  anti-vaccine Robert De Niro is the same as the non-Oscar winning joke of an actress Jenny McCarthy. There you go.

The interview moves onto Andrew Wakefield himself, and it appears that De Niro dismisses what the world knows about Wakefield. Remember, this is a man who wrote a fraudulent medical article that lead millions of people to avoid vaccination because of an invented adverse effect, which then lead to thousands of children coming down with measles, a nearly extinct disease 15 years ago. And he did this out of nothing more than greed, to push his own patents and to help attorneys suing vaccine manufacturers (so that his own patented vaccine will become more valuable). And because of all of this, the United Kingdom stripped him of his medical license. He can’t practice medicine anywhere.

None of this is subject to discussion. Wakefield is a fraud. Period. Finis.

Interestingly, the fraudumentary was pulled because other filmmakers were complaining vociferously about the inclusion of Vaxxed. Good for them. Apparently sponsors didn’t care.

De Niro tried to claim that something “changed” in his son after vaccination. This is a story that we hear all the time, the post hoc fallacy. Because the initial signs of autism often appear about the time that a child is vaccinated, people think they are related. But we’ve got mountains of evidence that they are not.

Despite this powerful scientific evidence, De Niro claims that there is “something there”. Really De Niro? Are you a world class scientist, who spent 8-12 years in school, who did a post-doctoral fellowship, who begged (or in your case, just open your checkbook) for funding to start up a research lab, then published all of your findings, and finally standing up to critique and analysis from all of your peers?

It’s not that I think that a PhD and/or MD suddenly make you brilliant, although getting to that level of education really does mean you have a brilliant mind. But if you’re going to argue that you think that the scientific consensus on vaccines is completely wrong, you damn well better have a mountain of evidence published in high quality journals everywhere to make any claims about something being there.

Impressively, the interviewer, although deferential to De Niro, stated that the scientific consensus says there is no relationship between vaccines and autism. Of course, the Nobel Prize winning scientist, De Niro, dismissed that, claiming that it’s “much more complicated.” Then he finally states that there is a link between vaccines and autism.

The interviewer once again reminded De Niro that the scientific consensus solidly supports (that’s what a scientific consensus does) the safety and effectiveness of vaccines, followed by the question “Do you believe that it’s not true?”

The full anti-vaccine Robert De Niro left behind any bit of doubt in one statement:

[infobox icon=”quote-left”]I believe it’s much more complicated than that. It’s much more complicated than that. There is a link. They’re saying there isn’t, but there are certain things.

The obvious one is thimerosal, a mercury-based preservative, but there are other things. I don’t know. I’m not a scientist, but I know because I’ve seen so much reaction about…about…let’s just find out the truth. Let’s just find out the truth. I’m not antivaccine, as I say, but I’m pro-safe vaccine.

Some people who cannot take the vaccine, and they have to be found out and warned. You give a kid a bunch of shots, and then something happens. Some parents are even in this documentary saying, “I knew I shouldn’t have done it. I talked to the doctor. He’s the doctor. I should listen. I didn’t. The next day…” Can you imagine how the parent feels?[/infobox]

Oh no, the thimerosal crazy again. That’s been debunked too, if you’re wondering. No kidding De Niro, I know scientists. I’m friends with scientists. I’ve worked my whole life with scientists. And you sir, are not a scientist.

Hollywood actors, even if they have PhDs in a real science from a real university, offer nothing to the discussion about vaccines. I even get annoyed when some actor or actress makes their views known on politicians, but I guess whether you like Clinton or Sanders is a matter of opinion rather than science. Sort of.

But the anti-vaccine Robert De Niro has no viable claim to authority, expertise, or knowledge on vaccines and autism. He should just shut up.

Well, it was easy to never watch a Jenny McCarthy movie ever again in protest. Her movies were not usually on my list of favorites. On the other hand, I watch the Godfather regularly. I’ll just have to pretend the young De Niro was a smarter dude.

Oh, and cue the anti-vaccine forces. I’m sure they’re ecstatic. Isn’t De Niro embarrassed that his support comes from the lunatic Health Ranger rather than the irrefutable and mysterious Orac?

 
 
The Original Skeptical Raptor
Chief Executive Officer at SkepticalRaptor

Lifetime lover of science, especially biomedical research. Spent years in academics, business development, research, and traveling the world shilling for Big Pharma. I love sports, mostly college basketball and football, hockey, and baseball. I enjoy great food and intelligent conversation. And a delicious morning coffee!