When actor Robert De Niro attempted to screen “Vaxxed: From Cover-Up to Conspiracy” at his Tribeca Film Festival, the media lambasted him. The festival “sold out to anti-vaccine crackpots,” declared the L.A. Times.
With filmmakers threatening to pull out of the festival if “Vaxxed” was screened, De Niro reluctantly withdrew the film, but not his support. “You must see it,” De Niro told the Today Show.
In the documentary, a top government scientist blows the whistle on his agency, exposing what appears to be shocking misconduct with potentially far-reaching effects on public health. But that’s difficult to discern from media headlines.
“Anti-Vaccination Lunacy Won’t Stop,” blared the Wall Street Journal.
“Closer to horror film than documentary,” wrote the Washington Post.
Amidst these harsh reviews – which focus on the film’s controversial director – the whistleblower’s revelations have gone largely overlooked.
Children who receive the measles-mumps-rubella (MMR) vaccine earlier are at greater risk for autism, and the government withheld data establishing this link. That’s according to whistleblower Dr. William Thompson, a top scientist at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
Over a ten-month period in 2013-2014, Thompson provided internal CDC documents to, and had many phone conversations with, Brian Hooker, the parent of an autistic child. Unbeknownst to Thompson, Hooker, who’s also a scientist, recorded their conversations.
In one of those calls, Thompson said the withheld CDC data showed the link between earlier MMR vaccination and autism was strongest among African American boys.
What this was suggesting was that among the blacks, the ones that were getting vaccinated earlier were more likely to have autism.
While Thompson’s whistleblowing seems newsworthy, media reports have instead focused on the director of “Vaxxed,” Andrew Wakefield, who makes on-camera appearances throughout the film.
Wakefield is a controversial British doctor whose medical license was revoked. In 1998 he co-authored a study on the possible link between the MMR vaccine and autism, sparking a firestorm. The Lancet, the medical journal that published the study, retracted it in 2010. Later that year Wakefield lost his medical license.
These marks against Wakefield seem to have given the media license to dismiss his film, and Thompson’s whistleblowing.
Mark Crispin Miller, a media critic and professor at New York University, agrees with De Niro that “Vaxxed” deserves a viewing – not just because of what’s in the film, but also what’s been said about it by the media.
This mammoth propaganda drive against [“Vaxxed”] is a major threat to free expression in this country: a threat that isn’t coming from the right, but from our “free press,” and all too many liberals.