On Tuesday, President-elect Donald Trump met with Robert F. Kennedy Jr., a noted skeptic of mandatory vaccination policies, despite evidence that they are effective in eradicating disease.
Kennedy, who is the nephew of the late President John F. Kennedy, came to Trump Tower to discuss “the issues related to vaccines and immunizations,” according to Sean Spicer, incoming White House Press Secretary.
The unannounced meeting with the President-elect seemed unusual because Kennedy is a lifelong Democrat and environmental activist, while Trump is a pro-drilling Republican.
However, Kennedy is considered one of the most prominent vaccine skeptics in the country. Despite the fact that it has since been debunked, he continues to support the theory that preservatives in vaccines cause neurological disorders in those that receive them, like autism. Kennedy even wrote a book about it, titled “Thimerosal: Let the Science Speak: The Evidence Supporting the Immediate Removal of Mercury — a Known Neurotoxin — from Vaccines.”
Furthermore, Kennedy has taken the case against mandatory vaccinations to Congress, lobbying in favor of policies that give parents “philosophical exemptions” from adhering to state requirements that state that children that attend public schools must be immunized against several diseases.
Similar to the President-elect, Kennedy claims that he is “pro-vaccine” in order to downplay the skepticism that he has so clearly displayed.
However, Kennedy and Trump are both part of the problem. Both of them have spread conspiracy theories that have effectively provoked fear among parents, possibly contributing to the decreasing rates of immunization in communities across the country. This decrease in immunization has also lead to outbreaks of diseases that were previously thought to be virtually eradicated, like measles.
It seems that the President-elect and Kennedy are two-peas-in-a-pod, so to speak. Mr. Trump has supported the debunked theory that vaccines cause autism for some time. During a Republican primary debate 2015, Trump told the story of one of his employees whose “beautiful child [who] went to have the vaccine and came back and a week later got a tremendous fever, got very, very sick, now is autistic,” making the case for a connection between vaccines and autism on the public stage.
In another display of his skepticism, Trump also took to Twitter in 2012, saying,
“Stop these massive doses immediately. Go back to single, spread out shots! What do we have to lose.”
Lots of autism and vaccine response. Stop these massive doses immediately. Go back to single, spread out shots! What do we have to lose.
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) October 22, 2012
In 2014, the now President-elect claimed he knew more than doctors and epidemiologists.
I am being proven right about massive vaccinations—the doctors lied. Save our children & their future.
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) September 3, 2014