Many posts have discussed Trump's support for the discredited notion that vaccines cause autism. (He also has a bad record on disability issues more generally.)
On Tuesday, Donald Trump met with Robert F. Kennedy Jr., an environmental lawyer and activist, who also happens to be an outspoken vaccine conspiracy theorist. After the meeting, Kennedy told reporters it went “very well,” and said that Trump “asked me to chair a commission on vaccine safety and scientific integrity.” He also said that Trump called him to ask for the meeting.
But Hope Hicks, a spokeswoman for the Trump transition team, said in a statement that nothing is certain yet. “The President-elect enjoyed his discussion with Robert Kennedy Jr. on a range of issues and appreciates his thoughts and ideas. The President-elect is exploring the possibility of forming a commission on Autism, which affects so many families; however no decisions have been made at this time,” the statement reads. (It is interesting that the team refuted Kennedy’s statement that he would lead a vaccine commission by saying Trump is considering forming a commission on autism, when vaccines are not related to autism.) [emphasis added]In The Politics of Autism, I write:
In 2005, both Rolling Stone and Salon published “Deadly Immunity,” an article by Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. accusing the federal government of a massive conspiracy to cover up a connection between vaccines and autism.
In 2011, Salon retracted Robert F. Kennedy, Jr.’s “Deadly Immunity” article. Editor Kerry Lauerman noted that Salon had run five corrections in the days after publication. “At the time,” he wrote, “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 … 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.”
Despite these developments, activists have continued to argue for a vaccine-autism link, with some effect. When they packed the room at a 2012 House hearing on autism, several lawmakers voiced agreement with them. More important, they have raised doubts about the safety of vaccines, leading some parents to delay or forgo immunizations for their children.