Robert Kennedy Jr. has apologized for the wrong things.
First and foremost, vaccines do not cause autism. The two have nothing to do with each other.
Second, he seems to think people with autism are "gone," their lives "destroyed" and their families "shattered." Autism is not a death sentence. People with autism are not missing or destroyed. They are everywhere, trying to live their lives in a society that too often demeans them as subhuman, missing or worthless.
Kennedy's rhetoric is a problem, even beyond the fraudulent basis for his claims about vaccines. People who believe autism is an environmental disease try to cure kids with quack treatments like giving them bleach-based enemas. Others, believing autism functions as a death sentence, even kill their children.
I am worried about the effect of having such a powerful, high-profile member of our political class endorse this demeaning depiction of life with autism.
I reached out to a number of autistic activists for comment. Ari Ne'eman, president of the Autistic Self-Advocacy Network, wrote, "Robert Kennedy Jr, who has engaged with autism only to spread lies, misinformation and dehumanizing rhetoric, has never meaningfully engaged in efforts to improve the lives of autistic Americans. While his father, uncle and many others in the Kennedy-Shriver family championed the rights of people with disabilities, he has instead cast his lot with those who use pseudo-science to question our humanity."
These are harsh words, but try to see the situation through Ne'eman's eyes. Not only is Kennedy perpetuating a discredited theory, but he's also suggesting that it's better to let your children get preventable and sometimes fatal diseases than risk becoming autistic