Michelle R. Smith at AP:
While many nonprofits and businesses have struggled during the pandemic, Kennedy’s anti-vaccine group has thrived. An investigation by The Associated Press finds that Children’s Health Defense has raked in funding and followers as Kennedy used his star power as a member of one of America’s most famous families to open doors, raise money and lend his group credibility. Filings with charity regulators show revenue more than doubled in 2020, to $6.8 million.
Since the pandemic started, Children’s Health Defense has expanded the reach of its newsletter, which uses slanted information, cherry-picked facts and conspiracy theories to spread distrust of the COVID-19 vaccines. The group has also launched an internet TV channel and started a movie studio. CHD has global ambitions. In addition to opening new U.S. branches, it now boasts outposts in Canada, Europe and, most recently, Australia. It’s translating articles into French, German, Italian and Spanish, and it’s on a hiring spree.
Kennedy often says he started looking at vaccines after a mother told him she believed her son developed autism from exposure to mercury in a vaccine. The theory has been thoroughly debunked. The form of mercury, thimerosal, was removed from childhood vaccines years ago with no effect on the levels of autism. Still, Kennedy and others continue to argue, against the scientific consensus, that vaccines are linked to autism, food allergies and a host of other medical problems. Among the ingredients he tells people to watch out for are common substances such as aluminum, acetaminophen, fluoride and food additives.