Many articles and blog posts arguing for the vaccine-autism link have the trappings of genuine academic research: tables, graphs, citations, and scientific jargon. Some of the authors have credentials such as M.D. or Ph.D. degrees. None of these things is a guarantee of scientific value, as the history of science is full of crackpot theories (e.g., AIDS denialism) that are the heavily-footnoted products of people with letters after their names. But most people will not be able to spot the scientific weaknesses of such work. Outside of academia, few understand concepts such as peer review. Jordynn Jack describes one dubious article that appeared in a non-peer-reviewed publication: “Regardless of the scientific validity of the article, though, the writers perform the writing style quite effectively. It would be difficult for the layperson to distinguish this article from any other scientific research paper, especially if one did not investigate the nature of the journal … or of the scientific response to the article.”
Besides [Dr. Simone] Gold, PolitiFact has fact-checked problematic claims by Florida osteopathic physician Dr. Anthony Mercola, Minnesota family physician Dr. Scott Jensen and Ohio osteopath Dr. Sherry Tenpenny, all of whom have become often-cited "experts" in anti-vaccination circles.
But the role physicians can play in promoting vaccine hesitancy predates COVID-19. In 198, Andrew Wakefield, a physician later stripped of his medical license, falsified research that wrongly claimed a link between the measles, mumps and rubella vaccine and autism. The paper, published in a prestigious medical journal that took years to retract it, fueled the kind of vaccine hesitancy that experts believe laid the groundwork for today’s anti-vaccine movement.
In addition to appearing with [Joe] Rogan, who has made and played host to several inaccurate claims about the COVID-19 vaccines, [Robert] Malone has given interviews to Fox News host Tucker Carlson, InfoWars reporter Kristi Leigh, and former Trump adviser Steve Bannon — all of whom have captured audiences while spreading misinformation about the vaccines.