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Monday, December 18, 2023

Trump, Autism, and Conspiracy Theory

 In The Politics of Autism, I analyze the discredited notion that vaccines cause autism. This bogus idea can hurt people by allowing diseases to spread  And among those diseases could be COVID-19.

Before his presidency, Trump pushed the idea, hard and repeatedly.

Unfortunately, other Republican politicians and conservative media figures are increasingly joining up with the anti-vaxxers.   Even before COVID, they were fighting vaccine mandates and other public health measures. 

The anti-vax movement has a great deal of overlap with MAGAQAnon, and old-school conspiracy theory

Caitlin Owens at Axios:

Driving the news: Trump's comments about drugmakers, posted in policy proposals and videos on his campaign website, have largely flown under the radar as his campaign speeches have doubled down on extreme rhetoric, like his use of anti-immigrant language and praise of foreign authoritarians over the weekend.

Details: One of the "Agenda47" proposals on Trump's campaign website — "Addressing Rise of Chronic Childhood Illnesses" — cites an "unexplained and alarming growth in the prevalence of chronic illnesses and health problems, especially in children."  [The next line: "We’ve seen a stunning rise in autism, auto-immune disorders, obesity, infertility, serious allergies, and respiratory challenges."] Trump in a June video that was also posted to Truth Social questions whether the food we eat, environmental toxins, or the "over-prescription of certain medications" is contributing to this increase.
  • "Too often, our public health establishment is too close to Big Pharma —they make a lot of money, Big Pharma — big corporations, and other special interests, and does not want to ask the tough questions about what is happening to our children's health," Trump said in the video.
  • "If Big Pharma defrauds American patients and taxpayers or puts profits above people, they must be investigated and held accountable," he said.
  • Trump goes on to call for a "a special Presidential Commission of independent minds who are not bought and paid for by Big Pharma" to investigate the rise in chronic illness.
The intrigue: Trump's language around childhood illness is reminiscent of Robert F. Kennedy Jr., a prominent vaccine skeptic who's running for president as an independent and has been praised by Trump as a "common sense guy."
  • In a video on his campaign website, Kennedy promises to "end the chronic disease epidemic in this country."
  • Kennedy has promoted the discredited theory that vaccines cause autism, though he doesn't directly make this claim in the video. But he previously tied "the children's health crisis" to "environmental toxins" and vaccines in an e-book published by the Children's Health Defense, which he founded.
  • Kennedy is "pleased" that Trump is highlighting the rise in childhood disease, said Kennedy campaign spokesperson Stefanie Spear. Trump's attention to the issue "testifies to the success of Children's Health Defense and many other activist organizations in putting the chronic disease epidemic on the political radar," she said.