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Tuesday, May 21, 2024

Dishonest RFK Jr. Video

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.

Antivaxxers are sometimes violent, often abusive, and always wrongA leading anti-vaxxer is presidential candidate Robert F. Kennedy, Jr.  He has repeatedly compared vaccine mandates to the Holocaust.  Rolling Stone and Salon retracted an RFK article linking vaccines to autism.

Kate Yandell at
A recent video promoting independent presidential candidate Robert F. Kennedy Jr. promises to “start with some irrefutable facts.” The over 30-minute video, narrated by actor Woody Harrelson, begins with some biographical truths about the candidate, but veers into promoting various debunked or unsupported narratives about vaccines.


According to the video, a pivotal moment in Kennedy’s career came when he met parents who believed that mercury in vaccines had harmed their children. The video doesn’t explicitly state how the parents believed the vaccines had injured their children, but Kennedy has said in the past mothers of autistic children brought the issue to his attention. A wide range of evidence indicates that there’s no link between thimerosal — a mercury-containing preservative — and autism or other conditions.

However, one parent provided Kennedy with scientific studies that convinced him, in his words, that “I got to drop everything and do something about this.” This led Kennedy to publish a 2005 article for Salon and Rolling Stone, which advanced the unsupported idea that thimerosal had caused an increase in autism and other disorders. Salon eventually retracted the story.

The Kennedy video doesn’t mention that extensive research has failed to show any relationship between thimerosal in childhood vaccines and neurodevelopmental disorders. In fact, the rate of autism continued to rise after thimerosal was removed from childhood vaccines in 2001, indicating that it did not explain the increase in diagnoses of the condition. This increase was likely caused in large part by growing awareness of autism, changes to how it is defined and the growing availability of services for children who get the diagnosis.

For more, read “What RFK Jr. Gets Wrong About Autism.”