Robert F. Kennedy Jr., an activist who’s pushed the debunked theory that vaccines cause autism for a very long time, says Donald Trump has asked him to chair a commission on vaccine safety. This isn’t like asking the fox to guard the henhouse; it’s more like asking someone to redesign the henhouse after they’ve told you they don’t think henhouses strictly need to exist.
Kennedy is, yes, one of those Kennedys, and a longtime environmental activist. But in the past few years he’s also pushed the idea that thimerosal, a preservative in vaccines, is responsible for increased autism rates. The CDC has repeatedly debunked that claim (which is only reassuring if you believe the CDC, which the anti-vaccine fringe does not). That makes him a nice match for Trump, who’s said explicitly and repeatedly that he believes vaccines cause autism.
NBC reports that after a meeting at Trump Tower Tuesday, RFK told reporters he’s accepted an offer to “chair a commission on vaccination safety and scientific integrity.”
Vaccines are a longtime obsession for Trump; here are a few of the dozens of times he’s tweeted that they cause autism:
Thimerosal doesn’t cause autism and neither does the CDC’s recommended vaccine schedule (you can read a brief, layman’s explanation of why here). (Update, 3:15: Also, thimerosal was phased out of almost all childhood vaccines by 2001, even though there’s no evidence that it’s unsafe. The CDC did that as a “precautionary measure,” they have said, to make certain that people didn’t let that fear dissuade them from vaccinating their kids.)
Kennedy drew intense criticism last year for calling vaccines a “holocaust.” As the Sacramento Bee reported at the time, he was speaking at a screening of the anti-vaccine film Trace Amounts when he made the comparison:
“They get the shot, that night they have a fever of a hundred and three, they go to sleep, and three months later their brain is gone,” Kennedy said. “This is a holocaust, what this is doing to our country.”