Comedian Jon Stewart once argued that with so many “passionate people” like Robert F. Kennedy Jr. there must be something to the claim that vaccines with thimerosal cause autism.
“And if nothing else it does seem that it’s very hard to argue the idea that putting mercury in things—some people would argue that we’re surrounded by all sorts of mercury contaminates in everything and the vaccines aren’t as much,” Stewart said to Robert F. Kennedy Jr. in 2005. “But with so many passionate people on the case of it, there must be something there. Where there’s smoke there’s fire.”
Stewart can clearly be seen sympathizing with Kennedy, whose unscientific claims about a link between autism and thimerosal have been repeatedly debunked.
— NOVA | PBS (@novapbs) February 1, 2015
Nine years later Jon Stewart’s team later went and mocked liberal parents who oppose vaccinating their kids.
— Jo Alabaster (@joalabaster) June 3, 2014
But isn’t he, in part, to blame for creating an anti-vaccine culture? And why isn’t he being called out?
— Tanvi Madan (@tanvi_madan) February 3, 2015
Could it be because he shared his politics?
jon stewart once interviewed a vaccines-cause-autism asshole and reverently agreed with his moron claims just because he was a Kennedy kid
— Virgil Texas (@virgiltexas) November 13, 2013
You might argue that Stewart was making a different point about Thimerosal but Kennedy has continued to argue for Thimerosal causes autism despite no evidence for the claim.
The full text is below:
Stewart: Most recently you were talking about the link between autism and vaccinations. Pretty controversial.
Kennedy: It’s not all vaccinations. Between 1989 and 2003, almost all of our vaccinations included a material called Thimerosal, which breaks down to form mercury. It was a preservative. It was unnecessary to add to vaccines. And we saw during that period, a dramatic increase in neurological disorders among American children. Today, one in every six American children born during that period has some kind of neurological disorder: speech delay, language delay, dyslexia, and at the opposite end of the range, autism. Autism rates in 1988, before they started adding all these vaccines, one in every 2,500 children had autism, today one in every 166 children have autism. And there is very, very strong science, really overwhelming science, linking those autism rates to the Thimerosal that was in the vaccines. The thimerosal, people should know, has been removed from most of the vaccines in America. We still have it in the flu vaccine and in one or two other. But we are still giving it to children all over the world and there’s now been a dramatic increase in the Third World in autism rates. A few years ago, six years ago, autism was unknown in China. We started giving them our vaccines in 1999, today there’s 1.8 million cases of autism in China. . . . (Stewart is nodding and looking concerned here.)
If you actually read the science, which most journalists don’t do, the science is overwhelming that there is a link between the autism and the Thimerosal.
Stewart: So where then is the controversy? There are certain issues, if true, if validated, do boggle your mind with a sense of humanity. If these vaccine makers, or if the FDA, or other people are allowing a certain compound into these vaccinations that’s causing autism and they now know it, why are they fighting so hard to keep that— Is it purely to save their asses, are they concerned about people then rejecting vaccines in general and then the public health suffers. I mean clearly a lot of these people are not malevolent.
Kennedy: There appear to be two concerns. One is the pharmaceutical industry is terrified of the litigation. This is literally trillions of dollars of damage. Each autistic kid, if you have a kid with autism in your family, it shatters your family. so that’s concern with the pharmaceutical industry. There’s also a concern with scientists at CDC and the FDA, the federal agencies that green lighted [Thimerosal].
Congressman Weldon who’s a right-wing Republican Congressman who’s also investigated this issue and is convinced that there’s a link, what he says is that how many of us would want to admit that a decision we made had poisoned a whole generation of American children.
The principal kind of benevolent rationale is that the federal agencies and the pharmaceutical companies want to make sure that the people don’t get scared off of vaccines. What I’ve been saying is people are going to be frightened of vaccines if they don’t trust the federal regulators to be honest with the American people. And the biggest threat to our vaccine program is that these people have now been caught red-handed conspiring to hide this information from the American people.
Stewart: You’ve tried to talk about this publicly and there a real interesting story about what happened to you with ABC News where they had shot a story for you concerning the link.
Kennedy: I had pieces coming out, the cover story of Salon.com and Rolling Stone simultaneously published the same piece. We had an exclusive deal with ABC to air the piece, to air a story about the piece on ABC Nightly News and Good Morning America. ABC told us they had read the piece, we gave them an exclusive so we didn’t pitch it to the other networks. They told us that they believed in the story, that they were behind it. They wanted to be the network to expose this to the American people. The night before the piece aired, I received a call from the producer saying ABC has cancelled the piece. The order came from higher up at the network. They won’t explain why they’re doing it. Two days later, ABC was deluged with letters from the autism community, mainly mothers who have autistic kids. Hundreds and hundreds of emails. This is what the producer told me. And he said we are no longer going to cancel it. We’re going to air it but we’re going to re-cut it. They re-cut the show, but they re-cut it to make it virtually an advertisement for the pharmaceutical industry. And indeed, as if to emphasize the capitulation to big pharma, they bracketed the segment that they did on Thimerosal with two ads for pharmaceutical products. (Stewart is smiling broadly here.)
I have no idea what happened at ABC. I can’t look into their heads and see what happened but that series of events was suspicious.
Stewart: And if nothing else it does seem that it’s very hard to argue the idea that putting mercury in things—some people would argue that we’re surrounded by all sorts of mercury contaminates in everything and the vaccines aren’t as much. But with so many passionate people on the case of it, there must be something there. Where there’s smoke there’s fire.
Kennedy: I got into this serendipitously; it’s not really my area. I’ve been working on environmental mercury for many years, from power plants. In nineteen states it’s now unsafe to eat any freshwater fish because of mercury that’s coming from our power plants.
Stewart: It’s a remarkable story. I wish we had more time but I appreciate you getting the word out and I know parents of kids with autism truly appreciate—and I know it’s a very difficult thing for them to be dealing with so I’m sure they appreciate the help.