Planet Gore

Did Robert F. Kennedy Jr. Tell Chelsea Clinton to Forego Immunizations for Her Baby?

Earlier this week, Chelsea Clinton was honored by environmentalist Robert F. Kennedy Jr.’s Riverkeeper foundation, receiving its prestigious distinguished esteemed silly-sounding “Big Fish” award:

Chelsea Clinton and the Clinton Foundation have worked to promote clean and safe drinking water for communities around the world that need it most. Here at home, Chelsea has been a leader in supporting the recovery of New York City communities impacted by Superstorm Sandy.

What’s notable about it is that the event paired Robert F. Kennedy Jr., the prestigious distinguished esteemed dictator-loving environmentalist with a long history of vaccine alrmism and associated conspiracy theories with the pro-immunization and pregnant Chelsea Clinton. The media loves a good anti-vaccination vs. vaccination story, yet not a single media outlet jumped on it. Why is that?

A little history is in order. . .

Kennedy’s vaccination alarmism became widely known in June/July 2005 when Salon (online) and Rolling Stone (in print) jointly published his piece, “Deadly Immunity,” that repeated the specious claim that the vaccine preservative thimerosal is linked with autism. Here’s the conspiracy-laden sub-headline from the Rolling Stone edition (and can be read in full can be read in full on Kennedy’s website):

When a study revealed that mercury in childhood vaccines may have caused autism in thousands of kids, the government rushed to conceal the data – and to prevent parents from suing drug companies for their role in the epidemic

Kennedy’s work came under immediate criticism and Salon, “in the days after running” the piece, was forced to amend “the story with five corrections.” In 2011, Salon ended up retracting the piece in full:

In 2005, Salon published online an exclusive story by Robert F. Kennedy Jr. that offered an explosive premise: that the mercury-based thimerosal compound present in vaccines until 2001 was dangerous, and that he was “convinced that the link between thimerosal and the epidemic of childhood neurological disorders is real.”

The piece was co-published with Rolling Stone magazine — they fact-checked it and published it in print; we posted it online. In the days after running “Deadly Immunity,” we amended the story with five corrections (which can still be found logged here) that went far in undermining Kennedy’s exposé. At the time, we felt that correcting the piece — and keeping it on the site, in the spirit of transparency — was the best way to operate. But subsequent critics, including most recently, Seth Mnookin in his book “The Panic Virus,” further eroded any faith we had in the story’s value. We’ve grown to believe the best reader service is to delete the piece entirely.

“I regret we didn’t move on this more quickly, as evidence continued to emerge debunking the vaccines and autism link,” says former Salon editor in chief Joan Walsh, now editor at large. “But continued revelations of the flaws and even fraud tainting the science behind the connection make taking down the story the right thing to do.” The story’s original URL now links to our autism topics page, which we believe now offers a strong record of clear thinking and skeptical coverage we’re proud of — including the critical pursuit of others who continue to propagate the debunked, and dangerous, autism-vaccine link.

In other words, the article was so bad that Salon decided to take it down entirely. 

Between 2005 when “Deadly Immunity” was written, and 2011 when it was retracted, the anti-vaccination movement was gaining momentum. In 2007 Jenny McCarthy became, arguably, the anti-vaccination movement’s public face when she wrote the parenting book Louder than Words: A Mother’s Journey in Healing Autism that alleged a link between her son’s vaccinations and his autism diagnosis.

And in 2008, Kennedy appeared at a rally in D.C. hosted by “Green Our Vaccines” with Jenny McCarthy and actor/comedian Jim Carrey (remember him?):

WASHINGTON, June 4 /PRNewswire/ – Jenny McCarthy and Jim Carrey will lead the Green Our Vaccines march, rally and hold a press conference today, Wednesday June, 4th at the Capitol Building, West Capitol Grounds in Washington, DC. 

Robert F. Kennedy Jr. will be joining Carrey and McCarthy as the keynote speaker. 

“We have been inspired by Mr. Kennedy’s support of mothers’ positions on vaccines and his ground breaking article, “Deadly Immunity,” McCarthy says. “His continued efforts are greatly appreciated.” 

McCarthy might be the public face of the movement, but it was RFJ Jr. who gave her the gravitas in those early days — thanks, in large part, to Salon.

Fast forward to today and Salon continues to cover the anti-vaccine movement, but they omit Kennedy and their own own role as a publication, in the perpetuation of the vaccine-autism link.

If you’re a celebrity not named Kennedy, however, you’re fair game for the ire.

For example, Salon called Reese Witherspoon clueless” for her views on vaccines. A few weeks earlier, Salon declared Jenny McCarthy ”one of the most divisive and controversial media figures in America today.”  Salon played the bimbo card, calling Witherspoon and McCarthy the two “blondes who were famous in the ’90s and who now use their celebrity to spout dubious parenting advice.” In March, they went after ”anti-vaccine nut Kristin Cavallari,” who is blonde, too.

None of these stories mention Kennedy at all. And when Kennedy is mentioned in a Salon piece on vaccines, his inclusion with the anti-vaccine movement is covered without insult:

“It’s a little bit cool, it’s a little bit of a trend,” says Nina Shapiro, a professor at UCLA medical school and mother of two who wrote an Op-Ed in the Los Angeles Times this weekend about her growing concern with the anti-vax movement.

It’s certainly true of the anti-vaccination’s most prominent voices, like actress Jenny McCarthy, who was just hired to a spot on “The View,” and environmentalist Robert Kennedy Jr.

“It’s that whole natural, BPA-free, hybrid car community that says ‘we’re not going to put chemicals in our children,’” Shapiro told Salon. “It’s that same idea: ‘I’m going to be pure and I want to keep my child pure.’”

Yes, it’s a trend. RFJ Jr. started the trend. On They should mention that.

Of note, the link Salon provides — “environmentalist Robert Kennedy Jr.” — doesn’t even direct readers to their own Kennedy mea culpa, it links instead to a piece on Kennedy in Slate. 

Now for the most over-the-top headline from Salon:

Dear ABC: Putting Jenny McCarthy on “The View” will kill children

Again, no mention of RFK. Jr.’s views, but it’s totally cool to say McCarthy will kill kids.

Well, if Jenny McCarthy is a baby-killer, than so is Robert F. Kennedy Jr., and I want to know why the media ignored Chelsea Clinton accepting an award from a baby-killer. 





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