Robert F. Kennedy, Jr is wrong in calling Forbes’ shoddy journalism on vaccine-autism link

CC BY-SA 4.0 File:RFKJr Headshot.jpg Uploaded by Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. Created: 5 October 2014

CC BY-SA 4.0
From Uploaded by Robert F. Kennedy, Jr.
Created: 5 October 2014

Editors Note:

Autism Daily Newscast has followed Robert F. Kennedy, Jr stance on vaccines for some time. In July 2014 we reported: Robert Kennedy Jr : Thimerosal, vaccination and political fireworks. Then in April this year we reported: Robert Kennedy apology for autism holocaust blunder remains problematic, in which he publicly apologized for comparing the vaccination of children to the Holocaust. I do not share Kennedy’s views but have continued to report these stories as factually as possible. However, Kennedy has finally stepped over the line in his recent accusations on Forbes and writer Emily Willingham.

In the past, Kennedy’s articles have appeared in reputable publications such as The New York Times, The Washington Post, the Los Angeles Times, the Wall Street Journal, Newsweek, Rolling Stone, Atlantic Monthly, Esquire, The Nation, Outside magazine, and The Village Voice.  Yet the following piece is from the ultra political conservative WorldNetDaily which has repeatedly publicized conspiracy theories about Barack Obama’s citizenship status.  Kennedy references SafeMinds extensively in this article.  Joel A. Harrison, PhD, MPH, a retired epidemiologist who has worked in the areas of preventive medicine, infectious diseases, medical outcomes research, and evidence-based clinical practice guidelines has questioned the “credibility of the organization” SafeMinds. Meanwhile, Kennedy without proof, refers to Forbes as a newspaper that “prioritizes Pharma’s mercantile interests ahead of the health of American children.”

Emily Willingham is a respected journalist who not only quotes other sources but qualifies as an investigative reporter who goes to the source to verify her information. Her background as a biologist only brings credit to her writing. Because she is outspoken in her writing of unvalidated conspiracy theories and pseudo science pretending to be legitimate, she gets her fair share of criticism.

In the article reprinted in full below,  Kennedy criticizes Willingham for stating no one faulted Thorsen’s landmark Danish studies.  Ms. Willingham had in fact qualified her statement two days earlier,”clarify that obviously, the results of the Madsen paper, now 13 years old, have been called into question through some nonconventional channels.”   Contrary to Kennedy’s opinion, we did not see Willingham as defending Dr. Thorsen or claiming his innocence. In my view, she was continuing her consistent efforts to challenge conspiracy theories based on questionable “facts”. I look forward to Willingham response to Kennedy’s article, but I feel that she will not stoop to bother given the questionable sources Kennedy cites.

There was a time when I had a great deal of respect for the work that Robert F. Kennedy, Jr did in raising environmental issues.  I even had the pleasure of meeting him about 11 years ago and am saddened by his instance of the vaccine and autism link. Kennedy closes with, “If we want to restore credibility to government science, we might start by revitalizing the journalistic commitment to research and integrity.”  Really M Kennedy? I fear it is your credibility that needs to be restored.


  • Dawn Loughborough says:

    There is overwhelming crying out of parents who watched their children regress into neurological damage after vaccine adverse events. These families take care of these children 24×7 and yet articles like this defend and protect the vaccination program which is a train wreck for these families, over the well being of children harmed by vaccination. Your stance to beat up people who raise these concerns is getting old, and more and more people are learning the concerns of these families and the researchers who are looking at these concerns. The federal government has paid out $3 billion in compensation to vaccine injured. Why shouldn’t we have a conversation about vaccine safety that includes RFK Jr shedding some light on these real and documented issues?

    • Roberta Hill says:

      While we have disclosed that we do not agree with Kennedy, unlike many publications we do print both sides and encourage our readers to investigate and form their own opinions. I disagree that we “beat up people who raise concerns” – on the contrary we state our position and encourage open debate. We also stated that vaccination like everything has its risks. However, a measles outbreak is far more deadly, literally. I am sorry but researchers have been “looking into these concerns” for well over a decade and can draw no substantiated connection between vaccines and autism. Simply having an opinion does not make it true.

      Finally, we did not cut and paste from Kennedy – we reprinted his article in full and then added our comments just as you have done here. Readers are welcome to draw their own conclusions and we encourage them to comment.

  • Autistic Hans Schmidt says:

    My opinion on the vaccine-autism influence theory is that there are many diseases and disorders (conditions) which can be mimicked and/or induced from adverse drug reactions (ADRs). Many such mimicks and inductions can be very convincing and long-lasting even to the most experienced clinician. Why, then, should autism be the ONLY condition in which there is no evidence of mimicking and induction?

    That Mr. Kennedy chose to have his latest commentary published in such a questionable web site might suggest only that: 1) he was asked by the site to do so, and/or 2) he wishes to broaden his readership given his, and his family’s, multi-generational membership within a political party with which these new readers would ordinarily avoid. I see little about his choice of publisher to doubt his opinion. I, too, believe that Kennedy reaches a bit too far sometimes, but, I also believe that his occasional exploration of ideas is better than playing it safe.

    • Roberta Hill says:

      I agree we need people out there – including Kennedy – who challenge and question the status quo. I do not believe in conspiracy theories should be given any validity without facts, scientific evidence and substantiation from multiple reputable sources.

      Your comment regarding mimics and inductions is interesting as long as we don’t mistake correlation with causation. Thank you for your comments.

  • Joe Hill says:

    The Kennedy article was far more convincing to me than your critique of it.

    He cites specific instances of fraudulent science, and backs them up quite well.

    Frankly, you don’t even address the accusations of faulty science; instead you choose to focus on a defense of the Forbes reporter. Is that the most important issue here? I don’t think so.

    • Roberta Hill says:

      Kennedy’s article on the surface is very convincing which is why it is all the more dangerous. He cites instances that are not properly backed up as you say… using questionable sources or as Ms. Willingham says “unconventional channels”. Ms. Willingham article which I am sure you read in full – stands on its own merit and did not need to be repeated. There was no faulty science despite what Kennedy suggests. It is far better sourced from reputable places and does not use one but many different citations.

      You are correct that the important issue is not to defend a Forbes reporter and it may appear that was what I was doing – I was defending her content which is always above reproach.

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