President-elect Donald Trump is meeting Tuesday with Robert F. Kennedy, Jr., a prominent figure in the anti-vaccine movement who’s pushed thoroughly discredited theories linking vaccines to autism. It’s one of several meetings on vaccines that Trump has held with anti-vaccine leaders in recent months.
Kennedy became a figurehead of the anti-vaccine movement in 2005 when he declared that a mercury preservative in vaccines was responsible for the surge in diagnoses of autism in young children. The idea was debunked by science — among other evidence, autism diagnoses kept increasing in generations of children who received vaccines that no longer contained the preservative, which the pharmaceutical industry had removed from its U.S. formulations. But Kennedy continues to blame vaccines for what he has called a “Holocaust” against children.
In statements on Twitter and during the campaign, Trump has been sympathetic to the idea that vaccines are dangerous. During an early GOP debate, Trump said he believed in the autism link, and he met in August with British physician Andrew Wakefield, proponent of the idea that CDC has covered up pharmaceutical industry poisoning of the brains of millions of children.
“[Y]ou take this little beautiful baby, and you pump — I mean, it looks just like it’s meant for a horse, not for a child,” Trump said in a September 2015 GOP debate when he again cited the discredited link between vaccines — or vaccine dosing schedules — and autism.
“If I were President I would push for proper vaccinations but would not allow one time massive shots that a small child cannot take – AUTISM,” he tweeted in 2014.
Trump transition officials described the Trump Tower meeting with Kennedy as focused on vaccines.
One transition adviser Scott Gottleib — often mentioned as a potential Trump pick for FDA — has often taken on the “anti-vaxxers” and defended vaccines’ public health value.
Trump was also holding meetings with his picks for top health posts as the GOP plots out a strategy to repeal and replace Obamacare. Trump is expected to address the GOP’s Obamacare plans during a scheduled press conference Wednesday.
Jason Millman contributed to this report.