On Tuesday, President-elect Donald Trump met with Robert F. Kennedy Jr. at Trump Tower in Manhattan. Kennedy spoke to reporters waiting in the lobby and revealed that Trump has asked him to "chair a commission on vaccine safety and scientific integrity." Kennedy is a known skeptic of vaccines despite the collective scientific opinion on the safety and efficacy of vaccinations. Just 10 days before his inauguration, Donald Trump appears to be questioning vaccine science, pointing to potential — and troubling — policies of the incoming Trump administration.
Update: In an email statement to Romper, transition team spokeswoman, Hope Hicks, said through her representative: "The President-elect enjoyed his discussion with Robert Kennedy Jr. on a range of issues and appreciates his thoughts and ideas. The President-elect is exploring the possibility of forming a commission on Autism, which affects so many families; however no decisions have been made at this time. The President-elect looks forward to continuing the discussion about all aspects of Autism with many groups and individuals."
Kennedy has long been a proponent of the scientifically false notion that a preservative used in vaccines — thimerosal — causes autism. His claims are so factually wrong that both Rolling Stone and Salon.com had to completely pull a 2005 piece by Kennedy about the dangers of vaccines from their online archives. (Kennedy's piece, titled "Deadly Immunity," was eventually restored to the Rolling Stone website archives — along with in-line corrections — and can only be viewed if you're a subscriber.) Additionally, even if you think thimerosal can be dangerous, many manufacturers have eliminated or greatly reduced thimerosal in their drugs at the suggestion of public health agencies.
With the news that Trump has chosen Kennedy — of all people — to head up a commission examining vaccine safety, it's another anti-science move by the president-elect that has been par for the course in a history of anti-science statements made by Trump.
Say it with me now: Vaccines do not cause autism.
Kennedy's anti-vaxx statements aren't just from a decade ago: In 2015, Kennedy called mandated vaccinations a "holocaust" when California tried to pass a bill that would prevent parents from skipping vaccinations for their children. From The Sacramento Bee:
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. This is a holocaust, what this is doing to our country.
Kennedy — who doesn't have a medical degree — also called the Centers for Disease Control a "troubled agency" that has become "cesspool of corruption" when he testified to the House Health Care Committee about Vermont's decision to remove the "philosophical exemption" to state-mandated vaccines in 2015.
There are so many troubling pieces to this story: For starters, Trump thinks that vaccination safety needs its own commission and that the man for the job is a notorious anti-vaccination speaker. More troubling still is that second area of focus for the commission: scientific integrity. Trump has repeatedly demonstrated that he's not exactly a fan of facts and possesses an uncanny ability to deny reality — going so far as to deny making statements that have been captured on video showing Trump saying the very things he claims he never said. So, is it really that surprising that Trump — a man who doesn't believe in facts — would use his power as president to launch his own Scientific Inquisition?
Don't be fooled — the pair have yet to outline any ways in which they would make vaccines safer than they already are. Instead many fear that Trump and Kennedy will want to expand the reasons people can get exemptions for their children, which is incredibly dangerous.
Here's Trump on the science of lightbulbs:
Trump on climate change:
Trump on NASA:
Trump on vaccines:
Trump on the ebola virus:
Based on these tweets alone, I've got $10 that says Trump probably thinks Armageddon was totally real science and that The Martian was just a boring 2-hour long word problem.
"Science discovers objective truths," wrote astrophysicist and NASA Distinguished Public Service Medal awardee Neil deGrasse Tyson. In his op-ed for The Huffington Post in late 2015, Tyson continued:
Once an objective truth is established by these methods, it is not later found to be false. We will not be revisiting the question of whether Earth is round; whether the sun is hot; whether humans and chimps share more than 98 percent identical DNA; or whether the air we breathe is 78 percent nitrogen.
In Trump's world, anything that resembles the truth — even when it's scientific fact — is apparently up for debate.