WASHINGTON – Environmental activist Robert Kennedy Jr. and actor Robert De Niro are optimistic about President Trump’s effort to examine the safety of vaccines with the creation of a commission dedicated to the issue.
De Niro and Kennedy have teamed up on the World Mercury Project, which advocates for the elimination of mercury in vaccines.
During a news conference at the National Press Club today, Kennedy said many studies have shown a link between mercury in vaccines and neurodevelopment disorders. He also said some studies have linked thimerosal exposure to autism and that journalists should question lawmakers about the safety of vaccines.
Kennedy stressed that he supports safe vaccines and rejects being labeled as anti-vaccine, adding that no one called him “anti-fish” when he advocated for the elimination of mercury in fish.
“People of authority lie and it’s the job of journalists to check them. We can’t just take their word on stuff,” he said at the news conference.
Kennedy charged that Congress has been hesitant to address the issue of unsafe vaccines since the pharmaceutical industry spends more money than any other industry on lobbying. He said both parties accept contributions from the pharmaceutical industry. He also noted that the pharmaceutical industry pays the big networks a great deal of money for on-air advertisements.
“PhRMA puts in double into lobbying than oil and gas does,” he said.
De Niro told the audience he agreed with everything Kennedy said at the news conference. Both Kennedy and De Niro, a critic of Trump’s presidential campaign, were asked if they supported Trump’s proposal for a vaccine safety commission.
“Trump, I don’t care about. If he does the right thing, he does the right thing,” De Niro said. “I don’t have to be connected with him. It’s about this. Period.”
Kennedy said the Trump transition team approached him to lead the commission but his role has not been finalized yet.
“I don’t see why anyone is scared of safer vaccines. I’m not out to hurt the vaccine program,” Kennedy told the crowd.
“We should have good, robust, transparent science and we should have independent regulators who are not tied financially to the industry they are supposed to regulate,” he added.
He questioned why anyone would be opposed to a panel studying the safety of vaccinations.
“Why would anybody not want a vaccine safety commission?” he said. “The commission would be, as President Trump envisioned and me, it would be made up of Americans of the highest integrity – people who have not taken any position on this issue just to look at the science. You know, we need a debate on this.”
During a presidential primary debate in 2015, Trump said, “People that work for me, just the other day, 2 years old, beautiful child went to have the vaccine and came back and a week later got a tremendous fever, got very, very sick, now is autistic.”
Following the event, PJM asked De Niro, who has a son who is autistic, if he thinks Trump is right on the issue of vaccine safety.
“I don’t know that answer,” he said, before explaining why he wants the government to further study vaccine safety. “It’s important because of my own personal story, but also because I see how Bobby Kennedy said it better than anybody else could. He just said what it is. It has to be dealt with.”
Under pressure from critics, De Niro made headlines last year when he withdrew the anti-vaccine film Vaxxed from the Tribeca Film Festival.
Kennedy told PJM that Trump is “more focused than other presidents” on the issue of vaccine safety.
“I think we ought to be able to question vaccines without getting hammered and we ought to be able to question vaccine safety,” he said. “I wouldn’t say I am 100 percent aligned with Trump, but I am aligned enough that if he pushes this I think he can do a lot of good.”
PJM asked Kennedy if he thinks he will ultimately have a seat on the commission.
“I don’t know what’s going to happen,” he said.
The World Mercury Project is offering a $100,000 award to “the first journalist, or other individual, who can find a peer-reviewed scientific study demonstrating that thimerosal is safe in the amounts contained in vaccines currently being administered to American children and pregnant women.”