As I write this, the 2016 Election is lurching painfully to its conclusion, with about a week to go. In my entire adult life, dating back to when I first reached the age where I started paying attention to politics in the late 1970s, I cannot remember a more bizarre or painful election, nor can I remember an election in which one possible outcome actually terrifies me. I’m referring to the possibility of Donald Trump becoming our next President. I’ve made no secret of my contempt for his xenophobia, his blatant sexism and misogyny, his change from using racist dog whistles to racist bullhorns, his utter lack of qualifications, his temperament that is totally unfit to be President, and his generally vile personality.
I haven’t really written much about the political reasons that I oppose Trump, but I have written quite a bit about one medical and scientific reason. With one week to go before this election chugs painfully to its freak show conclusion, I was reminded of this just yesterday and figured, what the heck? I really should take one last opportunity to write about this in light of a post that I saw last night, which led me to some Facebook postings by antivaccinationists about Trump.
If there’s one thing you might not realize, it’s that antivaccinationists (at least many of them) love Donald Trump. Love him. For example, our good buddy and antivaccine conspiracy theorist, Jake Crosby, whom I like to refer to as Young Master Crosby (or, if I’m on Twitter, The Gnat), has been posting Hillary for Prison graphics, urging people to donate to the Trump campaign, and generally worshiping the ground Donald Trump walks on. Elsewhere, a man every bit as deranged as The Gnat, Mike Adams, has been delivering a steady stream of pro-Trump propaganda, along with his other pseudoscience, quackery, and lies, for several months now. More recently, the Grand Poobah of the Antivaccine Movement himself, the man who almost singlehandedly brought measles back to the UK by using a crappy fraudulent case report to frighten parents with the lie that the MMR vaccine causes autism, Andrew Wakefield, has stated that this is a “one issue” election:
To be honest, I have a hard time believing that Andrew Wakefield is so stupid that he’d be repeating the utterly risible claim that by 2032 one out of two children will have autism and that the pharmaceutical industry and government somehow want this? Does Wakefield have any self-awareness? Does he have a clue just how stupid that sounds? He probably does, but it’s all about the con, and the antivaccine activists he’s addressing actually believe such flagrant nonsense. In any case, Wakefield strongly endorsed Donald Trump because Trump believes that vaccines cause autism. In fact, he claims to have met with Donald Trump and that Trump told him he’s on Wakefield’s (and, by extension, the antivaccinationists’) side. He then lays down an even bigger whopper, claiming that, if Hillary Clinton is elected President, within two years there will be mandatory vaccination nationwide. Clearly, either Wakefield doesn’t know how our federalist system operates and that it is the states, not the federal government, that determine school vaccination requirements, or he doesn’t care. I suspect the latter. Again, Wakefield is not stupid. He is a liar. But who knows? To be able to make such ridiculously over-the-top claims, he must be, in my opinion, either stupid or lying. Take your pick.
Either way, that Andrew Wakefield supports Donald Trump (even though, as a British citizen, he can’t vote in our election) is not surprising. Donald Trump has been spouting antivaccine tropes, pseudoscience, and nonsense for a long time now. What was far more disturbing to me is that in the video Wakefield claimed to have met with Trump a couple of days before to discuss vaccines and autism. That’s right. If Wakefield is to be believed, the foremost antivaccine conspiracy theorist in the world, who made what is currently the most paranoid conspiracy theory “documentary” right now, met with a major party candidate for President, who told him he shares his views. That frightens me, and it should frighten you, too.
To give you a little more background, I’ve documented Donald Trump’s antivaccine views for a long time now. The first time I took notice of Trump spouting off about vaccines causing autism was in 2007, when he was quoted in an interview saying:
“When I was growing up, autism wasn’t really a factor,” Trump said. “And now all of a sudden, it’s an epidemic. Everybody has their theory. My theory, and I study it because I have young children, my theory is the shots. We’ve giving these massive injections at one time, and I really think it does something to the children.”
“When a little baby that weighs 20 pounds and 30 pounds gets pumped with 10 and 20 shots at one time, with one injection that’s a giant injection, I personally think that has something to do with it. Now there’s a group that agrees with that and there’s a group that doesn’t agree with that.”
He was also quoted in 2012 blaming a “monster shot” causing autism:
They go in and they get this monster shot. I mean, have you ever seen the size of it? It’s like they’re pumping in–you know, it’s terrible, the amount. And they pump this in to this little body, and then all of a sudden the child is different a month later, and I strongly believe that’s it. They should have vaccinations, but do them separately and over an extended period of time, not all at one time.
Then, of course, he’s been seen on Twitter many times posting pure antivaccine pseudoscience, as I documented last year:
Massive combined inoculations to small children is the cause for big increase in autism….
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) August 23, 2012
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.
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) March 27, 2014
Healthy young child goes to doctor, gets pumped with massive shot of many vaccines, doesn't feel good and changes – AUTISM. Many such cases!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) March 28, 2014
No more massive injections. Tiny children are not horses—one vaccine at a time, over time.
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) September 3, 2014
I am being proven right about massive vaccinations—the doctors lied. Save our children & their future.
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) September 3, 2014
I'm not against vaccinations for your children, I'm against them in 1 massive dose.Spread them out over a period of time & autism will drop!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) September 4, 2014
So many people who have children with autism have thanked me—amazing response. They know far better than fudged up reports!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) September 4, 2014
No wonder antivaccine loons love Donald Trump. It’s not my intention to rehash all the times that Donald Trump has spewed antivaccine idiocy hither, thither, and yon. There are simply too many examples over too long a period of time. Indeed, given how many times Donald Trump has changed positions on so many other issues, I can’t help but point out one last time that antivaccine pseudoscience is probably the one position that he’s been utterly consistent about for at least a decade.
Which brings me back to Andrew Wakefield’s claim. Did Donald Trump really meet with Andrew Wakefield, the disgraced UK surgeon and researcher who was struck off and whose research leading to his infamous 1998 case series in The Lancet implicating MMR as a risk factor for autism was shown to be fraudulent so brilliantly by Brian Deer. If, so, this would be a very disturbing development, far more disturbing than yet another insinuation about Hillary Clinton’s e-mails, as it would involve a major party candidate for President of the United States meeting with an antivaccine activist looking to bring measles back to the world. Indeed, I’m glad news of this meeting came out before the election, because, quite frankly, I find the idea of Donald Trump’s having met with an group of antivaccine conspiracy theorists and telling them he would help them if elected far more disturbing than yet another rehashed “revelation” about Clinton e-mails. Indeed, I’m surprised that news of this hasn’t been proclaimed to the antivaccine faithful before.
Our old friend, Levi Quackenboss, one of the quackiest antivaccine bloggers out there, reports that it is indeed true that Wakefield met with Trump and offers to “share” a few things about the meeting. Why did she wait until November 1, when Wakefield’s talk dates to late August and his alleged meeting with Donald Trump a couple of days before his talk? Who knows? Who cares? I’m bringing this up because it’s something that needs to be known before the election, and Quackenboss has reported on previous meetings between the antivaccine activists behind the movie VAXXED, such as Del Bigtree, and other legislators, such as Rep. Jason Chaffetz, before. Just last week, the VAXXED crew was in my state meeting with state legislators.
The team that visited Trump last summer says that he is very consistent in his position on vaccines. He has certainly not abandoned us. They specifically talked with him about vaccine-induced autism and they report that Trump undoubtedly knows that vaccines can and do cause autism.
Trump asked the type of questions that show the depth of his knowledge of the subject, such as how the current schedule came into being and how he can change it. He is already up to speed on what is happening. He already understands the issue.
At this point, I can’t help but note that, if Trump is truly “up to speed” on issues of vaccines and autism, even if it’s to be “up to speed” enough to know what antivaccine quacks are claiming, it would be the first time he’s been up-to-speed on pretty much any policy issue. If there’s one thing that’s been consistent about Donald Trump, it’s been that he assiduously avoids anything resembling the painful nasty details of science and policy and goes with conspiracy theories. Of course, that’s why he is so dangerous and why it is so disturbing that he actually met with the VAXXED team. Remember, the movie VAXXED is basically a movie about a conspiracy theory, that of the “CDC whistleblower.” As I mentioned a couple of days ago, VAXXED, which was directed by Wakefield and produced by Del Bigtree, is a propaganda movie disguised as a documentary that is so blatant, so full of misinformation and lies, that, if she were alive today to see it, Leni Riefenstahl would say, “Dudes, that’s a bit much. You might want to tone it down a bit.” (Yes, I like to imagine Riefenstahl calling Bigtree and Wakefield “dudes,” with a thick German accent.)
Now here’s the even more disturbing part:
The most important promise came at the end of their meeting when someone said, “Donald, you are the only one who can fix this.”
And Trump said, “I will.”
He will fix this.
Fixing this is not rocket science. Hell, it’s not even vaccine science. He will fix this. It is entirely fixable, and he appreciates our advocates lending their assistance in getting it done.
Friends, we have a direct route to stopping this madness. Can you imagine that for a second? Can you just imagine having vaccine education advocates getting face-time with the person who appoints the director of the CDC?
Trump asked for a follow-up with our side. They are giving him advice on how to help us.
It’s quite possible that Quackenboss is delusional about how much sway antivaccinationists have with the Trump campaign. She’s frequently delusional about a great many things. On the other hand, politicians—and, make no mistake, Trump is now a politician—frequently tell constituents what they want to hear. Also, Trump is known for being a most talented and shameless liar. However, there is a grain of plausibility here. Trump loves conspiracy theories, and the CDC whistleblower is a doozy of a conspiracy theory. He believes Alex Jones. He Tweets conspiracy theories unaltered about a great many things. He lies. All the time. So who knows what Trump really thought meeting with Andrew Wakefield and the VAXXED crew (and whoever else came along for the ride)? If he actually watched the copy of VAXXED Quackenboss claims that he received from Wakefield, Trump would almost certainly eat it up.
So did Donald Trump meet with Andrew Wakefield? Wakefield is a liar, and Quackenboss is deluded, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t telling the truth here. They might be exaggerating or spinning or they might be deluding themselves into believing that Trump cares about their pet conspiracy theories more than he actually does, but it does appear that Trump did meet with a man who is arguably the most famous antivaccine activist in the world.
Of course, Trump has no clue about how the government works. He’s frequently blamed Hillary Clinton for not getting things done in 25 years in the federal government, seemingly not understanding that, for example, a single junior Senator can’t change the law by fiat, and even the President’s power to achieve his or her aims is constrained by Congress and the Courts. If Trump were elected and actually did follow through with the promises that Quackenboss claims he made to Wakefield, what he could achieve would be limited. He couldn’t, for example, unilaterally change the laws in 50 states mandating certain vaccinations for children entering school and daycare. He could, however, royally screw up the CDC, reversing decades of progress, by meddling in the internal affairs of the CDC and appointing a Secretary of Health and Human Services who is antivaccine-sympathetic. True, given existing law and the permanent bureaucracy of HHS and the CDC, there are limits to what he could do without changing the law, but by promoting the myth that vaccines cause autism from the White House as President of the United States, even if he ultimately produces little substantive difference in actual vaccine policy, he can still do enormous damage to public health that would take decades to reverse. Millions would believe the myth coming from the President of the United States.
That scares me almost as much as the thought of Donald Trump’s finger on the nuclear trigger.