Will Tipper Gore be appearing at a fundraiser hosted by antivaxers?

I hesitated over discussing this story because it only comes from one source and that source is not one that I normally trust, The Washington Free Beacon. It might be fake news. On the other hand, it is a story that is not implausible and appears to be reasonably well reported, complete with a reproduction of an invitation to the event being reported on. Moreover, even though this particular source is unabashedly conservative and partisan, it has done some reporting that even Nick Baumann at Mother Jones admitted to be pretty good. So it is with a little bit of trepidation that I note this story, Tipper Gore Holding Fundraiser at Home of Anti-Vax Dem Donors:

The former wife of failed Democratic presidential candidate Al Gore will be a special guest at a fundraiser at the Virginia home of anti-vaccine Democratic donors Claire and Al Dwoskin, according to an invitation emailed to supporters Monday.

Gore’s appearance at the June 8 event will be in support of Kathleen Murphy, a candidate for Virginia’s House of Delegates. The event will take place at the Dwoskins’ McLean mansion.

The Dwoskins, who have a history of supporting the political ambitions of Bill and Hillary Clinton, have claimed through their family foundation that there may be links between increased cases of reported autism and childhood vaccinations. The Dwoskin Family Foundation once claimed “gaps in the knowledge about the biological and genetic risk factors for vaccine induced brain and immune dysfunction,” according to The Daily Beast.

You can see why this story caught my attention. First of all, I’ve been spending a fair amount of “electronic ink,” so to speak, pointing out why two “vaxed vs. unvaxed” studies funded by Anthony Mawson in part by the the Dwoskins that are being flogged by the antivaccine movement right now are such execrably, risibly bad science. The studies were published in a bottom-feeding, predatory “open access” pay-to-publish journal, seemingly retracted, and then mysteriously published again—this after having been briefly published and retracted by a somewhat higher grade of bottom-feeding, predatory “open access” pay-to-publish journal after some truly awful peer review. Second, I’ve been pointing out for at least a decade now how antivaccine pseudoscience is the pseudoscience knows no political boundaries. Contrary to the oft-cited cliche, the antivaccine movement is not primarily a bunch of crunchy left wing, Whole Foods-loving hipsters. Indeed, as I’ve noted with alarm, even though antivaccine views are fairly evenly distributed between liberals and conservatives, over the last three years or so the loudest voices in the antivaccine movement have been associated with libertarian-leaning antigovernment conservatives, including Rand Paul and some in my own state. And, of course, Donald Trump routinely parrots antivaccine nonsense, has done so for at least a decade, and has met with antivaxers Andrew Wakefield and Robert F. Kennedy, Jr.

Because my Insolence is not limited by politics and is free for all promoters of pseudoscience, I’ve wanted to write about Dwoskin for a while. This gives me an excuse. I also can’t help but use the Dwoskins as an example of how, as much as antivaccine views have risen on the right, the left still has its own antivaxers, the most prominent of whom are Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. and, of course, Claire Dwoskin. Thus far, for the most part I’ve only mentioned Claire Dwoskin in passing, but it’s important to remember that she and her husband Albert Dwoskin founded the Child Medical Safety Research Institute (CMSRI), which is a group as rabidly antivaccine as any I’ve seen, including even Mike Adams’ NaturalNews. Indeed, it was the CMSRI that largely funded the two crappy studies I mentioned above.

Before I take a look at CMSRI, though, I do have to address the story. Is Tipper Gore holding a fundraiser for candidate for Kathleen Murphy, a Democratic member of the Virginia House of Delegates who’s running for reelection this year? Hell if I know. A convincing looking invitation is published, and it looks scanned, albeit not very clearly. it wouldn’t surprise me if it were true. I haven’t been able to find much on Kathleen Murphy and vaccines, other than that she once criticized an opponent for being against providing the HPV vaccine for free to low income women. On the other hand, the Dwoskins are heavy hitting donors to the Democratic Party, just as the antivaccine chiropractor and Trump supporter Gary Kompethacras is a long time heavy hitting donor to the Republican Party. Money is money, and it’s hard to ignore when running for office. Indeed, The Dwoskin’s antivaccine proclivities became a problem for Hillary Clinton in 2015 as she was contemplating her run for the Presidency, given that Bill Clinton had spoken at the Dwoskin’s mansion twice. So it could well be that this fundraiser is real, and I wouldn’t be surprised if it were to be confirmed by other sources. I also wouldn’t be particularly surprised if it turned out to be fake news, given the propensity of The Washington Free Beacon to try to paint the Democratic Party as rabidly antivaccine even as libertarian-leaning conservatives are fast becoming the loudest, most influential group of antivaxers.

So who are Claire and Al Dwoskin? Albert J. Dwoskin is President and CEO of A.J. Dwoskin & Associates, Inc., a large real estate development and management company in Virginia, having founded it in 1967. Claire Dwoskin is rabidly antivaccine, having served for many years on the board of Barbara Loe Fisher’s Orwellian-named National Vaccine Information Center (NVIC). You can tell exactly where the Dwoskins are coming from by looking at the website of the Dwoskin Family Foundation and CMSRI:

According to the CMSRI website, the foundation’s mission is to:

  • Provide scientific research to address gaps in the knowledge about the biological and genetic risk factors for vaccine induced brain and immune dysfunction, including lack of adequate safety data, particularly for delayed or chronic health outcomes
  • Evaluate the biological and genetic reactivity of vaccine additives such as aluminum adjuvants (immune stimulating agents), mercury preservatives and other toxic ingredients
  • Research the effects of multiple vaccine exposures and their potential impact on development of chronic illness, disability, cancer, fertility and neurodegenerative disease
  • Evaluate bias in reporting of vaccine risks and benefits
  • Research and quantify incidence of novel vaccine-associated autoimmune diseases
  • To provide information to government agencies responsible for developing national vaccine policies, the media, and the public to address real and perceived vaccine safety concerns

CMSRI firmly believes it is possible to expeditiously discover the significant causal factors in the onset of Alzheimer’s disease, autism, autoimmune diseases and other serious chronic health conditions and in the importance of prevention as a strategy to address these critical obstacles to optimum health.

Vaccines, vaccines, vaccines. In other words, it’s all about the vaccines, as becomes very apparent if you just visit the CMSRI website. Indeed, when Mawson’s horrible “vaxed/unvaxed” studies were “retracted,” the CMSRI happily posted them on its website. Indeed, the page listing publications funded by CMSRI includes papers by a rogues’ gallery of antivaccine “scientists” well known to regular readers of this blog, including Anthony Mawson, Christopher Shaw, Lucija Tomljenovic, Yehuda Shoenfeld, and Christopher Exley. One very obvious pattern that pops up in this funded “research” is that CSMRI seems to think, against all evidence for their safety, that aluminum adjuvants cause autism and a whole host of health problems. Meanwhile, the CMSRI Facebook page is a wretched hive of scum and antivaccine villainy, chock full of every antivaccine trope in the book and links to antivaccine activist sources.

Indeed, if you want to know how utterly, risibly, rabidly antivaccine (and silly) the CMSRI is, simply consider this. Celeste McGovern writes a lot of posts for its blog. She’s the one whose contortions of fact and logic required a healthy dose of not-so-Respectful Insolence last week and is now gloating that Mawson’s abuses of science are back on the journal’s website and accusing Retraction Watch and Snopes of, in essence, being in on the “conspiracy” to “suppress” Mawson’s results. I’m disappointed she didn’t mention me as well. Of course, all I did was to point out the numerous flaws in the study, its having been funded by antivaccine groups, and how it rose from the grave after having been retracted once before. Accusing me of trying to suppress any study would be attributing way more power to me than I in fact have. Come to think of it, the same is true of accusing Retraction Watch or Snopes of the same thing.

Through McGovern, the CMSRI, like most antivaxers, demonizes autism and dehumanizes autistics in a post about the new Muppet character Julia, who is portrayed as autistic and intended to educate children about autism and how to deal with friends and fellow students who are autistic:

I’m guessing little Muppet Julia won’t be smearing feces on Sesame Street’s walls then? Or banging her head on the floor like some autistic kids do. Or crying in agony from gut pain – bowel disorders are one of the many “comorbid” conditions of autism. Will she have regular epileptic seizures – they affect one in four autistic children, you know? Does the Muppet develop an autoimmune disease that goes along with autism and is now a leading cause of mortality in girls and young women. Is there going to be a “Self-Injuring Julia” on the market beside “Tickle-Me-Elmo”?

Stay classy, Celeste. Stay classy.

Both Liz Ditz and Todd W. have documented some of the antivaccine activism of the Dwoskin family, and it is extensive. Todd notes:

The Dwoskin Family Foundation is a philanthropic vehicle for Albert and Lisa Claire Dwoskin. They established it as a 501(c)3 non-profit foundation in 2001. The sole contributions to the foundation are from the Dwoskins themselves (not unusual for a family foundation) to the tune of $600,000 in 2010 and $750,000 in 2011. In addition, a significant portion of the foundation’s assets are held in off-shore accounts and cash investments. The foundation’s 990 form for 2011 (the latest available via GuideStar.com, free registration and login required to view) lists net assets at $3.5 million. Needless to say, they have a lot of purchase power, as it were.

That’s plenty of money to spread around to antivaccine “scientists” doing bogus studies whose results are predetermined, and indeed the Dwoskins are major funders of antivax activities:

Both Liz and Todd note that the Dwoskins funded an infamous antivaccine conference in Jamaica in 2011 featuring Andrew Wakefield as keynote speaker as well as the antivaccine “documentary” The Greater Good. Todd also notes this quote from Claire Dwoskin in response to a segment by John Stossel on his daughter’s ordeal suffering from pertussis:

I just saw the show and am so sorry to hear that other than what Chris had to say, not a word of truth was spoken by Stossel or Offitt. What a travesty – I hope someday he will recognize the error of his ways and realize the fear and damage that he is contributing to by allowing falsehoods to rule the air. At least his daughter is alive, smiling, educated and enjoying life. That cannot be said for the hundreds of thousands of vaccine injured children in the US. What his daughter went through is NOTHING compared to what the families of autistic children go through every day of their lives. No disease can match this record of human devastation. Vaccines are a holocaust of poison on our children’s brains and immune systems. Shame on you all.

Yes, indeed. Dwoskin called vaccines a “holocaust of poison on our children’s brains and immune systems,” but she’s not antivaccine. Oh, no, don’t you dare call her antivaccine! Unfortunately, she’s in “good” company. Holocaust analogies are favored by antivaxers. RFK, Jr. uses them. “Dr. Bob” Sears uses Nazi analogies. One antivaxer even wore a “vaccine badge” patterned on the yellow Star of David that Jews had to wear in Nazi Germany to announce that they were Jewish and thus the hated enemy upon whom Germans could heap contempt, humiliation, and even beatings freely. Holocaust and Nazi analogies (and worse) are basically baked into the DNA of the antivaccine movement.

If Kathleen Murphy is holding a fundraiser hosted by the Dwoskins, shame on her. If she doesn’t know about the Dwoskins’ antivaccine activities, she’s too clueless for public office, and if she does know but can ignore their views she’s too unconcerned with children’s health to be trusted to legislate. If Tipper Gore is going to appear at that fundraiser, shame on her too. Given Al Gore’s efforts to educate the public on human-caused climate change and given that climate science is prone to the same sorts of science denial as vaccine science, she ought to know how much it undermines science to appear with science-denying antivaxers (redundant, I know, but true).

Shame on the Democratic Party too. I know it’s hard to turn down money, whatever the source, but this is money coming from a family that is actively undermining children’s health by discouraging vaccination. The Republican Party might be in danger of becoming the antivaccine party and has definitely become the antiscience party with respect to climate science, environmental science, and evolution. That’s no reason for Democrats to pander to the antivaccine movement.