Rev. Al Sharpton’s Harlem antivaccine confab has been canceled!

Shockingly, the good news keeps coming. First, yesterday we learned that the Crown was going to appeal Justice Terry Clackson’s nonsensical decision that David and Collet Stephan acquitting them of culpability for the death of their son due to their not getting him medical care for his bacterial meningitis in a timely fashion and their decision instead to treat it with David Stephan’s Truehope supplements and other “natural” treatments. Yesterday, I also learned of even more good news. Two weeks ago, I took note of an antivaccine “forum” scheduled for this Saturday. The forum was called the Harlem Vaccine Forum. Scheduled to appear on October 19 in Harlem were Rev. Al Sharpton and antivaccine leader Robert F. Kennedy, Jr., and a bevy of other antivaccine activists, ranging from the relatively well known (among skeptics) to ones I hadn’t heard of before. What I did not see was a single participant listed who could be characterized, even giving every benefit of the doubt, as pro-vaccine or even relatively neutral on vaccines. It was definitely an antivaccine crankfest.

And now it’s been canceled:

An event hosted by Rev. Al Sharpton’s civil rights organization and poised to raise dangerous anti-vaccine viewpoints in Harlem this weekend was canceled by the group on Tuesday, after physicians and public health officials argued that the event was harmful and targeted the African American community.

“We said both sides must be heard — we haven’t taken a position yet,” Sharpton said, asked about the National Action Network’s decision to host the event in the first place. Sharpton clarified that he was not hosting the event and was not even sure whether he’d attend.

I’m calling it: Rev. Sharpton is lying. How do I know? Well, one of the attendees of the antivaccine crankfest gave the game up on his blog, as I discussed the last time. It’s worth reiterating, so that any newbie who happens upon the article doesn’t have to click the link to find out how. To summarize, Curtis Cost was slated to be one of the attendees. He’s the author of a book called Vaccines Are Dangerous: Vaccines Are Dangerous: A Warning to the Global Community and a blog called—you guessed it—Vaccines Are Dangerous. (Subtlety would not appear to be one of Mr. Cost’s virtues.)

The interesting thing about Curtis Cost is that he was an antivaxer back when Andrew Wakefield’s antivax grift was just a greedy gleam in his eye as he listened to barrister seeking to sue vaccine manufacturers for “vaccine-induced autism” who was offering him hundreds of thousands of pounds to produce “research” to help him do that. No, seriously. Cost was spouting the “toxins gambit” long before I ever coined the term and before Wakefield ever became a household name for his antivaccine activities.

In any event, the Harlem Vaccine Forum was originally scheduled for September 14, but in a post on his blog dated September 13, Cost stated:

My apologies to everyone who was planning on attending the HarlemVaccine Forum this Saturday, September 14. I found out this afternoon that Mr. Robert F. Kennedy Jr. spoke with Reverend Sharpton today and they both decided that they wanted to be part of this forum, but neither could attend this Saturday so it was decided to postpone the event for a few weeks.

With Mr. Robert Kennedy and Reverend Sharpton along with the other great speakers and parents I will have lined up, it will be a very dynamic event with massive news media coverage. We are looking at October 19 for the new date. I should have confirmation on this date later today or early next week.

So, yes, Al Sharpton was definitely lying when he told the press that he was not sure that he’d be attending the rescheduled forum. He himself had spoken to RFK Jr., and the two had chosen October 19 because it was a date when they could both attend. That is not the action of a man who was nonchalant or didn’t care about this event to the point where he might not have attended. Oh, no. He planned on attending, without a doubt, and he was involved in planning it.

I was also rather annoyed at the Buzzfeed reporter who wrote the article, Azeen Ghorayshi, characterizing this event as a “both sides” forum. As I pointed out above, this was anything but. Its headliner was going to be one of the most famous antivaxers in the world, RFK Jr., and every single other participant in the forum (I’m talking to you, Mary Holland and Gary Null, for example) is as antivaccine as he or Curtis Cost is.

That’s why I laughed out loud when I read this:

“In 2019 the antivaccine ringleaders targeted the Orthodox Jewish community to flood them with a phony pamphlet, hold teleconferences, robocalls, and town hall meetings with fake information about vaccines,” Peter Hotez, professor of pediatrics at Baylor College of Medicine, told BuzzFeed News by email. “Now they have their sights set on Harlem to ignite an even bigger measles epidemic on the African American community there. Why Rev Sharpton would attack his own community in this way defies common sense or explanation.”

Asked about NAN’s decision to cancel the event on Tuesday, spokesperson Rachel Noerdlinger said: “When it was ascertained that it wasn’t enough of a cross-sector to have a balanced conversation on both sides, it was pulled.”

That the forum apparently “wasn’t enough of a cross-sector to have a balanced conversation on both sides” by design never occurred to Noerdlinger, but, then, that’s what spokespeople do: Spin, spin, spin.

The hilariously disingenuous statement by Rachel Noerdlinger notwithstanding, it’s good to see that Rev. Sharpton has at least some sense of shame. Light is frequently the best disinfectant when it comes to the germ of antivaccine pseudoscience. Bad publicity works, as, apparently, can criticism from famous scientists:

Certainly, an antivaxer who goes by the ‘nym Fed Up Democrat thinks that Dr. Peter Hotez’s intervention was critical:

A report was published at The Gothamist – a publication that deals with local NYC politics – where Sharpton and his National Action Network were slammed for promoting what they called “dangerous anti-vaccine” ideas. In the Gothamist article Hotez made the ridiculous statement that “now ‘anti-vaccine activists’ have their sights set on Harlem to ignite an even bigger measles epidemic on the African American community there. Why Rev Sharpton would attack his own community in this way defies common sense or explanation.”

Apparently statements on vaccines that Hotez disagrees with have the ability to spread viruses, according to Hotez. Doesn’t matter if the words are the truth. Hotez firmly believes free speech is dangerous. Let’s not forget who Dr. Hotez is; he’s the guy who will throw out insane comments such as that one, but then refuse to debate or appear publicly with anyone who disagrees with his insane remarks.

Dr. Hotez is effectively Bill Gates PR-guy. He is funded by The Gates Foundation and holds the same position on vaccines as Gates, which is that there should be vaccine mandates for everyone on the planet. Bill Gates has gone so far as to say those who choose not to vaccinate “kill children,” an insanely ridiculous lie that is being pushed now in an attempt to label Health Freedom Activists as a “hate group.” If they can smear the Health Freedom Movement as a “hate group” they can censor and silence us; that is the goal.

No, the goal is to protect children from the misinformation that cranks like “Fed Up Democrat” spread, and Dr. Hotez does a very good job of that. As I said above, light is the best disinfectant.

But why did Rev. Sharpton lend his name and organization to hosting an antivaccine event with the likes of RFK Jr., Mary Holland, Curtis Cost, and Gary Null? It could be that he’s not antivaccine but antivaccine conspiracy theories appealed to him on the basis of the poor treatment of African-Americans at the hands of the medical community over the history of the United States (e.g., the Tuskegee syphilis experiment), a history that’s led many African-Americans to be understandably very suspicious of the medical community. Unfortunately, antivaxers know that history. They know how suspicious many African-Americans are of doctors and the medical profession, and they use that suspicion as an “in” to promote their message to the African American community. Of course, more disturbing would be the possibility that Rev. Sharpton is actually antivaccine, and that’s why he was willing to team up with RFK Jr. to hold an event like this. (I really hope that this wasn’t the case.)

Either way, the fact that publicity shut this event down is a good thing. I’ll be watching to see if Rev. Sharpton attempts to reschedule.

ADDENDUM 10/17/2019: And…it looks as though Rev. Sharpton isn’t going to reschedule. Rather, RFK, Jr. and his fellow antivaxers are going to soldier on in a different location on Saturday without him:

Saturday, October 19th, 1:00- 3:30 p.m.

Location Will Be Disclosed Here and on Social Media at 7:00 p.m. Friday Night

New York City, NY

The Harlem Vaccine Forum is still on and will be held in a new location in New York City (convenient to public transportation). CHD is disappointed that the venue had to be changed at the last minute but we are still delighted to host this event!

Compulsory vaccination raises critical human rights issues, including the right to practice religion freely, parental rights, informed consent, the right to education and the right to health. The forum provides a way to discuss these pressing issues and New York State’s decision to repeal the religious exemption to vaccination.

Speakers include: Robert F. Kennedy, Jr.; Sheila Ealey; John Gilmore; Dr. Phil Valentine; Curtis Cost; Dr. Lawrence Palevsky; Reverend Walter Sotelo; Mary Holland; and many more.

This event is free and open to the public.

Interesting. I don’t recall Dr. Palevsky, the antivaccine pediatrician, being featured in any of the previous announcements for this event. It looks as though RFK Jr. has added some antivax quacks to the mix. I also don’t see Gary Null’s name on the list, oddly enough. I wonder if he backed out, although I can’t see why he would.