Grace and I have a child with autism and we believe it is critical that all of the issues surrounding the causes of autism be openly discussed and examined. In the 15 years since the Tribeca Film Festival was founded, I have never asked for a film to be screened or gotten involved in the programming. However this is very personal to me and my family and I want there to be a discussion, which is why we will be screening VAXXED. I am not personally endorsing the film, nor am I anti-vaccination; I am only providing the opportunity for a conversation around the issue.”
Robert De Niro, March 25, 2016
“My intent in screening this film was to provide an opportunity for conversation around an issue that is deeply personal to me and my family. But after reviewing it over the past few days with the Tribeca Film Festival team and others from the scientific community, we do not believe it contributes to or furthers the discussion I had hoped for.
The Festival doesn't seek to avoid or shy away from controversy. However, we have concerns with certain things in this film that we feel prevent us from presenting it in the Festival program. We have decided to remove it from our schedule.”
Robert De Niro, March 26, 2016
Dear Mr. De Niro:
It occurred to me that I should write you a note about your decision to not screen Andrew Wakefield’s documentary Vaxxed: From Cover-Up to Catastrophe, at the Tribeca Film Festival on April 24th.
The media feeding frenzy you endured was typical for anyone with a certain degree of fame who ventures into questioning – or in your case – providing a venue for discussion of vaccine safety. What you experienced in the two days leading up to your decision to accept the censorship of Vaxxed is something that we in the autism community have seen and experienced for years.
Censorship and suppression of our rights to speak out about what happened to our children has been going on for a while now.
As the father of two sons with autism, I want you to know that I’ve never accepted it because I want my sons, who struggle with language, to know that you have to speak out even when finding the words isn’t easy.
Even when the words bring you criticism.
That those who oppose our views exerted enormous pressure on you and the Tribeca Film Festival team to pull Vaxxed from your line up is not shocking. That you brought in “others from the scientific community” to help you accept censorship is profoundly disturbing.
Frankly, many (but certainly not all) of the scientific community, particularly scientists with ties to the pharmaceutical industry or the Centers For Disease Control, have turned their backs on people with autism. These scientists will get up and leave the room if you talk about vaccine injuries.
Since when do we ask the scientific community about whether a film should be screened? Who were these scientists? Shouldn’t we all know which scientists were on the Tribeca Censorship Panel?
Perhaps one of the scientists was David Gorski who blogs under the name Orac. Gorski spent the last few days spewing vitriol at you before you pulled the film. Gorski attacks anyone who questions vaccine safety and is particularly brutal to those who also have children with autism. In his 3/25 post, Gorski admits that he had anonymous associates spying on your wife. The great and powerful Orac has a nameless friend “in the business” who informed him that your wife had the audacity to have a friendly conversation with Andrew Wakefield on a movie set.
Nice guy. Was he on your panel?
Perhaps one of the scientists was Dr. Paul Offit.
Offit has made millions on vaccines and now enjoys a marvelous second career as a spokesman for the vaccine industry. Offit believes that children can receive 10,000 vaccines at once. Although he regularly appears in the media, his ethical issues while on the federal Advisory Commission on Immunization Practices never come up in news reports. Congress noted Dr. Offit’s conflicts of interest in the approval process on his rotavirus vaccine in 2000.
I’ve heard that Offit loves Hitchcock but loathes films with religious themes. Was he brought in?
Maybe you brought in Dr. William Thompson. Although Thompson doesn’t get out much these days, this would make sense.
From what I’ve heard, Vaxxed is built around Thompson and a statement he made on August 27, 2014 through his attorney, Rick Morgan, a Whistleblower Attorney from Cincinnati, Ohio:
“My name is William Thompson. I am a Senior Scientist with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, where I have worked since 1998.
I regret that my coauthors and I omitted statistically significant information in our 2004 article published in the journal Pediatrics. The omitted data suggested that African American males who received the MMR vaccine before age 36 months were at increased risk for autism. Decisions were made regarding which findings to report after the data were collected, and I believe that the final study protocol was not followed.
I want to be absolutely clear that I believe vaccines have saved and continue to save countless lives. I would never suggest that any parent avoid vaccinating children of any race. Vaccines prevent serious diseases, and the risks associated with their administration are vastly outweighed by their individual and societal benefits.
My concern has been the decision to omit relevant findings in a particular study for a particular sub group for a particular vaccine. There have always been recognized risks for vaccination and I believe it is the responsibility of the CDC to properly convey the risks associated with receipt of those vaccines.
I have had many discussions with Dr. Brian Hooker over the last 10 months regarding studies the CDC has carried out regarding vaccines and neurodevelopmental outcomes including autism spectrum disorders. I share his belief that CDC decision-making and analyses should be transparent. I was not, however, aware that he was recording any of our conversations, nor was I given any choice regarding whether my name would be made public or my voice would be put on the Internet.
I am grateful for the many supportive e-mails that I have received over the last several days.
I will not be answering further questions at this time. I am providing information to Congressman William Posey, and of course will continue to cooperate with Congress. I have also offered to assist with reanalysis of the study data or development of further studies. For the time being, however, I am focused on my job and my family.
Reasonable scientists can and do differ in their interpretation of information. I will do everything I can to assist any unbiased and objective scientists inside or outside the CDC to analyze data collected by the CDC or other public organizations for the purpose of understanding whether vaccines are associated with an increased risk of autism. There are still more questions than answers, and I appreciate that so many families are looking for answers from the scientific community.
My colleagues and supervisors at the CDC have been entirely professional since this matter became public. In fact, I received a performance-based award after this story came out. I have experienced no pressure or retaliation and certainly was not escorted from the building, as some have stated.”
Omitting statistically significant information is another way of saying research fraud.
I’ve heard that Vaxxed details this fraud at the Vaccine Safety Division at the CDC.
When the CDC altered the data in the 2004 Pediatrics article about the MMR Vaccine and autism it did so for good reason - to protect their boss, the Secretary of Health and Human Services, who was facing thousands of cases alleging vaccine-induced autism in litigation in the National Vaccine Injury Compensation Program. Thousands of families were denied justice because the CDC buried the data. And, even worse, thousands of other children continue to be needlessly exposed to harm.
I’ve heard that this is one of the key points made in Vaxxed but I’m not quite sure because now I won’t get to see it. At least not at the Tribeca Film Festival.
Perhaps you brought in this fellow:
- From approximately February 2004 until February 2010, Poul Thorsen executed a scheme to steal grant money awarded by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). CDC had awarded grant money to Denmark for research involving infant disabilities, autism, genetic disorders, and fetal alcohol syndrome. CDC awarded the grant to fund studies of the relationship between autism and the exposure to vaccines, the relationship between cerebral palsy and infection during pregnancy, and the relationship between developmental outcomes and fetal alcohol exposure.
- Thorsen worked as a visiting scientist at CDC, Division of Birth Defects and Developmental Disabilities, before the grant was awarded.
- The initial grant was awarded to the Danish Medical Research Council. In approximately 2007, a second grant was awarded to the Danish Agency for Science, Technology, and Innovation. Both agencies are governmental agencies in Denmark. The research was done by the Aarhaus University and Odense University Hospital in Denmark.
- Thorsen allegedly diverted over $1 million of the CDC grant money to his own personal bank account. Thorsen submitted fraudulent invoices on CDC letterhead to medical facilities assisting in the research for reimbursement of work allegedly covered by the grants. The invoices were addressed to Aarhaus University and Sahlgrenska University Hospital. The fact that the invoices were on CDC letterhead made it appear that CDC was requesting the money from Aarhaus University and Sahlgrenska University Hospital although the bank account listed on the invoices belonged to Thorsen.
- In April 2011, Thorsen was indicted on 22 counts of Wire Fraud and Money Laundering.
- According to bank account records, Thorsen purchased a home in Atlanta, a Harley Davidson motorcycle, an Audi automobile, and a Honda SUV with funds that he received from the CDC grants.
- Thorsen is currently in Denmark and is awaiting extradition to the United States.
Poul Thorsen is still looming about Denmark like the ghost of Hamlet’s father. Thorsen was brought into the autism research world by the same CDC people Thompson says committed research fraud. Wayne Rhode and I wrote about the connection between those Thompson has called out for research fraud and Thorsen in Age of Autism article in September of 2014 (http://www.ageofautism.com/2014/09/manifest-injustice-the-end-result-of-scientific-fraud.html).
Here is a photograph of the (not yet) indicted Poul Thorsen smiling next to Marshalyn Yeargin-Alisopp, Diana Schendel and other CDC’s staff members.
Thorsen’s research has been criticized for also playing fast and loose with data – just like the CDC did (according to Thompson). Thorsen withheld data showing that autism rates declined in Denmark after mercury was removed from vaccines and published a paper showing the opposite because of the way he played with the data.
Great scientist. But given his status as a fleeing felon, maybe he was just conferenced in by his friend Jose Cordero?
Jose Cordero, pictured above, smiling at the far right, is the man who asked the Journal Pediatrics to publish the paper after other journals turned it down (see letter HERE). Cordero - a government employed scientist - had to put the arm on a journal to publish Thorsen’s paper. Was this conduct ethical?
Despite the data shenanigans and his fugitive status, Thorsen’s research has never been retracted and continues to be presented as proof that mercury, a known neurotoxin, can be safely injected into women and children.
Bob, did you ask the scientists on the panel if they believe that mercury suddenly becomes safe when you inject it into pregnant women and children? It would be a good question to determine if they were capable of suspending their disbelief. One needs to do that to truly judge the art of film.
From what I’ve seen in the trailer, Vaxxed is about the conduct of the scientific community. Maybe asking scientists to judge this film wasn’t really a good idea.
To be honest, I bet that the panel of Concerned Tribeca Film Scientists never really convened. However, I’m hearing that your decision to pull the film really happened because some of your donors with pharmaceutical and government connections gave you the Cordero treatment. If so, your decision to accept censorship is truly an infamnia.
Tribeca had every right to show this film. Tribeca is showing controversial films about abortion and police brutality which some might object to.
However, only this film has been censored.
Think about that.
After more than two hundred years of the American tradition of protecting free speech, you are accepting censorship and pulling a film about scientific misconduct around a class of drugs that the vast majority of American children are mandated to take. One would think that the American public would expect full transparency and discourse on vaccines safety.
Except that a small group of influential people don’t want you to show this film. Why? What are they afraid of if there is nothing wrong with vaccines?
Accepting censorship of Vaxxed is a devastating blow to free speech. If I was a film maker, I will pull my film from your festival in protest. Because once censorship is allowed, it will happen again and again.
What if the pharmaceutical industry had been able to censor the journalists investigating the misconduct around Viox? Around thalidomide?
They would have – if they could.
Now they know that they can.
Because you let them.
Louis Conte is the father of triplet boys, two with autism. He is the author of The Autism War, a novel and co-author with Tony Lyons of Vaccine Injuries.
Credit: Thank you to James Grundvig for the Cordeiro letter. He is the author of a new book forthcoming from Skyhorse Publisheing. about Poul Thorsen called MASTER MANIPULATOR.