Please read Reports 1, 2, 3 and 4 here.
Many readers may not know Columbia University’s President, Lee C. Bollinger. However, if one explores the issues around censorship as Wayne Rohde and I have over the past several weeks, Bollinger’s name quickly emerges.
Bollinger, a First Amendment scholar, is a brilliant man and a champion of free speech. Please take a look at his biography on the Columbia University website As the biography notes, “his most recent book, Uninhibited, Robust, and Wide-Open: A Free Press for a New Century (Inalienable Rights), has placed Bollinger at the center of public discussion about the importance of global free speech to continued social progress.”
Bollinger has been willing to allow free speech, even when controversy ensues. In 2007 he allowed then Iranian President Ahmadinejad to speak at Columbia. The decision rankled many. Ahmadinejad did say some controversial and some would say offensive things (there are clips of the speech on YouTube if anyone wishes to see it).
In 2012, Bollinger “established the Columbia Global Freedom of Expression and Information Project, a new initiative joining international experts and activists with the University’s faculty and students to survey, document and strengthen free expression. He has named Agnès Callamard, a distinguished human rights advocate who was director of the organization ARTICLE 19, as executive director of the Project.”
The project has brought together many influential leaders on freedom of speech and freedom of the press like Callamard and Amal Clooney.
According to Bollinger, “Looking around the world today and seeing the pervasiveness of censorship in so many forms and societies, none of us should be under any illusions about the challenges we face in establishing international norms for a truly free press… Doing so requires that we both understand the facts on the ground and succeed in creating a global framework for protecting speech and expression. These are steps that have become inseparable from progress on human rights and continued worldwide economic growth.” [i]
Bollinger’s vision of freedom and opposition to censorship stands in stark contrast to the conduct of one of his professors, Dr. Ian Lipkin, professor of epidemiology and Director of the Center for Infection and Immunity at Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health.
From the Columbia University Public Health Now webpage:
On April 4, 2016, the Wall Street Journal ran an important op-ed from Ian Lipkin, Director of the Mailman School’s Center for Infection and Immunity. Lipkin and Mailman School Board of Overseers member Perri Peltz (MPH ’84) worked diligently behind the scenes to persuade organizers of the Tribeca Film Festival that the fraudulent science of Andrew Wakefield’s documentary “Vaxxed” had no place at the prestigious festival. When Lipkin learned that a private distributor had arranged a week of screenings at New York's Angelica Film Center, he went to work immediately on a piece that reminds us of the importance of scientific evidence in our ongoing work to understand and treat autism. [ii]
Lipkin writes in his April 3 Wall Street Journal Op Ed: “I am among those Mr. De Niro consulted. In a 45-minute phone conversation with him, I recommended that the festival withdraw the film from the “documentary” category and not screen it.”
Wayne Rohde and I have been writing a series on the censorship of Andrew Wakefield’s film, Vaxxed: From Cover-up to Catastrophe. The film has been pulled from the Tribeca Film Festival, the Houston (Texas) Worldfest Film Festival and from screenings in Arizona at Harkins theatres after that company received pressure from pediatricians.
In our previous articles, we reported that Alison Singer, the President of the Autism Science Foundation, proudly declared in a March Guardian article that she and other members of the Immunization Action Coalition’s (IAC) Listserv were instrumental in having Vaxxed removed from the Tribeca Film Festival.
Singer told the Guardian, “Four or five years ago we weren’t as well organized and people didn’t realize the importance of responding quickly and strongly,” said Alison Singer, the president of the Autism Science Foundation and a member of the IAC listserv…Today, we know that we have to respond to every incident however large or small, because if you leave any of these discredited theories unchallenged, it allows people to think that there’s something still to be discussed.”
According to Singer, the IAC Listserv is a public relations response squad that snuffs out and counters public statements of those the Listserv decides are “anti-vaccine.”
However, in our last report, the IAC denied that they were responsible for the calls that lead to the Tribeca decision, essentially leaving Alison Singer ‘holding the bag.’
Alison Singer has not responded to our requests for information about the incident.
Thanks to the Columbia University website, another member of Alison Singer’s Listserv have now been revealed: Dr. Ian Lipkin.
We have information about other Listserv members from sources and we are constructing a list. For now, we are talking about Singer and Lipkin.
As the Director of the Center for Infection and Immunity at Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health, Lipkin helped bring millions of dollars of CDC and federal health funding he brings to Columbia. [iii] Lipkin also the Co-Chair of the CDC’s National Bio-surveillance Advisory Subcommittee. [iv]
It is also important to note that Lipkin’s name surfaces in the legally recorded conversations between Dr. Brian Hooker and Dr. William Thompson that serve as a critical component of Vaxxed. Lipkin likely knew about this as the Thompson/Hooker transcripts are public thanks to Kevin Barry’s book, Vaccine Whistleblower: Exposing Autism research Fraud at the CDC. [v]
Lipkin points out in his editorial that he was involved in research that exonerated the MMR vaccine. While Lipkin feels that his work was the final word, Thompson, who had some oversight responsibility at the CDC for Lipkin’s work told Brian Hooker something very different.
Dr. Thompson: “It was the worst study ever.”
What follows is an excerpt of the Thompson transcripts regarding Ian Lipkin and his MMR research from pages 103 and 104 of Vaccine Whistleblower:
Dr. Thompson: Where they went and did the biopsies. This Larry Pickering, Ian Lipkin . . .
Dr. Hooker: Oh yeah. I know all about this.
Dr. Thompson: Okay. Did you and I talk about this study?
Dr. Hooker: Ah, no. You and I have never . . . I’ve talked to Ian Lipkin about it. In fact, he and I . . .
Dr. Thompson: Okay.
Dr. Hooker: . . . are not speaking right now, because basically he doesn’t like me very much. Okay?
Dr. Thompson: Right. I mean, Ian Lipkin . . .
Dr. Hooker: [UI].
Dr. Thompson: Right. Ian Lipkin is one of those . . . Well, I’ll give you an example. When I was trying to hold them accountable . . . It was funded by the CDC.
Dr. Hooker: Right.
Dr. Thompson: I don’t know if you know that.
Dr. Hooker: Right. Right.
Dr. Thompson: I don’t know if you know that.
Dr. Hooker: They ran PCR in the cases. They ran PCR in the controls. They found measles virus in several of the cases, and they found measles virus in the controls and then they concluded there was no effect. But the actual conclusion of the study should be, “It’s a really crappy study. We can’t tell anything.”
Dr. Thompson: It was the worst study ever.
Dr. Hooker: Thank you.
Dr. Thompson: It was the worst study ever.
Dr. Hooker: Thank you. When you talk to Ian Lipkin, he’s like, “This is definitive. This shows there’s no correlation.”
Dr. Thompson: It was the worst study ever.
Thompson’s statement about Lipkin’s MMR research casts Lipkin’s Wall Street Journal Op Ed in a completely different light.
Was Lipkin concerned that Vaxxed would again put Thompson’s comments about him in public? Or was he acting on behalf of the CDC?
We don’t know.
But Dr. Ian Lipkin, who has received CDC funding on behalf of Columbia University had no hesitancy in declaring that he told Robert DeNiro that Vaxxed should be pulled from the Tribeca Film Festival.
Was Lipkin acting as a sincere supporter of current public health policy or was acting on behalf of his own interests? Was his conduct consistent with the Columbia’s policies on ethics, respect for the views of others and academic freedom?
It must also be pointed out that Lipkin’s description of Vaxxed in the Wall Street Journal was grossly inaccurate. Vaxxed is not an anti-vaccine film. It is an anti-corruption film based on the legally recorded statements of Dr. William Thompson who revealed that he and other CDC scientists in the Vaccine Safety Division researching the MMR vaccine and its potential connection to autism manipulated data, altered research study protocols and even tossed government data in the garbage.
Vaxxed puts forth the idea that the CDC – which has poured millions of dollars into Ian Lipkin’s Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health - is so corrupt that the science CDC produced on autism and vaccines can no longer be trusted.
Ian Lipkin has been a partner with the CDC and other federal public health agencies on some of that science. And William Thompson’s description of that science is not flattering.
William Thompson’s August 2014 public statement on his attorney’s website is clear evidence that Vaxxed is centered on real events:
“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…” [vi]
Perri Peltz is a broadcaster, television journalist and film maker. Peltz graduated from Columbia University with a degree in Public Health. She also directed a 2014 documentary about Robert DeNiro’s father, Remembering the Artist: Robert DeNiro, Sr. She is obviously was a person DeNiro respected based on the documentary she directed about his father.
Peltz is a member of Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health Board of Overseers. [vii] The Overseers are described as “a leadership body that provides knowledge and experience from the business, government, media, and non-profit sectors to help expand the School’s reach. Overseers provide counsel and support to the Dean, serve as ambassadors among friends, associates, and colleagues, and assist in the acquisition of essential resources for advancing teaching, research, and service.”
It now appears that two individuals associated with Columbia University (one an employee) sought the censorship of a film that revealed corruption at the CDC, one of the federal public health agencies that have provided millions of dollars to Columbia University.
Their actions stand in stark contrast to Columbia University’s commendable mission against censorship – President Lee Bollinger’s Global Freedom of Expression and Information Project.
As a First Amendment scholar, Bollinger noted that censorship is pervasive and it takes many forms. Did his university act as a vassal of the CDC in seeking the censorship of a film that revealed corruption at the CDC?
Is Bollinger willing to turn his head from censorship if it is promoted by employees like Lipkin who have delivered significant federal public health dollars to the University?
And let us be clear here: Speech that questions the safety of vaccines is not illicit or verboten. Questioning vaccines and discussing vaccine injuries is not the same as yelling “fire” in a movie theatre. Vaccines are part of the nation’s public health strategy. Public health ought to mean public discourse.
People ought to be able to discuss vaccine injury and vaccine safety in public without fear of censorship and back-room manipulations by members of the Listserv.
There is even a National Vaccine Injury Compensation Program (NVICP) – a federal no-fault compensation program for vaccine injury victims. The NVICP plays a central role in the alleged CDC fraud portrayed in Vaxxed. The film asks whether the MMR/autism study was manipulated to keep the real findings out of the hands of petitioners who filed claims in the Omnibus Autism Proceedings against the Secretary of Health and Human Services (who also administers the CDC) in the NVICP. In other words, CDC employees may be guilty of obstruction of justice in a federal judicial proceeding.
People can question the vaccine program because the First Amendment allows people to do so. It is protected speech.
Bollinger speaks about creating a global framework for protecting free speech and expression. To do so, Bollinger states that we must be willing to “understand the facts on the ground.”
The facts on the ground are that Andrew Wakefield directed a film that alleges corruption at the CDC on vaccine safety research. If one is opposed to allowing Vaxxed to be viewed then one is for allowing government officials to have free reign to destroy data, alter studies and potentially cause serious injury to thousands of children without consequence.
We do not really know if Columbia University actually supported the actions of Ian Lipkin and Perri Peltz. But we do know that Columbia has allowed the Lipkin’s Wall Street Op Ed article to be featured on the University’s website, signaling tacit support.
If Lee Bollinger intends to create “a global framework for protecting speech and expression”, then he ought to consider using the principles of Columbia’s Global Freedom of Expression and Information Project at Columbia itself.
Columbia University should not remove Ian Lipkin’s Op Ed from its’ website. The response to a call for censorship should not be more censorship. However, Lee Bollinger, a First Amendment scholar, ought to sponsor an event on campus where people with differing views on vaccines can debate those views without fear of being silenced by the mysterious members of the Listserv.
Wayne Rohde, author of The Vaccine Court – Dark Truth of America’s Vaccine Injury Compensation Program
All books published by Skyhorse Publishing – New York City
[iii] https://www.mailman.columbia.edu/public-health-now/news/cdc-funds-program-minority-students-public-health-and-biomedical-science and https://www.mailman.columbia.edu/become-student/departments/population-and-family-health/news-and-events/family-news-2015-2016-9).