Tribeca Film Festival pulls Wakefield vaccine film from schedule

tribecaThis isn’t a scientific paper being retracted, but given the subject, and that we led Weekend Reads with it this morning, we think it merits a post: A film by Andrew Wakefield, infamous for the now-retracted paper he co-authored in The Lancet linking autism and vaccines, has been withdrawn from the prestigious Tribeca Film Festival.

The announcement of the Tribeca lineup, which included the film, “Vaxxed: From Cover-Up to Catastrophe,” earlier this week was met with surprise and objections. As of yesterday, however, festival co-founder Robert De Niro defended the screening, saying he and his wife, who have a child with autism, thought it was “critical that all of the issues surrounding the causes of autism be openly discussed and examined.”

De Niro has apparently changed his mind. As per Jezebel, here is De Niro’s statement from this afternoon (Saturday):

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.

The link to the screening now goes to an error page.

Hat tip: Narad

19 thoughts on “Tribeca Film Festival pulls Wakefield vaccine film from schedule”

  1. Wakefield’s campaign is like the hydra – you cut off one head and more sprout. We shouldn’t be surprised if there are further attempts to promote their agenda. After all there are still people who believe the Earth is flat.

    The difference is that this affects lives. Thankfully Tribeca recognised this for what it is.

    The trailer looked rubbish anyway – like those YouTube ‘NASA faked the moon landings’ rants.

  2. Tip of the cap to Robert de Niro.

    Thank you sir for standing up for science.

    More funding for autism research is needed to elucidate the true cause.

    1. Thats the real issue here. All this pseudoscience nonsense are diverting resources from things that might make a real difference.

    1. Agreed. He was supposedly responsible for the film being accepted in the first place and even wrote an initial statement supporting its position in the festival, citing his autistic son as part of his motivation. The statement basically said that it is important to have a conversation regarding vaccines and the causes of autism. This was before the major backlash and the subsequent withdrawal of the entry.

      Of course, there were quite a number of people on Gawker who pointed out that he had his son around the age 55 and that having an older father is linked autism, which would mean that he’s ignoring an actual association to the development of autism and instead promoting one proved fraudulent.

      While it is great that the film is ultimately being pulled, it could still do some damage. Those that truly believe there is a link between autism and vaccines will probably now be crying censorship and using this to fuel their cause. However, at least the film won’t have that same seal of legitimacy. It’s a genuine joke that should have never made it past the submission stage.

  3. Why hasn’t Wakefield been charged with a crime? What he did was not only like yelling fire in a crowded theatre, but filling it full of smoke as well. Children have died because of his fear-mongering fraudulant acts. It is a travesty that this man remains free.

    1. That won’t happen unless the Supreme Court can be enticed to take into consideration Alfred Tarski’s (1944) “The semantic conception of truth”. Paul Grice’s (1975) “Logic and conversation”. and Harry Frankfurt’s (1986) “On bullshit” in order to re-examine the merits and demerits of the 1st Amendment. Until then, I’m afraid, Anything Goes.

  4. This seems unwise to me. There are thousands of people who question whether various vaccines are harmful and are only being marketed as public health policy for profit of well-connected vaccine makers/stockholders. By first including this movie in the Tribeca Film Festival and then removing it, it gives the appearance of forced-censorship which only fuels the fires of suspicion. Now it will be marketed as “the documentary THEY don’t want you to see.” It may have been wiser for Tribeca to attach a disclaimer and let it play.

  5. And tonight, the news about the film not being shown at Tribeca was on NBC Nightly News.
    While I am glad the film was pulled, the collateral publicity is enormous–articles in the NY Times, LA paper, Washington Post, etc. Wakefield will be milking this for all its worth–he’s already said they were denied “due process” (c’mon buddy, it’s a film festival, not a court of law) and I am sure his next gambit will be to the film was “banned.” I wish that knowledge of the existence of the film could have been confined to the ~2000 passengers on the Conspira.Sea cruise, not blasted all over the US. My 2 cents.

    1. Yep. Tribeca pulling that film was worth far more free publicity, for both Tribeca and the film, than if they were adverti$ing that they were showing it. Find it hard to believe that no one thought this would happen when they decided to pull it.

  6. This is a long post with a question at the end about retractions from medical journals.

    From today’s Guardian UK “How the scientific community united against Tribeca’s anti-vaccination film” It states:

    “Within half an hour of Robert De Niro’s Tribeca film festival posting on Facebook that it had scheduled an April viewing of Vaxxed, the highly controversial anti-vaccine documentary, a well-oiled network of scientists, autism experts, vaccine advocacy groups, film-makers and sponsors cranked into gear to oppose it. At the center of the network was a listserv group email list of more than 100 prominent individuals and science research bodies run out of the Immunization Action Coalition (IAC) based in St Paul, Minnesota….”

    IAC is a “nonprofit” organization which receives funding from the CDC.

    At the center of the controversy is a 2004 CDC paper that has never been retracted from the Journal of Pediatrics. DeStefano F1, Bhasin TK, Thompson WW, Yeargin-Allsopp M, Boyle C ‘Age at first measles-mumps-rubella vaccination in children with autism and school-matched control subjects: a population-based study in metropolitan Atlanta.’ Pediatrics. 2004 Feb;113(2):259-66.

    A CDC co-author of the paper issued a public statement via his attorney in 2014. It states,

    “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. 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….”

    Here’s what the CDC said:

    The film’s producer, Bigtree, released a video two days ago of his telephonic interview with ABC World News from before the film was pulled from Tribeca. He is now claiming that the media is censoring that the movie is about the CDC skewing data.

    SO…the question relevant to this board is: Why didn’t the Journal of Pediatrics retract the CDC study? According to a petition that was signed by 10,000 plus, the below named people were asked to make a correction/retract in 2014.

    Journal of Pediatrics
    Lewis R. First, Editor-in-Chief
    Journal of Pediatrics
    Alex R. Kemper, Deputy Editor
    Senior Managing Editor, AAP
    Joseph Puskarz
    Managing Editor, AAP
    Kate Larson
    Director, Division of Scholarly Journals
    Michael Held
    President, American Academy of Pediatrics
    James Perrin, MD, FAAP
    President Elect, American Academy of Pediatrics
    Sandra Hassink, MD, FAAP

    1. Thompson was wrong. The documents that he released to Senator Posey shows that Thompson’s own interpretation of not following the protocol was wrong. The study was not fraudulent and there was not need to retract it.
      Bigtree has those documents and is lieing deliberately about what is in them.
      There is a link to the documents here; perhaps you can read them and see for yourself:

    2. Thompson, yes, I recall that he was the CDC “whistle blower” and that Vaxxed was supposed to be centred around this “scandal.”

      Wow, lets see, that petition you link to is claiming that there was a coverup regarding some research that investigated a link between vaccines and autism (DeStefano et al. 2004). It claims that relevant data was being suppressed. However, several epidemiologists and other outside researchers have reanalysed the data and found that any associations between African American boys, vaccines, and autism were spurious at best. There really is no story or scandal. The authors made a choice not to include insignificant data in their manuscript, which is something a lot of researchers have done.

      Here’s some background on the story and why there is no whistle to blow, as well as why Thompson’s allegation that proper study protocols weren’t followed was not what he portrayed it to be:

      At the bottom of the post linked to above, there is a Dropbox link to some of the relevant Thompson files regarding this case (e.g. protocol and study notes). They are available for anyone to read so that they can better form their own conclusions.

      Also, Brian Hooker attempted to reanalyse the DeStefano data in order to find such an association and subsequently just tortured it. His crude attempt was ultimately retracted.

      You can read about the background on his analysis here:

      And you can find the analyses of Hooker’s reanalysis, as well as comments from actual epidemiologists regarding DeStefano, here:

  7. Sharon Kramer
    Yep. Tribeca pulling that film was worth far more free publicity, for both Tribeca and the film, than if they were adverti$ing that they were showing it. Find it hard to believe that no one thought this would happen when they decided to pull it.

    People almosl always forget, or are ignorant of, the Streisand effect.

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