Robert DeNiro Responds to Anti-Vaccination Movie Controversy

Robert De Niro
Jim Smeal/REX Shutterstock

The Tribeca Film Festival is facing serious backlash for including anti-vaccination documentary “Vaxxed: From Cover-up to Catastrophe” from doctor-turned-documentarian Andrew Wakefield into its 2016 lineup.

Wakefield is a fervent believer in the link between vaccination and autism. He has also been the subject of many controversies, including being accused of professional misconduct and falsifying information as early as 1998 in one of his research papers. Wakefield’s bio on the festival’s page for the documentary mentions the research paper and study but not that it was later discredited.

Many called for a response about the festival’s decision. Robert DeNiro, co-founder of the Tribeca Film Festival, defended the choice to include the film, even though he doesn’t endorse the content.

“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.”

His statement spurred more negative reactions on Twitter, many questioning his decision to include such a controversial film if he in fact doesn’t support the anti-vaccination movement.

Including the film has prompted some to categorized the festival’s decision as “irresponsible” and called out the film for being “dishonest” and “one-sided” in its message.

According to the Centers for Disease Control, there is no link between vaccination and Autism Spectrum Disorders.

Bob Wright, co-founder of Autism Speaks, in a statement on the org’s website says “vaccines are very important” and “parents must make the decision whether to vaccinate their children.”

He adds that, “If parents decide not to vaccinate they must be aware of the consequences in their community and their local schools.”

The film premieres on April 24 at the Tribeca Film Festival, which will include a conversation with the filmmakers after the screening.




Filed Under:

Want to read more articles like this one? SUBSCRIBE TO VARIETY TODAY.
Post A Comment 58

Leave a Reply


Comments are moderated. They may be edited for clarity and reprinting in whole or in part in Variety publications.

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

  1. The truth about vaccines and Wakefield are discussed in an interview with two autism experts, a Harvard epidemiologist, and a CDC vaccine expert on the podcast “Straight Talk MD” on iTunes and Stitcher.

  2. Benjamin Bennune says:

    Information warning of risks associated with vaccines have been surfacing for years. They have been largely ignored and dismissed as conspiracy theories however to my knowledge no credible rebuttal has ever surfaced. Yet, these risk claims have gone largely ignored. When will we be allowed fair and free open discussion on this matter? Woops, maybe we are not “free” and only test dummies for vaccine companies. Just wondering…..

  3. Jiim says:

    A gentleman by the name of William R. Long holds a B.A. and Ph. D. from Brown University in Providence, R.I., the J.D. from Williamette, the M.Div. from Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, South Hamilton, MA and was the recipient of a prestigious DAAD (Deutscher akademischer Austauschdienst) award for research and dissertation writing at the University of Tuebinbgen, Germany (1980-81). He has written an article, available on-line titled: “ON SECOND LOOKING INTO THE CASE OF DR. ANDREW J. WAKEFIELD”. On the 2nd last page of the article he states his conclusion and findings. Just google, with or without the quotes “AutismFile_US31_Wakefield” and you’ll get some hits for locating it.

  4. Jiim says:

    Corruption at the CDC? Here’s what Robert F. Kennedy has to say about the CDC on YouTube. On YouTube, just search keywords “John F Kennedy Jr vaccine” and you’ll find the video. At 1:00 minute mark, here’s what he says:

    “There have been 4 separate studies by the federal government, by the United States Congress, a 3 year study, a 1 year study by the United States Senate, a study in 2008 by the Inspector General of HHS, and a study last year by the Office and Research Integrity, and all of those studies have said the same thing: They’ve said that the vaccine division at CDC is a cesspool of corruption. The reason for that is because of financial conflicts of interest between people who work at the vaccine division and the vaccine industry”.

    The one thing that I believe that is not accurate though, is the title of this video, where the word ‘Target’ is inappropriate. To research and develop a vaccine that would ‘Target’ a specific racial ethnic group would of course not only be obviously insane, illegal, and way too expensive, and nearly next to impossible to achieve, but I believe that it is just that this racial ethnic group may very well be more physiologically predisposed to succumbing to the MMR vaccine’s potential damaging side effects. And that alleged damaging side effect being ASD (Autism Spectrum Disorder).

  5. Tamra says:

    The CDC?? THe CDC says this. the CDC says that…If you are going to “quote” the CDC has saying there is NO link.. you need to add the there is an ongoing congressional investigation regarding CDC Whistle Blower Dr. Thompson ‘s confession of having falsified research data showing a direct link between Merk’s mmr vaccine (2nd half) & Autism! (Particularly in African-American boys when given before 36 mos. of age)Let’s start a dialog regarding this shall we? You can make statements about research showing this or that but, when a top Dr. makes this statement about altering research at the request of his superiors- well, they can certainly make studies show anything they want.

  6. onlynamerica says:

    We must be aware that NO VACCINE has ever been proven to be safe or effective.
    Would you eat an apple that has been injected with the same chemicals, preservatives, and fetal cells that are in your vaccine???

  7. Brian M. Stanton (aka...Angry Grampy) says:

    My granddaughter was healthy and had a 30 word vocabulary before she could walk. After her MMR shot and a high fever in 2008 she started spinning around and flapping her hands. She has”t been right since. Where was the “autism” before the doctors started pushing shots for Big Pharma. Let the movie “Vaxed” be shown. Have “the conversation” that the liberals are always demanding for their pet causes. I got 5 shots before kindergarten back in the 50’s. Now they want these kids to get 50 shots before starting school. And guess what…American kids have never been fatter or sicker. And the nonsense continues through middle school and college. Television bombards us with pills and vaccinations on the evening news. Then the lawyers come on and tell you how to sue if you have been “damaged” by a pill or a vaccination. Remember…the same machine told us asbestos, cigarettes and automobiles were safe. Let the movie be shown. Let the public decide. Support the First Amendment!

  8. April says:

    Thank you Tribeca and Robert DeNiro for pulling this quackery. Being Autistic is not nearly as hard for me as facing stigma created by conspiracy theories. This proud Autistic has always loved your movies. I’m so happy you took the time to talk to the science community.

  9. sabretruthtiger says:

    Well actually Wakefield is not a ‘fervent’ believer in anything. He did not claim vaccines caused autism, merely drew attention to a possible link between gut disorders and autism-like symptoms that requires further investigation. he did nothing wrong in his study and Brian Deer has been thoroughly discredited as a shill for big pharma and a fraud and a liar.
    It is already a fact that a precursor to the latest MMR was pulled off the shelves in the UK due to issues. MMR can cause viral interference as do many all in one shots.

  10. Rose says:

    Well they’ve pulled it. No surprise there. They caved. So disappointed !!

  11. Kelly says:

    According to the Centers for Disease control, there is no link between vaccines and autism…. Did the person writing this even watch a preview of the film???? The CDC LIED. Thank You Robert for taking the backlash of sheeple that believe whatever they are told. Thank you for being the hero for so many injured children. The truth will come out.

  12. Nelson Kerr says:

    So should it now be the De Niro-MCarthy d body count? Jenny and Robert don[t seem to car how many dead children they cause taking word of a child abusing fraud.

  13. Eve says:

    The Godfather of change, thank you

  14. Brandon Doyle says:

    Why does no one in mainstream media acknowledge that CDC whistleblower, William Thompson, has come forward and admits to falsifying vaccine/autism studies. It is irresponsible for the media to ignore such a monumental fact, but then again…I guess no one wants to bite the hand that feed them.

    • Pete Tinsley says:

      “Deru kugi wa utareru.” The media is a small corporation of Billionaires – the same people who control vaccines, wars, education, economy etc. They don’t want light shed on their activities. While I can’t condone their methods, I can understand why they would want to reduce the global population and control everything they can to keep them on the top of the pile. The general populous allow it to happen, in fact we are pivotal in facilitating it. Those who oppose it are too few to make any difference. Vaccines are just one of many, many things that are shrouded. What we think, what we know, and even what we think we know, is all decided for us.

  15. joejoe says:

    This is America, and we have the right for open dialogue, therefore let the show go on, we are not a communist nation, and those profiting from the vaccines that are poisoning a generation will now have to live with the consequences,.

  16. Terryann Thomas says:

    We have just past the UNHAPPY 5th Anniversary of FUKUSHIMA’s 3 meltdowns. Man-made nuclear radiation has brought about mans own doom. Every time I pay my power bill I am participating in killing your children. Yet I do it, you do it. 70 years ago an horrendous error in judgment is evident now in all the hundreds of diseases that are on us like plagues. Alzheimer’s, autisms, many autoimmune and neurological troubles, cancers that did not exist before they blew up 2500 NUCLEAR BOMBS on us.. And built hundreds of power plants that are now way past their prime. Goodbye NYC you have one on your doorstep in critical condition RIGHT NOW. And so many others in distress. they have all been releasing radiation all along. Humans are one of the last species not to be experiencing a mass die off AT THIS TIME. Phytoplankton gives us the majority of the oxygen we breath. It lives in a radiated sea. A sea that is host to massive die offs right now. It is as unstoppable as it is incomprehensible. Man-made nuclear radiation and its industry are enemies to mankind, so deeply entrenched in our world there is no getting rid of it. Good Luck.

  17. Debra A Gibson says:

    Do your research people. The CDC did cover up the fact that the MMR vaccine is a cause of autism. No matter how many times articles like this say it isn’t so, it actually is. Despite the fact that pharmaceutical company’s…who are the ones that profit here, always follow the money… destroyed Dr Wakefield, it doesn’t mean he’s wrong. If you truly do your research with an open mind you will find all sorts of problems with vaccines.

  18. fibroman50 says:

    The very fact that ” Many called for a response about the festival’s decision” Show that they have no concept of Freedom Of Speech. Yet they want that same freedom extended to them and their views. I applaud Robert DeNiro for standing up for freedom, which is implied in these statements ” many questioning his decision to include such a controversial film if he in fact doesn’t support the anti-vaccination movement.” and this one ” I am not personally endorsing the film, nor am I anti-vaccination; I am only providing the opportunity for a conversation around the issue.” So unless your a fascist and want to deny others the freedom to their opinions in a public forum I suggest you quit the drama and do your part to defend freedom!

  19. m. rocco says:

    This is a documentary. It presents actual events that took place, etc. So what if it is about vaccines. You can either watch the film and decide for yourself or just not watch if you prefer. What’s problem? This is America!

  20. Whats Ituya says:

    If these idiots want their kids to die of diseases that were essentially eradicated the that sounds like Darwin’s survival of the fittest in action.

    • Seniorcraig says:

      Please explain how your statement relates to the debate about freedom of speech?

    • If you step back from the mainstream vaccine propaganda, you’ll find that the diseases against which vaccines supposedly protect are almost universally benign, meaning one in which complications aren’t expected, and complete recovery is usual. If you try to define a benign disease as one which will never complicate, never kill, you’ll come up empty handed, for there’s no such thing. There’s a reason for that… the severity of a disease depends not on the virus or bacterium, but on the overall health and immune status of the individual. So the goal should be to make sure we are at optimum health and that medical interventions when diseases inevitably strike on occasion, support, assist, and restore that health, not undermine it by making the immune system a raging bull out of control.

  21. Kate says:

    Thankyou Tribeca and Robert De Niro for showing this film. People need the opportunity to explore the vaccine issue further. This doesn’t mean ‘vaccinate’ or ‘don’t vaccinate’ it means understanding that while vaccines have saved many lives, there are also many children who have being permeanenty harmed, or killed, by vaccinations. As a society we have to start having open honest conversations about what the real risks, and gains, to vaccines are. We have to start determining which children would be more at risk from the vaccines, than the diseases they aim to protect from. We have to stop this blanket one rule for everyone, because everyone is not the same, and some children are at much more at risk from vacinne harm than others. This film is a great starting point to that conversation. Thankyou for allowing this conversation to be had.

  22. Lilly says:

    This article is quite funny to me because it complains about how one-sided the movie is. But all the articles in mainstream media are one-sided and are pretty much provided by the corporations that stand to gain from a positive slant. And anyone who does not agree gets blasted in the media – like Jenny McCarthy who endured insult after endless insult. So the media is nothing but one-sided. So a movie comes out with a different point of view and I have not seen one positive article about it even though I know there are many people out there who agree with the movie. The media clearly does not bit the hand that not only feeds it, but clothes it, educates it and, well, owns it.

  23. El, Guapo says:

    If you Vaccine trolls are so confident of the substance you espouse to understand, then those with a differing opinion should not be ‘threatening’ to you. Let them be heard and if you have a valid argument state it. The first reaction of a person who is not confident in their position is anger and rage because they do not have a logical argument against the rebuttal that questions their position. Vaccine has nothing but rhetoric, rage and bile as far as I have seen. If you are so certain…let the facts speak…let the world see all arguments and let the facts speak for themselves.

  24. Laura says:

    Just lost all respect for DeNiro.

  25. El, Guapo says:

    Of course the movie is one sided. There are two sides to this issue pro Vaccine and Anti-vaccine. If the Vaccine industry has nothing to hide then why protest the film? If vaccines are not questioned…which they have not been in a very, very long time the industry gets shoddy, complacent and arrogant. The facts of Vaccine damage do need to be discussed and not buried in rhetoric. If you have ‘proof’ that the evidence is false, show the evidence. As for the ‘Danish Study’ which the pro Vax crowd seems to latch onto is indeed a fraudulent study in that Dr. Thornson, conducted to refute Dr. Wakefields Study. Only Dr. Thornson absconded with the grant money for the study and is now wanted by the FBI for Fraud. So I’d say the Danish Study is lacking in credibility on that basis. He might have been apprehended by now. If that is the case a plea bargain might be his best chance to avoid a long stay in prison. IF he is in custody, and I have not heard if he is or not, but he will need witness protection because the Vaccine industry is as protective of their profits as the mob is of theirs…only the mob has a higher standard of ethics.

  26. kristayln says:

    Thank GOD for logical people like De Niro! Sick of “tolerant” liberals labeling concerned parents, “anti-vaxxers” – makes me sick. Anyone who goes against their thinking (if you call it that) or against anything they say are considered evil. Kiss my ass liberals. I thought you all were pro-choice? Well, so am I! Pro-choice of what toxins and chemicals go into my child’s body. We are pro-research and are NOT going away!!!!

    • Sparky says:

      There’s two sides — Those who believe the Holocaust happened and those that didn’t. Do you wonder why we don’t give equal weight to both sides?

  27. Elise Harris says:

    He should be heard, there are just too many parents out there who watched this happen to their kids. If they shout down people who want to tell their truth, then what will that mean for future generations? He has free speech. He should be heard. Those of you who don’t want to hear it, don’t listen.

  28. kris says:

    Big fan of De Niro! Great actor, smart man and very logical. All the pro-research parents out there thank you for your support and courage to state your opinion and stand your ground. Thank you for common sense. We are not “anti-vax as the liberal progressive media will let you to believe, we are PRO-RESEARCH, educated, informed, and concerned parents.

  29. true science is paid for by pharma says:

    Wow, the pharma trolls are heavy here.

  30. WILLIAM HOH says:

    If you don’t have high-level training in medicine and epidemiology, your opinion in this debate doesn’t count. You are not educated enough to understand what’s going on, even if you are a highly intelligent person.

    Running a website or blog does not make you an expert. Education does. And knowing how to look at studies for validity. Even Jenny McCarthy backtracked on this.

    • LS says:

      Thank you! Everyone’s opinion is valid, we just need to recognize when it is opinion and not evidence based medicine. Vaccines have helped essentially eradicate certain diseases, polio being one. It is easy to forget how devastating many of these illnesses were before vaccines. Measles and mumps don’t seem so bad when you learn about them while taking your child to the doctor for their vaccines. It was the terrible effects of these infections in some of the afflicted patients that spurred the development of vaccines. One can argue that there is financial incentive for pharmaceutical companies to push any medication (or vaccine) in the current day and age but the motivation to develop the vaccines was to prevent death and disability – prevent irreversible paralysis, blindness, sterility, etc. The study linking autism to vaccines was never able to be recreated, and one would expect that if there was a causal relationship this would be able to be demonstrated again to confirm the findings. What we know for sure is that there is a definite causal link between these infections and their symptoms, that is not in doubt. Imagine debating in the future whether an HIV or Ebola vaccine is really necessary, and calling it “poison” or a “toxin”. It is harder to do that when you have seen the devastation first-hand and in the modern era. We take for granted how much safer our lives are now than they were 100 years ago. And while Autism is a serious problem, it is unproductive to hold to a belief in a cause that has not been proven. Science is not about belief, it is about data and fact. A ball falls at the same rate every time you drop it and there is a formula to represent that – that is science. You don’t believe it, you prove it. Until there is credible research linking vaccines to autism any argument for not vaccinating children is based on belief and a single redacted biased unreproducible study, not science.

    • Lilly says:

      William, whereas I respect that you are educated, my feeling has always been if the education does not make one smarter, then it is poor education. If the education educates the common sense right out of a person, then it is poor education. And if the knowledge simply isn’t good or true, then of what value is it. 100 year old vaccine technology may not be the best technology anymore especially given the added toxins. What was known in the past is not meshing with the new scientific advances. I remember when a friend of mine who was a professor of astronomy came in to a party and announced ‘everything we ever knew about astronomy is completely null and void because of a new discovery’ which I won’t go into here. He then said everything students are learning in high school & in colleges and universities is wrong. I asked him how long it would take to catch up with new books, etc. And he said it could take 10 to 15 years. So there you have it. I am sure you learned a lot, but what is it that you did learn? I have always said if I wanted to help people be healthy, I most certainly would not become an MD. I have NEVER once been to a doctor who had a clue about how to become a robustly healthy individual. And that is why I changed from pre-med.

      • Sparky says:

        “I have NEVER once been to a doctor who had a clue about how to become a robustly healthy individual.”

        I’m sure you haven’t Lilly, I’m sure you haven’t.

      • LS says:


        1 – I was talking about the initial motivation for the development of vaccines, not the 100 year old technology.
        2 – Much of what we know now is built upon what we have learned in the past.
        3 – I agree that untrue (?) knowledge is not good.
        3 – Astronomy is not the same as microbiology.
        4 – Sounds like you just don’t like science, or books. Good thing you skipped med school.

    • El, Guapo says:

      Jenny McCartney was threatened with the career ending if she did not stop. She likes her money.

  31. WILLIAM HOH says:

    This officially makes Bobby dinero a piece of s***. Anyone with any educational statistics for epidemiology has concluded that there is no link. Zero. And I do have a child with autism as well as a medical degree from one of the top institutions in the country. There is no chance it came from immunizations. Any doctor that says it does is looking to make a quick Buck from a book or talk show appearance, etc. End of discussion.

    • We dont know what causes autism yet, so its not yet understood, we also dont understand why some people have catastrophic side effects to vaccines, or how the side effects were triggered by the vaccines, science still has a long way to go, so we better start intensely studying the vaccine injured if we are ever going to improve and perfect the medicine, anti vaxxers will never go away as long as there is a core of people who have had vaccine side effects. We can and should improve and perfect the medicine so that risk is eliminated and benefit increased, we can only do that by acknowledging the truth of vaccine injured. With increased research into these people and why vaccines damaged them and understand by what biological processes we can improve the ingredients (some like metals which exceed human safety levels) and effects. We have to advance.

    • Elise Harris says:

      She was forced. You don’t have to be highly educated to understand that one day your child is normal and the day after he gets vaxed he is losing ground and no longer speaking. THOUSANDS have reported this but you want to listen to a group that has lied about many things and wants the world to ALL be on permanent medications and to indiscriminately vaccinate their kids’ brains into pulp.

    • Michelle Smith says:

      William HOH, your comment is disgraceful. How dare you call someone a POS because they may not agree with you or your beliefs. Do you also believe everything that you read on the internet? No one can say for sure that Autism does not come from vaccines. Every week we see something new about where scientists think autism stems from but nothing is concrete. No one thing can be pinpointed. Unless you find out what’s causing autism, your comment in invalid

      • LS says:

        Science is not a matter of belief, it is the process of investigating a hypothesis. You use objective evidence to prove or disprove a theory. You judge the validity of science, and accepting or not accepting that validity has nothing to do with belief. This mixing of scientific observation and belief and the treatment of the two as equal is a fallacy. You can believe what you want, but that doesn’t make it real.

  32. Scientific facts are not always what they seem. Whether it’s counting the future world population, quantifying the deaths following Chernobyl, or determining the safety or the effectiveness of commercial products (from pharmaceuticals to basic foodstuffs), powerful interests routinely succeed in influencing the answers. In science, external forces influence strongly what is studied, what is published, and what is reported. When that happens, individuals (or policymakers) no longer have the information to decide rationally and choose thoughtfully. Society becomes dysfunctional at a fundamental level.

    Manipulation of science can be surprisingly easy. That is because, at every level within it, important decisions are typically not transparent (even to other scientists). Manipulation is also aided by science’s protective mythology of impartiality and rigour that deters questioning by outsiders. Therefore, it often goes unnoticed.

    But of perhaps even greater concern than the manipulation of facts is what happens to scientific ideas. Over the last 50-60 years, selected scientific ideas have been actively promoted out of all proportion to their evidence base. These specific ideas were ones deliberately chosen for their potential to channel popular thinking to fit various corporate agendas.

    Perhaps the most stunning example of this is how corporations and governments have conspired to create a genetic determinist understanding of society and of human nature, even though the evidence to support that view is missing.

  33. Indigo says:

    There’s no need for the conversation. ‘m all for scientific debate, to a point that is reasonable. But we’ve passed that point. Vaccines don’t cause autism. Vaccines are not bad for you. There is nuance involved that the general public ignores, either accidentally or willfully. You can disagree, but at this point it’s kind of like saying “I know science says gravity is why we don’t fall off the planet, but I don’t know…..” or “mmmm, I’ve never seen the planet personally, I’m not sure about these claims that ‘earth is round'”

    Also, speaking as an actual autistic adult…
    We are not your poster child. Find something else to “White knight” on. Thanks.

  34. Thank you Mr. DeNiro. You are showing true courage and integrity by screening this film.
    Anyone who can read a vaccine insert and has had high school chemistry knows that this film speaks the truth.

    • WILLIAM HOH says:

      High school chemistry? And you think you know more than someone like myself with an MD and masters of Public Health from top schools. That’s what’s wrong with this country. Too many Millennials who think they know everything without even bothering to get the education.

      • TheBearded says:

        We can find whatever we are looking for in the interpretation of results. And our minds are often made up before we start. And yes, education is only as broad as the ones who teach it. If I want you to know something, I will teach it just that way, and therein lies the flaws in our system. The good news is, the Internet, and few courageous outspoken leaders stand up for the reality so often silenced by the system. May you find your truth.

      • LS says:

        I agree wholeheartedly, William.

      • Your knowledge is as good as the information provided to you, as a man of science, there is a thousand ways to skin a cat and all under peer review……………..

  35. Beth says:

    I respect you so much, Mr. DeNiro, for standing by your decision to allow the documentary to be aired at The Tribeca Film Festival. Thank you for displaying such integrity and strength in the face of so much adversity.

  36. Free speech in America? what a concept!

  37. john says:

    Liberals only want you to believe in what they believe in. They don’t want you to tell them what to do with their bodies, but they want to tell you what to do with yours.

    • LS says:

      As far as I understand, it is conservatives who more often ignore science. This isn’t a political issue, it is one of public health. All parents have the right to make health decisions for their children. But glorifying a debunked study doesn’t help anyone decide what choice is best. If the film has input from scientists other than those involved with the original biased study, then fine. Submit it to The Lancet for peer review and publication.

More Film News from Variety