Amid a storm of criticism over a planned screening of a documentary at the Tribeca Film Festival, Robert De Niro, one of the festival’s founders, has pulled the plug on the screening. The New York Times reports that De Niro decided not to screen “Vaxxed: From Cover-Up to Catastrophe,” about what the paper calls “the widely debunked link between vaccines and autism.”
A statement from De Niro says: “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.”
People magazine notes that De Niro has a child with autism with his wife, Grace Hightower.
People adds: “The film has faced harsh criticism for its anti-vaccination message. It was directed by Andrew Wakefield, a former gastroenterologist and medical researcher who authored a 1998 research paper that claimed that the MMR vaccine is linked to autism. The study has since been discredited and, in 2010, was formally retracted by the journal that published it. Still, the discredited paper helped spark the current wave of the anti-vaccination movement, which has a number of famous supporters, including Robert F. Kennedy Jr. and Donald Trump.”
The Times report notes that Wakefield had his medical license revoked following the study, and adds: “Information about the film no longer appears on the festival’s website, but on Friday, the site, tribecafilm.com, did not mention Mr. Wakefield’s revoked license or the 2010 retraction, saying instead that the study ‘would catapult Wakefield into becoming one of the most controversial figures in the history of medicine.’”