Donald Trump is not a particularly scientific man, to say the least. Unlike his predecessor, who makes his decisions based on data and evidence, the President-elect seems to disparage the very notion of facts.
A lot of attention has been given to his threat to climate change research, and rightly so, but a recent meeting with a prominent anti-vaxxer brings to light another worrying strain of Trump’s scientific ignorance.
Having often linked vaccines to autism in the past – something there is no evidence for whatsoever – Trump has now reignited these disturbing memories after having met with Robert Kennedy Jr. at Trump Tower to talk about “vaccines and immunizations”.
Kennedy, nephew of the late President Kennedy, is a peculiar person with a penchant for both environmental protection and anti-vaccination hogwash. He has referred to himself in the past as being “pro-vaccine”, but his actions strongly suggest otherwise.
Specifically, he has long campaigned against the use of a mercury-based preservative used in vaccines known as thimerosal, stating that it is a known neurotoxin. Founding an “awareness” group named the World Mercury Project, one that is backed by other prominent anti-vaxxers, he continually brings up the supposed (but non-existent) dangers of thimerosal.
RFK Jr. often hints at the existence of a wide-ranging conspiracy. He has previously accused scientific and political groups of hiding the truth behind the potential links between the mumps, measles, and rubella (MMR) vaccine and autism.
After a screening of an anti-vaxxer documentary back in 2015, he referred to children injured by vaccines as a “holocaust”.
Trump has made similar accusations, albeit not quite as boldly, many times in the last few years. His meeting with RFK Jr., then, seems to match up to what they both appear to agree on. Although there are conflicting reports as to what the two ended up talking about, Trump’s spokespeople said that the President-elect is keen on forming a committee on autism.
No direct link to vaccines were made with regards to autism, but this would appear to be why RFK Jr. was there in the first place. The anti-vaxxer campaigner himself boldly declared that Trump asked him to chair a committee on vaccine safety and he agreed.
However, as Vox point out, he has a long history of prevaricating on this topic, and this was not confirmed by Trump’s press team – who, let’s be honest, are hardly trustworthy at the best of times themselves.
Either way, this particular rendezvous is a stark reminder of how little respect Trump has for both science and academia. It should worry everyone that, at the very least, a prominent anti-vaxxer is meeting with the future president at all.