By Rita Shreffler
For over three decades, Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. has been one of the world's leading environmental advocates. He is the founder and president of Waterkeeper Alliance, the umbrella group for 300 local waterkeeper organizations, in 34 countries, that track down and sue polluters. Under his leadership, Waterkeeper has grown to become the world's largest clean water advocacy organization.
Around 2005, parents of vaccine-injured children started encountering Kennedy's speeches and writings about the toxic mercury-based preservative thimerosal. They embraced new hope that this environmental champion would finally expose the truth about vaccine injury and win justice for injured children. Kennedy is known for his fierce and relentless brand of environmental activism and his advocacy for transparent government and rigorous science. He is now applying his tenacious energies and sophisticated strategies to exposing the fraud and corruption within the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the pharmaceutical industry. Last month, he launched his new non-profit, the World Mercury Project, with vaccine safety advocates Lyn Redwood and Laura Bono, legends themselves among parents of vaccine-injured children. Autism File executive editor Rita Shreffler spoke with Kennedy about CDC corruption, pharmaceutical industry greed, media malpractice and his vision for the World Mercury Project.
Rita Shreffler: How did you first get involved in the autism/vaccine controversy?
Robert F. Kennedy: I was dragged kicking and screaming into this brawl. By the early 2000s, I was fighting multiple lawsuits on behalf of Riverkeeper and Waterkeeper against coal-fired power plants. I was touring the country speaking about, among other things, the dangers of mercury emissions, which, by then, had contaminated virtually every fresh water fish in America. Following many of these appearances, mothers would approach me. Their tone was always respectful but mildly scolding. They said that if I was serious about eliminating the perils of mercury, I needed to look at thimerosal. Vaccines, they claimed, were the biggest vector for mercury exposure in children. I really didn't want to get involved because vaccines were pretty remote from my wheelhouse. I'd always been pro-vaccine. I had all my kids vaccinated and got my annual flu shot every year. But, I was impressed by these women. Many of them were professionals: doctors, lawyers, scientists, nurses and pharmacists. They were overwhelmingly solid, well-educated, extraordinarily well-informed, rational and persuasive.
RS: Was there a particular one of these mothers who finally got you to take the bait?
RFK, JR: Yeah, my brother Max's wife, Vicky Strauss Kennedy, introduced me to a psychologist named Sarah Bridges. Her son Porter was vaccine-injured and later diagnosed with autism. After an eight year legal battle, she had finally received compensation from the vaccine court, which acknowledged that Porter got his autism, seizures and brain damage from thimerosal and pertussis vaccines. She persuaded me to start looking into the science.
RS: That was a daunting request!
RFK, JR: I have always loved science and I'm comfortable reading it. By then, I'd handled many hundreds of environmental cases. Almost all of them involved scientific controversies. When I started reading about thimerosal, I was dumbstruck by the contrast between the scientific reality and the media consensus. All the network news anchors and television doctors were assuring the public that there was not a single study that suggested thimerosal was unsafe or that it could cause autism. After a short time on PubMed, I'd identified many dozens of studies suggesting that thimerosal causes autism and a rich library of peer-reviewed literature—more than 400 published studies—attesting to its deadly toxicity and its causal connection to a long inventory of neurological injuries and organ damage.
RS: What do we know about thimerosal safety testing?
RFK, JR: First of all, vaccines are not subject to the safety rigors undergone by other pharmaceuticals in the FDA approval process. There are no large scale, double-blind, placebo-controlled studies. And, in the one 1930 human study of thimerosal that predated its use in vaccines, all the subjects injected with thimerosal died. In 2004, an FDA official acknowledged in testimony before a Congressional committee, that no government or privately funded study has ever demonstrated thimerosal's safety. On the other hand, there is plenty of science suggesting that thimerosal is NOT safe. Several hundred studies available on PubMed link thimerosal exposure to the neurodevelopmental and immune system diseases that are now epidemic in the generation of American children born after the CDC dramatically increased childhood thimerosal exposure starting in 1988.
My book, Thimerosal—Let the Science Speak, summarizes these studies. The scientific literature inculpates increased thimerosal exposure as a culprit in the explosion of ADD, ADHD, speech delay, narcolepsy, SIDS, ASD, seizure disorder, tics and anaphylaxis, including asthma and food allergies. According to the CDC, one in six American children—the so called "thimerosal generation"—now suffers from a developmental disability. We have published a compendium of 80 published, peer-reviewed studies that strongly suggest a link between thimerosal exposure and autism.
RS: The CDC started adding to the vaccine schedule in the late 1980s and all these diseases, including autism, began spiking among kids in the mid-1990s. That's when parents started seeing perfectly healthy children regress into autism after receiving their vaccines.
RFK, JR: Yeah. A rising chorus of complaints from parents and pediatricians linked the new thimerosal-heavy vaccine schedule to an explosion in autism. In response, the CDC, in 1999, commissioned an in-house Belgian researcher, Thomas Verstraeten, to study the Vaccine Safety Datalink, the largest American repository of childhood vaccine and health records, collected by HMOs. The HMO data clearly showed that the massive mercury doses in the newly expanded vaccine schedule were causing runaway epidemics of neurological disorders—ADD, ADHD, speech delay, sleep disorders, tics and autism among America's children. Verstraeten's original analysis of those datasets found that thimerosal exposures increased autism risk by 760%. The CDC now knew the cause of the autism epidemic.
RS: How did the CDC react to the revelations in the Verstraeten study?
RFK, JR: The vaccine branch called an emergency meeting of regulators from WHO, FDA, vaccine industry stakeholders and the American Academy of Pediatrics at the Simpsonwood Conferences and Retreat Center in Norcross, Georgia. They reportedly held the meeting off the CDC campus to shield the deliberations from freedom of information requests. During a frantic two-day debate, that group decided to embargo Verstraeten's study. The CDC then pushed Verstraeten aside and assembled a team of industry and CDC scientists to rework the study using dodgy statistical devices to make the autism signal disappear. After four increasingly deceptive iterations, that team succeeded in eliminating the signal linking thimerosal with autism and a half dozen other neurodevelopmental disorders. The CDC published that version and told the public that thimerosal was safe. When parents asked to see the raw data, the CDC claimed that it had somehow "lost" all the raw data so that no independent group could check this result.
RS: Right, that's when the CDC went into the business of creating its notorious phony epidemiological studies?
RFK, JR: Exactly. Over the next two years, the CDC worked with the pharmaceutical industry to gin up seven epidemiological studies that purport to exculpate thimerosal from causing the autism epidemic. None of these studies pretend to be safety studies. Each of them simply looked for the presence of a small number of designated diseases in specific populations exposed to thimerosal. All of them are fatally flawed due to improper methodologies or deliberate fraud. Nevertheless, these are the studies that the CDC lists on its website—and that its spokespeople regularly cite—to defend mercury in vaccines. It's worth noting that the CDC itself has so little faith in these studies that it derailed a scheduled 2012 review of their underlying science by the Institute of Medicine (IOM) and killed a 2006 review of thimerosal safety by the National Toxicology Program. Under CDC pressure, the Institute of Medicine made the astonishing declaration, in 2004, that, based on those seven flawed studies, the science was settled and no new studies on the causative relationship between thimerosal and autism should be undertaken or funded. That declaration effectively cut off support for any scientist who wants to investigate the link.
RS: The CDC touts those seven epidemiological studies across the globe as evidence of thimerosal safety.
RFK, JR: Yes, and CDC and IOM officials left behind a very troubling email trail that makes it clear that those studies were deliberately manufactured to exonerate thimerosal. By the time I came across them, I was accustomed to dissecting research papers and spotting junk science. In my line, we call it "tobacco science" and the hired guns who generate it "biostitutes". The CDC's primary data manager on its widely touted Danish studies was a notorious con man and professional biostitute named Poul Thorsen, who actually pocketed the million dollars the CDC paid him to do the research. He is currently under indictment on 22 counts of wire fraud and money laundering by the U.S. Justice Department and is the star of the OIG's Most Wanted List. Thorsen is on the run from the FBI in Europe. Nevertheless, the CDC still uses Thorsen's studies as proof of thimerosal safety.
RS: Besides reading the science, did you do any kind of research?
RFK, JR: I also spoke to the leading researchers, like [University of Kentucky Chemistry Department, Chairman, Toxicologist] Dr. Boyd Haley, and I called the researchers and experts at the federal agencies to get help understanding what I was reading. I spoke to the IOM's Dr. Kathleen Stratton and pharmaceutical industry spokesman, Dr. Paul Offit.
RS: Well there's a pair of villains! How did the conversations go?
RFK, JR: Amicably. I had no antipathy toward either of them at that time. I had no clue about the pivotal role they both had played in deceiving the public about thimerosal safety. Both of them spoke to me willingly. Offit expressed admiration for my father, which is an effective way to butter me up. I asked them both the obvious question: "Why do we advise pregnant women to steer clear of fish because of neurotoxic mercury and yet inject much larger doses of mercury into pregnant women and babies?" They both repeated to me the thread worn industry canard that the "ethyl mercury in vaccines is not as dangerous as the methyl mercury in fish" which everyone admits is highly neurotoxic. Offit explained to me that ethyl mercury wasn't toxic because it leaves the human body so quickly.
RS: What was your reaction?
RFK, JR: By then, I'd read Burbacher's monkey studies which confirmed Offit's assertion that the ethyl mercury from vaccines rapidly left the blood. But, Burbacher had shown the ethyl mercury was not being excreted from the body as Offit implied during our telephone conversation. Instead, it was going directly into the brain, where it rapidly metabolized into highly toxic inorganic mercury, and then lodged there, creating inflammation and brain damage. Burbacher had shown that inorganic mercury remains in the brain for years. Instead of being evidence of its safety, as Offit represented, ethyl mercury's penchant for disappearing quickly from the blood was testimony to its extreme peril; it was disappearing due to the ease with which it crossed the blood-brain barrier! Ethyl mercury used in vaccines was both far more persistent and far more toxic than the methyl mercury found in fish. The Guzzi study, in 2012, showed the ethyl mercury was 50 times as toxic to cells. When I mentioned the Burbacher study to Stratton and Offit, they both went silent. It was obvious that they were aware of the study. THEY BOTH KNEW that science had refuted what they were telling me. They were accustomed to talking to journalists who seem to have an allergy to reading science and were content to parrot their reassurances.
RS: What did Offit say when you confronted him?
RFK, JR: Well, he clearly knew that he was lying and now he knew that I knew he was lying. There was a long awkward pause. Then he had this kind of Porky Pig "Epity, epity, epity, what?" moment after which, he launched into what is now, to me, a familiar Paul Offit soft shoe routine. He said, "Well, you're right, Robert, there is no definitive study. It's really a whole mosaic of studies…" And then, he had to go.
RS: What was Stratton's reaction?
RFK, JR: Stratton was much more candid. She just came out and said, "Well, obviously it's toxic. When you give it to mice, bad things happen and, when you give it to rats, they do weird things. It can't be good for humans. That's why we are taking it out of all vaccines!" I took the precaution of taping both these conversations, by the way.
RS: So, what was your response?
RFK, JR: In a single day, I had spoken to the two top advocates for the use of thimerosal in vaccines and I caught them both lying. A few days later, I heard Offit repeat his "good mercury/bad mercury" fib during an interview on NPR. I thought to myself, "This man is a thorough charlatan, a snake oil salesman and he has everyone flimflammed." That made me angry. After that, I learned that he was also venal.
RS: What do you mean "venal"?
RFK, JR: Well, my original assumption was that he was lying in service to the vaccine program. I later learned that vaccines were a lavishly profitable enterprise for Dr. Offit.
RS: How so?
RFK, JR: He is on permanent retainer to Merck to "right vaccine wrongs". And, both Merck and the CDC have rewarded his service with extraordinarily lucrative opportunities. In 1999, the CDC allowed him to sit on the committee that voted the rotavirus vaccine onto the schedule, even though he was working on his own rotavirus patent. Electing not to recuse himself, he cast his vote to add rotavirus to the schedule. That version of the rotavirus vaccine caused so many agonizing childhood deaths from intussusception that the CDC had to withdraw it a year later, making room for Offit's version, a turn of events that made him a vaccine tycoon. His rotavirus vaccine patent sold for $182 million; his cut was at least $29 million. When I learned about this caper and his other money schemes, I just thought, "Well, he's a hoodlum."
RS: He's also a misogynist and a bully.
RFK, JR: It's disturbing because the media treats him like a deity. And, like all bullies, he's a coward. He dismisses women who question him as superstitious hysterics. He lobs vicious bombs at the mothers of vaccine-injured children from the editorial pages and national TV shows which give him a platform for his poison. But, he refuses to debate me or anyone else who knows what they are talking about.
RS: Do you think, when Paul Offit says that babies could safely be given 10,000 vaccines at the same time, that he really believes that?
RFK, JR: I don't feel competent to psychoanalyze Offit. It's hard to look into another person's mind. And Offit's brain has got to be a really dark and scary zip code where I don't really want to spend time. In his defense, we all have some capacity for self-deception and it's possible that Offit is as gifted at deceiving himself as he is at deceiving the public. Upton Sinclair observed that, "It's difficult to get a man to understand something, when his salary depends upon his not understanding it." But I do think it's more likely that he knows that what he's saying is dishonest. For years, he claimed Bill Thompson's 2004 study was "the definitive proof" of thimerosal safety. He's been silent about that since Thompson disavowed his own study. That suggests a purposeful mendacity. Like a lot of other people, Offit seems to have made the self-serving calculation that all of the dead and damaged children are just collateral damage—unfortunate sacrifices in a program that serves the greater good.
RS: Is that even a legitimate moral calculation?
RFK, JR: You mean to kill one child in order to save fifty? Ethicists and theologians could argue the point. But that isn't Offit's real moral dilemma. Offit's moral Donnybrook is his absolutist defense of the industry position that all vaccines are always safe for all people and that the safety of thimerosal is unassailable. That approach has unnecessarily damaged vulnerable subgroups that could easily have been protected and sacrificed millions of kids, not for the greater good but for the bottom line. As the vaccine industry's lead pitchman for thimerosal, Offit's been extraordinarily successful at crafting a persuasive alternative to fact-based reality and selling it like a carnival barker. He has made himself the high priest of the weird dogma that it's somehow safe to inject mercury into babies.
RS: You once described the autism epidemic as a holocaust. That characterization made many parents feel that someone finally understood their experience.
RFK, JR: Yeah. I later apologized because the press turned my use of that word into a distraction. My apology was heartfelt. There is a legitimate argument that that term is proprietary to the victims of Hitler. Hitler's campaign to purposefully exterminate an entire race with industrial efficiency. I had appropriated the term to describe the autism epidemic after searching vainly for some other analogies with the power to capture the magnitude and monstrosity of this global tragedy. Just spend some time with a child who has severe autism. Life for these children is an endless agonizing progression of twilight and terror. The tormenting gut aches, excruciating sensory sensitivities, the serial head banging and screaming, the isolation and perpetual joylessness. The entire family is permanently devastated. Now multiply that by ten million. I felt we owed it to the injured children and their families to be courageous in describing their tragedy in language that expressed the horror of their suffering and the willfulness of its architects. Offit is the primary engineer and pivotal figure for a system that has injured millions of children. Rabbi William Handler regularly characterizes the epidemic as a holocaust, which, I suppose, he has a right to do since he is a holocaust survivor.
RS: Then do you think this is just about the money for Offit?
RFK, JR: I don't know. I've seen these characters over my career—these industry hired guns. Murray Walker of the Tobacco Institute, who was the inspiration for the scoundrel, Nick Naylor, in Thank You for Smoking, Donna Farmer from Monsanto, Fred Singer for the carbon industry, Brooke Alexander for the American Petroleum Institute, Myron Ebell of the Competitive Enterprise Institute. Offit has probably made more money from pharma than all of them put together. From my vantage, all of these shills seem to have some driving impulse beyond raw greed.
RS: You mean like a sociopath or a sadist?
RFK, JR: I'm not sure. I know that, to parents of injured children, it seems like it all has to be purposeful malevolence. But it might be as simple as arrogance. They take on this awesome power to make these life or death decisions over large populations and even to take parenting decisions away from mothers and fathers. It must make a person feel like God. Consider the corrupting effect of this God-like power. Offit has hinted publicly, he believes it's OK to lie; it's OK for doctors and scientists to lie to protect the vaccine program. He gets indignant when people discuss vaccine safety who are not doctors or scientists. He becomes enraged when people question him. Last month, he told the parent of an injured child to "F*** off." He later said he didn't realize he was being taped. That's the original sin, isn't it— pride? The desire to make oneself a deity. That was the pitfall at Eden and then at Babel.
RS: So that conversation with Offit was a turning point for you?
RFK, JR: Yes, and then, the thing that pushed me over the edge was when Lyn Redwood gave me a copy of the Simpsonwood transcripts. I published excerpts simultaneously in Rolling Stone and Salon in 2005. As I mentioned earlier, Simpsonwood was a secretive convocation of America's leading public health officials, from the CDC, FDA, WHO, AAP and all the pharmaceutical companies who gathered to discuss strategies for dealing with Tom Verstraeten's damning revelations. It's still unclear whether the participants knew that someone was tape recording their conference. And, as you read this transcript, you can feel the fear and horror as these public health bureaucrats realize what they have done. And then, you can watch as they all begin conspiring frantically about how to hide their mistake! It was astonishing! I couldn't believe what I was reading.
RS: I was really excited to hear about the World Mercury Project. Can you tell our readers how the organization came to be?
RFK, JR: The World Mercury Project emerged from the promotion we were doing for the film Trace Amounts. I had travelled to a dozen cities, with Director Eric Gladen, to screen the show, speak, and fight the wave of vaccine mandates in 2015, when the pharmaceutical industry tried to leverage a Disneyland measles outbreak into a new California gold rush. When our work with the film came to a close, I recognized that even a committed movement of extraordinarily talented activists would never move the needle on this issue. The forces arrayed against us were just too powerful. We needed a paid professional staff who awaken every morning thinking of nothing except how to solve this problem. How to force a national debate and expose the phony science and CDC corruption. How to use the most sophisticated social media, and internet marketing and what Martin Luther King called the "tools of advocacy": agitation, legislation, litigation, education, and media and grass roots activism.
RS: And I was personally very excited to see that you have partnered with Lyn Redwood who is now the executive director of World Mercury Project. How did that come about?
RFK, JR: I've been working with Lyn Redwood in one way or another since around 2005. She is an extraordinary advocate. Lyn is a registered nurse. Her child was one of the first to experience regressive autism following a series of thimerosal vaccines. Her advocacy includes her testimony before Congress and her work on the seminal book Evidence of Harm with David Kirby. She co-founded and ran SafeMinds. She helped build the first grassroots organizations that mobilized the parents of injured children around the thimerosal issue. She has been an advisor to HHS and the Department of Defense and has encyclopedic knowledge of the history of thimerosal and the relevant laws, regulations and court cases. She is disciplined, science-based and extremely well organized with good judgment and a shrewd strategic mind. Lyn had some health problems. When those resolved about eight months later, we quickly assembled a team, raised some money, and put together a very forceful, aggressive campaign that I believe will finally expose the truth.
RS: Would removing mercury from vaccines guarantee us safe vaccines?
RFK, JR: No. There are other highly toxic vaccine ingredients that must be removed. Aluminum is an example. But the larger problem is that the entire vaccine program is in disarray. As CDC senior vaccine safety scientist Dr. William Thompson has pointed out, one of the primary fallouts of the mercury/autism debate is that it has paralyzed science at the CDC. So we know very little about vaccine safety or efficacy for that matter. It's undeniable that vaccines can cause terrible injuries and even death to vulnerable subgroups. There is also an assumption that they do more good than harm. That may not be true for all vaccines. Certain vaccines may cause more harm—thimerosal-laden flu and Hepatitis B vaccines come to mind. Even with Gardasil and MMR, which don't contain thimerosal, it's very difficult to support industry claims for their safety or efficacy. No one can answer these questions honestly. The efficacy and safety studies that we would need to answer these questions have never been performed and the science that has been done has raised a lot of flags that should make reasonable people worry. Most Americans just assume the CDC has done these studies and answered these questions. People would be shocked if they knew how shoddy the CDC's science really is.
RS: What do you imagine would happen to autism rates if the CDC removed thimerosal from American vaccines?
RFK, JR: In Denmark, ASD rates dropped 30% when the Danish government ordered removal of mercury in 1992. So that's a bellwether. The drop would likely be more dramatic in this country because the Danes had a very small amount of thimerosal-containing vaccines. We use much more thimerosal than the Danes ever allowed. Katie Wright suggests that the Danes never had the severe brand of autism that is now common in America. Having said that, we need to remember that there are many other sources of mercury in the environment, including dental amalgams, and power plant emissions, both of which have well-documented links to autism. There is also a lot of thimerosal still in medicines. The highest autism rates in the US are among Somali immigrants in Minnesota. That terrible epidemic is probably related to skin-lightening creams that are ubiquitous in that community. Those creams are loaded with mercury. Plus, there are other toxins that may cause damage in the same parts of the brain as mercury—glyphosate, for example—or that may have a synergistic relationship with mercury in triggering autism.
RS: Why is no one studying the causes of autism?
RFK, JR: That's part of the blowback from the CDC's efforts to cover its tracks on thimerosal. No one—not the FDA, CDC, IOM, NIH or EPA, nor the universities—are even pretending to study the environmental causes of the epidemics in pediatric neurodevelopmental disorders or food allergies. The former president of Merck's vaccine division acknowledged to me recently that vaccines are a likely culprit in the food allergy epidemic, but he told me that no one is studying it. How can that possibly be?
RS: Well, let me ask you that. How is it possible?
RFK, JR: The CDC has gone to monumental lengths to make sure no one performs studies that might even inadvertently expose the link between thimerosal and autism. In 2004, the CDC arm-twisted the IOM into making the extraordinary declaration that any questions on the links between vaccines and these diseases had been settled and ought never to be studied again. When does a scientist ever say anything like that? In science, nothing is ever settled. Everything is a hypothesis subject to revision when contrary evidence emerges. Science says you always keep investigating and questioning assumptions. That IOM declaration was the opposite of science. It was like the Catholic Church silencing Copernicus because of its fear that scientific knowledge might endanger the institution. The CDC then effectively closed access to the Vaccine Safety Data link—America's largest repository for vaccine safety information—and forced FDA and the IOM to abandon their own scheduled studies of thimerosal toxicity. The CDC has effectively stopped everyone from studying the links. Scientists who try to do the research get blackballed and the journals are too intimidated to publish research that raises questions about vaccine or thimerosal safety.
RS: Yes, it seems odd to say, "No studies of this should ever be done."
RFK, JR: It's quite extraordinary. This is why most of the good science now is coming from abroad. To give American scientists busywork, the NIH encourages them to study the genetics of autism—so there is lots of money going down that rathole. Or they do just plain silly studies. They look at paternal age or maternal drinking which haven't changed enough to explain the epidemic numbers we are seeing over the past 30 years. In this way, the CDC and NIH and the pharmaceutical companies have compromised all the great universities and research centers—MIT, UC Davis, the Simons Foundation, Princeton and Yale, among many others. So these researchers all get their grant money. But, of course, they will never find the cause. We know that the epidemic is caused by environmental toxins. As Dr. Boyd Haley says, "Genes don't cause epidemics." Genes can provide vulnerabilities, but you need an environmental toxin. Yet no one is looking for the toxin. It's like studying the genetic causes of sunburn without looking at the role of the sun! It's all designed to keep us from learning answers that might embarrass the CDC.
RS: And the ultimate beneficiary is Pharma?
RFK, JR: Vaccines have become a $30 billion dollar bonanza for Pharma and vaccine makers. Just like the tobacco, oil and chemical industries, Pharma employs strategies to get sham science published and to block the kind of science that threatens bottom lines. The food industry and corporate agriculture use the same tactics and, often, the same scientists and PR firms. These fellows have us swimming around in a toxic soup! The science journals and universities have been corrupted. Science today is rarely a search for existential truth. There's not much money in that. We know very little about glyphosate even though it's infiltrated our food supply and our bodies. Stephanie Seneff at MIT has shown that glyphosate operates along the same toxicity pathways as mercury in the brain.
RS: Why don't pediatricians object?
RFK, JR: Well, there are many pediatricians who have grave doubts about thimerosal safety and would like better science. I meet many pediatricians who are reticent about the schedule and have seen vaccine damage in their patients, but they are terrified to speak out. They know they will face intimidation by their peers. There's a name for this phenomenon. It's called the "Semmelweis reflex". Ignaz Semmelweis was the obstetrician who first proposed antiseptic procedures. His work implied that physicians using the current protocols were actually making people sick. The medical community ridiculed and marginalized him, and took away his medical practice. I show in my thimerosal book how the medical community destroyed the career of British physician and epidemiologist, Alice Stewart, when she demonstrated that the routine practice of giving x-rays to pregnant women was causing cancer in their children. Herbert Needleman and Rachel Carson got the same treatment. In the same way, today's doctors who are brave enough to talk about vaccine safety concerns often get punished. Look what happened to Andy Wakefield, Mark Geier, Bob Sears, and Anju Usman. These were all courageous physicians, the kind that I would want caring for my children. They each made the career mistake of standing up for their patients, acting as healers, questioning authority and speaking truth to power. The medical establishment made examples of them.
RS: But why don't more pediatricians stand up and speak out?
RFK, JR: Most pediatricians are not reading the research science. In my own experience, I find that even the ones that get the journals don't read beyond the abstracts, which rarely contain the controversial findings. Pediatricians are overworked so they trust the CDC and AAP to tell them what the science says. The AAP is totally co-opted by Pharma dollars. And individual physicians are subject to perverse economic incentives from Pharma and insurers to keep them in line.
RS: What do you mean by perverse incentives?
RFK, JR: A few weeks ago, someone gave me a Blue Cross Blue Shield Compensation and Bonus Program for pediatricians. The program provided a $40 bonus to the pediatrician for every on-time vaccine up to $400 per child. A typical practice could include 1500 children. So that is a good half million dollar annual incentive to vaccinate according to the schedule and not to ask too many questions about safety. Even worse, the program punishes doctors who fail to fully vaccinate at least 63% of their practice on time. Those doctors lose 100% of the bonus. The system is designed to pressure pediatricians to vaccinate even when there are contraindications. It explains why vaccine-hesitant parents encounter open hostility from pediatricians when they express reticence or concern. It explains why pediatricians rarely fully inform each patient about vaccine risks and side effects as the law requires.
RS: What do you and the World Mercury Project team hope to accomplish?
RFK, JR: Our ultimate goal is to get mercury and other metals out of vaccines and medical products including dental amalgams. We also aim to reduce or eliminate other mercury exposures from industry, mining, energy production and consumer products. We want safe vaccines, robust transparent science and an honest and independent regulatory agency focused narrowly on public health rather than industry profit.
RS: How do you hope to advance this strategically?
RFK, JR: Our immediate efforts center on forcing a debate in the press—making reporters actually look at the science and realize they've been lied to and bamboozled by the hucksters at the CDC.
RS: What would be the cost of switching to non-thimerosal vaccines?
RFK, JR: I've seen industry estimates of 20 cents per vaccine which is a relatively trivial price. But Professor José Dórea just published a peer-reviewed answer to this question in the November issue of Environmental Research. He estimates the cost at less than 1¢ per vaccine. The total global cost would be less than the $2 million annually for vaccines for the100 million children currently receiving thimerosal-containing vaccines. That is less than the lifetime cost of caring for a single child with autism. The industry already produces non-thimerosal versions of all these vaccines so the switch would be quick.
RS: I've heard you talk about captive regulatory agencies, do you mean the CDC?
RFK, JR: The CDC is a subsidiary of the pharmaceutical industry. The agency owns more than 20 vaccine patents and purchases and sells $4.1 billion in vaccines annually. Congressman Dave Weldon has pointed out that the primary metric for success across the CDC is how many vaccines the agency sells and how successfully the agency expands its vaccine program—regardless of any negative effects on human health. Weldon exposed how the Immunization Safety Office, which is supposed to ensure vaccine efficacy and safety, has become subsumed in that metric. The scientists in that part of the agency should no longer be considered part of the public safety sector. Their function is to promote vaccines. As Dr. Thompson has attested, they are routinely ordered to destroy, manipulate and conceal evidence of adverse vaccine reactions in order to protect that ultimate metric. The CDC should not be the agency that we are relying on for oversight of the vaccine program. It's the hen guarding the wolf house. It's not just the CDC. Virtually all the institutions that are supposed to stand between a rapacious industry and vulnerable children have been compromised.
RS: When you say that all the institutions have been compromised, who are you really talking about?
RFK, JR: Congress, the regulatory agencies, FDA and CDC, the IOM, the NIH, the AAP, the science journals, the university science departments and the press. Pharma has a broad reach.
RS: Are you saying that Pharma also corrupts our nation's lawmakers?
RFK, JR: Pharma is the largest lobbyist in Washington. It now has more lobbyists on Capitol Hill than there are Congresspeople. The industry spends twice as much on lobbying as oil and gas and almost four times as much as the defense and aerospace industries. Imagine that! Congress was already drowning in Pharma money in 1986 when it gave those companies immunity from lawsuits arising from vaccine injury. In that way, vaccine makers rid themselves of the courts and the lawyers. With Congress and the regulatory agencies already captured, Pharma succeeded in thereby eliminating the final check and balance against bad corporate behavior in a free market. Once they were liberated from liability, vaccines became a major industry profit center. It was that legislation that launched the vaccine bonanza that began in 1988.
RS: What has been the role of the press?
RFK, JR: The media is complicit in the cataclysm. At least part of the reason is financial. America is one of only two nations in the world that allows pharmaceutical ads on television. Drug companies are the largest advertisers on TV and radio. They spend $3-$5.4 billion annually to saturate the airwaves with 80 advertisements every hour. Anyone who watches network news quickly understands that it has devolved into a vehicle for selling pharmaceuticals. That lucre seems to have neutralized the news divisions at CNN, ABC, NBC and CBS. Fox News alone is uncorrupted, but only because its shameless purpose, from its inception, has been to promote the ascendancy of corporate power. Fox's former CEO, Roger Ailes, was sympathetic with the cause but he told me that he would have to fire any of his hosts who allowed me on his network to discuss mercury in vaccines or autism if I cost them an advertiser. He said, "Bobby, if I let you on to talk about vaccines, Rupert would be on the phone with me in ten minutes."
RS: What about the national environmental groups?
RFK, JR: Sadly, AWOL.
RS: You mentioned the science journals?
RFK, JR: The science journals are also corrupted. It's common for these journals to receive half or more of their income from pharma ads and reprint orders. Many of them are owned by drug companies. Dr. Marcia Angell, the former editor of the New England Journal of Medicine and Richard Horton, the current editor-in-chief of The Lancet, the world's two preeminent science journals, have both recently declared that half of their articles are untrue—concocted by authors compromised by "flagrant conflicts of interest." Pharma's stranglehold on the journals keeps independent vaccine safety science from ever getting published. Just this month, the Swiss journal, Frontiers in Public Health, cancelled publication of the first vaccinated/unvaccinated study. The study showed that vaccinated children had less measles and rubella, but four times as many neurological disorders—including autism –and 30 times the incidence of allergies. Frontiers panicked after it put up the abstract and got 78,000 views in a day and, presumably, a lot of heat from pharma. I could give you a parade of other examples of great studies that either can't find a publisher, or get published and then taken down as soon as the journals feel the heat. As it turns out, the people who run those journals are no Bravehearts. Self-preservation is the overriding motivation.
RS: Is there a conspiracy among the government agencies and the press?
RFK, JR: Certainly, there is an overt conspiracy by a small group within the CDC vaccine division. It's explicit. You can watch it unfold if you read the Simpsonwood transcripts and the related emails which you can find on the World Mercury Project website. It's chilling. You have all these bureaucrats and industry officials sitting there staring at the CDC's internal study that proves that thimerosal caused the autism epidemic. Their focus quickly moves away from a public health concern to a cover-up—how to hide what they've done from the public. One of the Simpsonwood attendees, University of Colorado immunologist, Dr. Robert Johnson, declares to the group that he is not going to allow his newborn grandson to receive thimerosal containing vaccines. Yet none of the meeting participants ever came forward to warn the public of the risks to THEIR children's health! Instead, they all agree to keep the study secret. We know the names of the conspirators. These particular guys all ought to be playing Rock Hockey in Spandau with three hots and a cot in the Albert Speer suite. I don't know how they live with it. I guess they just pray that there is no God and no such thing as a divine justice. We know what Jesus said about people who harm little children. It was the single sin he considered unforgiveable.
RS: But certainly it's a small group that conspired?
RFK, JR: Right. But then, there were a lot of power centers—the industry, the media, the political leaders, the medical community—that found it in their own self-interest to not scrutinize or question the CDC narrative too closely. In that way, a tiny explicit conspiracy made the evolutionary leap to widespread orthodoxy. Pharma's unlimited reach and wealth helped cement the consensus. That proliferation of the gospel swept up the other regulators, the press, the environmental groups, the science journals, the AAP, the AMA and other medical associations, and the pediatricians in a kind of consensus dogma much larger than the explicit conspiracy. It's akin to what happened to the Catholic Church during the pedophile scandal. The institution suddenly became more important than the children it was supposed to protect. Only a few individuals were actively involved in raping children and shuffling known pedophile priests to unsuspecting dioceses. But everyone became complicit—from the bishops and priests, the doctors, to the press and police. You can judge the power of the orthodoxy by the way it often swept up the parents of abused children and even the victims. It was in everyone's self-interest to keep their mouths shut. Orthodoxies don't require overt collusion. The same thing happened with the NFL in the concussion scandal.
RS: You use the term orthodoxy—and in some ways this is like a religion, isn't it?
RFK, JR: It's exactly like religion. It's certainly not science. It's blind faith in the CDC's word about what the science says. It's like the Middle Ages, when the Catholic Church kept the scriptures in Latin, a language Jesus never spoke, so that no one could read them except the priests and everyone just had to take their word for what God says. Among American journalists, this cult-like parroting of the CDC's safety assurances has become a kind of lazy man's science. There's never any fact checking. There's this pervasive insistence that we not talk about vaccine safety and never question the government. Instead of scientific argument, the debate has deteriorated into "argument by credential". Reporters cite government safety assurances as if the CDC was a divine authority. Also, it's corollary "argument by insult." Scientists and celebrities and bereaved mothers who question vaccine safety are shamed, marginalized and black-balled. It's like the way the Inquisition burned religious heretics. Like other theologies, this one comes with its own set of taboos and superstitions and mythologies. You hear these repeated over and over like a Gregorian chant. "There is no mercury in vaccines." "The mercury came out and autism rates continued climbing." "Multiple studies have proven it safe." "Ethyl mercury is non-toxic." "The hysteria all began with Dr. Andrew Wakefield and his retracted study in The Lancet." Of course, all of these articles of faith are patently and demonstrably false. They had to make a religion out of it because the facts wouldn't countenance their assertions. And as with all orthodoxies, it's cruel and occasionally lethal.
RS: How does the press help to enforce the orthodoxy?
RFK, JR: Newspapers and electronic media outlets have suppressed legitimate debate over vaccine safety or the ongoing corruption scandals at the CDC. They allow Paul Offit and other pharma shills almost unlimited use of the airwaves to spout Pharma propaganda—always unquestioned and unanswered. Newspapers won't publish Op Eds or letters or comments from vaccine safety advocates. Even alternative press—like Huffington Post, Drudge Report, Salon, Slate and Mother Jones won't allow discussion—and these are supposedly the antidote to a corporate controlled media. Astonishingly, many journalists openly advocate the censoring of any discussion about vaccine safety.
RS: When parents first started talking to the media about thimerosal around 2002, we could get a lot of good coverage. Now it's nearly impossible to get any mainstream press at all, even at the local level. What has your experience been like in getting coverage on the link between thimerosal and autism?
RFK, JR: It's Kafkaesque. It's an impenetrable cocoon of censorship. Talking to reporters about this is like dealing with the Borg. Investigative reporter Sharyl Attkisson calls it the most censored story of the century. It's bewildering for me to see the American press cowed before government officials. It ought to be humiliating. Daniel Schulman pointed out in the Columbia Journalism Review that all this journalistic reticence is rooted in fear. He called the controversy "career ending" for journalists. Reporters know if they talk about this, they're going to lose their jobs. Nobody reads the science. Reporters don't even read the abstracts. I've yet to find a reporter—even so-called science reporters like Keith Kloor who writes about this issue regularly—who has read the relevant science. It is really quite frightening. The blackout is complete, as DeNiro learned when he tried to screen Vaxxed in SoHo. They have abolished discussion from the public square. The American press has a lot of explaining to do and hopefully a lot of soul-searching.
RS: Have you personally experienced censorship in speaking out about injuries caused by thimerosal-containing vaccines?
RFK, JR: Yes, many times. I could spend this entire interview chronicling the stories. It would soon sound like whining. The biggest disappointment has been The New York Times. I love that paper; it's such a critical institution for our country and our democracy! They made the dreadful mistake, cheerleading the run up to the Iraq War. They were manipulated by undeserving public officials. They had to apologize for leading our country into that costly quagmire. Their mistake on the thimerosal issue has been even more costly. I've met and corresponded repeatedly with the reporters, columnists, the science editors, editorial board and the public editor. I've written letter after letter. I brought a squadron of scientists and dragged a pile of scientific studies into a meeting with the paper's editorial board. They gave me the meeting, but all of them were sullen and impervious. They refused to even look at the studies. It's tragic because their evangelical message discipline on thimerosal's supposed safety has anointed the CDC narrative with moral authority among less rigorous news outlets.
RS: Is it all about the advertising dollars then?
RFK, JR: It's more complex. The media's silence on this issue is not simply a quid pro quo for billions of dollars of annual pharmaceutical advertising. Most reporters and media outlets accept the muzzle because they think they are safeguarding public health. They believe that allowing debate about vaccine safety and CDC corruption may cause the public to stop vaccinating.
RS: Do you think that's a legitimate rationale?
RFK, JR: It's not black and white. There have been times in American history when journalists have agreed, legitimately, to hold stories for brief periods of time for national security reasons but it's always a slippery slope. And, this situation is unique. The embargo has lasted a decade. Journalism is wandering into a minefield when media outlets take on the responsibility of protecting Americans from dangerous knowledge. Democracy is messy and difficult, but I think journalists nearly always need to come down on the side of transparency. And I don't think that coming clean will destroy the vaccine program. As the late NIH Director Bernadine Healy said, "Americans are smarter than that." Healy believed that a vigorous and open debate would not diminish but rather strengthen the vaccine program.
RS: Is there any evidence that insulation from scrutiny has actually strengthened the vaccine program?
RFK, JR: That's the irony. Rather than strengthening public support for vaccines, the laws that shield the vaccine industry from lawsuits combined with the absence of political and press scrutiny, have emboldened the CDC to sanction increasingly reckless conduct by vaccine makers. Because the press won't cover CDC corruption, we now have a rogue agency that's completely unaccountable. Its senior vaccine safety scientist has just come forward to admit that the CDC routinely destroys data. Its key studies are fraudulent. If what Dr. Thompson is saying is true, the implications are monumental. It means that CDC officials knowingly sanctioned the unnecessary injection of brain killing poison into an entire generation of American children, and children all over the world.
RS: What about the vaccine companies?
RFK, JR: The pharmaceutical companies know that nothing they do will be questioned when it comes to vaccines. Look, just use common sense. Every year, we see million, or even billion-dollar litigation settlements against Merck, Pfizer, Novartis, Glaxo, Abbott, and Lilly for false marketing, off label uses, adulterated products, falsifying science, kickbacks and fraudulent safety data in their pharmaceutical products. Just a couple months ago, vaccine maker Glaxo Smith Kline paid $20 million to the SEC to settle charges of funneling $489 million in bribes to physicians in China. We see shenanigans like that all the time in the United States and there's this whole industry of trial lawyers making very good livelihoods telling those stories to juries. How do you imagine those same companies would behave if they suddenly got rid of the lawyers, the courts, the depositions, the class action lawsuits, and the multi-district litigations? What would happen if they then got rid of the press? Why in the world do we think that these same companies have somehow made their vaccine programs off limits to these crooked strategies? It's a comical fiction. You have to be almost purposefully naive to believe it. And yet, America's most prestigious media outlets have all been gulled into swallowing it.
RS: How do we get the mainstream media to finally cover this issue honestly?
RFK, JR: We have to make this such a potent presence on social media that it gives mainstream reporters a sense they can now proceed safely. We just need a few journalists to break rank, look at the science and write the truth. The moment we succeed in forcing the debate, this entire pretense will collapse. Everyone will see that the emperor has no clothes. By stacking fraud upon fraud upon fraud, the CDC has created an edifice so high, so wobbly and so fragile that a light breeze of scrutiny will bring the whole thing tumbling down. You can accomplish the same thing—forcing debate—with a lawsuit or you can do it with a single courageous news outlet. If the Atlanta Journal-Constitution did a series on CDC corruption or if 60 Minutes did a segment investigating the science? Game over! CDC has no science to support its position that isn't blatantly fraudulent. These fabricated epidemiological studies are comical. All we need to do is force the debate.
RS: Are you confident you would win that debate?
RFK, JR: Yes. I will obliterate them. It's not because I'm a great debater, it's just that they have no factual basis for their assertions. I've read virtually all the science—both sides—and I know the flimsiness of the reed upon which they rest their theology.
RS: You said this is the sickest generation in history. Is this hyperbole?
RFK, JR: Ask any school nurse who has been around for a few decades. In addition to autism, we now have epidemics of other neurological disorders like ADD, ADHD, tics and narcolepsy, SIDS, and seizure disorder. The CDC says that one in every six US children now suffers from a developmental disorder. This is not normal. Asthma and food allergies are also suddenly exploding in the same thimerosal-exposed generation. School infirmaries have whole cupboards for the Epi pens and inhalers. All of these conditions are associated in the scientific literature with vaccines, mercury, and with thimerosal specifically. Think about when you were in school. How many people did you know with peanut allergies and autism? EPA scientists found that the greatest increase in ASD prevalence occurred in cohorts born between 1987 and 1992. The so called "changepoint year" was 1988. That's the timeframe that the CDC began expanding the vaccine schedule, increasing mercury exposures from 75mcg to 237.5 mcg before the second birthday.
RS: The fact that it's mainly boys who are injured is additional evidence of mercury's central role?
RFK, JR: Mercury disproportionately affects boys because testosterone amplifies the neurotoxic effects of mercury. Conversely, estrogen wraps the mercury molecule and protects the female brain. That's why these disorders tend to selectively affect males and girls with unusually high testosterone. Any scientist genuinely searching for the cause of this epidemic must begin by identifying a toxin that suddenly increased across every demographic in 1988 and affects boys at a 4 to 1 ratio.
RS: Parents of vaccine-injured children were heartened to learn that you and your law partner are trying to subpoena CDC whistleblower, Dr. William Thompson for the Hazelhurst case in Tennessee. Can you let our readers know how that's going?
RFK, JR: Yeah, Bryan Smith of Morgan and Morgan is the kind of extraordinary bulldog plaintiff's lawyer that makes Pharm tremble. Our Client, Yates Hazelhurst, regressed into autism after receiving vaccines that included thimerosal.
Yates' case survived the dismissal of the other 5,000 cases in the Omnibus Autism Proceeding. His is the only case in 30 years that has been allowed to allege that vaccines can cause autism. His case survived because Yates' parents sued not just the pharmaceutical company but also Yates' pediatrician for breaching his standard of care. The biggest impediments against Yates' prevailing are the 2004 IOM declaration that vaccines are not linked to autism and the Supreme Court's Bruesewitz holding which relied on the IOM. These decisions both rested heavily on Dr. Thompson's Pediatrics study published in 2004. Dr. Thompson now says that the study was the product of fraud, data manipulation, and data destruction. That study has been cited in at least 110 subsequent studies published in PubMed and is the principle foundation of the orthodoxy that vaccines are not causing autism. We've asked to subpoena Dr. Thompson because his testimony will show that the central foundation stone for the orthodoxy is fraudulent. Under federal law, you can't subpoena a federal agency employee unless you can show that his testimony couldn't be obtained from any other source. Of course, that's true in this case because there were only 4 people who witnessed the CDC data dump and nobody else is talking. However, the federal law requires that the first step in that process is to petition the head of the agency and ask for permission to subpoena the employee. CDC Director Dr. Thomas Friedan denied our request, which was not a surprise. The CDC has much to lose from Thompson's truthful testimony. We are now appealing that decision in federal court.
RS: How can people who want to help with your efforts get involved?
RFK, JR: They can go to our website and sign up to be members of the World Mercury Project. Also, because we're going to litigate against the CDC and certain state health commissioners, we need members for standing. If you're willing to be a member for standing and you have a child injured by thimerosal or if you yourself were injured by thimerosal, let us know. Even if you have no known vaccine injuries in your family, we can use you. Right now we are trying to sign up pregnant women and parents with young children for planned litigation in New York, California, Iowa, Missouri, Illinois, and Delaware. We would love to sign you up as a member. That doesn't mean you'll be involved in the litigation. In most cases, we would just need to get an affidavit from you. We need to sign up as many parents of vaccine-injured children as possible. Just go to the World Mercury Project website and say you support our efforts.
RS: Is there anything we as parents can do?
RFK, JR: World Mercury Project also has an effort we're calling our Virtual Senate Hearing Project where we are getting mothers and fathers to tell their stories about their vaccine-injured children. We are working with the Vaxxed team on this project. We need short home videos, less than two minutes. We want parents to tell their stories as if they were speaking in a Senate hearing. We welcome the participation of anyone who has a vaccine-injury story to tell. We want to create an archive of stories from the autism generation. Just go to the website for instructions.
RS: Earlier, you mentioned the heavy toll it takes on scientists and celebrities to question vaccine safety. Do you have concerns about your own career and reputation or safety for speaking out on vaccine injury?
RFK, JR: Those things are irrelevant to me. The injuries that I've suffered from a decade of attacks by Pharma's trolls and toadies are dwarfed by the agonies experienced by an autistic child and his family during a single hour of any single day. I don't know what to make of the countless journalists, scientists and doctors who have told me that they can't speak up because of their careers…or maybe I do. Einstein said that "The world is a dangerous place not because of those who do evil, but because of those who look on and do nothing."
For more information on the World Autism Project and to get involved, click here.