After reaping a whirlwind of controversy over the past few days surrounding the screening of a film by anti-vaccination ex-doctor Andrew Wakefield, the Tribeca Film Festival says it will no longer be shown. Robert De Niro, Tribeca’s co-founder, released a statement Saturday afternoon announcing its cancellation.
The inclusion of Vaxxed proved immediately controversial for Tribeca; Wakefield claims there is a link between the MMR vaccine and autism, and that the CDC is engaged in a coverup, ignoring that the MMR vaccine increases autism rates, especially among African-American boys. (Vaccines, for the billionth time, do not cause autism and despite Wakefield’s claims, there’s no proof that the CDC is engaged in a vast coverup.)
Just yesterday, De Niro defended screening Vaxxed, saying it would promote “conversation.” A day later, per his statement, he has changed his mind:
“My intent in screening this film was to provide an opportunity for conversation around an issue that is deeply personal to me and my family. But after reviewing it over the past few days with the Tribeca Film Festival team and others from the scientific community, we do not believe it contributes to or furthers the discussion I had hoped for.
The Festival doesn’t seek to avoid or shy away from controversy. However, we have concerns with certain things in this film that we feel prevent us from presenting it in the Festival program. We have decided to remove it from our schedule.”
The link to Vaxxed on the Tribeca website, whose comments section devolved into an argument about vaccine efficacy, is now dead. Wakefield has yet to comment on the film being pulled; his last public post, on Facebook, urged his followers to thank Tribeca for screening the film.
De Niro at Tribeca 2015. Photo via Getty Images