This year’s Tribeca Film Festival will include a screening of a film by Andrew Wakefield, the former doctor who was stripped of his medical license after authoring a discredited study that implied a link between vaccines and autism. A spokesperson for the film tells Jezebel that there will be “celebrity support” for the film at the screening.
Andrew Wakefield, who lost his medical license in the United Kingdom in 2010, was one of the speakers aboard the Conspira Sea, a cruise for conspiracy theorists I recently attended for Jezebel. He was promoting his anti-vaccination film at the time, then provisionally titled Injecting Lies. In an early presentation, he claimed that Leonardo DiCaprio was involved in helping to promote the film. (He denied having said that when I asked him about it a few days later.)
None of the reporters onboard the ship were allowed to see Injecting Lies. It was one of a handful of times when we were made to leave the room during presentations deemed too powerful for the media to witness. Wakefield told us he had “worked too hard” to allow the film to be seen by journalists before it was fully ready.
Meanwhile, Wakefield told Conspira Sea attendees the film includes interviews with family physicians who became anti-vaccination after seeing his evidence. (Wakefield claims the Centers for Disease Control and the Food and Drug Administration are ignoring a link between vaccines and autism, especially among African American boys. That claim has been extensively debunked).
And now, as the science blog Respectful Insolence was first to note, the film, with a new name, is set to screen at Tribeca on April 24. It’s now titled Vaxxed: From Cover-Up to Catastrophe. Wakefield is listed as the writer and the director.
We also now know the name of one of the doctors who appear in the film: he’s a celebrity pediatrician named Jim Sears, who has appeared on a CBS program called The Doctors. (Another physician, Dr. Luc Montagnier, a French virologist, is also listed as appearing in the film. He previously spoke at an autism conference put on by noted anti-vaxxer Jenny McCarthy.)
On Facebook, Sears wrote Monday that while he is a “pro-vaccine pediatrician,” he’s come to believe, like Wakefield, that maybe the CDC is engaged in a vast coverup:
To be perfectly clear: I am a pro-vaccine pediatrician. Just today in my office I gave my patients all of their required vaccines. I treated patients with high fevers and was thankful they had been vaccinated, so I could be much more confident saying “It’s probably just a virus…”
But I am also a pro-truth pediatrician. I rely on agencies like the CDC to provide me with guidance when it comes to the health of my patients. My life has been dedicated to the health of children. I want the vaccines that I give to be safe and effective. When I was presented with evidence provided by a top CDC scientist named Dr. William Thompson who has stated clearly that the CDC committed fraud on the MMR autism study I felt compelled to make my comments included in the film, VAXXED: From Cover-Up To Catastrophe.
I sincerely hope that fraud was NOT committed by the CDC. But the only way to know the truth is for the Congress of the United States to subpoena Dr. William Thompson as he has requested. I hope there is a logical explanation why the researchers decided to omit important data, and then cover up this omission. But I will only be satisfied when that explanation is made in a Congressional hearing. This film is asking for that explanation.
Vaxxed is being represented by a company called Lighthouse Public Relations. We spoke with Dawna Schuman of Lighthouse today, who again denied that Leonardo DiCaprio is involved with promoting the film in any way.
That said, she added, “There’s been people who have supported it. A lot of people have liked the idea of the film. Nobody’s lent their name publicly to the film.”
That’s going to change at the Tribeca screening, Schuman added: “There is celebrity support and they’ll be attending in New York.”
Schuman was also aware that I had previously called a public relations firm called Sunshine Sachs that has long represented DiCaprio to ask if he was involving in promoting the film.
“I heard you were asking about that,” she told me.
Schuman also defended the science behind the film: “It’s been vetted. In this film the science is presented and supported.”
We’ve reached out to Tribeca for comment and will update when we hear back.
Update, 5:20 p.m.:
Tammie Rosen, Tribeca’s senior vice-president for communications, sent us the following statement:
“Tribeca, as most film festivals, are about dialogue and discussion. Over the years we have presented many films from opposing sides of an issue. We are a forum, not a judge.”
Andrew Wakefield pictured in 2010. Image via AP.