Green Party presidential candidate Jill Stein has a long history of pandering to anti-vaxxers. On the campaign trail, she has carefully crafted statements about vaccines — even deleting tweets when they don’t strike the right balance for her — to cast just enough doubt on vaccines’ safety, despite the overwhelming scientific evidence that suggests they are safe and effective. This, it seems, is all meant to pander to a bloc of Green Party voters who are worried, despite all the scientific evidence to the contrary, that vaccines may cause autism.
In a piece for Vox, blogger Ben Spielberg tries to defend Stein’s history by arguing that Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama are guilty of pandering too:
Maybe you disagree, but if you do and are complaining that Stein has "pandered to anti-vaxxers" because of her use of phrases like "that I am aware of," you should also have been furious with both Clinton and Barack Obama in 2008. Clinton said that she was "committed to make investments to find the possible causes of autism, including possible environmental causes like vaccines." Obama said a link between "a skyrocketing autism rate" and vaccines was "inconclusive, but we have to research it." Such missteps should not be a political death sentence (or if they should, the sentence should be applied even-handedly).
Let’s be clear: What Clinton and Obama did in 2008 was bad. No excuses for it. Vaccines are safe. The research has shown they do not cause autism or other serious medical problems. They have helped save millions of lives by eradicating and limiting horrifying diseases.
But there’s a huge difference between pandering to anti-vaxxers in 2008 — as Clinton and Obama did — and pandering to anti-vaxxers in 2016, as Jill Stein has repeatedly done. Robinson Meyer, a science writer for the Atlantic, explained on Twitter:
I’m happy Jill Stein’s position on vaccines has improved over time, but this piece’s comparisons are misleading: https://t.co/Ql3Kiuw7oA— Robinson Meyer (@yayitsrob) October 24, 2016
As I wrote over in August, Obama and HRC *did* equivocate on vaccines in 2008. But consensus has improved since ’08. https://t.co/2YgPavngS5— Robinson Meyer (@yayitsrob) October 24, 2016
In particular, the only clinical study ever to connect autism and vaccines was revealed as fraudulent in 2010. https://t.co/IE9P8SWryK— Robinson Meyer (@yayitsrob) October 24, 2016
Researchers also no longer think there is a skyrocketing autism rate (and decline to pathologize it, generally). https://t.co/8hR7VcUxdh— Robinson Meyer (@yayitsrob) October 24, 2016
This isn’t to excuse BHO, HRC, or McCain—but it’s simply inaccurate to compare Stein’s ’16 equivocations with their remarks 8 years prior.— Robinson Meyer (@yayitsrob) October 24, 2016
Worth noting: HRC is the only candidate *not* to have pandered to anti-vaxers during this election cycle. https://t.co/2YgPavngS5— Robinson Meyer (@yayitsrob) October 24, 2016
So back in 2008, the research around vaccines and autism was a tad murkier. It was not and has never been the medical consensus that vaccines are dangerous, but one could argue reasonable doubt and not look totally ridiculous.
Since then, the only study ever to find a link between vaccines and autism was declared fraudulent in 2010, and the prestigious Institute of Medicine released its meta-analysis in 2011 finding vaccines do not cause autism or other serious medical conditions. There’s no longer any room for reasonable doubt — making Stein’s recent pandering all the worse.