RFK, Jr. living up to reputation

Someone needs to learn some science. And manners.

Robert F. Kennedy Jr. vaccine conspiracy theory: Scientists and journalists are covering up autism risk. – Slate Magazine.

Robert F. Kennedy Jr. likes to talk. When he calls you to discuss vaccines, he talks a lot, uninterruptably. He called Keith Kloor after Kloor wrote a story for Discover about RFK Jr.’s keynote address to a convention of people who think vaccines cause autism. You can read about their conversation at Kloor’s blog. Phil Plait wrote a story about RFK Jr. for Slate last week, pointing out that the idea that vaccines cause autism is a crackpot theory that has been thoroughly debunked, that it is dangerous, and that RFK Jr. is one of its most effective proponents.

RFK Jr. was displeased. His managing director emailed me (I’m the health and science editor) to say that the story was full of inaccuracies, and I offered to correct any errors right away. He said Kennedy wanted to speak to Plait or me; I requested comments or corrections in writing; we went back and forth. Eventually Kennedy got me on the phone and he talked and I listened.

Oh brother! Way to act like a crackpot. Rude and obnoxious. Thanks to the Slate editor for having the backbone to post this. Your name and apparent influence does not give you the right to ramble on about nonsense and for people to swallow it as true. If the quotes are real in this story, which I presume they are considering how RFK, Jr. likes accuracy, then he really sounds off the wall: “I didn’t know what autism was until I saw Rain Man.” Laura remarks that his conspiracy idea is “delusional and dangerous”. I agree. Time to stop giving him a forum for these rantings.

Take a gander at Phil’s post if you haven’t already.

  8 comments for “RFK, Jr. living up to reputation

  1. June 13, 2013 at 9:40 PM

    Man, even Phil Plait has lost patience with Junior it seems. Can’t blame him, but you are far gone when Dr. Plait gives up on you and shakes his head.

  2. Chris
    June 13, 2013 at 10:40 PM

    I loved this paragraph from Kloor’s blog:

    I had never spoken with Robert Kennedy Jr. before and only know of him through his environmental advocacy and many articles. And even during his phone call to me, I didn’t actually have a conversation with him, because he pretty much talked non-stop for over an hour. The few times I did get a word in I had to loudly interrupt him, which led my wife, who came home towards the end of the call, and who didn’t know who I was speaking with, to ask after I hung up the phone: “Who were you shouting at?”

    In today’s Bad Astronomer blog, Phil Plait explains that he would not take a phone call but would accept something written explaining where he made an error. Which is apparently why his editor, Laura Helmuth, ended up getting that phone call.

    It seems Mr. Kennedy is just relying on being bombastic, and not facts. Apparently Dr. Helmuth (she, like Phil, has a PhD) checked with the scientists that Kennedy referred to the phone call, they both denied Kennedy’s version of their “quotes.”

  3. Aaron
    June 14, 2013 at 12:18 AM

    One of my friends posted a warning pic with information about mercury being in vaccinations. I responded by telling him that single doses in a pre-packed syringes contain no thimerosal (mercury compound), only multiple dose containers do…..NO RESPONSE. I quieted that down without arguing at all! Perfect.

    The “Rain Man” reference (if true) is both hilarious and infuriating. That’s a small percentage of people on the autism spectrum. It’s perhaps better known by the rude term, idiot savant. If I were him, I wouldn’t admit to that being an influence on my perception of autism.

    As far as the perceived increase in autism correlating with vaccination rates, it took thirty years for me to be diagnosed with Asperger’s and I’m sure vaccination rates have gone up since then. When I was young, an interest in science (tested in the 99th percentile; humble brag unintended), philosophy and inept social skills, I was labeled “nerd” and simply accepted it. Now that I know what was wrong and have worked on my social skills, even my worst enemy’s insult is “weirdo”. -I’m happy with that word, because normal people are boooring! I have some great strengths along with my weaknesses, and I can live with that.

    I still believe people should question medicine and do their own research. The problem is that a lot of people don’t know how to do research and simply side with people who already hold their own beliefs and suspicions due to emotions.

  4. RDW
    June 14, 2013 at 1:15 AM

    His father was a great man. I remember being heart-broken when he was murdered.

  5. Nos482
    June 14, 2013 at 3:30 AM

    “The short version of the vaccine conspiracy theory (if you are stuck on the phone with RFK Jr., you will be subjected to the long version)”
    Bwahahaha

  6. Adam
    June 14, 2013 at 9:54 AM

    I think the fact that thimerosal has been removed from child vaccines without affecting autism diagnoses quite emphatically throws that argument down a well where it belows. The wonder is that it’s still parroted so frequently.

  7. Chris
    June 14, 2013 at 11:49 AM

    RDW, his father was murdered when he was in a fragile time in youth (aged 14, think puberty). That may actually have contributed to him later getting addicted to heroin, the judge ordered recovery plan (which included community service in River Keepers), and other recent issues.

  8. Massachusetts
    June 15, 2013 at 3:48 PM

    Coming from a prominent, long-standing political family, and having some achievements of his own to tout, like degrees from prominent universities, I would expect him to be a bit more…politic, when trying to convince others of the validity of his beliefs. It’s very strange.

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