Robert De Niro on Saturday said his Tribeca Film Festival has pulled an anti-vaccination film from the lineup, a day after defending the decision to screen it as "providing the opportunity for a conversation."
The makers of "Vaxxed: From Cover-Up to Conspiracy" billed the film as an investigation into a Centers for Disease Control study that found the MMR (measles, mumps and rubella) vaccine does not cause autism. It alleges the CDC committed fraud.
The film's director is Andrew Wakefield, who suggested a possible link between vaccines and autism and had his medical license stripped in 2010. He published a study alleging the link in the medical journal Lancet in 1998, but the research was widely discredited and the Lancet later retracted it.
"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,” De Niro said in a statement. "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.”
De Niro has a child with autism. He said Friday that he is not anti-vaccination, but said "I am only providing the opportunity for a conversation around the issue" in defending the screening. De Niro is co-founder of the festival.
Repeated studies and years of research have found no link between vaccines and autism. Resistance by some parents to vaccinate their children over health fears has been blamed as one of the causes of an increase in Measles like the 2015 Disneyland outbreak.
Wakefield and producer Del Bigtree accused Tribeca of pulling the film after an organization affiliated with the festival made allegations about the film which they had no opportunity to address.
"We have just witnessed yet another example of the power of corporate interests censoring free speech, art, and truth," they said in a statement posted to Facebook Saturday. "Tribeca's action will not succeed in denying the world access to the truth behind the film Vaxxed."