De Niro Pulls VAXXED from Tribeca: Cop Out or Brilliant?| Updated: Jan 31, 2019
The Tribeca Film Festival was in the news in a big way in recent days when festival co-founder and celebrity actor Robert De Niro caused a media firestorm with his controversial decision to screen the documentary VAXXED.
VAXXED is a film is about the Centers for Disease Control’s involvement and cover-up of research demonstrating a causal relationship between the Measles-Mumps-Rubella (MMR) vaccine and autism, most prominently in African-American boys.
Dr. William Thompson, the Senior CDC Scientist who led the agency’s 2004 study on the MMR vaccine and its link to autism revealed the cover-up to Environmental Biologist Brian Hooker PhD in a series of taped phone conversations.
Robert De Niro’s original defense of the film apparently occurred after a one-hour conversation with United States Congressman Bill Posey (R-FL), who has interacted directly and at length with Dr. Thompson and whose legal team has scrutinized the documents that prove fraud at the CDC.
De Niro stated the following in defense of his decision to award VAXXED a coveted spot on the Tribeca line-up:
Grace and I have a child with autism and we believe it is critical that all of the issues surrounding the causes of autism be openly discussed and examined. In the 15 years since the Tribeca Film Festival was founded, I have never asked for a film to be screened or gotten involved in the programming. However this is very personal to me and my family and I want there to be a discussion, which is why we will be screening VAXXED. I am not personally endorsing the film, nor am I anti-vaccination; I am only providing the opportunity for a conversation around the issue.
Then, abruptly, Mr. De Niro changed his mind, stating the following the very next day:
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.
While De Niro has been accused of being a flip flopper, I am not so sure.
De Niro is no dummy and as a celebrity for many decades, is clearly an expert at “working” the media to his advantage. He surely knew far in advance the huge brouhaha that would be caused by his decision to award VAXXED a coveted position on the Tribeca screening lineup and make a big announcement about it.
Is it possible that De Niro very consciously used the publicity to actually help the film? In other words, could he have known all along that he would be forced to pull VAXXED due to the strong ties of Tribeca Enterprises, which owns the film festival, to the pharmaceutical industry?
I think this is very feasible for two reasons. First, the timing of his very personal statement about why he had decided to carry VAXXED at the Tribeca Film Festival. It curiously came on the Friday of one of the biggest extended holiday weekends of the year. Secondly, De Niro’s announcement pulling VAXXED from the line-up shockingly came the very next day, which generated even more froth and a second huge spike on the story – again, occurring over the long holiday weekend causing the spin doctors from the pharma industry to scramble and have less than a perfect shot at snuffing it out quickly. Hence, the film got tremendous publicity and the story got maximum mileage in the media before the predictable attempts to kill it (remember: major media has refused to cover Dr. Thompson’s whistleblower story for close to 2 years!).
If you think that’s a crazy idea, think of it this way.
Can you name even one of the films screened at the Tribeca Film Festival in recent years?
Ok. Let’s make it easier.
Name one film that will be screened at Tribeca this year?
I know I can’t, and my guess is that you probably can’t either.
One thing is for sure. Millions more people know about VAXXED now than before even if the film had never been removed from the Tribeca line-up and was screened as originally announced.
Whether De Niro cleverly devised this whole thing or not, it has clearly worked to the film’s benefit.
Below is the trailer for VAXXED in case you haven’t seen it yet. This whole story is far from over. Stay tuned!
Sarah, The Healthy Home Economist
Sarah Pope has been a Health and Nutrition Educator since 2002. She serves on the Board of Directors for the Weston A. Price Foundation.
Sarah was awarded Activist of the Year at the International Wise Traditions Conference in 2010.
Sarah earned a Bachelor of Arts (summa cum laude, Phi Beta Kappa) in Economics from Furman University and a Master’s degree in Government (Financial Management) from the University of Pennsylvania.
Mother to three healthy children, blogger, and best-selling author, she writes about the practical application of Traditional Diet and evidence-based wellness within the modern household. Her work has been featured by USA Today, The New York Times, National Review, ABC, NBC, and many others.