De Niro Defends Screening of Anti-Vaxxer Film
He says he wants a 'conversation around the issue'
By Rob Quinn, Newser Staff
Posted Mar 26, 2016 8:12 AM CDT
Film star Robert De Niro poses for photos during a launching ceremony of the Studio City project in Macau last fall.   (AP Photo/Kin Cheung)

(Newser) – Robert De Niro says he's not anti-vaccination—he's just in favor of screening an anti-vaccination documentary made by a disgraced medical researcher. The actor is defending his decision to include Vaxxed: From Cover-up to Catastrophe at New York City's Tribeca Film Festival, which he co-founded, Rolling Stone reports. The film is directed and co-written by British anti-vaccination activist Andrew Wakefield, who was stripped of his medical license for ethics violations, reports the New York Times. Wakefield was behind a controversial 1998 study linking vaccines to autism, which was later discredited and retracted by the medical journal that published it.

"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," De Niro said, per Variety. He said that in the 15 years since he founded the festival, he has never been involved in programming, but "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." In an open letter in Filmmaker magazine, documentary maker Penny Lane urged the festival to reconsider its decision to spread "dangerous misinformation."