The nation’s top health official, Secretary of Health and Human Services Alex Azar, praised his boss Donald Trump on Monday for supposedly contributing to some kind of scientific “debate” about whether vaccines cause autism (they do not) and that it is now “settled” and Trump deserves even more credit for changing his mind (literally the least he could do).
Per Politico, Azar told reporters on Monday that when Trump repeatedly, and over the course of several years, tweeted conspiracy theories alluding to a non-existent link between vaccinations and autism, as well as floated the possibility of creating a commission headed by an antivaxxer to prove him right, that was part of a “debate about this issue but it’s been settled.”
Azar added, “The scientific community generated definitive information so we can reassure every parent there is no link.”
The scientific community has, in fact, been confident that vaccines are safe and do not cause autism for many years. They were not suddenly prompted to investigate the matter because Trump brought it up.
Azar then alluded to Trump’s recent (and almost certainly begrudging) acknowledgment last week that children “have to get the shots” and that “The vaccinations are so important,” suggesting he deserves credit for that too.
“The president is very clear that children should get their shots, that parents should make sure they are up to date,” Azar said. “Most of us have never seen these devastating diseases and that’s how we want to keep it. They belong in the history books and not in our emergency rooms.”
In other words, when Trump says something that is completely and totally wrong and has been repeatedly debunked, he deserves credit for causing a “debate” that was settled in the first place. Then, if he changes his mind, he should also get credit for... not continuing to deliberately spread misinformation.
Azar is, of course, aware that the U.S. is currently facing the worst measles outbreaks on record since the year 2000, and it is in large part because of antivax conspiracy theories. But careful observers will note that his remarks on Monday are almost the exact same defense Trump offered after his lies that former President Barack Obama may have been secretly born in Kenya. No better way to flatter the boss! Republicans nationwide are also increasingly aligned against attempts to tighten vaccination requirements nationwide, because freedom or something.
Trump officials have been in the awkward position of defending their infamously thin-skinned boss’s idiot remarks on various issues since he was in office. Some of the most embarrassing examples have involved scientific or medical issues, with White House staff having been forced to pretend it is up in the air whether wind turbines cause cancer, and spin climate science reports to claim they are “not based on facts” or just dodge the subject entirely, and lie about when and how doctors perform abortions. Tune in next week, when Trump will inevitably backtrack and someone has to claim there’s new evidence out for the autism hypothesis.