Liberal comedian Bill Maher is fond of ridiculing conservatives by claiming they are unintelligent, backward and anti-science.
So it is with great amusement that we can sit back now and remember all of the times Maher embraced, with his trademark smarmy confidence, the largely baseless theory that vaccines are bad for people.
We wouldn’t normally single out a random talk show host, but the establishment media has gone all in on the theory that Republicans are endorsing an anti-vaccination position when many of the communities that oppose vaccinations are wealthy and liberal.
Maher’s anti-vaccination position was on most prominent display during an October 2009 interview with former Republican Tennessee Sen. Bill Frist, who is a physician by trade.
During that debate, Maher expressed opposition to the swine flu vaccination while Frist argued in favor of the shot.
“So why would you let [the government] be the ones to stick a disease into your arm? I would never get a swine flu vaccine, or any vaccine. I don’t trust the government, especially with my health,” Maher argued, adopting an anti-government stance he claimed was normally the domain of conservatives.
Frist dismissed Maher’s concerns, telling the comedian that he was literally crazy.
On his show a week later, Maher revisited Frist debate and the response to it in the media.
“It’s actually a risky medical procedure that begs long-term cost-benefit analysis,” Maher said of immunization shots. “I mean if you don’t believe me look on the CDC website as to what is in the swine flu vaccine. You know, aluminum, insect repellent, formaldehyde, mercury.”
In a November 2009 article at The Huffington Post titled “Vaccination: A Conversation Worth Having,” Maher provided insight into what source material had helped shape his vaccine skeptic views.
In one passage, Maher cited as “extremely credible” the founder of the group National Vaccine Information Center.
“Someone who speaks eloquently about this is Barbara Loe Fisher, founder of the National Vaccine Information Center,” Maher wrote. “I find her extremely credible, as I do Dr. Russell Blaylock, Dr. Jay Gordon and many others.”
Both Blaylock and Gordon oppose most childhood vaccinations. Gordon has made numerous media appearances amid the recent measles outbreak and claims that he signs hundreds of “personal belief exemptions” that allow children to delay or forgo the vaccination. He claims that the risk of being injured by the vaccine is greater than the risk from the illness itself.
Though Maher claimed in his article that Fisher does not consider herself to be “anti-vaccine,” many observers consider her and NVIC one of the leading anti-vaccination proponents in the country.
The group’s website has frequently championed the work of Dr. Andrew Wakefield, whose 1998 study, published in the health website The Lancet, claimed to have discovered a link between childhood vaccines and autism.
That study, which The Lancet retracted in 2010 after discovering a plethora of errors in Wakefield’s research, set off the most recent wave of vaccination skepticism.