Robert De Niro withdraws anti-vaccination movie from film festival

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      Actor Robert De Niro has backed down from a plan to premiere a anti-vaccination movie directed by controversial former doctor Andrew Wakefield.

      De Niro is cofounder of the Tribeca Film Festival in New York City, where organizers intended to show Vaxxed: from Cover-Up to Catastrophe.

      In 1998, Wakefield was the lead author of a paper in a prestigious medical journal, the Lancet, linking autism to the MMR vaccine. It immunizes children against measles, mumps, and rubella.

      At the time, Wakefield called for a moratorium on the MMR until more research could be conducted. The suggestion was condemned by public-health officials, who maintained there's no connection between vaccinations and autism.

      After a panel ruled that Wakefield had acted dishonestly, the Lancet retracted the paper in 2010. His coauthors withdrew their support and Wakefield was prohibited from practising medicine in the United Kingdom.

      In the face of continued opposition by public-health officials, Wakefield continues maintaining that there are risks in giving the MMR to children. 

      When De Niro initially pledged to screen Wakefield's movie, the actor revealed that one of his six children is autistic. He said at the time that didn't endorse the film's message but wanted to stimulate conversation.

      "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," De Niro said in a statement. "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."

      Today, De Niro issued another statement explaining why the film has been pulled.

      "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," he said. "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."