Oscar winner Robert De Niro has pulled a controversial anti-vaccine documentary from The Tribeca Film Festival lineup, saying the film would likely not be a positive contribution to a discussion he was hoping to spur.
Vaxxed: from Cover-Up to Catastrophe, which explores a now-discredited theory linking autism to vaccines, is the work of Dr. Andrew Wakefield, who lost his license after publishing a fraudulent study blaming vaccines for the rise in autism.
“I don't like to get emotional, but I know exactly what he goes through,” he said in a 2013 interview with Katie Couric, breaking down as he spoke of his son.
After pulling Vaxxed from the Tribeca lineup, De Niro issued a statement saying: “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.”
Wakefield immediately responded, saying in a statement on the documentary's website that the removal was a case of censorship.
“We have just witnessed yet another example of the power of corporate interests censoring free speech, art, and truth,” the statement read. “Tribeca’s action will not succeed in denying the world access to the truth behind the film Vaxxed.”
The annual Tribeca Film Festival begins next month.