Politics

Tennessee Rep.-Elect Walks Back ‘Anti-Vaxx’ Comments

But Mark Green says ‘More research should be done’ after alleging a CDC coverup

Rep.-elect Mark Green, R-Tenn., said his comments endorsing a conspiracy theory that vaccines cause autism were “misconstrued.” (Photo By Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

Rep.-elect Mark Green, R-Tenn., has softened his endorsement of the myth that vaccines cause autism in statements to the media, claiming his comments had been distorted.

“Recent comments I made at a town hall regarding vaccines has been misconstrued. I want to reiterate my wife and I vaccinated our children, and we believe, and advise others they should have their children vaccinated,” the 7th District Republican said.

But Green failed to completely disavow the anti-vaccination movement, saying in a statement the same day to The Tennessean that “more research definitely needs to be done.”

At a town hall just outside of Nashville earlier this week, a constituent with autism asked Green about maintaining her Medicaid coverage, but the Republican member-elect diverted the subject.

Green echoed the debunked “anti-vaxx” hoax that falsely links autism with the ingredients in vaccines. 

Green also alleged a coverup by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which has emphasized that vaccines do not cause harm and that not vaccinating children eventually leads to outbreaks of diseases that are rare today, like whooping cough and measles.

“Let me say this about autism. I have committed to people in my community, up in Montgomery County, to stand on the CDC’s desk and get the real data on vaccines,” Green said, according to a video posted by The Tennessean. “Because there is some concern that the rise in autism is the result of the preservatives that are in our vaccines.”

Green cited his background in medicine — he received a medical degree from Wright State University and served as the CEO of a multimillion dollar company that staffs health providers — to bolster his false claims. 

“As a physician, I can make that argument,” Green said. “I can look at it academically and make the argument against the CDC, if they really want to engage me on it.” 

Green drew back from the “anti-vaxx” conspiracy theory in statements to national media outlets like CNN and the Huffington Post on Wednesday, but reiterated them in earlier comments to The Tennessean.

“Parents should vaccinate their children, but more research definitely needs to be done,” Green said in clarifying his stance to his local paper.  “We need better research, and we need it fast. We also need complete transparency of any data. Vaccines are essential to good population health. But that does not mean we should not look closely at the correlation for any causation.”

The anti-vaccination movement originates with a shoddy, retracted study that over the last two decades has been thoroughly debunked.

Regarding the original query about Medicaid, Green underscored he opposes expanding the program, according to another video taken at the town hall.

“Medicaid doubles down on a broken system,” Green said. “All the Affordable Care Act does is take millions of dollars that we borrow from China, and rout it through an exchange system to the third party payer system, which is what the problem is.”

Green was elected to represent the district, which is comprised of the Nashville suburbs and rural areas to the north and west, to succeed GOP Rep. Marsha Blackburn, who was elected to the Senate to replace the retiring Sen. Bob Corker.

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