Robert De Niro Pulls Controversial Anti-Vaccination Movie From Tribeca Film Festival After Previously Defending It

by Emily Krauser 4:30 PM PDT, March 26, 2016
Photo: Getty Images

Just one day after Robert De Niro released a personal statement about screening the controversial anti-vaccinatino film, Vaxxed: From Cover-Up to Catastrophe, at the Tribeca Film Festival, the movie is being pulled from the festival's 2016 lineup.

De Niro, a TIFF co-founder, announced the decision in a statement given to ET on Saturday.

NEWS: Robert De Niro Defends Screening of Anti-Vaccination Movie at Tribeca Film Festival

"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," the 72-year-old actor added. "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."

The purported documentary came from director Andrew Wakefield, a British ex-physician who claimed vaccines cause autism. In 1998, Wakefield -- who has been stripped of his medical license -- published a report linking vaccines and autism in the medical journal, The Lancet. The report was retracted in 2010 when "several elements" were revealed to be incorrect, a fact was left out of Wakefield's TIFF bio, though it did refer to him as "one of the most controversial figures in the history of medicine." The bio has since been removed from TIFF's website.

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The official description for the film has also been removed, but it once read, "Digging into the long-debated link between autism and vaccines, Vaxxed: From Cover-Up to Catastrophe features revealing and emotional interviews with pharmaceutical insiders, doctors, politicians, parents, and one whistleblower to understand what's behind the skyrocketing increase of autism diagnoses today."

Earlier in the week, De Niro defended his original choice to screen the film.

"Grace [Hightower] and I have a child with autism and we believe it is critical that all of the issues surrounding the causes of autism be openly discussed and examined," his statement read. "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."

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"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.I am not personally endorsing the film, nor am I anti-vaccination," the De Niro concluded. "I am only providing the opportunity for a conversation around the issue."

The Tribeca Film Festival runs from April 13 through April 24 in New York City.

Actress Kristen Bell recently opened up to ET about why she is pro-vaccination. Learn more in the video below.