President Trump met with educators where he brought up an unfounded statistic about the increase in autism.
Trump has long been a staunch believer in childhood vaccinations being linked to autism. During a campaign speech, he stated, "Autism has become an epidemic. It has gotten totally out of control."
Trump met with educators at a White House meeting on Tuesday, and he fixated on the topic of autism. The discussion between Trump and Jane Quenneville, the principal of a Virginia public school specializing in special education, concerned autism researchers.
The president has been linked to anti-vaxxers Andrew Wakefield - whose claim of childhood vaccines causing pervasive developmental disorder was proven false, and Robert F. Kennedy Jr. - who was tapped to chair a committee based on vaccine safety.
When Trump asked Quenneville if she's seen a big increase in autism in children, she didn't exactly disagree, but noted that her school had resorted to shifting the population to accommodate more students with autism.
"So what's going on with autism?" he asked. "When you look at the tremendous increase, it’s really such an incredible — it’s really a horrible thing to watch, the tremendous amount of increase. Do you have any idea?”
Quenneville didn't expound on reasons why in response to Trump's question, but she cited that the rate of autism was somewhere between 1-in-66 or 1-in-68 children.
"Well now, it’s gotta be even lower than that, which is just amazing," said Trump. "Well, maybe we can do something.”
Last March, the CDC released data that said 1-in-68 school children are diagnosed with autism, a statistic that hasn't changed previously.
Author and autism expert Steve Silberman is against Trump's misleading claim. He said:
There’s no consensus as to whether or not there’s been any significant increase in the actual prevalence of autism, period. The real debate is whether or not there has been a small increase, and there are a number of factors that could play a role in that small increase. For instance, it’s well established that older parents have more autistic kids and people are waiting longer to get married and have kids now, so there may be a small increase there. Some people claim that there are some environmental factors — notably, not vaccines — that may be contributing to a small increase. But the consensus is that there has been no huge, startling, ‘horrible,’ as Trump said, increase in autism. And the CDC estimate has been flat for a couple of years, just as they expected it to be, because the major source of the increase that started in the 1990s was broadened diagnostic criteria and much more public awareness of what autism looks like.
Trump doesn't know what causes autism, but he's convinced that vaccines are the culprit. Yet, scientists and researchers have found no evidence that the measles, mumps and rubella (MMR) vaccination could cause developmental disorders.
Autism is not an "epidemic." The CDC stated, "Studies have shown that there is no link between receiving vaccines and developing [autism]."
To state otherwise, without knowing the facts, would be a 'tremendous' lie. It's just another day in the Oval Office with a president who shoots from the hip.
Continue on to watch the exchange between Trump and Quenneville from the White House meeting.