Rand Paul's connection to leading conspiracy theorist Alex Jones is under new scrutiny after the Republican senator recently claimed vaccines could lead to “mental disorders.”
In 2009, Paul was interviewed for Jones' Infowars.com and claimed “martial law” could lead to “mandatory” vaccinations. Paul is one of Jones' biggest enablers even though the radio host has pushed fringe theories about 9-11, mass shootings, and the federal government.
Paul has been heavily criticized after he said this week that vaccines should be voluntary because there are purportedly “many tragic cases of walking, talking, normal children who wound up with profound mental disorders after vaccines.” Republican New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie also recently said parents should have “some measure of choice” about vaccinations.
The Washington Post reported that “Medical experts reacted with alarm” to their remarks. MIT professor Seth Mnookin, who has written extensively on the “devastating” anti-vaccine movement, said the comments were “incredibly, incredibly irresponsible.” University of Pittsburgh Dr. Amesh Adalja said people like Paul are “giving credence to things that have been completely debunked” and “called the comments from Paul particularly troubling because Paul is a doctor.”
Paul raised the specter of big government and “martial law” when talking about vaccines during an August 21, 2009 interview, as Media Matters Action Network reported in 2010. He said that “the first sort of thing you see with martial law is mandates. And they're talking about making it mandatory. I worry because the last flu vaccine we had in the 1970s, more people died from the vaccine than died from the swine flu.”
Paul, who was a U.S. Senate candidate at the time, added that he would have taken the smallpox and polio vaccine, but urged caution on vaccines in general, stating: “I say you have to be careful, you have to weigh the risks of the disease versus the risks of the vaccine, but I'm not going to tell people who think it's a bad idea that they have to take it because everybody should be allowed to make their own health care decisions, and that's the problem with allowing more and more government.”
Alex Jones is a leading conspiracy theorist. His own biography states he “is considered one of the very first founding fathers of the 9-11 Truth Movement.” He has also alleged bizarre conspiracies about the Aurora movie theater shooting, the Sandy Hook elementary school massacre, the Oklahoma City bombing, and the Space Shuttle Columbia disaster, among many others.
Jones and his Infowars website are anti-science and extremely inflammatory when it comes to pushing false information about vaccines. The website features headlines such as “AUTISM EXPLODES AS CHILDHOOD VACCINES INCREASE,” “VACCINE DEATHS AND INJURIES SKYROCKET AS COVER-UP IMPLODES,” and “VOLUMINOUS RESEARCH PROVES VACCINES ARE DEADLY.”
Paul is one of Alex Jones' biggest enablers. Paul used Jones' program as a publicity and fundraising platform during his 2010 U.S. Senate campaign, and Jones was an enthusiastic and active supporter of his candidacy. During one fundraising appearance, Jones described Paul's candidacy as a vital stepping stone to destroying “the New World Order ... I can't stress enough how important this race for the Kentucky Senate is.” Paul replied: “You're right.” Paul's campaign website also promoted him appearing on Jones in 2009.
Jones has said he's known Rand Paul since 1995 and claimed credit as one of the first people to get him in the media. While Jones is deeply suspicious of the vast majority of politicians, Jones loves the “awesome” Paul and has endorsed him for president. He's also suggested that Paul is now “playing politics” by moderating his image.
Mother Jones' David Corn noted in May 2010 that Paul has repeatedly appeared on Jones' program and “has shown sympathy for Jones' overall view of a world of global conspiracies, and he has expressed support for some of Jones' unconventional ideas.”
While outlets like Mother Jones and MSNBC have called out Sen. Paul for enabling Alex Jones, it remains to be seen whether other media will criticize his dangerous association, especially as the Kentucky Republican is likely to be a leading Republican presidential candidate.
From Paul's August 21, 2009, interview, which was later posted on Alex Jones' YouTube channel on November 16, 2010, as an “exclusive never-before-seen interview”:
PAUL: Well I mean the first sort of thing you see with martial law is mandates. And they're talking about making it mandatory. I worry because the last flu vaccine we had in the 1970s, more people died from the vaccine than died from the swine flu. I think you have to use your brain, but I think every individual should be allowed to make that choice. For example, twenty years ago my parents gave me smallpox vaccine, and I would do it again. You know, smallpox was an awful disease and the vaccine wiped smallpox out of, you know, civilization, basically, the only people left with it are bioterrorism labs that have smallpox.
I would have also taken the polio vaccine, I know a lot of people had polio and we stopped it, but am I going to take the swine flu vaccine? Unlikely, until I'm certain that it's safe. And I'm not going to have my kids take it until I know it's safe. But I'm not absolutely saying that I won't take the vaccine. But I say you have to be careful, you have to weigh the risks of the disease versus the risks of the vaccine, but I'm not going to tell people who think it's a bad idea that they have to take it because everybody should be allowed to make their own health care decisions, and that's the problem with allowing more and more government. There was a vaccine about three years ago for rotavirus. It's a diarrhea type virus for children. They started giving the vaccine but kids started dying from a blockage in their intestine, which they linked to the vaccine. But it took them six months to figure this out. And meanwhile they had already talked about making it mandatory.
The whole problem is not necessarily good versus bad on vaccines. It's whether it should be mandatory or the individual makes the decision and sometimes you want to not be the first one to get a new procedure, you want to see if it works well before you chose.