Robert De Niro said Wednesday that he has some regrets about pulling a scientifically discredited anti-vaccine documentary from the Tribeca Film Festival.
De Niro, the festival's co-founder, last month removed the film Vaxxed, which argues a link between vaccines and autism, from this year's line-up amid outcry from the scientific community and other filmmakers. At the time, the actor said he didn't believe the documentary "contributes to or furthers the discussion" around autism.
However, De Niro now says he partially regrets the decision and encouraged people to see the documentary, which was directed by Andrew Wakefield.
"There was a backlash, which I haven't fully explored and I will, but I didn't want it to start affecting the festival in ways I couldn't see. But definitely there's something to that movie," he told the Today show.
Criticizing what he described as a "knee-jerk reaction" to the film, De Niro said that being a father of a son with autism meant he was "concerned" and wanted "to know the truth."
When host Willie Geist asked him about the overwhelming consensus in the scientific community that vaccines are not linked to autism, De Niro said the issue was "much more complicated than that."
"I'm not a scientist, but I've seen so much reaction of just 'let's find out the truth,' so let's just find out the truth," he said. "I'm not anti-vaccine, but I'm pro safe vaccine."
After host Savannah Guthrie noted the discredited link between vaccines and autism had resulted in an increase of preventable diseases like mumps and measles, the Oscar-winning actor said he didn't "know if those statistics are accurate."
"I'm not the one to say, but I would question even that," he said. "There's a kind of hysteria, a knee-jerk reaction. Let's see."
David Mack is a reporter and weekend editor for BuzzFeed News in New York.
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