Chili’s Backs Off Plans To Donate Portion Of Customer Checks To Anti-Vaccine Group

A Chili's in Santa Clara, California.
A Chili’s in Santa Clara, California; courtesy Wikimedia Commons.


After a firestorm of criticism, on Sunday afternoon Chili’s scrapped plans to donate a portion of customers’ checks to a group promoting the pseudoscientific claim that vaccines cause autism.

Late Thursday, the casual-dining chain announced that it would mark Autism Awareness Month by donating 10 percent of tonight’s meal profits to the National Autism Association. A good idea on paper–until one looks at the NAA’s fact sheet on what causes autism. It claims that vaccines “can trigger or exacerbate autism in some, if not many, children.”? This claim has been completely and thoroughly debunked by mainstream science; at least nine studies have shown no link between autism and vaccines.? Moreover, a 1998 study that linked the MMR (measles, mumps and rubella) vaccine to autism was retracted in 2010 after being exposed as unethical and fraudulent. Its author, British doctor Andrew Wakefield, was found to have engaged in misconduct so egregious (such as being paid to advise lawyers who were suing vaccine manufacturers) that he was banned from practicing medicine in the UK.

Seen in this light, it should come as no surprise that Chili’s came in for 72 hours of severe criticism. The chain’s official Facebook page was flooded with comments demanding that the fundraiser be scrapped, and at least one pro-vaccine group called for a boycott. Finally, Chili’s backed down, announcing via a post on its official blog that “based on the feedback heard from our guests,” tonight’s fundraiser had been canceled.

When NAA president Wendy Fournier heard that Chili’s was backing out of the fundraiser, she blamed it on “bullying” from “a small number of people” and claimed that the NAA’s statements on autism are solely the views of parents who claim their kids were rendered autistic after being vaccinated. But that claim sounds somewhat disingenuous when you consider that the NAA’s FAQ page directs those with questions about vaccines and autism to the National Vaccine Information Center, one of the most notorious promoters of anti-vaccine hoakum.? Apparently Fournier thinks that being told that you aren’t entitled to your own facts amounts to bullying.

Edited/Published by: SB

Darrell is a 30-something graduate of the University of North Carolina who considers himself a journalist of the old school. An attempt to turn him into a member of the religious right in college only succeeded in turning him into the religious right's worst nightmare--a charismatic Christian who is an unapologetic liberal. His desire to stand up for those who have been scared into silence only increased when he survived an abusive three-year marriage. You may know him on Daily Kos as Christian Dem in NC. Follow him on Twitter @DarrellLucus or connect with him on Facebook. Click here to buy Darrell a Mello Yello.