Nets Hype GOP Vaccine Comments, Ignored Similar Obama & Hillary Remarks in 2008

February 3rd, 2015 5:18 PM

While the ABC, NBC, and CBS morning shows on Tuesday all jumped on potential Republican 2016 contenders Chris Christie and Rand Paul being sympathetic toward parents skeptical of child vaccinations, all three broadcast networks ignored Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton holding the same positions in 2008.

On ABC's Good Morning America, co-host George Stephanopoulos declared: "...this has become a bit of a minefield for some of these Republican candidates." Meanwhile, on NBC's Today, correspondent Hallie Jackson noted how "Christie's office quickly clarified" his comments following political "blowback" and that Paul was "also making waves" on the topic.  Finally, on CBS This Morning, correspondent Nancy Cordes similarly touted Paul being "at odds with most of the medical community" and Christie walking back his remarks.

The three morning programs all made sure to promote Hillary Clinton tweeting: "The science is clear: The earth is round, the sky is blue, and #vaccineswork. Let's protect all our kids. #GrandmothersKnowBest" and President Obama calling on all parents to vaccinate their children during a Sunday NBC interview.

GMA mentioned that Obama once thought differently, as correspondent Jon Karl explained: "In fact, even Barack Obama when he was a candidate back in 2008 said that, you know, there was a lot of questions about the connection here. He said directly 'the science right now is inconclusive but we have to research it.' That was Obama back in 2008."

On Today, Meet the Press moderator Chuck Todd referenced how both Democrats had once entertained anti-vaccine sentiment: "...the thought that there might be a connection between vaccines and autism and how that spread like wildfire in social media after – you know, and politicians, you go back to Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama when they ran in '07 and '08, they were talking about it."

This Morning made no mention of the past statements from Clinton and Obama on the subject.

In 2008, none of the networks provided any coverage of the anti-vaccine rhetoric coming from the then-presidential candidates. At a campaign event, Obama labeled the link between vaccines and autism "inconclusive." Answering a candidate questionnaire, Clinton proclaimed: "I am committed to make investments to find the causes of autism, including possible environmental causes like vaccines."

On Tuesday's GMA, prior to Karl noting Obama's 2008 comments, Stephanopoulos observed: "...the thing has been cross-cutting politics too, You've seen pockets of this anti-vaccination sentiment on both the right and the left."  

Today went further, with co-host Matt Lauer actually going after the New York Times for asserting that anti-vaccine attitudes were an exclusively GOP problem:

The New York Times, the liberal New York Times, puts it this way in an article this morning, "The vaccination controversy is a twist on an old problem for the Republican Party: How to approach matters that have been largely settled among scientists but are not widely accepted by conservatives." And even as I read that, Chuck, let's make it clear, this does not break down neatly between the right and the left. There are pockets of liberal affluent America where parents don't want their kids vaccinated.

Todd agreed: "No, that's right. And I think that the pockets in California, some of this, is more, I think, of a liberal point of view."

Again, CBS didn't bother to examine anti-vaccine forces on the left.

Here are transcripts of the February 3 coverage on the ABC, NBC, and CBS morning shows:

Good Morning America

GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: Outbreak battle. Now more than 100 cases of measles across the country and a new alert warning parents to vaccinate their kids. And the battle breaking out among 2016 presidential hopefuls.


GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: We're going to get the latest now on that measles outbreak. We have new numbers from the CDC this morning. Now reporting more than 100 cases and health experts are sounding the alarm, making an urgent plea for parents to get their kids vaccinated. Our Dr. Richard Besser is one of them. He joins us now. Good morning, Rich.

RICHARD BESSER: Good morning. You know George this outbreak is showing no signs of letting up. There already are more cases this year than there were the entire year of 2012. This has a lot of doctors and parents very concerned. This morning, that telltale rash is spreading. The CDC now saying 102 individuals infected with measles across 14 states. Officials in Toronto now racing to investigate four cases discovered in just the last week. The American Academy of Pediatrics urging parents to vaccinate their children against the disease. If only for the sake of babies too young to get the shots. Saying Monday, it is heartbreaking to know that these vulnerable children may be at risk if parents refuse or delay getting their children vaccinated. A day-care center at this Santa Monica high school closing its doors Monday after a 1-year-old tested positive for the virus. Officials quarantining 14 infants from the center for 21 days.

GAIL PINSKER: The Department of Public Health will determine the exposure to either students on that campus, staff and other babies and toddlers in that program.

BESSER: The highly contagious disease even infecting politics. New Jersey Governor Chris Christie saying Monday, "parents need to have some measure of choice." His office later clarifying his remarks saying "there is no question, kids should be vaccinated." Senator Rand Paul arguing Monday that vaccines should be a parent's choice.

RAND PAUL: I'm not arguing vaccines are a bad idea. I think they're a good thing but I think the parents should have some input.

BESSER: Hillary Clinton tweeting overnight, "the science is clear: The Earth is round, the sky is blue and #vaccineswork. Let's protect all our kids. #GrandmothersKnowBest." The CDC recommends that children get their first dose of measles vaccine when they're 12 to 15 months old. This provides great protection from measles and it also helps protect other children who are either too young or are unable to get vaccinated.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Herd immunity. Okay, Rich thanks very much. I know you're going to be taking questions again on Twitter this morning. I want to get more on the politics now on this from Jon Karl in Washington. Jon, We just saw in Rich's piece right there this has become a bit of a minefield for some of these Republican candidates.

JONATHAN KARL: It sure has, George and the difference at least in tone among the top Republicans is stark. On one hand you have people like Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker, former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee who say absolutely no question about it, everybody should be vaccinated. On the other hand as you heard Dr. Besser report, you have Chris Christie and Rand Paul just yesterday both talking about how parents should have a choice, although both say the measles vaccine is important. Both talking about choice and Rand Paul went even further yesterday saying that he's heard of many cases where, quote, "children wound up with profound mental disorders after vaccines." As Dr. Besser will tell you there's just absolutely no scientific evidence to back that up.

STEPHANOPOULOS: No, but, you know, the thing has been cross-cutting politics too, You've seen pockets of this anti-vaccination sentiment on both the right and the left.

KARL: That's right. In fact, even Barack Obama when he was a candidate back in 2008 said that, you know, there was a lot of questions about the connection here. He said directly "the science right now is inconclusive but we have to research it." That was Obama back in 2008. Although now what the president says is that he has no question, everybody should be vaccinated. There is no danger. The only danger is not getting vaccinated.

STEPHANOPOULOS: He was very clear on that-on Sunday. Okay, Jon Karl, thanks very much.


SAVANNAH GUTHRIE: Controversy spreading. Six more states now tied to the measles outbreak, fourteen in all, as politicians take sides on whether parents should get their kids vaccinated.


GUTHRIE: Meanwhile, that alarming outbreak of measles is still spreading. More than a hundred people now infected in fourteen states. And as it grows, so does the debate over childhood vaccinations. NBC's Hallie Jackson is following all of it. Hallie, good morning to you.

[ON-SCREEN HEADLINE: The Great Vaccination Debate; Obama, Christie, Hillary Weigh In As Cases Spread]  

HALLIE JACKSON: Good morning, Savannah. And this morning we're keeping an eye on a couple of suspected measles cases in Nevada, which would become the fifteenth state seeing the virus, if those are confirmed. The outbreak making national headlines now a hot topic for the nation's top politicians.

With medical experts overwhelmingly in agreement vaccines are safe, Democrats and Republicans are sparking a debate that's become as much about politics as public health. Hillary Clinton weighing in late last night, tweeting, "The earth is round, the sky is blue, and #vaccineswork," adding the "#GrandmothersKnowBest." Hours after her potential 2016 rival New Jersey Governor Chris Christie talked about parents who choose not to vaccinate.

CHRIS CHRISTIE [R-NJ]: Parents need to have some measure of choice in things as well. So that's the balance that the government has to decide.

JACKSON: After blowback, Christie's office quickly clarified, "With a disease like measles there is no question kids should be vaccinated."

And Senator Rand Paul is also making waves after comments he made about the choice to vaccinate.  

RAND PAUL [R-KY]: The state doesn't own your children, parents own the children. And it is an issue of freedom.

JACKSON: President Obama reignited the conversation around vaccinations in his interview with Savannah.

GUTHRIE: Are you telling parents, "You should get your kids vaccinated"?

BARACK OBAMA: You should get your kids vaccinated.

JACKSON: Most doctors say vaccines are the only way to stop the measles outbreak that's grown to 102 people in fourteen states. But many parents still have passionate reactions, like Marcella Piper Terry, who blames the measles vaccine for triggering serious seizures in her daughter.

MARCELLA PIPER TERRY: And they say "vaccines are safe, vaccines are safe" – not for my child.

JACKSON: The CDC says severe reactions to the vaccine are very rare, but for Piper Terry there's still a question about vaccinations and its one she feels attacked for even asking.

PIPER TERRY: It's discriminating, it's hate speech and it is – I can't believe I'm living in America.

JACKSON: Ninety percent of unvaccinated people will catch measles if they come into contact with the virus. That includes those too young for the shot, like the fourteen babies at a California daycare that are being isolated for three weeks, Matt, because they may have been exposed to that contagious virus.

MATT LAUER: Alright, Hallie, thank you very much. Hallie Jackson.

CBS This Morning

CHARLIE ROSE: The measles vaccination debate gets political. And this morning a new quarantine shuts down a daycare.


CHARLIE ROSE: Politicians this morning are jumping into the controversy over the measles vaccine. There are at least 102 measles cases in 14 states. Most of those are in California and can be traced back to Disney Land. More cases are expected.

NORAH O’DONNELL: And this morning potential presidential candidates are now joining the debate. A number of contenders are offering their opinions about the safety of vaccines and parents’ choice. Nancy Cordes is on Capitol Hill with the politics of measles you could call it. Nancy good morning.

NANCY CORDES: Good morning. And one who is getting a lot of attention is Kentucky Republican Senator Rand Paul. As a medical doctor he says he is a fan of vaccines but that they should be voluntary and in some cases can harm children, an assertion that puts him at odds with most of the medical community. Senator Paul, an opthamologist, made the comment in a live interview on CNBC.

RAND PAUL: I’ve heard of many tragic cases of walking, talking, normal children who wound up with profound mental disorders after vaccines.

CORDES: The CDC says there's no evidence vaccines cause such disorders.

TOM FRIEDEN: The vaccine is safe and effective.

CORDES: Government officials from the president on down have been on a public campaign to boost vaccinations in the wake of the measles outbreak.

BARACK OBAMA: The science is pretty indisputable. We've looked at this again and again. There is every reason to get vaccinated, there aren’t reasons to not.

CORDES: All 50 states require that children get their shots but 48 of them allow exemptions for religious or philosophical reasons. In a recent Pew poll 68 percent of Americans said vaccines should be required. 30 percent agreed with Senator Paul that the decision should be left to parents. New Jersey Governor Chris Christie tried to split the difference, telling he had his kids vaccinated because "it's an important part of making sure we protect their health and the public health." But he added "parents need to have some measure of choice in things." He office later clarified his comments saying "there is no question kids should be vaccinated."

FRANK LUNTZ: Republicans tend to believe a little more in the rights of parents to make decisions over their children. They tend to be a little bit more concerned about Washington mandates than Democrats. But in the end it is overwhelming among both political parties that vaccinations are important, if not essential to keeping their children safe and healthy.

CORDES: And the possible Democratic contender Hillary Clinton weighed in last night as well in a tweet. She said "the science is clear: the Earth is round, the sky is blue and vaccines work. Let's protect all our kids #GrandmothersKnowBest." Charlie.

ROSE: Nancy thanks.