Conspiracy Theories

Chili’s restaurants are donating 10% of their profits to anti-vaccine truthers this month

It’s National Autism Awareness Month, and one of the biggest restaurant chains in the country is planning to donate 10% of its profits to a charity that promotes vaccine trutherism.

More than 1,200 Chili’s restaurants will participate in the fundraiser for the National Autism Association, which claims on its website that vaccinations can trigger or exacerbate autism in “some, if not many, children.”

The current wave of anti-vaccine hysteria can be traced back to a single study that appeared in the Lancet medical journal — a study that was outright debunked in the science world.

In a 2011 issue of BMJ (the British Medical Journal), investigative reporter Brian Deer slammed the infamous Lancet study linking vaccines to autism as fraudulent, pointing out that key facts were distorted to support the autism link.

When justifying their views, the NAA notes anecdotal data, such as parents speculating that changes in their children were caused by vaccines, rather than scientific data.

On its website FAQ, the NAA avoids a direct answer on its vaccine position, writing that it “cannot make this decision for any parent, but we are happy to provide sources of information to anyone in need. We recommend visiting”

That link takes you to the National Vaccine Information Center, which journalist Michael Specter slams in his book “Denialism” as “an organization that, based on its name, certainly sounds like a federal agency. Actually, it’s just the opposite: The NVIC is the most powerful anti-vaccine organization in America, and its relationship with the U.S. government consists almost entirely of opposing federal efforts aimed at vaccinating children.”

From Business Insider:

Further, NAA sponsors “Age of Autism,” a website which has the text “Yes, Vaccines Cause Autism” on its masthead.

While companies are free to support organizations they wish, it’s worth noting the damage to come from lobbying by anti-vaccine groups.

Led most prominently by Jenny McCarthy, parents have been increasingly refusing vaccines for their children over the past several years. This has led to a rise in vaccine-preventable diseases, especially whooping cough.

Chili’s responded to the controversy with the following statement:

At Chili’s Grill & Bar, we’re about making every guest feel special and pride ourselves in giving back to our communities. When choosing a charitable partner for our Give Back Events, both locally and nationally, we are committed to supporting organizations dedicated to helping children and their families. The intent of this fundraiser was not to express a view on this matter, but rather to support the families affected by autism. Our choice to partner with the National Autism Association was based on the percentage of donations that would go directly to providing financial assistance to families and supporting programs that aid the development and safety of children with autism.



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    April 6, 2014 at 5:48 pm

    I received the same email response when I wrote them about it. Didn’t realize that I was really writing to “Brinker International, Inc. and our brands, Chili’s Grill & Bar and Maggiano’s Little Italy.”

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    April 6, 2014 at 6:12 pm

    This is the response I sent to their email:
    “While I’m sure you believe you think you are helping families with an autistic child, you are being naive since the National Autism Association’s main purpose is to spread lies promoting anti-vaccination. This foolish and disputed theory is, therefore, harmful to the greater population by giving a reason for parents to not vaccinate their children. Already this has caused new outbreaks of measles around the country. So your policy of ‘supporting organizations dedicated to helping children and their families’ is actually having the opposite effect, risking sickness and possible death. Please reconsider this foolish position.”

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    April 6, 2014 at 10:56 pm


  4. Pingback: Chili’s folds after DeadState calls for boycott in the wake of vaccine truther donations

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    Charles Bradley Quillen

    April 7, 2014 at 2:38 pm

    Andrew Wakefield, a lead researcher on the Lancet-published article, was subsequently struck from the UK medical register for his misconduct.

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    April 8, 2014 at 8:32 pm

    Chili’s relented after the unwanted publicity and cancelled the event.

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