Del Bigtree

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Del Matthew Bigtree
Del Bigtree at a conference.png
OccupationTelevision and film producer
Years active2003–present
Known forAnti-vaccination activism
Notable work
Vaxxed: From Cover-Up to Catastrophe
Websitethehighwire.com

Del Matthew Bigtree is an American television and film producer who became a prominent anti-vaccination activist. He is the CEO of the anti-vaccination group Informed Consent Action Network and the producer of the movie Vaxxed based on the discredited views of Andrew Wakefield concerning vaccines and autism. Despite having no medical training, his appeal as a public speaker and a recent influx of funding make him one of the most prominent voices in the anti-vaccination movement.

Television producer[edit]

Bigtree grew up in Boulder, Colorado. He is the son of Jack Groverland, a minister at the Unity of Boulder church. He attended the Vancouver Film School and eventually found employment in the television industry.[1][2]

He briefly worked on Dr. Phil, being credited as a field producer for five episodes. After a gap of two years, he served on the production team of the medical talk show The Doctors, where he produced 30 episodes over five years. Although Bigtree never studied health care or science, he says these experiences on medical talk shows were an opportunity for him to research various topics related to health care, including cutting-edge medicine.[2][3]

It was while working on The Doctors that Bigtree became aware of Andrew Wakefield's controversial opposition to the MMR vaccine and his subsequent discredited claims that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention were hiding proofs of a link between vaccines and autism. Wakefield was looking for help to produce a film that would help his conspiracy theories gain a wider audience. Bigtree decided he could be the one to help and left the show to produce, write and ultimately appear in Wakefield's film.[3]

Anti-vaccination activist[edit]

Vaxxed: From Cover-Up to Catastrophe debuted in 2016. The movie was not well received by critics or scientists. Among others, Ian Lipkin wrote that "As a documentary it misrepresents what science knows about autism, undermines public confidence in the safety and efficacy of vaccines, and attacks the integrity of legitimate scientists and public-health officials".[2][4] Nevertheless, the movie, its promotional bus tour, and funding from the Selz Foundation quickly established Bigtree as an important voice of a re-energized American anti-vaccination movement. He has since spoken at multiple anti-vaccine events, where he repeats false information about the risks of vaccines and alleges governments are engaged in a vast conspiracy to hide the truth.[2][5]:1[6] His anti-vaccine advocacy has been described by medical professionals as fear-mongering.[2][7][8]

At the time Bigtree got involved with Wakefield, several states -- including California, where Bigtree resided -- had begun to consider legislation that would restrict the types of exemptions for which parents could apply in order to have their unvaccinated children attend schools. He strongly opposed these bills. He has been criticized by the Anti-Defamation League and the Auschwitz-Birkenau Memorial and Museum for wearing a Star of David at an anti-vaccination event, attempting to compare the treatment of those opposed to vaccination with the persecution of the Jewish people.[9][10][11][12] He is still lobbying legislators to convince them to keep vaccination exemptions in place, often in collaboration with Wakefield and Robert F. Kennedy Jr..[13]

Bigtree is the public face and chief executive of the anti-vaccination group Informed Consent Action Network, with Lisa Selz as its president. Under his leadership, ICAN promotes the theory that government officials have colluded with the pharmaceutical industry to cover up grievous harms from vaccines. Bigtree hosts a regular stream webcast, in which he frequently repeats anti-vaccination conspiracy theories; the webcast is promoted by ICAN and often features Kennedy.[2][14][15]

In New York state in 2019, Bigtree was a keynote speaker at several anti-vaccination events targeting the ultra-Orthodox Jewish community in Brooklyn and in Rockland County, in the midst of a measles epidemic fueled by low vaccination rates.[2][8] He gave an anti-vaccine speech as headline speaker at a natural health product conference in Toronto in 2018; but, a repeat performance was canceled in 2019 after The Globe and Mail started asking questions.[5]

Filmography[edit]

Year Title Director Writer Producer Notes[16]
2003 Partners Yes No No Video short
2005 Bitter Sweet Yes Yes Yes TV movie. Also appears as an actor.
2007 Sex and Sensuality Yes No Yes Short film
2007-2008 Dr. Phil Yes No No 5 episodes, field producer
2010-2015 The Doctors No No Yes 30 episodes
2016 Vaxxed: From Cover-Up to Catastrophe No Yes Yes Anti-vaccination documentary

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ "Vaxxed: From Cover-Up to Catastrophe". KGNU News. August 18, 2016. Retrieved July 2, 2019.
  2. ^ a b c d e f g Sun, Lena H. (June 19, 2019). "Meet the New York couple donating millions to the anti-vax movement". The Washington Post. Archived from the original on July 4, 2019. Retrieved June 19, 2019.
  3. ^ a b Coleman, Patrick A. (April 30, 2019). "Where Del Bigtree's Anti-Vaccine Conspiracy Theories Come From". Fatherly. Archived from the original on June 21, 2019. Retrieved June 21, 2019.
  4. ^ Lipkin, W. Ian (2016-04-03). "Anti-Vaccination Lunacy Won't Stop". Wall Street Journal. ISSN 0099-9660. Retrieved 2019-02-08.
  5. ^ a b Weeks, Carly (February 7, 2019). "Toronto health conference cancels appearance by anti-vaccine activist Del Bigtree". The Globe and Mail. Archived from the original on June 21, 2019. Retrieved June 21, 2019.
  6. ^ Merlan, Maria (June 20, 2019). "Everything I Learned While Getting Kicked out of America's Biggest Anti-Vaccine Conference". Jezebel. Archived from the original on June 21, 2019. Retrieved June 21, 2019.
  7. ^ Gorski, David (May 6, 2019). "Deception by omission: Del Bigtree's ICAN calls the studies licensing MMR into question". Science-based Medicine. Archived from the original on June 21, 2019. Retrieved June 21, 2019.
  8. ^ a b Mole, Beth (June 6, 2019). "Measles cases hit 1,001 as anti-vaxxers hold another rally of disinformation". Ars technica. Archived from the original on July 4, 2019. Retrieved June 27, 2019.
  9. ^ "Anti-vaccine activists are using a Holocaust-era yellow Star of David to promote their cause". Jewish Telegraphic Agency. April 5, 2019. Retrieved June 28, 2019.
  10. ^ Mills Rodrigo, Chris (April 8, 2019). "ADL criticizes 'anti-vaxxers' for adopting Star of David badge". The Hill. Retrieved June 28, 2019.
  11. ^ Dolsten, Josefin (April 6, 2019). "US anti-vaxxers use Holocaust-era yellow stars to promote their agenda". The Times of Israel. Retrieved June 28, 2019.
  12. ^ Sun, Lena H. (April 1, 2019). "US measles cases surge to second-highest level in nearly two decades". Denton Record-Chronicle. Retrieved June 28, 2019.
  13. ^ Allen, Arthur (May 27, 2019). "How the anti-vaccine movement crept into the GOP mainstream". Politico. Archived from the original on June 29, 2019. Retrieved June 28, 2019.
  14. ^ Bigtree, Del. "Resources". The HighWire. Archived from the original on June 21, 2019. Retrieved June 21, 2019.
  15. ^ Zadrozny, Brandy; Nadi, Aliza (2019-09-24). "How anti-vaxxers target grieving moms and turn them into crusaders". NBC News. Retrieved 2019-09-24.
  16. ^ "Del Matthew Bigtree". Internet Movie Database. Archived from the original on June 21, 2019. Retrieved June 21, 2019.