New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie’s (R) office had some damage control to do Monday morning after Christie said that parents need to have “some amount of choice” about vaccinations, even as a measles outbreak spread from California.
But when he was a candidate running for his first term as governor, Christie was vocal about the need for parents who believe in a fringe theory about vaccinations to have a seat at the table in the debate over government mandates.
In an October 2009 interview with Fox Business Network’s Don Imus, Christie defended the concerns of parents who believe in the theory that vaccines caused their children to develop autism. That belief stems from a now-debunked study linking vaccines to the disorder.
“We need to look at all the different things affecting autism in New Jersey because we have the highest rate in the country, not just the environmental concerns but vaccinations,” Christie said. “Parents of children with autism need to be heard, they need a seat at the table to be talking about these issues.”
Christie’s predecessor, former Gov. John Corzine (D), was pushing mandatory flu shots for New Jersey children at the time. Christie told Imus that he was conflicted about that mandate.
“I have real concerns about a lot of these mandates,” he said. “I think in New Jersey, we need to take a whole look at that. It’s a real tough choice between protecting public health with vaccinations, but I have sat with a lot of these parents of children with autism who absolutely, firmly believe that it was vaccinations that caused these problems in their children. Then they have additional children and they’re being required to go in there and go through that again when they, in their heart and in their minds, believe that this was the contributing factor to their children’s condition.”
Christie added that there needed to be a conversation about providing more “opt-outs” for parents who strongly oppose vaccinations.
“I do believe that these parents need a voice in these debates,” he said.
Anti-vaccine activist Louise Kuo Habakus, founder of the group Life Health Choices, which advocates for parents’ choice in vaccinations, also touted what she said was a letter of support from Christie’s first gubernatorial campaign.
“I have met with families affected by autism from across the state and have been struck by their incredible grace and courage,” read the letter, which the group said it received from Christie. “Many of these families have expressed their concern over New Jersey’s highest-in-the nation vaccine mandates. I stand with them now, and will stand with them as their governor in their fight for greater parental involvement in vaccination decisions that affect their children.”
Kabakis defended Christie’s most recent comments on vaccines and praised him for his “courageous, constant, and principled position on parental rights” Monday in a Facebook post:
Listen to Imus’ interview with Christie below:
Catherine Thompson is a senior editor for Talking Points Memo in New York City. She came to the site in 2013 and reported on national affairs. Previously, she worked as a research assistant to investigative reporter Wayne Barrett. She can be reached at email@example.com.