The Media, Republicans, and Vaccinations: A Study in Double Standards

Posted: Feb 03, 2015 10:45 AM

When Chris Christie waded into the (highly visiblethese days) mandatory vaccinations "debate" this week, he detonated a political landmine.  His apparent hedging on the topic drew a round of condemnation from the media, including harsh critiques from several conservatives.  The flap forced the governor to issue a clarification and disrupted whatever messaging strategy the governor had formulated in advance of his foreign visit to the United Kingdom. Amid the hubbub, Daniel Foster laid out the liberty vs. public health tension at play here and correctly identified the underlying purpose of the controversy:

The 'anti-science' party strikes again.  Except...isn't Christie's stance -- since defended by frequent Christie critic Rand Paul -- virtually indistinguishable from Barack Obama's position on vaccinations and parental rights?

Here's another quote from the Obama White House that sounds an awful lot like, "it's up to the parents."   Why is the media all over Christie, but not Obama, for delivering something other than an authoritative "must vaccinate" response?  Perhaps they'll argue that Christie's history of pandering on these types of issues leaves him open to sharper criticism.  For instance:

While running for governor in 2009, Christie wrote a letter wherein he seemed to acknowledge a link between autism and vaccinations—a theory for which there is no scientific proof. “I have met with families affected by autism from across the state and have been struck by their incredible grace and courage. 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.” Also in 2009, Christie told The Don Imus Show that he struggled with then-Gov. Jon Corzine’s flu-shot mandate and the problems some parents have with vaccines.

On the latter supposed infraction, Christie's whole point is that not all vaccinations are created equal; the more deadly and serious the disease, the more appropriate government mandates become.  The flu shot is not the same as a measels vaccine.  On the former, declining to slam the door on an unscientific theory linking autism and vaccinations comes closer to fitting the "Republicans hate science!" bill, except...ta da:

"The science right now is inconclusive, we have to research it."

That was O himself, on the trail in 2008. Oddly, the media didn't try to crucify him as a reckless nutter for soft-peddaling the exact same question.  Guess who else got in on the action? Via the Daily Caller:

As a U.S. senator and presidential candidate in 2008, Hillary Clinton expressed support for the theory that childhood vaccinations contribute to autism, writing in a campaign questionnaire that she was “committed” to finding the causes of autism, including “possible environmental causes like vaccines.”

Well, well, well.  It's almost as if identical positions can be simultaneously cast as dangerously anti-science (R), and no big deal (D).  And while we're on the subject of media double standards seemingly established to "kookify" Republicans in voters' minds, Allahpundit spots another one:  Mike Huckabee has been pilloried by the mainstream press for an answer he gave on gay marriage on CNN over the weekend:

The soundbite here that had the media beating up on him yesterday is a bad rap. Every headline I saw about his CNN interview claimed that he’d compared the gay “lifestyle” to drinking or swearing, evidence that he saw it as some sort of vice. Well … yes, a minister likely will see it that way, won’t he? Watch the clip, though, and you’ll see that he also compared being gay to liking classical music or opera, a “taste” he doesn’t share and one he obviously doesn’t consider sinful. Go figure that media coverage would omit the innocuous analogy the better to frame him as the tsk-ing Christian schoolmarm

AP also links to a nifty find by Eddie Scarry, who notes that media umbrage over Huckabee's description of homosexuality as a "lifestyle" was inexplicably muted when it was erstwhile gay marriage opponent Barack Obama employing the same term.  But the rules are different for Democrats.