Tennessee congressman gets national attention after vaccine comments

Mark Green/ Courtesy of Tennessee General Assembly website

WASHINGTON — Rep.-elect Mark Green has gained national attention after he claimed at a town hall Tuesday that a rise in autism cases could be linked to preservatives in vaccines, according to a video posted by The Tennessean on Wednesday.

The video shows Green, a Republican from Tennessee, saying he’ll confront the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention about autism and vaccines.

“Let me say this about autism,” Green said. “I have committed to people in my community, up in Montgomery County, to stand on the CDC’s desk and get the real data on vaccines. Because there is some concern that the rise in autism is the result of the preservatives that are in our vaccines.”

However, Green said after the video was published Wednesday that his comments are being “misconstrued.”

“Recent comments I made at a town hall regarding vaccines has been misconstrued. I want to reiterate my wife and I vaccinated our children, and we believe, and advise others they should have their children vaccinated,” Green said in a statement to CNN on Wednesday.

He also added that vaccines are “essential to good population health.”

“There appears to be some evidence that as vaccine numbers increase, rates of autism increase,” Green told The Tennessean. “We need better research, and we need it fast. We also need complete transparency of any data. Vaccines are essential to good population health. But that does not mean we should not look closely at the correlation for any causation.”

The alleged correlation between vaccines and autism has been widely debunked, and has been called out by the advocacy group Autism Speaks, which previously said, “Over the last two decades, extensive research has asked whether there is any link between childhood vaccinations and autism. The results of this research are clear: Vaccines do not cause autism. We urge that all children be fully vaccinated.”

CNN has reached out to the CDC for comment about Green’s remarks.

“Studies, including one analysis of more than a million children, show no link between vaccines and autism,” said CNN Chief Medical Correspondent Dr. Sanjay Gupta. “We don’t know what causes autism, but we know with certainty that vaccines do not.”

Many on social media praised Green for his comments.

“Thank you so much for speaking out about this!! We deserve the truth when it comes to our health… we appreciate you listening to the voices of the people!” said one commenter on the Tennessean Facebook post.

“From a Mom of a vaccine injured child, thank you for speaking truth Mr. Mark Green!!! #autism,” wrote another. 

“For parents with vaccine injured children this is like a BRIGHT LIGHT of HOPE. THANK YOU Dr. Mark Green! You have my FULL Respect!”

This isn’t the first time Green has found himself in the middle of controversy — he also had been tapped by President Donald Trump to be considered for secretary of the Army. He ultimately withdrew from the process after his nomination ran into trouble following a backlash for past controversial statements he had made on LGBT issues, Islam and evolution.

In 2016, Green told a tea party group that “if you poll the psychiatrists, they’re going to tell you that transgender is a disease.” In 2013, Green blasted President Barack Obama for supporting what he said were “‘transvestites in uniform.”