Chili’s Cancels Nationwide Autism Fundraiser; Cites Vaccine Backlash

A planned nationwide fundraiser at most of Chili’s 1,200 restaurants, to benefit the National Autism Association was cancelled due to customer backlash over vaccines. The fundraiser, to honor National Autism Awareness Month, would have allowed patrons to donate 10 percent of their Monday check toward the drive. The customer backlash was apparently caused by a page on the National Autism Association’s website, linking vaccines to autism as a possible cause.

Wendy Fournier, president of the the National Autism Association was shocked by the cancellation. She further claimed that the section of the website that was in contention was outdated.

“We haven’t even looked at that page — it’s been up there for years.”

Despite recent celebrity support of the idea that vaccines can be linked to autism, the evidence just does not support the connection. The British study, published by Dr. Andrew Wakefield that first claimed there was a link between autism and vaccinations has been retracted, and was called an ‘elaborate hoax’ by Fiona Godlee, the editor in chief of the British Medical Joarnal. Godlee cited that Wakefield had altered the case studies of the 12 patients he used as the basis of his study, in short, that Wakefield cooked the books to achieve the results that he desired. Wakefield was stripped of his license to practice medicine after it was discovered that he had been paid by a law firm that intended to sue major vaccine manufacturers. Most of his co-authors removed their names from his study, but the damage was done. Panicked parents worldwide began refusing vaccinations based on this now disgraced study; measles, mumps and rubella, diseases that were thought to be stamped out have been on the rise ever since.

Chili’s posted a statement announcing the cancellation on their Facebook page:

Chili’s is committed to giving back to the communities in which our guests live and work through local and national Give Back Events. While we remain committed to supporting the children and families affected by autism, we are canceling Monday’s Give Back Event based on the feedback we heard from our guests.

We believe autism awareness continues to be an important cause to our guests and team members, and we will find another way to support this worthy effort in the future with again our sole intention being to help families affected by autism. At Chili’s, we want to make every guest feel special and we thank all of our loyal guests for your thoughtful questions and comments.

The cancelled Chili’s fundraiser was planned around the National Autism Association’s “Big Red Safety Box”program, which provides identity tags, a safety alert wrist band and door and window alarms to families with children who are autistic.