Dr Peter Hotez, the dean of the National School of Tropical Medicine at Baylor College of Medicine, told MSNBC’s Mehdi Hasan he had been the target of an “overwhelming” harassment campaign since the “tres hombres” ganged up to pressure him into a live debate over the safety and efficacy of Covid-19 vaccines.
Dr Hotez said the attacks from the anti-vaccine lobby included physical stalking and “incessant threatening emails”.
“The stuff online is just total whack-a-doodle. And let’s face it, when you have RFK Jr and Joe Rogan, and Elon Musk, all tag-teaming, those tres hombres at the same time,” he told MSNBC.
“That probably includes just about every follower on Twitter. So, it’s pretty overwhelming.”
Dr Hotez appeared on The Joe Rogan Experience in April 2020 to discuss Covid-19, and said he was prepared to do another one-on-one interview.
“I’ve offered to come and talk to Joe Rogan again, and have that discussion with him, but not to turn it into the Jerry Springer with having RFK Jr on,” he told MSNBC.
“In science, we don’t typically do debates. What we do is we write scientific papers … one doesn’t typically debate science.”
.@PeterHotez responds to being asked to debate anti-vaxxer RFK Jr.— The Mehdi Hasan Show (@MehdiHasanShow) June 19, 2023
"Anti-vaccine disinformation...is now a lethal force in the United States. I offered to go on Joe Rogan but not to turn it into the Jerry Springer show with having RFK Jr. on." pic.twitter.com/9ydNLXnxeS
The saga began after Dr Hotez shared a Vice article that debunked the “orgy of unchecked vaccine misinformation” made by RFK Jr and Rogan during a three-hour interview last week.
On Saturday, Rogan challenged the world-renowned vaccine expert to debate Covid vaccines with RFK Jr.
“Peter, if you claim what RFKjr is saying is ‘misinformation’ I am offering you $100,000.00 to the charity of your choice if you’re willing to debate him on my show with no time limit,” he tweeted.
Dr Hotez replied that he was prepared to come on Rogan’s podcast to have a “meaningful discussion”.
“Joe if you are serious about addressing vaccines + the fact that 200,000 unvaccinated Americans needlessly perished during our awful delta/BA.1 Covid waves (including 40,000 in our state of Texas) because they fell victims to vaccine disinformation: I want to have that discussion.”
Mr Musk then joined in the pile-on, saying: “He’s afraid of public debate, because he knows he’s wrong.”
Mr Musk’s tweet seemed to spark a succession of venture capitalists to enter the conversation, including Bill Ackman, the CEO of Pershing Square, who offered to throw in $150,000 to convince Dr Hotez to participate.
On Sunday, Dr Hotez tweeted that an anti-vaxx “stalker” had confronted and filmed him outside his home in Houston.
In an interview on Sunday night, Dr Hotez said the claim that he was a “shill” for Big Pharma was exasperating.
“I make low-cost, patent-free vaccines for low and middle income countries... that led to 100 million doses being administered in India and Indonesia. No patents, minimal strings attached, so we actually found a way to bypass the pharma companies and yet RKF Jr incessantly calls me a pharma shill.”
He said the origin of his feud with RFK Jr began after he debunked the propagandist’s false claims linking vaccines to autism in his 2018 book Vaccines Did Not Cause Rachel’s Autism: My Journey as a Vaccine Scientist, Pediatrician, and Autism Dad.
“He’s been kind of after me ever since then... He’s at it again. But this time it’s caused something really terrible.”
Dr Hotez said that 200,000 Americans had needlessly died because they believed anti-vaccine disinformation during the Delta and Omicron waves in 2021 and 2022.
“Anti-vaccine disinformation (has) always done a lot of damage and harm but it’s now a lethal force in the United States.”
RFK Jr is currently polling at 16 per cent in the RealClearPolitics average poll in the Democratic primary, behind President Joe Biden on 62 per cent.
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