Robert Kennedy Jr. on Monday apologized for describing the number of children injured by vaccines as "a holocaust" during a film screening last week.
The nephew of President John F. Kennedy and son of former U.S. Attorney General Robert Kennedy used the term last week at a screening in Sacramento of the film "Trace Amounts." The movie links autism to a vaccine preservative, even though the medical community says such claims have been scientifically disproved.
Kennedy said he was struggling for a way to convey the effects of autism on children and their families.
"I want to apologize to all whom I offended by my use of the word holocaust to describe the autism epidemic," Kennedy said in a statement. "I employed the term during an impromptu speech as I struggled to find an expression to convey the catastrophic tragedy of autism which has now destroyed the lives of over 20 million children and shattered their families."
He said he will use other words to describe the autism crisis in the future.
Kennedy opposes a California bill that would limit vaccination waivers for schoolchildren. It has generated such an acidic debate that some opponents have compared the proposal's author online to Adolf Hitler.
State Sen. Richard Pan, a Democratic pediatrician from Sacramento, said he was under added security in response to his bill. The proposal will be heard Wednesday in a Senate education committee.
“We object to Robert Kennedy Jr.’s insensitive and inappropriate comment that vaccinating children in the U.S. constitutes a ‘Holocaust’,” Deborah Lauter, the ADL’s director of civil rights, said in a statement to JTA.
“Six million Jews and countless others were systematically slaughtered by the Nazis under Hitler,” Lauter said. “Such inappropriate analogies only serve to trivialize the Holocaust and are deeply offensive to Jews and other survivors, as well as those Americans who fought valiantly against the Nazis in World War II.”
Lauter said the ADL urges Kennedy “to refrain from using Holocaust imagery to make his points.”
Thursday marks Holocaust Remembrance Day.
"The word holocaust should never be used as a flippant throwaway line to make a point in a debate," said Assemblyman Marc Levine, vice chair of the Legislative Jewish Caucus, during a Holocaust remembrance event on Monday in the California Assembly.