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Chili’s cancels autism charity event
Rochester, N.Y. -- Restaurant chain Chili's canceled one of its recently planned "Give Back Events" after the group it was supporting came under harsh criticism for alleging a connection between childhood vaccines and autism, a claim largely disproved by the scientific community.
Chili's issued the following statement on the matter.
"While we remain committed to supporting the children and families affected by autism, based on the feedback we heard from our guests, we are cancelling Monday's Give Back Event."
The Give Back Event was designed to give 10 percent of the day's revenue to the National Autism Association.
Many criticized Chili's for supporting the group because of its claim that vaccines can cause autism.
Dr. Susan L. Hyman of the University of Rochester Medical Center re-emphasized importance of childhood vaccines, and said there's no science to back up the claim about vaccines causing autism.
"The science is that autism is related to genetic predisposition," she said. "But one of those environmental events is not childhood vaccines."
The president of the National Autism Association, Wendy Fournier, said she stands by the claims on the organization's website.
"Parents and everyone should be free to share their views," Fournier said. "You're entitled to as much information as possible."
Fournier also told 13WHAM News the organization focuses much of its attention on research and family support for those with autism, and that the vaccine issue has not been discussed in years.
"It's irrelevant to the National Autism Association and the programs we provide to the community," she added.
Given all the controversy, Fournier said the group may consider rewording its claims about vaccines, but added there are no immediate plans to do so.
Chili's has indicated it will find some other way to help the autism community in the near future.