Incoming Tennessee Republican Rep. Mark Green, a physician, suggested vaccines could cause autism during a town hall meeting with his constituents this week.
Green, 54, also called into question the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) data regarding vaccines at the Tuesday event, the Tennessean reported.
“Let me just 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.”
“As a physician, I can make that argument, and I can look at it academically and make the argument against the CDC if they really want to engage me on it,” he continued.
He said some of the CDC’s data has been “maybe fraudulently managed.”
Green’s remarks came in response to a question from a mother of a young adult with autism who asked about cuts to Medicaid funding, according to the Tennessean.
A former state senator, Green was elected in November to represent Tennessee’s 7th congressional district, which Republican Sen.-elect Marsha Blackburn currently represents.
He later told the newspaper that he “would encourage families to get vaccinated at this time,” as he has done with his own children.
“There appears to be some evidence that as vaccine numbers increase, rates of autism increase,” Green said. “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.”
According to the CDC, “there is no link between vaccines and autism.” The American Academy of Pediatrics, too, stresses “scientific evidence does not show any link between vaccines and autism” and provides guidelines for how to help hesitant parents.
Earlier this year, Green was President Trump's pick for Army secretary, but he ultimately withdrew his nomination after mounting criticism over remarks he's made about Muslim and gay Americans.