On Thursday, Jezebel and The Daily Beast reported that Jessica Biel, the actress best known for her work on 7th Heaven and Blade: Trinity, appeared at the California State Assembly alongside vaccine skeptic Robert F. Kennedy, Jr.
The news of the visit—made to lobby against California State Senate Bill 276, which would limit vaccine exemptions—quickly prompted a mix of rage, side-eye, and gleeful dunking on the internet, even from within the entertainment community.
“Hey @JessicaBiel uh yeah something came up, gonna have to cancel that play date with our kids,” actor and screenwriter Adam Goldberg wrote on Twitter. “I had no idea Jessica Biel had a degree in immunology,” author and podcaster Malcolm Gladwell added.
Not everyone received the news poorly. Under the original announcement of the lobbying visit, which Kennedy had made via photo series on Instagram, several seemingly anti-vaxx celebrities offered congratulations for joining the movement.
“Thank you jessica 👍🏿🙏🏿🌹,” actress Rosanna Arquette commented, pairing her gratitude, inexplicably, with black emojis.
“Angel!!!!!! 🙌🏻🙌🏻🙌🏻🙌🏻” wrote ex-porn star turned anti-vaxx activist Jenna Jameson. Actress Rachael Harris also weighed in: “Thank you @jessicabiel ❤️👏🏻👏🏻👏🏻👏🏻👏🏻👏🏻👏🏻😘😘😘😘😘❤️❤️❤️❤️❤️.” As did Kimberly Van Der Beek, wife of James Van Der Beek, of Dawson’s Creek fame: “THANK YOU for enlightening people with grounded information and science today. The full picture of what is known is vital.”
In a statement on Instagram early Thursday, Biel attempted to reject the label “anti-vaxxer,” despite having lobbied alongside Kennedy, the founder of the Children’s Health Defense, an organization that devotes significant efforts to making factually incorrect claims about the levels of mercury in vaccinations and their safety for use in infants. “I am not against vaccinations” Biel wrote. “I support children getting vaccinations and I also support families having the right to make educated medical decisions for their children alongside their physicians.”
(As NBC News’ Brandy Zadrozny noted of Biel’s statement, “Important for those not versed in anti-vaxx talking points: anti-vaxx activists say ‘I am not against vaccines,’ preferring language like ‘pro-choice’ or ‘skeptic’ etc etc. Biel’s Insta post isn’t a walk back and it isn’t ‘setting the record straight.’ It’s a basic confirmation.”)
Biel has a young son with her superstar husband, Justin Timberlake. Also on Thursday, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed a bill that revoked the state’s religious exemption for vaccines, amid an ongoing measles outbreak.
Meanwhile, Jezebel’s Anna Merlan spoke to a legislative staffer who attended Biel’s meeting with California State lawmakers, and who said that “some of what Biel discussed did center around her own personal concerns regarding vaccines.”
“Jessica said that her doctor recommended the regular vaccine schedule for her kid and she refused,” the staffer told Merlan, adding, “She practically admitted to doctor-shopping, which SB 276 is trying to prevent. She said she wants safe vaccines and mentioned ‘corporations’ a lot.”
Biel’s anti-vaxx lobbying attracted the ire of Leah Russin, executive director of Vaccinate California, a co-sponsor of the bill.
“A Hollywood celebrity and the head of an environmental organization should not have credibility on an issue about how to regulate the medical profession, when an overwhelming number of medical professionals support this bill,” Russin told The Daily Beast. “It’s the Jenny McCarthy show all over again.”
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