Viewers are calling on Channel Seven to address a new controversy surrounding Pete Evans, who posed with a prominent anti-vaccination campaigner and shared a link to the man’s organisation that lobbies for vaccination reform.
The My Kitchen Rules judge uploaded a snap alongside Robert F. Kennedy Jr. on Saturday, sparking a firestorm online.
Kennedy, nephew of the late president, is a prolific anti-vaxxer who heads up an organisation known as Children’s Health Defense that claims to expose vaccination myths.
“Great to spend some time with @robertfkennedyjr and learning more about the important work he is doing for our planet and for the coming generations,” the chef wrote, tagging Children’s Health Defense’s Instagram page.
Now furious audience members are demanding Channel 7 take action, questioning the chef’s ongoing role on MKR, where he has appeared as a judge for the past decade, and even launching a petition.
Channel 7 released a statement to The Daily Telegraph addressing the issue and denying links between Pete and the anti-vax movement.
“Pete is not anti-vax. His position on this, and more generally, is to further his own education on all topics regarding health,” a spokeswoman told the paper.
Pete Evans has never publically addressed his position on the topic personally, and many remain unconvinced.
Jane Hansen wrote for the Telegraph that Seven should reconsider their position.
“For anyone, even a chef with no medical background, to not see what is at stake by undermining confidence in vaccination, is truly mind-boggling,” she wrote.
“I’m not sure how comfortable the Seven Network should be continuing to give Evans a public platform when he keeps such dodgy company.”
Others online tend to agree, some even calling out advertisers with the network, and threatening to boycott the show.
“No thanks. Pete Evans is in it,” one man responded to an ad for the show.
“I will not be watching MKR ever again,” another agreed.
“NRMA Insurance are you sponsoring @mykitchenrules in 2020? You should consider pulling your support,” another wrote.
“You’re a celebrity chef. Stay in your lane,” another advised.
“@mykitchenrules you’re going to want to keep a firm eye on Pete Evans and his ‘voice’,” another wrote.
Channel Seven has not responded to Yahoo Lifestyle’s request for comment.
Robert F Kennedy Jr.’s anti-vax reputation
Robert F. Kennedy Jr. is an environmental attorney, and though he found success prosecuting businesses for polluting water sources earlier in his career, he has since become known for his vocal anti-vaccination advocacy, over his Children’s Health Defense organisation.
The website’s mission does not specifically name vaccines as their main source of focus, though research papers with names like, Vaccine Failures: The Glaring Problem Officials Are Ignoring and Mercury in Vaccines pepper the contents.
Pete’s post referring to the organisation has sparked intense reaction from professionals, and now members of the medical community are calling for action and response.
Professor Kristine Macartney, a pediatric infectious disease specialist and director of the National Centre for Immunisation Research and Surveillance with the University of Sydney, told Yahoo Lifestyle when it comes to discussing vaccinations, the risk of spreading misinformation means it should be left to the experts.
“It is really important to recognise the harm that is potentially caused here,” she says.
“When we see a child die needlessly from measles… in a world where people are getting the wrong messages, it’s incredibly important that we recognise how serious these diseases are.”
Pete Evans has been contacted for comment.
It’s not the first time Pete Evans has sparked outrage. The paleo chef has come under fire in the past for throwing his weight behind a controversial new study out of Canada that is suggesting drinking water with fluoride while pregnant could lead to a drop in your baby’s IQ.
He has however got a strong following with over 200k followers and is one of the most recognisable faces in Australian cooking thanks to his role as a MKR judge.
A deadly serious decision
Last year, the World Health Organisation named vaccination hesitancy among the top risks to public health.
Professor Macartney says when it comes to associating and promoting with people who are outspoken anti-vaxxers, even if not their message, it’s important to weigh up that risk.
“That is very serious and it’s something that everyone who is associated with that (person) needs to think carefully about,” she warns.
“It is really important that when someone is propagating misinformation that as a community we stand up and we give people the confidence to seek appropriate and trusted sources of information.”