Embattled California Gov. Gavin Newsom, who recently said “anti-mask and anti-vax extremists” were responsible for the recall push against him, once drew praise from anti-vaccine advocate Robert F. Kennedy Jr. after he appeared to criticize a bill meant to crack down on vaccine exemptions for students.
In mid-2019, California state lawmakers pushed legislation to tighten vaccine exemptions in response to a nationwide measles outbreak. Newsom twice moved to weaken Senate Bill 276, a hotly debated measure to establish state oversight of vaccine exemptions, citing a concern that it could constitute government overreach.
“I like doctor-patient relationships, bureaucratic relationships are more challenging for me,” Newsom said in June 2019, according to the Los Angeles Times. “So it’s just a broad stroke. I’m a parent, I don’t want someone that the governor of California appointed to make a decision for my family.”
Newsom later said that he was a “very vocal advocate for vaccinations” and that his remarks were not meant to indicate opposition to vaccines. But the governor’s remarks drew praise at the time from Kennedy, a prominent vaccine skeptic and SB276 opponent.
Kennedy met with Newsom in Jan. 2019, weeks before the bill was first introduced in the California state legislature, according to the Times. He praised the governor for what he described as Newsom’s “wise and sober opposition to a draconian proposal to forcibly vaccinate medically fragile children against the wishes of their parents and the medical advice of their physician.”
Newsom’s remarks drew critical op-eds from local newspapers, including the Los Angeles Times and the San Diego Union-Tribune, as well as criticism from state politicians who backed the bill. The legislation later passed with several amendments favored by Newsom.
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