"Insurance Company Pulls Actor Rob Schneider's Ads Over His Anti-Vaccine Views"
CREDIT: Richard Shotwell/Invision/AP
State Farm will no longer run ads featuring Rob Schneider, the actor best known for his Saturday Night Live sketches and his roles in comedies like The Hot Chick and Grown Ups, because of backlash over his controversial views on vaccination. Schneider, who is a well-known vaccine denier, was accused of being an inappropriate spokesperson for the insurance giant.
Schneider recently resurrected one of his SNL characters for an ad campaign for State Farm, helping the company sell its "Discount Double Check" program. But that move quickly sparked criticism among public health advocates, who pointed out that Schneider has suggested that the shots lead to lasting health issues, as well as compared lawmakers to Nazis for enacting stricter vaccination requirements.
Similar myths about vaccines have been touted by other celebrities like Jenny McCarthy, Donald Trump, and Kristin Cavallari. Although those conspiracy theories been thoroughly debunked by a wide body of scientific evidence, they have effectively influenced the opinions of an increasing number of U.S. parents who are opting to skip their kids' recommended shots — a trend that health officials say has led to a rise in vaccine preventable diseases like measles and whooping cough throughout the country.
In light of that persistent public health issue, activists started a social media campaign urging State Farm to end their affiliation with the actor. "State Farm provides health insurance, and nothing ensures public health more than getting vaccinated," a video produced by the social media group Chow Babe, which fights against vaccine denial, noted. "If you have a State Farm policy, contact your agent and demand that someone who publicly states dangerous opinions should not be a spokesperson for a health insurance company."
Critics soon flooded State Farm's Facebook page. "Time to get a new spokesperson. Rob Schneider's anti-medicine stances are dangerous and false," one user wrote. "Would I buy anything health related from a spokesman who doesn't believe in vaccines? That's pretty ridiculous," another commented.
This week, State Farm gave into the pressure and pulled the ad. The company's director of public affairs told PRWeek that Scneider's ad "has unintentionally been used as a platform for discussion unrelated to the products and services we provide" and that's why State Farm is "working to remove the ad from our rotation at this time."
Rob Schneider has not officially responded to State Farm's decision, but appeared to tweet a thinly veiled reference to the controversy on Tuesday night. "If the Freedom of Speech is taken away then dumb and silent we may be led, like sheep to the slaughter," the actor posted on his account, quoting George Washington.
A similar controversy unfolded earlier this year when the restaurant Chili's announced a partnership with an organization that promotes the false link between vaccines and autism. After massive public outcry over Chili's proceeds potentially going toward an anti-vaccine group, the chain canceled the partnership based on "feedback" from its guests.
Despite the fact that inoculation remains controversial in certain circles, the scientific community considers vaccines to be one of the most important public health advances in the modern world. Vaccinating kids over the past two decades has prevented more than 700,000 of them from dying, and has virtually eradicated diseases like polio that were once serious threats in the United States. Thanks to what's called "herd immunity," which refers to the fact that an increase in vaccinated individuals can protect people who haven't gotten their shots, vaccinating children helps keep their entire families healthier.