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State Farm drops Rob Schneider ad amid outcry over his anti-vaccine stance



Rob Schneider performs during 'Black Dog - Comedy Evenings' in Bangalore in 2011.
Rob Schneider performs during 'Black Dog - Comedy Evenings' in Bangalore in 2011.
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State Farm has apparently decided that someone who's outspoken against vaccines is not a good neighbor — or at least, not a good pitchman for the company. The insurer is pulling an ad featuring anti-vaccination activist Rob Schneider, a comedian and actor who's better known for his work on Saturday Night Live and movies like Deuce Bigalow.

Schneider's stance

In 2012, Schneider campaigned against a California law requiring parents to meet with a doctor before they obtain a Personal Belief Exemption, which allows them to opt out of vaccinating their children.

"You can't make people do procedures they don't want," Schneider said in this video interview with News10 Sacramento, posted on the Huffington Post in 2012. "The parents have to be the ones who make the decisions for what's best for our kids."

Elaborating on his concern about vaccines, he said: "The efficacy of these shots have not been proven… and the toxicity of these things. We're having more and more side effects. We're having more and more autism."

In fact, vaccines are tested for years before they're licensed, and their safety and efficacy are closely monitored once they're in use, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Visit this page to learn more about how the CDC monitors the safety of specific vaccines - like the MMR shot, which protects against measles, mumps and rubella, and the DTaP and Tdap shots, which prevent tetanus, diphtheria, and pertussis (whooping cough) - and to dig deeper into data and research about their safety.

Backlash

Jeff Fountain, who writes a pro-science Facebook page called Food Hunk, saw this State Farm ad, in which Schneider reprises his former SNL role.

Fountain then created the meme below – contrasting Schneider's roles as an anti-vaccine advocate and an actor in the commercial – and posted it on his Facebook page on September 16.

Fountain says a lot of people wouldn't make the connection between Schneider's personal opinions about vaccines and his role as a spokesman for State Farm, which also sells health insurance. His intent, he says, wasn't to get Schneider fired; rather, it was to "let people know that this type of thing is happening, and it has real world consequences."

The issue caught fire on social media.

On September 19, the blogger Chow Babe posted a video on YouTube. It urges State Farm policyholders to contact the company and "demand that someone who publicly states dangerous opinions should not be a spokesperson for a health insurance company."

Six days later, the video has received more than 41,000 views.

Reaction

State Farm is now in the process of removing the ad. Phil Supple, State Farm's director of public affairs, issued this statement on Sept. 23:

"State Farm advertising is intended to inform and entertain.  This particular ad has unintentionally been used as a platform for discussion unrelated to the products and services we provide. With that, we are working to remove the ad from our rotation at this time."

I’ve reached out to Rob Schneider, through his representative, for comment. In the meantime, here's what he said on Twitter:

I'll update this post as I learn more.