The wife of a top Trump White House official went on an unhinged anti-vaccination Twitter rant Wednesday morning, wrongly suggesting that the deadly measles virus could be beneficial.
Darla Shine, a former TV producer, is the wife of Bill Shine, a former Fox News executive and current White House deputy chief of staff for communications. Her rant was sparked by a CNN segment on the measles outbreak in Washington and Oregon, which has thus far seen more than 50 unvaccinated individuals contracting the disease—in addition to more than 200 cases in New York.
“Here we go LOL #measlesoutbreak on #CNN,” she wrote in response to the segment. “#Fake #Hysteria.”
“The entire Baby Boom population alive today had the #Measles as kids,” she bizarrely added. “Bring back our #ChildhoodDiseases they keep you healthy & fight cancer.”
The MMR (measles-mumps-rubella) vaccine has been repeatedly proven by scientific circles to be safe and effective against measles, which causes painful rashes that can potentially affect organs and lead to death, particularly among those whose immune systems are compromised.
Nevertheless, Shine doubled down on her anti-vaccination claim, suggesting that her having measles was similar to a child getting chicken pox and gaining lifelong immunity. “I had the #Measles #Mumps #ChickenPox as a child and so did every kid I knew,” she wrote. “Sadly my kids had #MMR so they will never have the life long natural immunity I have. Come breathe on me!”
Shine is correct that having measles as a child protected her from getting the disease again, but she’s wrong that her kids having received the MMR vaccine is “sad.”
Because the disease was eradicated in the U.S. in the early 1990s, people born after that time do not have the immunity to fight the disease. Shine’s children were not only protected from potential death, but also were able to protect others from contracting the disease through herd immunity—or the idea that since most people in a population had the vaccine, they were protected as a “herd.”
In fact, most measles-related deaths are in children under the age of 5 and adults over the age of 30 who are unvaccinated. Measles grants immunity after the disease has passed but can cause serious lifelong issues like blindness, encephalitis (brain swelling), and severe respiratory issues that can lead to pneumonia and death.
After several more tweets accusing her critics of being “trolls” or “Democrat Russian bots,” Shine went so far as to suggest that the measles virus kills cancer.
Shine’s claim that having measles will stave off cancer is completely wrong.
The research she cited was a clinical experiment in which six myeloma patients were given a “concentrated, lab-engineered measles virus,” according to a 2014 story from CNN. In basic terms, the measles virus linked cancer cells together, then exploded, mirroring what the immune system should do but wasn’t done for a cancer patient. The experiment was successful in sending one patient to remission, but the other patients didn’t respond.
The irony? The virus that was given as part of the therapy was structured similarly to a measles vaccine.
Shine’s comments invited immediate scorn from prominent media figures, who noted that a top White House official’s wife was actively spreading anti-vaccination conspiracy theories.
Shine’s comments come at a critical time in the vaccine debate. Just last week, anti-vaxxer Robert F. Kennedy Jr.—nephew of President John F. Kennedy—testified at a Washington state hearing against a bill that would require all entering kindergartners and/or daycare kids to get vaccinated.
This is not the first time Darla Shine has started a national controversy via her social-media accounts. Shortly after her husband was announced in his new Trump role, a bevy of Darla’s racist, sexist, transphobic, or conspiratorial Twitter posts were unearthed.
Correction: A previous version of this article said Darla Shine is a former Fox News producer. We regret the error.