Chili's nixes autism event after backlash

Chili's nixes autism event after backlash »Play Video
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BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (KBAK/KBFX) — What started out as Chili's "viral act of kindness" quickly changed after a large amount of backlash. Monday, the restaurant chain canceled a nationwide fundraiser to support the National Autism Association, a nonprofit group that links vaccinations to autism.

Local Dr. William Franklin said he disagrees with a connection between autism in children and immunizations. Franklin is also the parent of an autistic child.

"The diseases that we're preventing against, they've been gone a long time because of vaccinations. You think about measles that used to be an everyday occurrence for doctors. Now, we don't see it as much," said Franklin.

At more than 1,200 participating restaurants, the Chili's fundraiser would have donated 10 percent of proceeds to the National Autism Association, upon a guest's request.

The NAA website states, "Vaccinations can trigger or exacerbate autism in some, if not many, children, especially those who are genetically predisposed to immune, autoimmune or inflammatory conditions."

In an emailed statement, Chili's said: "While we remain committed to supporting the children and families affected by autism, we are canceling Monday’s give back event based on the feedback we heard from our guests. We believe autism awareness continues to be an important cause to our guests and team members, and we will find another way to support this worthy effort in the future with again our sole intention being to help families affected by autism."

The Chili's Facebook page quickly flooded with upset people over the fundraiser. Outside of the restaurant Monday, local diners echoed the online posts.

"In my anatomy and physiology class with diseases and disorders, specifically, we went through the Centers for Disease Control Center, and there was nothing that came up against vaccinating our children, administering the vaccinations they need," said Christian Phipps.

The CDC rejects the claim that vaccinations cause autism.

Franklin agrees: "The long term consequences, and even the immediate health consequences of having some of the disease we can vaccinate against, are more of a concern."

People on the other side of the issue are also upset with the restaurant chain. Chili's Facebook page has many comments from anti-vaccine groups and parents angry about Monday’s canceled fundraiser, calling for a boycott of the restaurant.