Robert De Niro has come under fire for championing a highly controversial film by a disgraced British doctor, which attempts to link the MMR vaccine to autism.

The A-lister has intervened to ensure Vaxxed: From Cover-up To Catastrophe, directed by Andrew Wakefield, will be shown at his Tribeca Film Festival in New York next month.

The 72-year-old, who has an autistic son, Elliot, with his wife Grace Hightower, said he wanted to promote a 'discussion' about the documentary, which will claim US health authorities covered up evidence linking the triple jab for measles, mumps and rubella (MMR) to rising autism rates.


Robert De Niro (left) has come under fire for championing a highly controversial film about vaccination. The star has an autistic son, Elliot (centre) with his wife Grace Hightower (right)
He denied being 'anti-vaccine' or endorsing the film, but confirmed it was the first time he had lobbied for a movie to be shown at the festival.

In the film, Wakefield attempts to reignite the MMR controversy by claiming US authorities 'sliced and diced' data to mask a link with autism. It is 18 years since he sparked the health scare, after writing an article in The Lancet suggesting that MMR could cause the developmental disorder.

It led to plunging vaccination rates - triggering measles outbreaks across Europe and the US on a scale not seen in decades. Measles can cause profound deafness and even kill. In 2010 Wakefield was struck off by the General Medical Council, after a panel found he had acted 'dishonestly and irresponsibly' in conducting 'unethical' research.

In Vaxxed he claims the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention manipulated data, adding: 'The CDC had known all along there was this MMR/autism risk.'

Mr De Niro said: 'I am not personally endorsing the film, nor am I anti-vaccination; I am only providing the opportunity for a conversation around the issue.'

Professor Sir Liam Donaldson, England's chief medical officer during the MMR scare, said: 'Wakefield can't appear to accept he has been wrong, wrong, wrong.'

The Department of Health said: 'The safety of MMR has been endorsed through numerous studies.'