Darla Shine, the wife of White House communications chief Bill Shine, falsely claimed on Wednesday that childhood diseases such as measles "keep you healthy" and "fight cancer."
In a series of tweets promoting anti-vaccination conspiracy theories – views which she has espoused publicly for years – Shine bemoaned the fact her children had received the MMR vaccine, which shields recipients against measles, mumps and rubella. She falsely claimed that her generation, the Baby Boomers, were healthier now, because they had measles as children.
"I had the #Measles #Mumps #ChickenPox as a child and so did every kid I knew - Sadly my kids had #MMR so they will never have the life long natural immunity I have," Shine tweeted, adding, "Come breathe on me!"
"The entire Baby Boom population alive today had the #Measles as kids," Shine later tweeted. "Bring back our #ChildhoodDiseases they keep you healthy & fight cancer."
Dr. Sanjay Gupta, CNN's chief medical correspondent, noted that while people who contract measles do have lifelong immunity, so do nearly all of the people who receive the MMR vaccine.
"If you get the vaccine, the CDC says you're protected for life as, well," the doctor said. "Which would you rather have: The risk of death? The risk of encephalitis? The risk of hospitalization? Millions of cases? Or the two shots?"
Gupta suggested that because measles is highly contagious, getting the MMR vaccine is a decision that concerns others. Babies, he said as an example, are not able to get vaccinated until they are 12 months old, so they are not protected.
"If you don't sort of build a wall ,or what is called herd immunity around them, you are then putting other people at risk — babies, people who can't get the shot, people who have weakened immune systems," he said. "So you do it not just because you love your kids, but you do it because you love other people's kids, as well."
Additionally, Gupta debunked Shine's claim that the measles virus can cure cancer. In her tweets slamming the benefits of having measles, Shine pointed to a 2014 CNN story where a woman who reportedly had incurable cancer was treated with a highly-concentrated dose of the measles virus that sent her cancer into remission in a procedure at the Mayo Clinic. Gupta explained the science behind the Mayo Clinic report depended on lab-engineered measles virus designed to kill a particular kind of cancer that is "totally different than the measles that is circulating." The concept, known as virotherapy, does not extend to the general population.
The measles that fought cancer was "just a vehicle, essentially — a genetically engineered vehicle — to try and kill a tumor," he said. Ironically, the lab-engineered version of the measles virus is similar to the measles vaccine.
Darla Shine's comments come as the worst measles outbreak in decades sweeps across the country, disproportionately affecting minors whose parents have chosen not to vaccinate them against the disease. Shine dismissed the reports as "fake" and "hysteria."
Many of those who are against vaccinations support the notion that vaccines cause autism — a myth that has been widely debunked by multiple studies. Even the CDC notes, "there is no link between vaccines and autism."
However, Darla Shine continued to defend her stance throughout Wednesday, amid mounting backlash on social media.
"I had the measles that was the whole point of my tweet," she wrote. "I have life time natural immunity."
Shine also argued at one point that the "many" of the people contracting the disease in Washington state had actually received the MMR vaccine.
"People texting I'm spreading lies about #vaccines. I'm retweeting physicians, scientific studies, and questioning why #Media covers #MeaslesOutbreak one-sided. Many of the kids w/ #Measles in #Washington WERE #Vaccinated Go ask their #Governor," she added.
Shine faced a wave of criticism following the hiring of her husband, the disgraced former Fox News executive who was ousted from the conservative cable news giant amidst a massive sexual harassment scandal, as Trump's new head of communications. Bill Shine joined the White House as deputy chief of staff for communications — the administration's sixth in 18 months — last summer.
Darla Shine hosted a podcast between 2007 and 2009, and a Salon review last year found that Shine suggested that women cannot be successful in politics because they're "hormonal crazy b**ches."
"This is why women are not major in politics, because we are hormonal crazy b**ches," Shine said on her podcast, "Happy Housewives Club," at the time. "It's true, and once a month the moon aligns with our uteruses or something and we get crazy."
CNN previously reported that Shine suggested a flu pandemic could be a "'setup' by the government in collusion with pharmaceutical companies; pushed a rumor that the Federal Emergency Management Agency was planning on rounding up those afflicted with swine flu and putting them in camps; and said the government could break into homes and force citizens to get the flu vaccine." The news outlet also revealed that Shine hosted prominent members of the anti-vaccination movement on her radio show in 2008 and 2009.
You can watch the full CNN segment here: