Donald Trump’s son Eric Trump will give the keynote speech next month at an anti-vaccine conference, marking the latest alliance between the Trump family and the GOP’s fringiest elements.
Trump is set to speak at the Truth About Cancer Live! convention between Oct. 22 and 24 in Nashville, joining a speakers’ lineup that includes some of the most prominent promoters of disinformation about vaccines, as well as leading figures in the QAnon conspiracy theory movement.
The conference is the brainchild of Ty and Charlene Bollinger, two major promoters of anti-vaccine disinformation who have made tens of millions of dollars promoting both alternative health cures for cancer and vaccine fears. The Bollingers have dubbed the coronavirus vaccine “that abominable vaccine,” according to a Center for Public Integrity report, and sell a $200 video series promoting vaccine fearmongering on their website.
Trump confirmed his scheduled speech in an email to The Daily Beast.
“I am not there to talk about vaccines,” Trump wrote. “I am in Nashville to talk about the accomplishments of the 45th President of the United States.”
Trump disputed the idea that the conference is “anti-vaccine,” pointing to his vaccinated status.
“As to labeling something an anti-vaccine event, it wouldn’t make much sense for me to attend as a vaccinated person if it was,” Trump wrote.
The Bollingers and “Truth About Cancer” didn’t respond to a request for comment.
Trump added that the push for a coronavirus vaccine during his father’s administration could amount to “one of the greatest accomplishments of any president in history.” But his hosts at the convention don’t appear to share his high opinion of the coronavirus vaccine. In posts on Telegram, a social media app popular on the right, the Bollingers have called the vaccine a “SHOT OF POISON!” and the “COVID kill shot.” The Bollingers have also attacked vaccines more broadly, claiming in social media posts that vaccines cause autism.
Eric Trump’s keynote address marks just the latest unusual conference appearance by a member of the former president’s family. On Sept. 11, Donald Trump gave the keynote address at a conference tied to the Unification Church, which has often been called a cult.
The Bollingers first rose to prominence in “alternative health” internet communities after several of Ty Bollinger’s relatives died of cancer, prompting him to position himself as a chemotherapy skeptic with a video series called “Truth About Cancer,” even as he pushed other conspiracy theories about 9/11 Truth and chemtrails. Since then, Bollingers have become some of the internet’s most notorious promoters of anti-vaccine activism. In May, a report from the Center for Countering Digital Hate dubbed the Bollingers members of the “Disinformation Dozen,” a small group the organization says is responsible for the vast majority of anti-vaccine content on Facebook. Another
Other anti-vaccine speakers at the event include Robert F. Kennedy Jr. and Andrew Wakefield, the author of a retracted study linking vaccination with autism—a claim repeated by former President Trump on multiple occasions. Judy Mikovits, who went viral in the summer of 2020 as the star of the “Plandemic” coronavirus disinformation video and has falsely claimed as many as 50 million Americans could be killed by the vaccine, is also scheduled to speak. In promotional copy for tickets to the convention, which range in price from $197 to $997, the Bollingers promise the event will reveal “the truth about vaccines.”
While the conference’s name suggests it’s only about cancer, Truth About Cancer and the Bollingers have sought for years to create an alliance between anti-vaccine groups and advocates for “natural” cancer cures. In fact, if it’s anything like the last event, discussions of cancer seem unlikely to play a major role in the speeches from many of the anti-vaccine figures. At the 2019 Truth About Cancer conference, Kennedy and anti-vaccine activist Del Bigtree barely mentioned cancer during their speeches about vaccines, according to a report from Medium publication Elemental.
QAnon, the conspiracy theory that imagines Donald Trump will soon imprison or execute his enemies and institute a fascist state, will also be well-represented at the conference. A number of QAnon promoters are sharing the speaker’s list bill with the younger Trump, including QAnon personalities “Mel K” and Scott McKay. Krystal Tini, a model and QAnon Instagram influencer, is also set to speak.
Edward Group and Mike Adams, two alternative health personalities who have been regulars on conspiracy theory hub InfoWars, are giving speeches as well. Trump adviser Roger Stone is also giving a speech.
Along with their anti-vaccine activism, the Bollingers have faced criticism for a rally they organized just blocks from the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6. During the event, Charlene Bollinger praised the rioters attacking Congress.
“We pray for the patriots that are there now inside,” Charlene Bollinger said during the event. “They’re trying to get inside that Capitol.”