Chili’s Cancels Autism Fundraiser Amid Backlash
Chili’s Grill & Bar has canceled a fundraiser for a national autism organization after facing criticism related to the group’s views on vaccines.
The restaurant chain planned to donate 10 percent of proceeds from each check Monday at 1,249 locations to the National Autism Association in cases where customers mentioned the nonprofit group. The autism association was expected to use the funds for its Big Red Safety Box Program, which provides toolkits to help families with children who have autism and are at risk of wandering.
The fundraiser, however, sparked a backlash on social media stemming from statements on the National Autism Association’s website related to vaccines.
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“While mainstream science discounts vaccinations as a cause, members of the National Autism Association feel vaccinations have triggered autism in a subset of children, and that an overly aggressive vaccination schedule coupled with toxic adjuvants in vaccines could affect individuals who have a family history of autoimmune disorders specifically,” the group’s website says.
The views fall counter to those of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the scientific and medical communities which have rejected links between autism and vaccines.
Critics took to Chili’s Facebook page to deride the company for supporting the autism group.
“Come for dinner, stay for pertussis,” wrote one user.
“You lost me and my entire family as customers. Will go to Applebees. Cant believe you are advocating to not vaccinate children,” wrote another.
A Chili’s spokeswoman indicated that the event was not intended to “express a view on the medical or scientific positions related to autism.” The National Autism Association was selected based on the percentage of donations that would directly support programing to help those with the developmental disorder, the company said. Nonetheless, the negative response prompted Chili’s to cancel the fundraiser.
“While we remain committed to supporting the children and families affected by autism, we canceled Monday’s Give Back Event based on the feedback we heard from our guests,” a spokeswoman for the restaurant chain told Disability Scoop. “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.”
In a statement, the National Autism Association thanked Chili’s for “taking a chance on us.”
“Though NAA has changed our mission and efforts in recent years to focus on autism safety, namely wandering prevention, controversial views about vaccines remained on our website,” the group said. “We respect (Chili’s) decision and ask everyone to please speak words of love and kindness.”