TODAY’s Willie Geist gives the inside scoop on Robert De Niro’s impassioned vaccine interview: ‘He was fired up’

As Robert De Niro prepared to mark the 15th anniversary of his Tribeca Film Festival, he was hit with criticism over the inclusion of Vaxxed, a documentary promoting the widely discredited claim that vaccines cause autism  — so he pulled the movie.

Despite that decision, the actor, whose 18-year-old son is autistic, railed against the backlash in a TODAY Show interview with Willie Geist and Savannah Guthrie on Wednesday, encouraging people to watch the movie elsewhere and consider the questions it raises.

“I believe it’s much more complicated than that. There is a link and they’re saying there isn’t,” De Niro, 72, responded when Geist pointed out that most doctors don’t believe there’s a connection between vaccinations and the developmental disorder. “I’m not a scientist, but I know because I’ve seen so much reaction. Let’s just find out the truth.”

Geist, 40, takes listeners behind the scenes of the interview in Friday’s episode of TODAY Show Confidential, revealing even he was stunned by De Niro’s candor.

“It was amazing. We knew we were going to ask him about Vax as part of a bigger interview about the Tribeca Film Festival, and we gathered from what we’d heard from him and from his people that he understands you gotta ask, he’ll answer it and let’s move along. We asked the question, and I saw a look in his eye that I’ve never seen before in an interview,” he says. “He was fired up. He was animated, he was passionate about it, and I think he decided literally in that moment, ‘I’m going all in. This is the forum, I’m on the TODAY Show, I’ve got a lot of people watching me, if I’m going to do this, I’m going to do this now.'”

“Luckily we were armed well enough to sort of push back and present the science to him,” he adds. “The reaction to me was interesting, too. Obviously we had so many people who said, ‘I can’t believe he’s saying these things, it’s bad for kids and vaccines.’ And then I heard from parents who I respect and I think are smart people who say, ‘My kid got a shot at 1 year old or 18 months or whatever it was, and things changed after that,’ which is what De Niro said and why he wants to keep asking the questions. I mean, the science is what it is, but it’s still just an electric issue for people.”

Hear Geist preview his new show, Sunday TODAY, when TODAY Show Confidential airs Friday at 2 pm ET on TODAY Show Radio (Ch. 108).


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