- Hedge-fund manager Bernard Selz and his wife Lisa have donated millions to leading anti-vaccination organisations, The Washington Post reported.
- Their donations were used to fund “Vaxxed,” a 2016 documentary that relied on pseudoscience to question the safety of vaccines.
- Before 2012, the couple’s philanthropy focused on furthering education and the arts.
- Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.
New York City declared a public health crisis in April after a measles outbreak began in one Brooklyn neighbourhood.
Two of the city’s wealthy residents have played a significant role in funding the anti-vax movement: Bernard and Lisa Selz have given more than $US3 million to organisations that question the safety of vaccines, a review of their tax returns by The Washington Post revealed. The couple’s donations have been used to fund government lobbying by anti-vaccination activists and the controversial 2016 film “Vaxxed.”
Keep reading to learn how Bernard and Lisa Selz have helped fund the anti-vax movement.
Multiple attempts to reach the Selzes for comment were not returned.
Bernard Selz (right), 79, is a graduate of Columbia University and the manager of Selz Capital, a hedge fund he founded in 2003.
Selz currently acts as Managing Member and Portfolio Manager at Selz Capital, according to Bloomberg.
According to The Washington Post, Lisa Selz, 68, held jobs at Manufacturers Hanover Trust and Tiffany and Co. before taking a role with the Selz Foundation in 1993.
The couple has two sons and lives on Manhattan’s Upper East Side.
The Selzes are known philanthropists.
They have made donations to organisations that support the arts, education and environmental conservation through their personal foundation.
According to the NYU Institute for Studies of the Ancient Worlds’ website, Bernard serves on several boards, including the World Monuments Fund and The Frick Collection.
Their foundation is called the Selz Foundation. It does not have a website that Business Insider was able to find.
But in 2012, The Washington Post reports, the Selz Foundation began to focus on anti-vaccine organisations, starting with a donation to Andrew Wakefield.
In 2012, the gave a $US200,000 gift to a legal fund for anti-vax activist Andrew Wakefield. The reason for the foundation’s shift is unknown.
As Business Insider’s Erin Brodwin previously reported, Wakefield published a study linking the measles vaccine to autism in 1998. Wakefield was convicted of professional misconduct in 2010 and his licence was revoked. The Lancet, the journal that published the study, retracted it twelve years after publishing it.
The Selzes later donated $US1.6 million over several years to two organisations founded by Wakefield.
The money was used to help fund the 2016 film “Vaxxed,” a controversial documentary that questions the safety of vaccines.
In March 2019, Amazon removed the film from its streaming service following public criticism.
One of the anti-vax organisations the Selzes support is the Informed Consent Action Network (ICAN), which was founded by Del Bigtree.
According to its website, the network aims to “[expose] shortcomings with our vaccine program.”
The Selzes’ gift of $US1 million accounted for three-quarters of the group’s $US1.4 million budget, 2017 tax returns obtained by The Washington Post show. Lisa Selz also serves as ICAN’s president.
Because of the Selz Foundation’s support, ICAN founder Del Bigtree was able to travel the country hosting events and lobbying lawmakers to further the group’s agenda.
Bigtree has hosted numerous events in Williamsburg, ground zero of New York City’s measles outbreak.
In April, Business Insider reported that 285 cases of measles had been reported in Brooklyn. The outbreak began with the ultra-Orthodox Jewish community in Brooklyn’s Williamsburg neighbourhood, many of whom rejected the vaccine for religious reasons.
The outbreak is so severe that New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio declared the outbreak a public health crisis.
The city now requires all un-vaccinated persons to get a vaccine or pay a fine.
More cases of the measles have been reported in the United States in 2019 so far than in any other year in the past three decades. According to The New York Times, there have also been outbreaks in Isreal and Ukraine.