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Monday, October 16, 2023

The disgrace and danger of RFK Jr.

"I knew Robert F. Kennedy, and Robert F. Kennedy Jr. is no Robert F. Kennedy"

Robert Reich

I’m feeling much better (thank you for your well wishes). But my COVID would have been far worse if I’d had no vaccinations and hence no immunity.

Which makes me seethe about Robert F. Kennedy Jr. — not to mention his decision to run for president as an independent and thereby potentially draw votes away from Joe Biden in what could be a nail-biter of a race determining the future of American democracy.


At a time when the truth is a precious common good, RFK Jr. has been trading on his famous name to spread dangerous lies.

A few months ago, he claimed that COVID-19 was “targeted to attack Caucasians and Black people,” and that “the people who are most immune are Ashkenazi Jews and Chinese.” And that “the Chinese are spending hundreds of millions of dollars developing ethnic bioweapons and we are developing ethnic bioweapons. They’re collecting Russian DNA. They’re collecting Chinese DNA so we can target people by race.”

I knew Robert F. Kennedy, and Robert F. Kennedy Jr. is no Robert F. Kennedy.

I worked in Robert F. Kennedy’s Senate office in 1967. It wasn’t a glamorous job. I ran the signature machine. But I did have a chance to get to see Bobby Kennedy close up. I watched him stand up for economic and social justice. I witnessed him bringing together people of every race and ethnicity — to demand equal rights and an end to the Vietnam War.

Robert F. Kennedy would never have suggested or even thought that a deadly virus was targeted at certain races. He wouldn’t have repeated the trope, dating at least to the Middle Ages, that Jews unleashed a plague on non-Jews.

Junior has promoted the baseless claim linking vaccines to autism. He’s been a leading proponent of COVID-19 vaccine misinformation, suggesting the vaccine has killed more people than it has saved.

In his 2021 book, The Real Anthony Fauci: Bill Gates, Big Pharma, and the Global War on Democracy and Public Health, he alleged, without plausible evidence, that Dr. Fauci performed “genocidal experiments, sabotaged treatments for AIDS, and conspired with Bill Gates to suppress information about COVID-19.” This is libelous nonsense.

RFK Jr.’s misinformation about vaccines continues to endanger public health.

Another contrast with his father and his uncle: In 1962, President John F. Kennedy signed the Vaccination Assistance Act in order to, in the words of a CDC report, “achieve as quickly as possible the protection of the population, especially of all preschool children ... through intensive immunization activity.”)

RFK Jr. is not an independent. He is a right-wing tool being used to help elect Trump. His candidacy has been backed by a PAC that also funds Marjorie Taylor Greene and George Santos.

If not for his name, RFK Jr. would be just another crackpot in the growing pool of bottom-feeding right-wing fringe politicians seeking office. But the Kennedy brand is political gold, and it could pull away just enough unwitting Democratic voters to tip the race to Trump.

Democracy won by a whisker in 2020. Just 44,000 votes in Arizona, Georgia, and Wisconsin decided the outcome. If RFK Jr, or any third-party candidate, peels off just a fraction of the vote from Biden, while Trump’s base stays with him, they will deliver a victory to Trump.

That Robert F. Kennedy’s good name is being used in a way that increases the risk of a Trump victory next year is shameful. If Junior had any respect for the principles his father fought for, and ultimately died for, he would withdraw his candidacy immediately.