Photo via The Seattle Times
Robert F. Kennedy (RFK) Jr.’s campaign for the presidency is continually grasping at straws as we draw closer and closer to the 2024 election—it’s obvious that he is not the front runner for the Democratic nomination, yet he seems determined to get publicity from the attempt.
The most notable thing to come out of Kennedy’s presidential run is his anti-vaccine rhetoric. He has been advocating against vaccines since 2005, when he published articles for both the Rolling Stone and Salon that perpetuated the conspiracy theory of vaccines causing autism, with the two outlets later removing the articles. RFK Jr. also went on to found the Children’s Health Defense in 2018, a nonprofit that continued to promote anti-vaccine rhetoric. Evidently, Kennedy was continually perpetuating right-wing theories of vaccines’ dangers even before the COVID-19 pandemic.
Kennedy’s spread of anti-vaccine theories has only escalated in the past few years. Although he has never specifically told the general public not to get vaccinated, less than two years ago he stopped families on the street in order to tell them not to vaccinate their children. Kennedy said of the matter: “For many, many years, I think parents were so gaslighted, and they were scapegoated, and they were vilified and marginalized, […] but they were just reluctant to talk about it. And I think now those days are over.”
Not only has RFK Jr. contributed to the widespread belief that vaccines cause autism, but he also doesn’t hesitate to bring racial accusations into the mix. In 2021, Kennedy produced a movie that suggested that African Americans should avoid vaccination, despite health officials saying claims such as these are dangerous. Moreover, this past summer, Kennedy was caught on video falsely proposing the notion that the COVID-19 virus could have been “‘ethnically targeted’” in order to “spare” Jewish and Chinese people.
Now that his campaign has shed light on these comments, RFK Jr. is attempting to take a step back. In July of this year, he made an endeavor to defend himself as he testified in a hearing held by the House of Representatives on government censorship. The hearing was organized as a means of discussing the weaponization of the Federal Government, and Kennedy was controversially invited to testify. Ultimately, he said of the hearing, “This is an attempt to censor a censorship hearing.”
Kennedy’s hateful remarks as of late are in stark contrast to his family legacy, as the Kennedys have historically been known for their liberal ideologies. It was Democratic President John F. Kennedy (JFK), RFK Jr.’s uncle, who strongly opposed segregation and fought for the civil rights movement until his assassination in 1963. Further, Democrats today are known for supporting vaccinations, making RFK Jr. an outlier within his own party.
JFK’s descendants are publicly honoring his legacy by coming out in opposition to RFK Jr.’s campaign. Jack Schlossberg, JFK’s grandson and RFK Jr.’s cousin, has already expressed his enthusiastic support for incumbent Joe Biden in the 2024 presidential election, as well as his disappointment regarding his uncle’s campaign. Schlossberg adamantly told the press, “I know him [RFK Jr.]. I have no idea why anyone thinks he should be president. What I do know is his candidacy is an embarrassment. Let’s not be distracted, again, by somebody’s vanity project.”
RFK Jr.’s run for the presidency is not accomplishing what he must have hoped. Rather than creating a viable platform for a future campaign, Kennedy has dredged up his past wrongdoings, tarnishing both his and his family’s legacy. It is obvious that he has no chance at achieving the Democratic nomination. As Schlossberg described it, Kennedy’s run is nothing more than a “vanity project” in a venture to publicize himself.
This article was edited by Alyssa Sawicki and Hannah Pearce.