He said what? 10 things to know about RFK Jr.

Independent presidential candidate Robert F. Kennedy Jr. waves to supporters during a campaign event, Saturday, April 13, 2024, in West Des Moines, Iowa. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)

By Sophie Boudreau

April 19, 2024

The Kennedy family has long been considered “Democratic royalty.”

But Robert F. Kennedy, Jr.—son of Robert F. Kennedy, who was assassinated while campaigning as a Democratic candidate for the 1968 presidential election—has drawn criticism from his own family while espousing conspiracy theories and publicly backing falsehoods regarding everything from vaccines to cancer. Just this week, members of the Kennedy family publicly endorsed Joe Biden for president in a speech by RFK Jr.’s sister, Kerry Kennedy.

And while experts say the former environmental lawyer stands no real chance of winning the 2024 presidential election as a third-party candidate, Kennedy’s presence in the race still matters. In fact, some Democrats worry that RFK Jr. could woo swing voters who aren’t prepared to vote for a second Donald Trump term, but also feel ambivalent about Joe Biden.

Others are concerned that Kennedy’s extreme beliefs about vaccines might even be enough to sway voters who would have voted for Trump, rendering him a potential election “spoiler” for either side.

To help break down RFK Jr.’s fringe beliefs, we’ve compiled some of the most troublesome and flat-out false statements from the candidate’s public appearances.

Here are 10 things RFK Jr. has actually said:

Antidepressants cause school shootings

Earlier this year, Kennedy sat down for an interview with Turkish-owned media outlet TRT World and claimed that America’s mass shooting epidemic is linked to violent video games and the use of antidepressants like selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs). Stanford University researchers have debunked the talking point that violent video games are a risk factor for mass shootings and there is no evidence to support a link between SSRIs and gun violence.

In his TRT World interview, Kennedy also falsely stated that “there’s been no per capita increase in the number of guns we have in this country.” In reality, the number of civilian-owned guns has soared in the last two decades.

Wi-Fi causes cancer

Have you or a loved one been diagnosed with cancer? According to RFK Jr., wifi might be to blame. During his June 2023 appearance on the Joe Rogan Experience podcast, Kennedy incorrectly claimed that certain types of cancer—specifically glioblastomas, a devastating form of brain cancer—are caused by cell phone and wifi use that damages mitochondria and “opens the blood-brain barrier.”

FDA studies show that there’s no real evidence to suggest that brain cancer or other tumors are caused by wifi and cell phone use.

Chemicals in drinking water are making kids trans

In a June 2022 episode of the Jordan Peterson Podcast, which has now been pulled from YouTube for violating vaccine misinformation policies, Kennedy suggested that man-made chemicals in drinking water contributed to “gender confusion” and “sexual confusion” in children.

Kennedy specifically pointed to a commonly employed herbicide called atrazine as a culprit in influencing the experiences of transgender children.

“I think a lot of the problems we see in kids, and particularly boys, it’s probably underappreciated how much of that is coming from chemical exposures, including a lot of the sexual dysphoria that we’re seeing,” he said.

A fact-check from PolitiFact explains there is no scientific evidence to support the idea that chemicals in drinking water cause gender dysphoria or correlate in any way with children being transgender.

COVID is a ‘racially targeted’ bioweapon

During a 2023 dinner in New York, Kennedy falsely claimed that the Covid-19 virus was somehow genetically targeted to affect specific racial groups.

“Covid-19 is targeted to attack Caucasians and Black people,” he said. “The people who are most immune are Ashkenazi Jews and Chinese. We don’t know whether it’s deliberately targeted or not.”

Kennedy’s claims were denounced by groups like the Anti-Defamation League and the American Jewish Committee, who called the remarks “deeply offensive and incredibly dangerous” in a statement to CNN.

Kennedy later pushed back against critics by claiming that his words, spoken at an event where members of the media were present throughout, were intended to be “off the record” and considered “proof of concept for ethnically targeted bioweapons.”

Vaccines cause autism

Perhaps the most well-known of RFK Jr.’s conspiracy theories is his belief that vaccines cause autism and other medical conditions. Kennedy chairs the Children’s Health Defense, a nonprofit composed of anti-vaccine activists who have also publicly discredited use of wireless communication devices, acetaminophen, and fluoride in drinking water.

“I do believe that autism does come from vaccines,” Kennedy said in a 2023 interview with Fox News’ Jesse Watters.

Kennedy has a long history of anti-vaccine sentiment. In 2015, he drew criticism for comparing childhood vaccinations to the Holocaust during an appearance in California.

“They get the shot, that night they have a fever of 103, they go to sleep, and three months later their brain is gone. This is a Holocaust, what this is doing to our country,” he said, describing vaccinated children.

Kennedy’s running mate, Nicole Shanahan, is a tech lawyer who also publicly maligns vaccines—even blaming them and other “pharmaceutical medicine” for contributing to her own daughter’s autism diagnosis. Through her Bia-Echo Foundation, Shanahan dedicates time to finding a “cure” for autism.

Numerous thoroughly reviewed studies have shown no link between vaccines and autism spectrum disorders. Autism cannot be cured and is typically approached based on each individual’s support needs to address social, behavioral, or learning-related challenges.

COVID vaccine requirements were more restrictive than Nazi Germany

RFK Jr.’s Covid-related falsehoods don’t stop there. During a 2022 anti-vaccine rally in Washington, DC, he implied that Covid vaccine mandates in the US were more restrictive than conditions faced by Anne Frank and the other 6 million Jews who died in the Holocaust.

“Even in Hitler Germany, you could, you could cross the Alps into Switzerland. You could hide in an attic, like Anne Frank did,” Kennedy said.

Kennedy’s comments drew widespread criticism, even prompting a tweet from the Auschwitz Memorial. “Exploiting of the tragedy of people who suffered, were humiliated, tortured & murdered by the totalitarian regime of Nazi Germany – including children like Anne Frank – in a debate about vaccines & limitations during global pandemic is a sad symptom of moral & intellectual decay,” the tweet read.

Kennedy’s comparisons don’t stop at the Holocaust. At that same Washington rally, he implied that vaccine passports, a measure implemented to help stop the spread of Covid and add a layer of protection for high-risk groups, would turn Americans into “slaves.”

“The minute they hand you that vaccine passport, every right you have is transformed into a privilege contingent upon your obedience to arbitrary government dictates,” he said. “It will make you a slave.”

Dr. Anthony Fauci is a dangerous propagandist

RFK Jr. has repeatedly framed Dr. Anthony Fauci as a dangerous villain who poses a threat to public health, democracy, and free speech.

Kennedy’s book, “The Real Anthony Fauci: Bill Gates, Big Pharma, and the Global War on Democracy and Public Health,” falsely asserts that Fauci “launched his career during the early AIDS crisis by partnering with pharmaceutical companies to sabotage safe and effective off-patent therapeutic treatments for AIDS.”

In reality, Fauci has earned accolades for his life-saving work as an infectious disease expert, providing education and guidance on topics like AIDS, the Zika virus, and Ebola. In 2008, he was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom for his work to advance AIDS treatment.

The book also claims that “Fauci, Gates, and their cohorts use their control of media outlets, scientific journals, key government and quasi-governmental agencies, global intelligence agencies, and influential scientists and physicians to flood the public with fearful propaganda about Covid-19 virulence and pathogenesis, and to muzzle debate and ruthlessly censor dissent.”

Kennedy has also stated that Fauci caused great harm to the American public by pushing back on the use of ivermectin to treat Covid. Clinical data shows no evidence that ivermectin is safe or effective in treating the virus.

AIDS is not caused by HIV

In continuing his crusade against Fauci—who served as the first Director of AIDS Research for the NIH—RFK Jr. claimed that Fauci attributed the AIDS epidemic to a virus “because that made it an infectious disease, and it allowed him to take control of it.” In reality, AIDS is caused by the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV).

Instead of acknowledging the reality of HIV, Kennedy attributed the devastating spread of HIV/AIDS to the “gay lifestyle” and recreational drugs, saying “there were poppers on sale everywhere at the gay bar.”

Kennedy’s statements are cataloged in the GLAAD Accountability Project, which compiles “anti-LGBTQ rhetoric and discriminatory actions of politicians, commentators, organization heads, religious leaders, and legal figures, who have used their platforms, influence and power to spread misinformation and harm LGBTQ people.”

5G and cryptocurrency are instruments of control

During the same 2022 anti-vaxx rally where he compared vaccine restrictions to Nazi Germany and slavery, RFK Jr. made false statements about 5G—a high-speed wireless technology that allows phones and other devices to access stronger connections and faster downloads.

“They’re putting in 5G to harvest our data and control our behavior,” he asserted in front of the Washington crowd. “Digital currency will allow them to punish us from a distance and cut off our food supply,” he continues, referencing cryptocurrency like Bitcoin.

Studies have shown that there is no link between 5G technology and negative health impacts or expanded government surveillance. And while cryptocurrency investments can be financially risky, there is no evidence to suggest that they pose a threat to the human food supply. In fact, some researchers suggest that the use of digital currencies could help strengthen the food supply chain.

January 6 wasn’t a true insurrection

In a statement earlier this month, RFK Jr. addressed his views on the January 6, 2021 insurrection at the United States Capitol, implying that prosecution of violent participants in the insurrection was motivated by “political objectives” and “weaponization of government agencies.”

He even went so far as to claim that the insurrection wasn’t a true insurrection at all, but only a riot by protestors who “had no plans or ability to seize the reins of government” and had been urged by Donald Trump himself to remain peaceful.

Kennedy promised that, if elected, he would investigate the prosecution of insurrectionists. “As President, I will appoint a special counsel—an individual respected by all sides—to investigate whether prosecutorial discretion was abused for political ends in this case, and I will right any wrongs that we discover,” he said.

  • Sophie Boudreau

    Sophie Boudreau is a writer and editor with nearly a decade of experience covering lifestyle, culture, and political topics. She previously served as senior editor at eHow and produced Michigan and Detroit content for Only In Your State.

CATEGORIES: ELECTION

Politics

Local News

Related Stories
Share This