Tag: robert f kennedy jr
Robert F. Kennedy Jr.

New Polls Shows Growing Voter Distrust Of 'Nutjob' Robert F. Kennedy Jr

Robert F. Kennedy Jr's 2024 White House bid was always a long shot. But the more voters get to know the anti-vax conspiracy theorist, the less they like him, The Washington Post's Aaron Blake reports.

The Kennedy conundrum came to a head on Thursday when, despite warnings that it would backfire, the sixty-nine-year-old environmental lawyer accepted Republicans' invitation to testify before the United States House of Representatives Judiciary Select Subcommittee on the Weaponization of the Federal Government.

The spectacle, Blake notes, was "impossible to separate from conservative media's own effort to play up Kennedy's campaign. Fox News has devoted extensive attention to Kennedy on the air and its website, publishing more than 80 articles and videos about him since his campaign launch in April."

The impacts of Kennedy's fringe platform, explains Blake, are evident in the latest rounds of polling, including those that were conducted prior to Kennedy's congressional appearance.

"Quinnipiac University released a poll Wednesday showing Republicans continue to like Kennedy — by more than a 2-to-1 margin, in fact. But among Democrats, Kennedy's image was more than 2-to-1 negative. While 21 percent had a favorable opinion, 47 percent had an unfavorable one. That’s 26 points 'underwater,' up from 15 points underwater a month ago," Blake writes.

"A new poll out of New Hampshire is even worse for Kennedy," Blake continues. "The University of New Hampshire Survey Center in April showed him 22 points underwater among likely Democratic primary voters; its latest poll now shows him 60 points underwater." UNH found that "just 9 percent had a favorable opinion of Kennedy, compared with 69 percent who had an unfavorable one. The survey also asked people to use one word to describe Kennedy, and the most popular words were 'crazy,' 'dangerous,' 'insane,' 'nutjob,' 'conspiracy,' and 'crackpot.'"

Blake concludes that "these are not the numbers of someone who is seriously competing for the nomination."

Reprinted with permission from Alternet.


Kennedy's Anti-Vax Group Solicited Neo-Nazi Users Of Far-Right Gab Site

Robert F. Kennedy Jr.’s group Children’s Health Defense sought support from users of the far-right social media platform Gab in 2021, including white supremacists, QAnon conspiracy theorists, and an open neo-Nazi.

Those users have written things including “White people are kings. F--- jews. n--s are animals”; “Against Jewish Control”; and, regarding Nazi Germany: “This is what the Jewish controlled system does not want us to see. When we kick them out and place our value on our own people, we thrive.”

Kennedy is the founder, chair, and chief litigation counsel for Children’s Health Defense, one of the key spreaders of misinformation about vaccines and COVID-19. He is on leave from the group during his presidential campaign. Kennedy has frequently attempted to appeal to right-wing audiences during his run, as evidenced by his campaign site featuring interviews with Elon Musk, Laura Ingraham, Megyn Kelly, and Breitbart News.

Children’s Health Defense has been using Gab to recruit followers since January 2021. Its profile says it is part of Gab Pro, which is a subscription-based program. CHD has posted to the site over 1,500 times and has touted its account as a way to “fight censorship.”

Gab is a social media platform that caters to those deemed too extreme for Twitter and Facebook. Its user base is populated with numerous antisemites, neo-Nazis, and white nationalists. Many of them express hatred toward and issue violent threats against Jewish people. In 2018, a Gab user allegedly killed 11 people at Pittsburgh’s Tree of Life synagogue.

The Stanford Internet Observatory analyzed content on Gab and concluded in a June 2022 report that “extreme anti-Semitic, racist and homophobic content is rife, with open praise of Nazism, encouragement of violence against minorities, and ‘Great Replacement’ narratives.”

Andrew Torba is the site’s founder and CEO. He is a virulent antisemite who has said that Jewish people have too much political power and are not welcome in his preferred political movement: “We don't want people who are Jewish.” He has also reposted praise of Gab as a place where people can find “differing opinions” on the Holocaust.

Media outlets have scrutinized Gab’s links to antisemitism and white supremacy, especially after failed Pennsylvania gubernatorial candidate Doug Mastriano paid Torba for campaign “consulting.” But Kennedy’s ties to Gab through his organization have previously gone unreported.

CHD’s pointed engagement with the antisemitic platform comes as observers have noted a general increase in antisemitism in the U.S., especially online. Misinformation about the COVID-19 pandemic has also worsened the problem. Kennedy received criticism in January 2022 after he said during an anti-vaccine rally: “Even in Hitler’s Germany, you could cross the Alps to Switzerland. You could hide in an attic like Anne Frank did.”

In addition to maintaining an active Gab account, CHD has repeatedly engaged with users who are antisemites and white supremacists. The group also conducted outreach to a neo-Nazi account. Below are numerous examples from 2021:

CHD asked Gab founder and virulent antisemite Andrew Torba to “follow + support” Kennedy and his group. CHD has reached out to Torba (username “a”) to appeal for support, writing on Gab: “@a Please follow + support Children's Health Defense and Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. #Freespeech is yet again under attack.” The organization also promoted an event in Torba’s replies and repeatedly sent him links to its website.

CHD reached out to a former Gab officer who has expressed hatred of Jewish people (“They gotta go. Now”) and support for enslaving Black people. CHD posted a link to its website to “shadowknight412.” The group also tagged that account, along with Gab’s Help account, in asking for “help with analytics for our account.” The shadowknight412 account belongs to Gab’s former chief technology officer Rob Colbert. In more recent posts, he has made clear his hatred for Jewish and Black people. He’s written: “I don't have any questions about why my ancestors kept these retarded man-like creatures locked in sheds with metal collars on their necks that had bells on them. #N-----Bells”; and “N-----s. If only there was a whole continent they could go live on and not have to worry about fitting in with western civilization and our traditions/laws.”

He is also an antisemite who has written, “I don't want to be around ridiculous jews”; “The jew is basically parasitic drag. And engineering has ways of mitigating that”; and “It's always some rat-faced jew. They are schizophrenic and violent. They gotta go. Now. The jew needs to be removed from American education, media, government, finance, and law.”

CHD shared a link to its website with someone whose account states: “F--- jews. n--s are animals.” CHD responded to an anti-vaccine post by “Ytram” by sharing a link to its website. That account states in its “about” page: “White people are kings. F--- jews. n--s are animals.”

CHD reached out to a neo-Nazi account. CHD responded to an anti-vaccine post by “WesternChauvinist1” by posting a link to its website. That account features two SS bolts as its header image with the “14 words,” a white supremacist slogan.

It posts pro-Nazi propaganda, including praising Hitler for being “the only world leader to ever arrest a Rothschild”; claiming that “National Socialism took the German economy from a debt based depression, to a country with the highest standard of living in the world” and “National Socialists valued their own people and Nation as their most prized possession”; and concluding of Jewish people: “This is what the Jewish controlled system does not want us to see. When we kick them out and place our value on our own people, we thrive. When we allow their central banks and debt systems in our homelands, we are reduced to consumers and tax cattle.”

CHD shared a link to its website with an account that’s “against Jewish control.” CHD responded to an anti-vaccine post by “Stevevvs,” which states in its about page that it is “Against Jewish Control.”

CHD posted a link in the comments section of a white supremacist account. CHD responded to an anti-vaccine post by “PoisonDartPepe” by sharing a link to its website. That account’s pinned post is a screenshot of a social media post defending white supremacy; it states: “What they call White supremacy is really just White dignity. The dignity of a homeland. The dignity of cultural integrity. The dignity of communal pride. When they say they want to smash White supremacy it means they want to destroy your dignity as a people and humiliate you.” The account recently stated of Jewish people: “They should stay here in prison forever. A handful might have execution worthy crimes. But the rest - just throw them in gen pop with the n-----s.” Pepe is a common meme name used by the alt-right and white nationalist movement.

CHD also shared links to its website to QAnon influencer Neon Revolt; far-right cartoonist Ben Garrison, who has a history of promoting QAnon, “Pizzagate,” and antisemitism; and far-right bigot Milo Yiannopoulos.

Reprinted with permission from Media Matters.

Chamath Palihapitiya

The Tech Billionaires Who Are Backing Kennedy's Anti-Science Crusade

Democratic presidential candidate Robert F. Kennedy Jr., the latest scion of the Kennedy clan to seek the presidency, has a set of unusual fans: some of the most influential tech executives and investors in America. Kennedy’s strong anti-vaccine views are, for this group, a sideshow.

“Tearing down all these institutions of power. It gives me glee,” said one of his boosters in tech, Chamath Palihapitiya, a garrulous former Facebook executive, nearly two hours into a May episode of the popular “All-In” podcast he co-hosts with other tech luminaries. The person who might help with the demolition was the show’s guest, Kennedy himself.

“Me too,” responded David Sacks, Palihapitiya’s co-host on the podcast, an early investor in Facebook and Uber. Sacks and Palihapitiya said they would host a fundraiser for Kennedy, which, according to the Puck news outlet, was set for June 15.

Kennedy’s newfound friends in Silicon Valley were mostly loud supporters of vaccines early in the pandemic, but they have proven more than willing to let him expound on his anti-vaccine views and conspiracy theories as he promotes his presidential bid. During a two-hour forum on Twitter, hosted by company owner Elon Musk and Sacks, Kennedy raised a range of themes, but returned to the subject he’s become famous for in recent years: his skepticism about vaccines and the pharmaceutical companies that sell them.

Indeed, on the June 5 appearance, he praised Musk for ending “censorship” on his corner of social media. A promoter of conspiracy theories, Kennedy said various forces are keeping him from discussing his safety concerns over vaccines, like Democratic Rep. Adam Schiff (as part of the intelligence apparatus), Big Pharma, and Roger Ailes (who has been dead for six years).

Kennedy argued an influx of direct-to-consumer advertising from pharmaceutical concerns keep media outlets, like Fox News, from featuring his theories about vaccine safety. Fox didn’t respond to a request for comment.

He then said he supported reversing policies that allow direct-to-consumer ads in media. (Kennedy earlier dubbed himself a “free-speech absolutist” and, later, in a discussion about nuclear power, a “free-market absolutist” and even later a “constitutional absolutist.” Legal scholars doubt the courts, on First Amendment grounds, would be receptive to a ban of direct-to-consumer ads.)

Support for Kennedy in the venture capital and tech communities, which have a big financial stake in the advancement of science and generally reject irrational conspiracy theories, is likely limited. Multiple venture capitalists and technologists contacted by KFF Health News expressed puzzlement over what’s driving the embrace from Musk and others.

“I think he is a lower-intellect, Democratic version of Donald Trump, so he attracts libertarian-leaning, anti-‘woke,’ socially liberal folks as a protest vote,” said Robert Nelsen, a biotech investor with Arch Venture Partners. “I think he is a dangerous conspiracy theorist, who has contributed to many deaths with his anti-vaccine lies.”

But the ones with the megaphones are letting Kennedy talk. Jason Calacanis, another co-host of “All-In” and a pal of Musk’s, said late in the podcast he was pleased the conversation didn’t lead with “sensational” topics — like vaccines. Still, during the podcast, Kennedy was given nearly five uninterrupted minutes to describe his views on shots — a long list of alleged safety problems, ranging from allergies, autism, to autoimmune problems, many of which have been discredited by reputable scientists.

David Friedberg, another Silicon Valley executive and guest on the show, suggested there wasn’t “direct evidence” for those problems. “I don’t think it’s solely the vaccines,” Kennedy conceded. After an interlude touching on the role of chemicals, he was back to injuries caused by diphtheria shots.

While Friedberg, a former Google executive and founder of an agriculture startup sold to Monsanto for a reported $1.1 billion, pushed back against Kennedy, he did so deep into the podcast, after the candidate had left. Kennedy’s views — on nuclear power and vaccines — manifest “as conspiracy theories,” he said. “It doesn’t resonate with me,” he continued, as he “likes to have empirical truth be demonstrated.”

The muted pushback is a bit of a reversal. Early in the rollout of covid-19 vaccines, many tech luminaries had been among the most loudly pro-shot individuals. The “All-In” crew was no exception. Sacks once tweeted, “We’ve got to raise the bar for what we expect from government”; Palihapitiya begged administrators to “stop virtue signaling” with vaccination criteria and simply mass-vaccinate instead.

That was then. Sacks recently retweeted a video of Bill Gates questioning the effectiveness of current covid vaccines and defended Kennedy from charges of being anti-vaccination.

Musk himself has sometimes suggested he has qualms with vaccines, tweeting in January, without evidence, that “I’m pro vaccines in general, but there’s a point where the cure/vaccine is potentially worse, if administered to the whole population, than the disease.”

Musk isn’t the only top tech executive to signal interest in Kennedy’s candidacy. Block CEO and Twitter co-founder Jack Dorsey has tweeted Kennedy “can and will” win the presidency.

In some ways, the Valley’s interest in Kennedy — vaccine skepticism and all — has deep roots. Tech culture grew out of Bay Area counterculture. It has historically embraced individualistic theories of health and wellness. While most have conventional views on health, techies have dabbled in “nootropics,” supplements that purportedly boost mental performance, plus fad diets, microdosing psychedelics, and even quests for immortality.

There’s a “deeply held anti-establishment ethos” among many tech leaders, said University of Washington historian Margaret O’Mara. There’s a “suspicion of authority, disdain for gatekeepers and traditionalists, dislike of bureaucracies of all kinds. This too has its roots in the counterculture era, and the 1960s antiwar movement, in particular.”

Reprinted with permission from Daily Kos.


Right-Wing Media Are Incessantly Promoting RFK Jr. Campaign

Robert F. Kennedy Jr. has gained support for his campaign for president on the Democratic ticket from right-wing media personalities, who are touting his polling and suggesting the Democrats and media are trying to shut him down.

Kennedy has long fostered friendly relationships with prominent right-wing media personalities and outlets. He began his campaign by appearing on former Fox News show Tucker Carlson Tonight, where he was greeted with a glowing monologue from the host. When Tucker Carlson left Fox News, Kennedy sent out a message of support for the host and hinted that his ousting was related to his anti-big pharma message from that episode.

Before Kennedy announced his campaign, podcaster Steve Bannon reportedly spent months trying to convince him to run against President Joe Biden. Additionally, Kennedy appeared on Fox News to push COVID-19 vaccine misinformation.

RealClearPolitics places Kennedy’s aggregate polling at 17 percent behind Biden’s 59 percent. Despite the slim chances, right-wing media are pushing the idea that Kennedy can be a force against Biden and giving him plenty of airtime to make his case. They are highlighting support for his campaign while arguing the Democratic Party and/or mainstream media are rigging the election against him.

Praise for RFK Jr.

  • Fox & Friends co-host Rachel Campos-Duffy said Kennedy is “making a lot of moves here, getting stronger, and you see President Biden falling as the Democrats are trying to rally everyone around him and kick everyone else out of the race.”
  • Faulkner Focus anchor Harris Faulkner claimed that all primary challengers to Biden are getting “iced out,” before pointing to Kennedy’s polling: “Kennedy now has 20 percent support among Democratic voters. … That number, by the way, has ticked up for Kennedy in just the last few days.”
  • America’s Newsroom co-anchor Bill Hemmer described Kennedy as an “old school Democrat,” adding that while he talks about pollution, he “doesn’t mention the Green New Deal. He doesn't talk about solar panels or electric vehicles or batteries.” His co-anchor Dana Perino added, “If you are a Democrat and you’re looking for an alternative, they are turning to him.”
  • Fox News co-host Geraldo Rivera claimed Kennedy would “do circles” around Biden in a debate.
  • Political consultant Doug Schoen predicted on Fox News’ Special Report that Kennedy would keep rising in the polls, saying, “I think Robert F. Kennedy Jr., based on his name, his message, and alienation from the incumbent, could get as much as 30 percent, which would be calamitous for the incumbent.”
  • Former Trump campaign manager Corey Lewandowskitold Newsmax’s Eric Bolling: “I think, Eric, the big upset that's coming is that RFK Jr. may just win this nomination yet.”
  • Fox News host Greg Gutfeld suggested he would be willing to vote for Kennedy, saying that if he “turns his past into a plus, and fights the fentanyl war, he could get a lot of votes, including mine.”
  • Fox News host Laura Ingraham praised Kennedy’s ideas, asking if the Democrats are afraid of him or his ideas, “since all this information is now becoming accepted about the mRNA shot and of course all the suppression of dissenting medical views.”
  • Fox News host Jesse Watters praised Kennedy’s campaign so far, saying of Biden, “19 percent of Democrats are already siding with his primary opponent, Robert F. Kennedy Jr. He's pulling the same numbers in the polls as DeSantis. So he's nothing to sneeze at. And if anybody deserves to debate Joe, it's him.”
  • Kennedy’s former publisher Tony Lyons appeared on One America News to defend Kennedy from anti-vaxxer allegations: “He's certainly not an anti-vaxxer. He is an anti-corruption person who wants to find real science, who wants to have a government that will really look at the science, that we're really look at our policies and start to do things that are not good for a handful of billionaires but are good for the American public.”
  • Former Fox News producer Kyle Becker tweeted, “RFK Jr. can run independent and save the country.”

Claims that the system is rigged against RFK Jr.

  • Fox & Friends co-host Brian Kilmeade noted, “Other networks don't have any interest in interviewing him. They just kind of leave him alone. I mean, he comes on here all the time. He’s always welcome.” His co-host Ainsley Earhardt commented, “I think if the DNC is saying that Biden is the candidate, that’s who the media is going to focus on.”
  • Fox News political analyst Gianno Caldwell claimed: “Just like in 2016, the Democratic Party is trying to rig the election in favor of Joe Biden.”
  • On Hannity, Fox News contributor Charlie Hurt claimed, “The establishment of the Democrat Party is not going to let Robert Kennedy Jr. get the nomination because he doesn't do what they say.”
  • Watters attacked ABC News for its interview with Kennedy, claiming that “the Democrats and the media are rigging another primary,” and referred to Kennedy as a “real threat.”
  • Far-right blog Breitbartpublished a story headlined “Zuck Loves Biden: Facebook Prevents RFK Jr. from Launching Instagram Campaign Account.”
  • Former Newsmax and OAN host Emerald Robinson tweeted, “RFK Jr will not be allowed to run against Joe Biden — but you still think you live in a free country? Wake up: the hour is very late.”

Reprinted with permission from Media Matters.