The incredibly incendiary news that Instagram — Mark Zuckerberg’s bastard child — is no longer blocking RFK Jr. from posting lies, disinformation and conspiracy theories about vaccines now that he’s an announced Presidential candidate, turned out to be the second assassination of Kennedy’s father coming on the same day in June, 55 years after he was murdered the first time.
For nearly two decades, before RFK’s massive disinformation bombardment against the COVID-19 vaccine — applauded by every extreme Right Wing anti-vaccine, anti-science group of fanatics, including Q-Anon, Steve Bannon, Roger Stone, Christian Nationalists and the John Birch Society — the son of Robert F. Kennedy did enormous damage to millions of Neurodiverse individuals, by crusading on the long-discredited lie that vaccines were the cause of Autism.
Those bold-face lies — disproved by dozens of medical studies — resulted in the loss of the medical license by Andrew Wakefield, the British researcher who originated and propagated the destructive anti-vaxxer propaganda. RFK, Jr., despite knowing better, picked up where that disgraced charlatan left off.
Kennedy, Jr., knowingly disseminated and profited from peddling such widely disproven, and damaging, lies about a non-existent link between standard, childhood MMR vaccines and autism, blocking legitimate research and treatment for autism for many years. His intentional spreading of ignorance caused direct harm to many of the same marginalized communities — communities of color, the poor, and the disabled — his father championed during his own public career.
Now, the cookoo candidacy for Presidency by the oldest son of Robert F. Kennedy, is cause for grave concern, not just from virtually every member of the Kennedy family, but from thinking Americans everywhere. Lining up behind RFK, Jr.’s candidacy are federal felons Steve Bannon, Michael Flynn and Roger Stone who want him in the race to sow chaos, spread more anti-vaxxer lies, and be a possible running-mate for Donald Trump.
For those of us who supported his father and his uncles for public office as strong advocates of democracy, it’s particularly painful to see RFK, Jr., trashing all the good work his family did. What’s also painful to me, personally, is that the first time I saw Robert F. Kennedy, Jr, was in June, 1968, standing in front of his father’s coffin. He was 14 years old.
I waited in line for 3 hours to pay my respects to his father, Senator Robert F. Kennedy, whose body lay in state inside NYC’s St. Patrick’s Cathedral.
I had campaigned for his father for US Senator from New York in 1964, and again for President in 1968, before RFK was shot in the head and murdered by Sirhan Sirhan in Los Angeles.
As I slowly inched forward on the mourners’ line inside St. Patrick’s Cathedral, less than 10 feet away from me stood a young, teenaged boy. His facial muscles quivered, fighting back tears; hands clasped tightly in front of his body. The sight of RFK’s son, so fragile and alone, and only five years younger than I, overwhelmed me with grief.
He had just lost his father — his hero and mine — and, on that warm June day in 1968, I worried what might become of Robert F. Kennedy, Jr., following such a terrible trauma.
Never for a moment — then, nor years later — did I think he’d lose his mind over vaccines, become a conspiracy crackpot, and get co-opted by the John Birch Society and other lunatic fringe groups which his father battled for most of his public life.
Never did I imagine that RFK, Jr.’s junk-science and massive public disinformation campaigns over two decades would set back services for autistic children, and put tens of thousands of lives at risk — lives of the very vulnerable people his father fought to help.
The depth of RFK’ Jr.’s derangement over vaccines can be seen in a cringe-worthy book for which he wrote the forward, entitled, “The Real Anthony Fauci.” The book was widely promoted all over social media by the John Birch Society, Q-Anon, and other anti-government wackos. The Birch Society shrieks that “Fauci and Bill Gates are using the COVID Pandemic to put humanity under totalitarian rule,” and it quotes Kennedy as saying they “must be stopped.”
So, this week — on the anniversary of his father’s assassination — we learn that the way RFK, Jr., wants to “stop” Fauci, Bill Gates and vaccines, is to run as a Democrat against Joe Biden, who has a bronze bust of Robert F. Kennedy in the Oval Office.
Following Kennedy’s crazed canards, Bill Gates spoke to CNBC and told the network that such scurrilous rumors and mountains of intentional misinformation are “keeping many Americans from getting vaccinated against COVID, and delaying the end of the pandemic by doing so.” More than 1.2 million Americans have died from COVID, and COVID-related diseases.
Far worse, RFK, Jr, who crusades for “transparency,” intentionally deceived Americans by founding a fraudulent public health group called the “Children’s Health Defense,” to purposely sow confusion with the highly respected Children’s Health Fund (childrenshealthfund.org) headed for years by Dr. Irwin Redlener — one of President Biden’s COVID-19 advisors, and a strong and consistent proponent of the COVID vaccine.
Such sleights-of-hand and flights-from-reality are nothing new for RFK,Jr, who has devoted the last two decades to disseminating the scientifically discredited fabrications that vaccines caused autism — most of it after Andrew Wakefield, who first advanced the falsehoods linking autism to vaccines, was stripped of his medical license.
The medical publication Lancet retracted Wakefield’s article that it had printed, and the British Medical Journal in 2011 denounced Wakefield’s “studies” as an “elaborate fraud.”
None of that mattered to RFK, Jr. Unconscionably, he continues to push, and profit politically from promoting Wakefield’s fraud that vaccines cause autism, and has done so relentlessly, despite knowing that Wakefield and his research were frauds.
The Craig Newmark Center’s Poynter Institute reported that “RFK, Jr. said the COVID-19 vaccine was the deadliest vaccine ever made.” His litany of flat-out falsehoods has earned Kennedy the title of “one of the biggest sources of anti-vaccine rhetoric today,” from the Poynter Institute.
McGill University’s Office of Science & Society has been even more specific about the real, human injury caused by RFK, Jr. McGill researchers noted that Kennedy’s “Children’s Health Defense” front-group purchased some 54% of the anti-vaccine advertising on Facebook during the first full-year of the pandemic, a material fact ignored in the news of InstaGram’s lifting of the ban of RFK’s lies this week.
In an article entitled the “Anti-Vaccine Propaganda of RFK,Jr,” McGill — one of Canada’s leading Medical university’s — called Kennedy “one of the princes of the anti-vaccine movement, if not its king.”
It’s no wonder than, that RFK, Jr., was welcomed like a conquering hero by anti-vaxxers in Louisiana during the COVID Pandemic, when he testified before the Louisiana House Oversight Committee, opposing a proposal requiring public school students to be vaccinated. Think about that: the son of Robert F. Kennedy crusading against a proven public-health measure that protected people of color. Astonishing.
Kennedy’s anti-vaccine screed led to the full Louisiana’s House Committee on Health and Welfare rejecting vaccine mandates for public school students by a 13–2 vote.
What makes that specific, damaging, demagogic action by RFK, Jr., especially chilling, and a stab in the heart of his fathers’ legacy of helping underserved communities, is that more than 50% of the public school students in Louisiana are students of color — precisely the demographic with the highest rates of COVID infections, and death. In fact, since the Pandemic began, Louisiana’s public school population of 720,000 students, has decreased by two-percent. White Supremacist groups like the John Birch Society, Q-Anon, or the KKK, could have hardly conducted a more effective campaign of racial genocide — only this time, it’s whitewashed with the Kennedy name attached to it.
Kennedy’s, “scientifically inaccurate, misleading and irresponsible lies,” as the CDC called his dangerous misuse of the agency’s data, not only gave cover to Florida Governor Ron DeSantis’ anti-science, anti-vaxxer campaign, it reinforced vaccine hesitancy among the poorest populations, which have, historically, had higher rates of death from ALL major diseases, because of poverty, pre-existing conditions, and lack of access to affordable healthcare.
Having worked at two public Academic Medical Centers in New York — SUNY Stony Brook Medical Center, and SUNY Downstate Medical Center in Brooklyn — our priorities were to improve community health outcomes in our most underserved communities, in the areas of prostate and breast cancer, cardiac disease, HIV/AIDS, high blood pressure & diabetes.
We struggled mightily to build trust — along with clinics, dialysis centers and emergency rooms — among those very communities to save lives with early mammograms, PSA exams, blood pressure tests, HIV tests, and vaccines, when appropriate.
Now, RFK, Jr. and the rabid right-wing groups who have always opposed more funding for health care for the poor, working families and the disabled are harming the progress made in public health, and are costing lives. This Kennedy’s candidacy for the Democratic nomination for President — a pursuit which cost his father his life — is a full-frontal assault on the facts, history, human decency and his father’s legacy.
By willingly becoming a tool of Steve Bannon, Roger Stone, Michael Flynn and extreme right-wing conspiracy cabals — which may, in fact, have had a hand in the assassinations of President Kennedy in 1963 and of Robert Kennedy in 1968 — RFK, Jr. is destroying the solid accomplishments of his uncles JFK and Teddy Kennedy, and of his own father.
His crazed, decades-long crusade linking vaccines to autism — despite clear evidence to the contrary — and his outright lies about the COVID vaccine, have poisoned peoples minds, and set back vaccine research and trust in public health initiatives for decades. RFK’s cookoo conspiracy theories have created a hard-core cadre of unvaccinated human petri dishes in which more mutant viruses can multiply, and disproportionately kill the very underserved populations his father and uncles dedicated their lives to protect.
Not even Sirhan Sirhan could wipe out everything Robert F. Kennedy sacrificied his life to accomplish, as completely as RFK, Jr., is doing, driven perhaps by Oedipal rage, in the tragic, final act of assassinating his own father.