Several members of the Kennedy family have condemned a bigoted conspiracy theory by Democratic presidential candidate Robert F. Kennedy Jr. that suggested the coronavirus was “ethnically targeted” to spare Jews and Chinese.
In comments at a recent event in New York, the recording of which was first published by The New York Post, Mr. Kennedy said: “Covid-19 is aimed at attacking Caucasians and blacks. The most immune people are Ashkenazi Jews and Chinese.” He added, “We don’t know if it was intentionally targeted or not.”
His sister Kerry Kennedy called out his remarks “deplorable and false” and said they did not represent the principles espoused by Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights, the organization she leads – named after their father, the former attorney general and presidential candidate Robert F. Kennedy.
His brother Joseph Kennedy II issued a similar statement, telling The Boston Globe: “Bobby’s comments are morally and factually wrong. They play on anti-Semitic myths and create mistrust of the Chinese. His remarks in no way reflect the words and actions of our father, Robert F. Kennedy.”
And former representative Joseph Kennedy III wrote on Twitter on Monday afternoon: “My uncle’s comments were hurtful and wrong. I definitely condemn what he said.”
Mr. Kennedy dismissed criticism of his comments on Sunday, saying in long Twitter post, “The insinuation by @nypost and others that, as a result of my citing a peer-reviewed article on bio-weapons, I am somehow anti-Semitic, is a disgusting fabrication.” (The paper he referred to did not support the claims he made.)
It was far from the first time that Mr. Kennedy’s relatives felt compelled to deny his words or actions.
Once an environmental lawyer known for his work to clean up the Hudson River, Mr. Kennedy — now a longtime candidate running against President Biden for next year’s Democratic nomination — has become a leading purveyor of anti-vaccine misinformation. Long before the coronavirus pandemic, he helped popularize false claims about a link between childhood vaccines and autism, and since Covid vaccines became available, he has sought to loudly and often cast doubt on their well-documented safety.
Last year, Mr. Kennedy suggested that unvaccinated Americans would soon be more persecuted than Anne Frank, who was murdered by the Nazis. Several of his siblings criticized him for that comment, as well as his wife, the actress Cheryl Hines, who called it “reprehensible and insensitive”.
He advanced many other conspiracy theories as well, including claiming that there is a link between antidepressants and mass shootings (there isn’t) and that Republicans stole the 2004 presidential election (they didn’t).
Despite his promotion of misinformation and some political views more in line with the Republican base than the Democratic one, Mr. Kennedy is polling relatively strongly – between 10 and 20 percent in several surveys, nowhere near enough to overtake Mr. Biden, but still striking numbers. against an incumbent.