Tue, Jun

The Disgracefulness of Robert F. Kennedy, Jr.


GUEST COMMENTARY - Robert F. Kennedy Junior has apologized to relatives after his Super Bowl ad last Sunday, which mirrored an ad broadcast by his uncle John F. Kennedy’s campaign in 1960.

The Super Bowl ad included images of RFK Jr. spliced into the original 1960 ad and a jaunty jingle that repeated the Kennedy surname 15 times in 30 seconds.

RFK Junior said the ad was the work of his SuperPAC and he had nothing to do with it.

Rubbish. Junior placed the ad at the top of his X feed, and it remained there Monday.

The ad cost $7 million. Timothy Mellon — grandson of Andrew Mellon and an heir to the Mellon banking fortune — gave RFK Junior’s SuperPAC $15 million.

Hmmm. Mellon is also a major donor to PACs supporting Trump. RFK Junior’s candidacy is backed by a PAC that also funds Marjorie Taylor Greene.

If not for his lustrous name, RFK Junior would be just another crackpot in the growing pool of bottom-feeding right-wing fringe politicians seeking to help Trump. 

No one should doubt that Trump and Trump donors are behind RFK Junior’s campaign, with the goal of siphoning off enough votes from Biden to ensure a Trump victory.

How does RFK Junior intend to get on enough state ballots to hurt Biden? As he told CNN last week, he and officials from the Libertarian Party, which has ballot access, "are talking."

In a poll conducted late last year, RFK Junior was supported by 22 percent of respondents and a greater number of independent voters than either President Biden or Trump. In January, Gallup reported that 52 percent of Americans view RFK Junior favorably — a higher percentage than either Biden (41 percent) or Trump (42 percent) received.

These results reflect the popularity of the Kennedy name and dissatisfaction with the likely nominees of the major parties. In addition, RFK Junior has not received the public scrutiny that presidential candidates inevitably get.

It’s time to lift the curtain on a campaign based on false, irresponsible and self-contradictory claims.

At a time when the truth is a precious common good, RFK Junior has been spreading dangerous lies.

He claims that COVID-19 was “targeted to attack Caucasians and Black people” and that “the people who are most immune are Ashkenazi Jews and Chinese.”

And that “the Chinese are spending hundreds of millions of dollars developing ethnic bioweapons and we are developing ethnic bioweapons. They’re collecting Russian DNA. They’re collecting Chinese DNA so we can target people by race.”

RFK Junior has also promoted the baseless claim linking vaccines to autism. He’s been a leading proponent of COVID-19 vaccine misinformation, erroneously suggesting the vaccine has killed more people than it has saved.

In his 2021 book, The Real Anthony Fauci: Bill Gates, Big Pharma, and the Global War on Democracy and Public Health, he alleged, without plausible evidence, that Dr. Fauci performed “genocidal experiments, sabotaged treatments for AIDS, and conspired with Bill Gates to suppress information about COVID-19.” This is libelous nonsense.

RFK Junior’s misinformation about vaccines continues to endanger public health.

Friends, I knew Robert F. Kennedy, and Robert F. Kennedy Junior is no Robert F. Kennedy.

I worked in Robert F. Kennedy’s Senate office in 1967. It wasn’t a glamorous job. I ran the signature machine. But I did have a chance to get to see Bobby Kennedyclose up.

I watched Robert F. Kennedy stand up for economic and social justice. I witnessed him bringing together people of every race and ethnicity — to demand equal rights and an end to the Vietnam War.

The Kennedy brand is political gold, and it could pull away just enough unwitting Democratic voters to tip the race to Trump.

Robert F. Kennedy would never have suggested that a deadly virus was targeted at certain races. He wouldn’t have repeated the trope, dating at least to the Middle Ages, that Jews unleashed a plague on non-Jews.

Another contrast with his father and his uncle: In 1962, President John F. Kennedy signed the Vaccination Assistance Act in order to, in the words of a CDC report, “achieve as quickly as possible the protection of the population, especially of all preschool children ... through intensive immunization activity.”

If not for his lustrous name, RFK Junior would be just another crackpot in the growing pool of bottom-feeding right-wing fringe politicians seeking to help Trump.

But the Kennedy brand is political gold, and it could pull away just enough unwitting Democratic voters to tip the race to Trump.

Democracy won by a whisker in 2020. Just 44,000 votes in Arizona, Georgia, and Wisconsin decided the outcome. If RFK Junior or any third-party candidate peels off just a fraction of the vote from Biden, while Trump’s base stays with him, they will deliver a victory to Trump.

That the good name of the Robert F. Kennedy I worked for 57 years ago is being used to increase the risk of a Trump victory is beyond shameful.

If Junior had any respect for the principles his father fought and ultimately died for, he would withdraw his candidacy immediately.

(Robert Reich, is the Chancellor's Professor of Public Policy at the University of California, Berkeley, and a senior fellow at the Blum Center for Developing Economies. He served as secretary of labor in the Clinton administration, for which Time magazine named him one of the 10 most effective cabinet secretaries of the twentieth century. His book include: "Aftershock" (2011), "The Work of Nations" (1992), "Beyond Outrage" (2012) and, "Saving Capitalism" (2016). He is also a founding editor of The American Prospect magazine, former chairman of Common Cause, a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and co-creator of the award-winning documentary, "Inequality For All." Reich's newest book is "The Common Good" (2019). He's co-creator of the Netflix original documentary "Saving Capitalism," which is streaming now. This article was first featured in CommonDreams.org.)