Discover more from Popular Information
Fox News' favorite Democratic presidential candidate
Fox News does not usually feature laudatory coverage of Democratic political candidates. There is an exception: Robert F. Kennedy Jr, who announced in April he was running for president in the Democratic primary.
Former Fox News host Tucker Carlson featured Kennedy as a guest on his program on the day of Kennedy's announcement. Carlson described Kennedy as one of the few people in public life who is not "corrupt" and is "telling the truth." Carlson said Kennedy was running to have "serious adult conversations about the world around us." He introduced Kennedy as " one of the most remarkable people we have ever met," saying he was "honored to have him on our show."
Kennedy appeared on Sean Hannity's Fox News program last month. Hannity introduced Kennedy as Biden's "nightmare," praised his performance in early polls, and told Kennedy he could appear on the program "as often as you want." In a recent appearance on Laura Ingraham's show, Ingraham responded to Kennedy's answers with "Bingo" and "I completely agree wholeheartedly."
Fox Nation, Fox News' streaming service, has already produced a documentary on Kennedy's candidacy. Since announcing a run for president, Kennedy has also been extensively featured on Fox News' website. And nearly all the coverage has been positive.
What gives? Kennedy is the most famous name in Democratic politics. Earlier in his career, Robert F. Kennedy Jr. was well-regarded as an environmental lawyer and advocate for indigenous communities. This year, Kennedy has already won endorsements from Jack Dorsey, the co-founder of Twitter, and Aaron Rogers, the star NFL quarterback.
But Kennedy has spent recent years promoting conspiracy theories and collaborating with the far-right. In short, in the eyes of Fox News and its ideological allies, Kennedy is an ideal chaos agent for the Democratic primary.
Kennedy's dangerous anti-vaccine conspiracy theories
Kennedy has an extensive history of pushing anti-vaccine conspiracy theories.
In 2005, he wrote an article for Rolling Stone and Salon that argued that “mercury in vaccines had caused a rise in neurological disorders like autism.” Both publications eventually withdrew the article following multiple corrections. Kennedy, however, stands by this argument 18 years later, and now says that “mercury was likely just one of many toxins that caused the disorders.” But the CDC has established there are no links between vaccines and autism. The agency has also debunked the claims of mercury harm in vaccines, noting that the mercury-based preservative was “taken out of childhood vaccines” in the U.S. in 2001.
In 2015, Kennedy took over the non-profit the Children’s Health Defense, which was previously known as the World Mercury Project. The organization released a film called “Medical Racism,” which doctors and public health advocates criticized for “aim[ing] [to] spread misinformation and fears of vaccines within the Black community.” Children’s Health Defense also promoted the false conspiracy that “some tetanus vaccines are actually part of a covert plot to control population growth by rendering women of childbearing age infertile.”
The Center for Countering Digital Hate named Children’s Health Defense as one of the “Disinformation Dozen” for spreading misinformation and falsehoods about vaccines. According to the AP, Children's Health Defense “uses slanted information, cherry picked-facts and conspiracy theories to spread distrust of the COVID-19 vaccines.”
In November 2021, Kennedy released a book entitled “The Real Anthony Fauci.” In the book, Kennedy pushes “unproven COVID-19 treatments such as ivermectin, which is meant to treat parasites, and the anti-malaria drug hydroxychloroquine.” Kennedy also accuses Fauci of “helping orchestrate ‘a historic coup d’etat against Western democracy.’”
On numerous occasions, Kennedy has also likened efforts to combat the COVID-19 pandemic to the Holocaust. “Even in Hitler’s Germany you could cross the Alps into Switzerland, you could hide in an attic like Anne Frank did,” Kennedy said during a “Defeat the Mandates” march in January 2022. The Auschwitz Memorial and Museum criticized the statement, saying that Kennedy “[e]xploit[ed] the tragedy of people who suffered, were humiliated, tortured & murdered by the totalitarian regime of Nazi Germany.” Kennedy later apologized for his remarks.
Kennedy's other conspiracy theories
Kennedy's conspiratorial thinking is not limited to vaccines or health issues. He has long claimed that the 2004 election was actually won by Senator John Kerry (D-MA) and not the Republican incumbent, former President George W. Bush. Kennedy's claims, which have been thoroughly debunked, are based on a "a loose analysis of exit polls, voting machines and precinct vote counts." Kennedy's claims are eerily similar to the ones that Trump advanced following the 2020 election. In fact, when asked if Biden won the 2020 election, Kennedy said he was uncertain. "I don’t know. I think that Biden won," Kennedy told the Washington Post in a June interview.
Kennedy also tweeted in May that the CIA controls top liberal media outlets, including the Daily Beast, Daily Kos, Rolling Stone, and Salon. As proof, Kennedy cites an article published by his own non-profit, Children's Health Defense. That article focuses on negative stories about Kennedy run by those publications and asserts "that Pharma and Gates have a powerful clandestine partner that has made the medical-industrial complex’s media hegemony airtight through their apparent penetration of leading liberal online news sites." But there is absolutely no evidence presented to back that claim. For example, the article claims that Daily Beast is controlled by the CIA because its then-editor, John Avlon, "has all the credentials of the CIA’s iconic gentleman spy, including an old moneyed family with military pedigrees, a Yale education, and a missionary globalist zeal toward foreign policy and international affairs." Also Avlon is friends with another journalist who once worked as a military intelligence officer.
Kennedy claims that 5G, a communications network that powers many mobile phones, is a plot by the government "to harvest our data and control our behavior." He has previously said that 5G technology "damages human DNA [and] causes cancer." But there is "no evidence to support concerns about cancer fears or damage to immune systems."
Kennedy has even called for the release of Sirhan Sirhan, the man convicted of murdering his father, claiming Sirhan was framed. He does not dispute that Sirhan fired multiple rounds at his father, but believes none of those rounds hit the target. Kennedy believes his father was killed by his security guard, Thane Cesar. A book written by investigative journalist Dan Moldea, who was initially sympathetic to the "second gunman" theory, ruled out Cesar as a suspect. Kennedy's advocacy for Sirhan is opposed by six of his siblings.
Kennedy cozies up to the right
Kennedy has also made a name for himself in far-right circles. In 2022, Popular Information broke the news that the Republican Attorneys General Association (RAGA) accepted an illegal $50,000 contribution from Children's Health Defense in July 2021. This “fee,” Children's Health Defense said at the time, was in exchange for an opportunity "to educate attorneys general on health policy issues."
Later that year, a member of RAGA’s leadership, Louisiana Attorney General Jeff Landry (R), invited Kennedy to testify alongside him against school vaccine requirements. During his appearance, Kennedy falsely called the COVID-19 vaccine the “deadliest vaccine ever made” and peddled countless lies about the risk of the vaccine. In 2017, Kennedy was in talks with Trump to potentially chair a commission related to vaccines, according to the Washington Post.
CBS News also reports that anti-immigrant extremist Steve Bannon encouraged Kennedy for “months” to run against Biden, “believing he could be both a useful chaos agent in the 2024 race and a big name who could help stoke anti-vaccine sentiment around the country.”
Kennedy has been photographed alongside other right-wing figures, including Trump’s former National Security Advisor Michael Flynn (who called for a military coup to overturn the 2020 election), anti-vaccine profiteer Charlene Bollinger, and longtime Trump ally Roger Stone. The photo was taken backstage at Flynn’s ReAwaken America tour, a roadshow that Frontline describes as a “recruiting tool” for the “Christian nationalist movement.” Kennedy has participated in ReAwaken America in previous years and was, in fact, slated as a featured speaker for this year’s event. But he pulled out shortly before the event, NBC News reports.
He has also “courted” GOP mega-donors Leila and David Centner, the AP reports. Previously, the couple had given “a combined $1 million to support Trump’s 2020 campaign” and were “VIP guests” at the January 6 rally, Mother Jones reports. In 2021, the Centners were listed as board members of Children's Health Defense. The couple also started a private school in Miami, which gained notoriety for barring newly vaccinated teachers from interacting with students, among other things. The school has previously hosted an event with Kennedy, during which David Centner described Kennedy as a “hero” and “personal inspiration.”