Robert F. Kennedy Jr. is running for president. You may already knew that. He is not leading his campaign with scaremongering around vaccines, as one of the leading figures in the modern anti-vax movement. Or, he said as much during a hike detailed in a profile by NBC News reporter Brandy Zadrozny, though he doesn’t make a compelling case that it’s actually true.
Kennedy blames his spasmodic dysphonia, a neurological disorder that causes halting and shaky speech, which he developed in the 90’s, on a flu shot. Kennedy’s said he can’t watch or listen to himself on TV for this reason. (But again, he says he’s not leading with vaccines.)
His recent appearance on The Joe Rogan Experience, included conspiracy greatest hits like vaccines causing autism and the dangers of 5G networks. It also led pediatrician and vaccine expert who developed a low-cost vaccine to treat COVID-19, Dr. Peter Hotez, to face a wave of online harassment, with one guy showing up at his house to demand he debate RFK Jr.—which Rogan first suggested on Twitter. It all seems rather vaccine-forward.
Despite all this, Kennedy is running as a Democrat—polling surprisingly well but still far behind Biden. But he’s received enthusiastic support from the right, including Alex Jones and Tucker Carlson.
An environmental rights lawyer, RFK Jr. benefits from the major brand recognition of the Kennedy name. Both his father and uncle were assassinated, and conspiracies continue to swirl around both events.
RFK Jr. earned himself an entire chapter in the book Conspirituality: How New Age Conspiracy Theories Became a Health Threat, which outlines a new type of online-first religion that states the world is run by evil forces and it is up to a select few to usher in a new “spiritual paradigm” to fight these evils, both on the internet and in physical spaces. Through this lens, RFK Jr. seems like a prophet of this poisonously online conspiracy-forward worldview.