Robert F. Kennedy Jr. has been getting a whole lot of media attention.
He’s got the name, he’s engulfed by controversy and he gives journalists what they need – the illusion of a presidential contest on the Democratic side.
But the press isn’t taking him seriously.
If that were the case, he’d be out of the presidential race, and if he had a different last name, he’d be booed off the stage.
My default position is that candidates can say whatever they want, we should report it and challenge it if necessary. But at what point does the press bear responsibility for enabling the spread of false garbage?
RFK Jr. was known primarily as an anti-vaccine activist when he got into the race, but the latest uproar is more troubling.
The New York Post obtained a video of Kennedy at a dinner party in Manhattan claiming COVID-19 is “ethnically targeted.”
He said: “COVID-19 attacks certain races disproportionately. COVID-19 is targeted to attack Caucasians and Black people. The people who are most immune are Ashkenazi Jews and Chinese.”
Jews? The Jews are immune?
The Anti-Defamation League quickly attacked, saying: “The claim that COVID-19 was a bioweapon created by the Chinese or Jews to attack Caucasians and Black people is deeply offensive.”
Chinese casualties were also as high as 1 million, even after the country was locked down, despite Beijing’s refusal to provide the real numbers.
Kennedy, who allowed that the supposed ethnic targeting might not be intentional, took to Twitter to call the coverage of his remarks “a disgusting fabrication.,” but his problem is his stance contradicts what he said that was captured on tape.
Weirdly, the initial coverage of the dinner focused on one of the participants farting.
Last year, at an anti-vax rally in Washington, Kennedy said: “Even in Hitler’s Germany, you could cross the Alps into Switzerland. You could hide in an attic like Anne Frank did.”
His remarks prompted criticism from many, including his wife actress Cheryl Hines, who tweeted, “My husband’s reference to Anne Frank at a mandate rally in D.C. was reprehensible and insensitive.”
He later expressed regret: “I apologize for my reference to Anne Frank, especially to families that suffered the Holocaust horrors… To the extent my remarks caused hurt, I am truly and deeply sorry.”
The latest uproar prompted Democrats to ask the GOP to cancel Kennedy’s scheduled Wednesday appearance before the House weaponization committee.
RFK Jr., who has met with noted antisemite Louis Farrakhan, espouses other bizarre beliefs. He claims that WiFi causes cancer; anti-depressants cause mass shootings; further study is needed on whether chemicals in the water cause gender confusion in kids; and that the CIA killed both his father and his uncle.
Media organizations routinely point out that experts say there is no truth to RFK Jr.’s various conspiracy theories, and even though he has polled as high as 20%, Bobby would most likely be knocked out of the race for his ludicrous positions if he was viewed as a potential president.
Instead, he is treated as a kind of eccentric uncle, providing entertainment fodder as a Democratic protest candidate against Joe Biden.
If media outlets are going to give RFK Jr. a platform, they need to do far better in holding him accountable.