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Thursday, June 15, 2023

RFK Jr. and the Racist Right

In The Politics of Autism, I analyze the discredited notion that vaccines cause autism. This bogus idea can hurt people by allowing diseases to spread  And among those diseases could be COVID-19.

Antivaxxers are sometimes violent, often abusive, and always wrongA leading anti-vaxxer is presidential candidate Robert F. Kennedy, Jr.  He has repeatedly compared vaccine mandates to the Holocaust.  Rolling Stone and Salon retracted an RFK article linking vaccines to autism.

There are deep connections between the antivax movement and conspiracy theorists, and RFK is part of the connective tissue.

Eric Hananoki at Media Matters:

Robert F. Kennedy Jr.’s group Children’s Health Defense sought support from users of the far-right social media platform Gab in 2021, including white supremacists, QAnon conspiracy theorists, and an open neo-Nazi.


Kennedy is the founder, chair, and chief litigation counsel for Children’s Health Defense, one of the key spreaders of misinformation about vaccines and COVID-19. He is on leave from the group during his campaign. Kennedy has frequently attempted to appeal to right-wing audiences during his run, as evidenced by his campaign site featuring interviews with Elon Musk, Laura Ingraham, Megyn Kelly, and Breitbart News.

Children’s Health Defense has been using Gab to recruit followers since January 2021. Its profile says it is part of Gab Pro, which is a subscription-based program. CHD has posted to the site over 1,500 times and has touted its account as a way to “fight censorship.”

Gab is a social media platform that caters to those deemed too extreme for Twitter and Facebook. Its user base is populated with numerous antisemites, neo-Nazis, and white nationalists. Many of them express hatred toward and issue violent threats against Jewish people. In 2018, a Gab user allegedly killed 11 people at Pittsburgh’s Tree of Life synagogue.


Andrew Torba is the site’s founder and CEO. He is a virulent antisemite who has said that Jewish people have too much political power and are not welcome in his preferred political movement: “We don't want people who are Jewish.” He has also reposted praise of Gab as a place where people can find “differing opinions” on the Holocaust.

Media outlets have scrutinized Gab’s links to antisemitism and white supremacy, especially after failed Pennsylvania gubernatorial candidate Doug Mastriano paid Torba for campaign “consulting.” But Kennedy’s ties to Gab through his organization have previously gone unreported.

CHD’s pointed engagement with the antisemitic platform comes as observers have noted a general increase in antisemitism in the U.S., especially online. Misinformation about the COVID-19 pandemic has also worsened the problem. Kennedy received criticism in January 2022 after he said during an anti-vaccine rally: “Even in Hitler’s Germany, you could cross the Alps to Switzerland. You could hide in an attic like Anne Frank did.”