How JFK's nephew became one of Facebook's most prolific anti-vax misinformation spreaders
- Robert F. Kennedy Jr. is one of the "disinformation dozen" spreading vaccine
- He cemented himself as a prominent anti-vaxxer long before the pandemic.
- Here's how the nephew of former President John F. Kennedy became an online anti-vax influencer.
A recent report found that most COVID-19 disinformation online is spread by just 12 people - and one of them is the nephew of former President John F. Kennedy.
Robert F Kennedy Jr. cemented himself as a prominent anti-vaccine advocate well before the pandemic. But his rhetoric took on a whole new meaning when the COVID-19 pandemic took over the world in March 2020.
Here's how 67-year-old Kennedy, who is also the son of former Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy, became one of the "disinformation dozen" spreading COVID-19 conspiracy theories online.
From government law student to Fauci foe and anti-vaxxer
Kennedy graduated from Harvard, attended law school at the University of Virginia, and then earned his master's in environmental law at Pace University, according to Vanity Fair.
He gained a reputation for defending Indigenous groups and fighting against the use of fossil fuels , all while rubbing shoulders with Hollywood elite at climate change awareness events and other social functions.
But he veered into anti-vax circles in the 1990s when he co-founded the Food Allergy Initiative. He started entertaining theories that some allergies were linked to vaccines given to children. He edited and wrote multiple books about what he said was inadequate vaccine safety, including "Vaccine Villains: What the American Public Should Know About the Industry."
He founded the World Mercury Project in 2016, which became the Children's Health Defense in 2018, an activist organization devoted to anti-vaccine initiatives. The group alleges, among other things, that administering some vaccines in children can cause conditions such as autism and cancer.
And Kennedy will release a new book this fall entitled "The Real Anthony Fauci: Bill Gates, Big Pharma, and the Global War on Democracy and Public Health."
The book explores what Kennedy describes as Fauci's botched handling of the pandemic and how he staged an "assault on our First Amendment guarantee of free speech."
"Fauci's Silicon Valley and media allies dutifully censored criticism of his policies on mainstream
Internet platforms have attempted to crack down on vaccine misinformation during the pandemic, prompting allegations of censorship on the right.
The book also alleges that Fauci and Gates "worked together to finance and promote the very gain-of-function experiments in Wuhan that may have released the COVID-19 pathogen."
Kennedy told Biden that 'vaccines cause injuries and death'
In a March letter addressed to President Joe Biden, Kennedy alleged that vaccines could be causing injuries and deaths and implored the US to identify more of such cases.
He also alleged that the CDC was brushing cases under the rug and was working "with the media and social media sites to remove and censor these reports."
Biden said in mid-July that Facebook and other online platforms are "killing people" by allowing health misinformation to proliferate.
He was kicked off Instagram for posting 'debunked claims'
Kennedy took many of these viewpoints to his social media accounts.
Facebook said in February that it removed Kennedy's account because he was "repeatedly sharing debunked claims about the coronavirus or vaccines."
But Kennedy is still very active on other sites, like Twitter for example.
He regularly shares posts from his anti-vax organization, such as one on Wednesday featuring a scientist who purported to have found evidence between COVID vaccines and neurodegenerative disorders.
Others in the Kennedy bloodline notably don't share his stance on vaccines.
In a 2019, Kennedy's siblings - Kathleen Kennedy Townsend and Joseph P Kennedy II - and niece - Maeve Kenned McKean - penned an essay in Politico entitled "RFK Jr. is Our Brother and Uncle. He's Tragically Wrong About Vaccines."
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