Shaming The Name

I guess it’s time to talk about RFK, Jr.

I met Junior once, many years ago. He’d come to Indianapolis to speak at a dinner for an environmental group. At the time, he was known for his work to clean up the Hudson River. He sat at our table and played footsie with an attractive woman at the table.  Given what we now know about JFK, I  just assumed lechery ran in the family.

These days, his behaviors are far more bizarre, and his quixotic entry into the Presidential sweepstakes has elicited commentary from reporters who would otherwise ignore a crank candidate.

Allow me to share some of that recent coverage.

The New Republic reports that Junior is sharing the podium with Trump, DeSantis and Nikki Haley at an event sponsored by Moms for Liberty, a group known for book-banning, and attacks on teachers and  LGBTQ citizens, among other things.

Maybe he’s running on the wrong ticket….

There have been multiple reports that his candidacy is being promoted by rich, white, conspiracy-pushing figures who have a media presence.  Elon Musk, for example, is evidently using Twitter’s algorithms to advance Junior’s anti-vaccine agenda.

Josh Marshall of Talking Points Memo has pointed out that RFK Jr.’s “top backers are Steve Bannon, Mike Flynn, Roger Stone. He’s a creation of the world of MAGA.”

I knew he was a big anti-vax guy. But seeing some of his recent stuff, I didn’t grasp how far off the trail he’s gone. He’s basically on board with all the conspiracy theories that animate MAGA. Vaccine denial is only one of them. For the moment he’s putting up decent primary support numbers, overwhelmingly because of the name.

The website Popular Information criticized the “pernicious elite preoccupation” with Junior, pointing to the number of lives likely to be lost by his spread of discredited, manipulated and cherry-picked vaccine disinformation.

In the Washington Post, Eugene Robinson weighed in:

If Robert F. Kennedy Jr.’s name were Robert F. Smith Jr., he would be written off as an anti-vaccine nutjob. His pedigree is enough to make some Democrats give his presidential campaign a look — and they will find that he is indeed an anti-vaccine nutjob and that he often sounds a lot like a MAGA Republican.
This will come as a disappointment to the right-wing media outlets, unhinged conspiracy theorists and faux-libertarian billionaires who are doing their best to pretend Kennedy’s delusionary candidacy is a viable challenge to President Biden.

Robinson focuses largely on the lethal consequences of anti-vaccine conspiracy theories. He quotes Junior’s siblings, Kathleen Kennedy Townsend and Joseph P. Kennedy II, who wrote in a 2019 Politico article that Junior’s anti-vaccine ravings are “dangerous misinformation” that endanger public health and put children at risk.

Robinson also notes that the crazy doesn’t stop there.

For a while, he crusaded against 5G internet technology, claiming it damages human DNA and is a secret tool of mass surveillance. He has accused Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates of working to develop an “injectable chip” that would allow, once again, mass surveillance. These are sentiments more commonly expressed on a street corner, at loud volume, while wearing a tinfoil hat.

Kennedy has said he believes that the CIA was behind the 1963 assassination of his uncle President John F. Kennedy and that there is “very convincing” evidence the CIA was also responsible for the assassination of his father, Robert F. Kennedy, in 1968. (Back here in the real world, JFK was killed by Lee Harvey Oswald and RFK was killed by Sirhan Sirhan.) Asked by Rogan whether he, too, could be a target of CIA assassins, Kennedy said, “I gotta be careful. I’m aware of that, you know, I’m aware of that danger.” He added, “I take precautions.”

He also claims that “chemicals in the waters”  cause transgenderism…

In the same vein, in a NYT column, Bret Stephens wrote

Kennedy is a crank…. He has said the C.I.A. killed his uncle and possibly his father, that George W. Bush stole the 2004 election, and that Covid vaccines are a Bill Gates and Anthony Fauci self-enrichment scheme. He repeats Kremlin propaganda points, like the notion that the war in Ukraine is actually “a U.S. war against Russia.” He has nice things to say about Tucker Carlson.

There is much, much more, but probably the most pertinent point is the one made by Eugene Robinson: if this guy’s name was Robert F. Smith, Jr., he would be ignored as just another lunatic. It is only because he comes from a famous family, only because he has a pedigree, that he is currently a “useful idiot” for the MAGA supporters desperate to peel away the votes of naive Americans who might vote for the Kennedy name.

Which he shames.


  1. Lets hope this Kennedy run is a big flop… like Joe Kennedy taking on Ed Markey. I think the Kennedy magic is largely gone. Its too bad it flames out in this fashion.

  2. Folks who remember JFK and RFK will have no trouble distinguishing between them and Junior. The younger generations are unlikely to be unduly impressed by the family name which, to them, is part of ancient history. Junior’s candidacy is just another distractor created by the wrong wing in a desperate bid to weaken Biden’s chances of re-election. It will work only if there are as many ignorant, delusional Democrats as there are Republicans.

  3. Ive listened to exactly what he is saying. Not all the conspiracy theories and hype about him. Hes actually pro vaccine where vaccines proven effaceable, but as an environmentalist he charges those who release vaccines that possibly do more damage than a disease would is a tragedy.
    The problem with Biden is that he now is a puppet and his Presidency and corruption shows that.
    So those on the right might team up with an anti-deep state candidate on the other side of the aisle in order to promote freedom expressed in the constitution.
    I know 3 or 4 Robert Smiths and if they ran for President against Biden who would actually debate theyd probably beat him. But the falacy here is not RFK Jr and all the environmental work he has done. Its the left circling the wagons around a man who has destroyed many retirement funds, the black communities opportunities to have communities with thriving businesses because his BLM backers have created a desert for us, and his onward march to destroythe middle classes buying power by expanding a budget enslaving iur poor families snd youth.
    Yes Id rather vote against a person like Biden this time. Hes not an Obama that understands limits to government.

  4. RFK Jr. is an embarrassment to the political principles I found so motivating in JFK and RFK Sr. Junior could easily peel off enough votes in 2 or 3 states to throw the electoral college vote to Trump. If being a spoiler to elect Trump is his goal, he’s certainly on his way.

  5. RFK, Jr seems to be the 2024 version of Tulsi Gabbard. If his name was Smith, he’d be polling like she did. He’s no more qualified to be President than one of TFG’s kids.

  6. The wayward wannabe prince of once upon a time Camelot. He is a desperate Monday morning pick from slim choices. Now we can move one.

  7. The wayward wannabe prince of once upon a time Camelot. He is a desperate Monday morning pick from slim choices. Now we can move on.

  8. Most intelligent voters (and I grant that this might be an ever-dwindling population) realize that they are voting for one person to be president, but that person would be assembling a team to assist in that endeavor. The ability to attract competent and intelligent people to assist in “governance” is paramount. Any candidate that seems impulsive, self-centered, or dumb will have a difficult time accomplishing this task and would probably end up assembling a cast of misfits and sycophants. A candidate that barks at the moon should not be considered serious. Period. They will only assemble a cast of like-minded morons. At best, RFK Jr. is an essential oil salesman – harmless but generally useless in real life. At worst, he is an “I did my own research” type that will lead his pack of lemmings off a cliff dragging modern society behind it. He’s had his moment… time to move on.

  9. I know people think Trumpism is exclusively a Republican problem, but I have long warned Democrats that they too might one day have to deal with their own Trump. Enter RFK, Jr.

    People on here are going to blame RFK, Jr. as being a tool of the MAGA world. It’s true that they support him, but it’s also true that polls show a full 20% of the Democratic electorate is expressing support for RFK, Jr. They’re not polling MAGA people. They’re polling Democrats. Part of that is due to Biden’s weakness as a candidate, but that certainly doesn’t explain the very high number of RFK, Jr. supporters.

    People have forgotten that anti-vax sentiment used to be a thing on the left more so than on the right. Likewise, so too is the willingness to embrace Russia and attack American values and institutions. I’m seeing a lot of overlap between the views of MAGA people and the far left people within the Democratic Party.

    Democrats: You need to take seriously the Trump within your ranks. We Republicans didn’t and eventually the Trump cancer took over the party.

  10. A few years ago, we were on the verge of eliminating polio. Today, thanks to Jr. and others like him, it’s back. He and they might be responsible for every death that occurs from formerly controllable diseases. This didn’t start as a MAGA issue, though. It started on the left with future helicopter moms “protecting” their precious little tykes from Autism. Yes, there are many more children on the Autism spectrum than ever before. Why? We know a lot more today than we did before, so we no longer label kids as trouble makers or “retarded” when they are actually Autistic. It’s so much easier to find something when you know what you’re looking for.

  11. Paul Ogden – exactly what polls were you referencing in your comment that stated a full 20% of the Democratic electorate supports RFK, Jr?

  12. Part of RFK Jr’s attraction is that contained in his long list of conspiracy theories just about everyone can find at least one that they hold themselves. In this age of false information and propaganda run amuck it is easy to dismiss most of his message except for (fill in the blank).
    I will add that it is ironic that his earlier efforts to save human life by cleaning up the environment have turned into an anti-vaccination crusade that has been partly responsible for killing thousands of people.

  13. He’s a fruitcake, a pretended anti-vaxxer trading on a family name steeped in Democratic politics, and if elected would, like Trump, kill thousands with his politicization of medicine. I find such a stand disgusting, dangerous and illogical and think Fauci, like Salk, is a hero for the ages. In short, I believe in science. Period.

  14. I find RFK Jr exactly on par with internet libertarians, i.e. 40% “Huh, that’s a good point. I basically agree with that” and 60% “AHHHH! Get away from me lunatic!”

  15. I find RFK Jr exactly on par with internet libertarians, i.e. 40% “Huh, that’s a good point. I basically agree with that” and 60% “AHHHH! Get away from me lunatic!”

  16. I had known something of his anti-vaxxer stance, but a video that was forwarded to me today was of a speech against the military industrial complex and the forever wars. I was a Tulsi fan until she started using the anti-woke MAGA vocabulary, and I felt the same vibe from him in this speech.

    Speaking as an army vet of the Vietnam era who was fortunately assigned to Korea, I keep hoping for a real anti-war candidate to vote for, one with a realistic chance of winning.

  17. and we have tonight on coast to coast radio, conspiracy theorist Robert Kennedy Jr. anti vaxx,
    mass surveillance by chips, and possible VP for desantis run..


  18. John S. How about offering some evidence for the claims you are making about Biden? And by evidence, I don’t mean just quoting other people making the same claims. I mean verifiable facts. Your claims that Biden has destroyed retirement funds, black communities and the middle class are ridiculous as those are the very things he has been working to strengthen. If you want to be taken seriously on this platform, you’re going to have to show your ideas have some connection to reality.

  19. Josh Marshall of Talking Points Memo has pointed out that RFK Jr.’s “top backers are Steve Bannon, Mike Flynn, Roger Stone. He’s a creation of the world of MAGA.” Exactly what I recently pointed out.

    Nancy, Biden is a puppet? Just flat out, a puppet? From where does that belief stem?

    Biden might be too quiet, too gentle for what is coming, a rash of very loud imbecility which is attractive to

    far too many fellow citizens!

    Bannon, and friends, must be salivating!

  20. It seems like this election will give voters the choice between kids and adults governing nationally. In the past such a choice would be easy. Now, not so much. Why is that?

    Apparently one explanation is the number of voters who don’t like the reality of these times. They preferred other times in their past. The explosion of human knowledge and instant global communications exposed to them a world of differences rather than the order of only local culture. Why isn’t everyone rural America in the 50’s when people were alike instead of so different?

    The political kids promise them whatever they want.

  21. Sometimes I turn on Fox News just to hear what lies they are broadcasting. When Carlson was still on the air, he interviewed Kennedy and I listened to see for myself what he was about. Yep, he started out saying that we can’t let government mandate vaccines, drugs or any kind of medical treatment. He said we could end up like Nazi Germany with forced compliance to medical experiments. (Our covid vaccines were provided by our government but were not mandated to civilians.)
    Kennedy then went on to harp about how Government and Corporations have melded into something like a kleptocracy. He said US is bailing out banks while getting rid of food stamps, and a lot of Americans are suffering needlessly. Also, the war complex needs addressing. He started spieling democratic programs healthcare, childcare etc. that need expanding. I was surprised when Carlson said that he agreed with most of what Kennedy said. Within 48 hours Carlson was fired.
    An interesting personal note Kennedy is married to the actress who played Larry David’s wife in “Curb Your Enthusiasm”. Hopefully, he’s settled down since he sat at Sheila’s table.

  22. Sharon Miller if you cant see that markets have dropped in the tech world by 40 % tgen had a slight rebound and the economy is slowing diwn. Most blue collar workers ask for leadership not blind loyalty.
    Plus look at the loss of average gains of 10% by the S and P 500, lost. Why do those with seemingly radical ideas leave the middle class behind, tell them not to worry about their 401k and sacrifice their lifestyle and retirement.
    Here is what two Democrats are saying.

  23. John S, you can pretend that the markets are a source of problem for the poorer of us because of potential impacts on 401ks, but that’s simple propaganda. That does not apply to most struggling people, even those we’d all consider middle class. The markets are NOT a reflection of the economy, just one (surprisingly small) factor. However, they are a critical factor for rich people and the corporate elite. And maybe you really speak for them?

    Now, Sharon’s question still stands. Your response was to simply point to stock markets when she asks for evidence that Biden is corrupt and a puppet. It’s essentially a non sequitur. President’s have only minimal impact over the stock markets, after all. (The largest negative stock market impact this year was the footsie the GOP was playing with the potential debt ceiling default.) Ultimately, you betray your true feelings with not only your original statements but also the “evidence” that you think applies. It’s honestly embarrassing.

    So, do you have actual evidence for your claims that Biden is corrupt and a puppet?

  24. I’ve got to admit, I had been feeling a bit nostalgic for the handful of years just prior to the Reagan presidency and consequently Biden delivered in spades.
    The man brought us the largest rise in inflation since those halcyon days of Jimmy Carter.

    I’m definitely voting for Biden. There is no one else that can burn it down more effectively than Biden. Biden is an idiot king–exactly what is needed at this time in our history. Plus,Biden is proof that white-trash can rise to the top of the political and grifting pyramid. GO BIDEN!

  25. John S. threw another flame ball –

    I have always maintained that our concept of “left” and “right” is incorrect. It is a circle. Go far enough on either side and you can cross over (see E. Hoffer’s True Believer).

    Sadly, I have become most suspicious of the “environmental” left. While I agree with their end-goals, I often suspect that many are less interested in science and the facts, and are more into conspiracies about the “evil rich” and then the “evil other”. In Europe, Green parties were often anti-immigrant, and probably wouldn’t care about any other bigotry. In this country, we see “eco” candidates who are the opposite of the “liberals” that they were assumed to be.

    Then we have Jr.
    I worked hard for RFK – The Kennedy name was magic, in those days. I hope it has waned enough to allow people to realize that Sr. is rolling in his grave – lengthwise – because of Jr.
    I do know one thing – in some places like the inner-city precincts of Indy in ’68, saying “Bobby needs your vote” was enough to triple a 20-year old turnout record. We wouldn’t see an effect like that for 40 years.

    I don’t see anyone saying “RFK Jr. needs your vote”. I just hope no one falls for the name.

  26. Ian, the right people to blame for the inflation, which is now ebbing, are the corporate leaders. This inflation is caused many factors related to the covid pandemic–including supply chain shortcomings, manufacturing issues, etc–but the largest one is corporate gouging. Importantly, it began before Biden took office, by the way.

    Basically, you seem to be ignoring the real factors, so I suspect you simply have a pathological hatred of Biden. Plus, you level an ad hominen attack, with the “white trash” and “grifter” comments, and that reduces any credence people may have paid them. If you really want to attack him in a left-leaning forum, you should rethink your strategy.

    I do have issues with the government’s handling of the inflation. The Fed is treating it like the main cause is an overheated economy that must be stifled, so they raise interest rates. Is this just an error on their part, or are they trying to discipline labour (the cynical part of me wonders)? Biden has been more pro-worker than many presidents have been in years, so if he is allowed to influence the fed, then it’s a problem that he didn’t. I’m not really sure what’s allowed in your system, though. (In Canada, we have followed your lead in the interest rates, which is very frustrating.)

Comments are closed.