Democratic presidential candidate Robert F. Kennedy Jr. rose to prominence all the way through the COVID-19 pandemic as a result of his strident opposition to vaccines. But, he insists he’s no longer anti-vaccine. He has related to influential other folks at the some distance proper – together with Tucker Carlson, Steve Bannon and Michael Flynn – to lift his profile. But, he portrays himself as a real Democrat inheriting the mantle of the Kennedy circle of relatives.
As he demanding situations President Joe Biden, the tales he tells at the marketing campaign path about himself, his lifestyles’s paintings and what he stands for are steadily the other of what his document in reality presentations.
Even though Kennedy’s primary challenge to a sitting president is broadly thought to be a longshot, he’s been sucking up media consideration because of his well-known identify and the chance that his run may just weaken Biden forward of what’s anticipated to be a detailed basic election in 2024. He’s drawn reward from Republican presidential applicants like Donald Trump and Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis. In the meantime, Trump supporters, together with his longtime best friend Roger Stone, have ginned up pastime through floating a Trump-Kennedy team spirit price tag.
Debra Duvall, 62, who lives in Castle Myers, Florida, and mentioned she serves at the Lee County GOP government committee, described herself as an established Trump supporter, however mentioned she’s torn for 2024.
“I’ll take Trump or RFK. Both one,” she mentioned, explaining that she used to be interested in each as a result of she believes they are able to’t be purchased.
That more or less strengthen has demonstrated probably the most contradictions in Kennedy’s candidacy. He has mentioned he desires to “reclaim” the Democratic Birthday party, whilst aligning himself with some distance proper figures who’ve labored to subvert American democracy. He touts his credentials as an environmentalist, but pushes bitcoin — a cryptocurrency that calls for large quantities of electrical energy from supercomputers to generate new cash, prompting maximum environmental advocates to loudly oppose it.
And despite the fact that he peppers his speeches, podcast appearances and marketing campaign fabrics with invocations of the Democratic Birthday party legacies of his uncle President John F. Kennedy and his father, Robert F. Kennedy, his family have distanced themselves from him or even denounced him.
“He’s buying and selling in on Camelot, famous person, conspiracy theories and war for private acquire and repute,” Jack Schlossberg, President Kennedy’s grandson, mentioned of his cousin in an Instagram video in July. “I’ve listened to him. I do know him. I do not know why somebody thinks he will have to be president. What I know is, his candidacy is a humiliation.”
The contradictions between what Kennedy says and his monitor document have been nowhere extra obvious than when he testified earlier than a congressional committee in July on the invitation of Republican individuals.
Anti-vaccine activists, some who paintings for Kennedy’s nonprofit group Children’s Health Defense, sat within the rows in the back of him, observing as he insisted “I’ve by no means been anti-vaxx. I’ve by no means informed the general public to steer clear of vaccination.”
However that’s no longer true. Over and over, Kennedy has made his opposition to vaccines transparent. In July, Kennedy mentioned in a podcast interview that “There’s no vaccine this is protected and efficient” and informed FOX Information that he nonetheless believes within the long-ago debunked idea that vaccines may cause autism. In a 2021 podcast he instructed other folks to “face up to” CDC tips on when youngsters will have to get vaccines.
“I see someone on a mountain climbing path wearing somewhat child and I say to him, higher no longer get them vaccinated,” Kennedy mentioned.
That very same 12 months, in a video selling an anti-vaccine sticky label marketing campaign through his nonprofit, Kennedy seemed onscreen subsequent to 1 sticky label that declared “IF YOU’RE NOT AN ANTI-VAXXER YOU AREN’T PAYING ATTENTION.”
A detailed exam of Kennedy’s marketing campaign finance filings presentations that the anti-vaccine motion lies on the center of his marketing campaign.
Kids’s Health Protection these days has a lawsuit pending towards numerous information organizations, amongst them The Related Press, accusing them of violating antitrust rules through taking motion to spot incorrect information, together with about COVID-19 and COVID-19 vaccines.
The marketing campaign paid KFP Consulting, a Texas-based corporate run by Del Bigtree, head of the anti-vaccine workforce ICAN, and a number one voice within the motion, more than $13,000 for communications consulting, the AP discovered. Bigtree gave the impression to nonetheless be running for the marketing campaign ultimate week, when an AP reporter noticed him serving to facilitate a Kennedy tournament in New York.
Kennedy additionally has won considerable strengthen from activists who’ve unfold incorrect information concerning the coronavirus and vaccines, together with Steve Kirsch, an entrepreneur who has falsely claimed COVID-19 vaccines kill extra other folks than they save, chiropractors Patrick Flynn and Kevin Stillwagon, and others.
Ty and Charlene Bollinger, who run an anti-vaccine trade and who the AP has previously reported have had a financial relationship with Kennedy, gave greater than $6,000. The couple, in conjunction with Kennedy’s conversation marketing consultant Bigtree, have been concerned about web hosting a rally close to the Capitol on Jan. 6, and Ty Bollinger has mentioned he used to be a few of the individuals who crowded on the Capitol doorways in an try to get inside of, despite the fact that he mentioned he didn’t input.
The couple is part of the Kids’s Health Protection lawsuit towards AP and different media retailers.
American Values 2024, an excellent PAC supporting Kennedy, is administered through shut friends to Kennedy who’ve propped up anti-vaccine concepts — the previous head of the New York bankruptcy of Kids’s Health Protection John Gilmore is its CEO and Kennedy’s writer Tony Lyons is its co-chair.
The Kennedy marketing campaign didn’t go back emails in the hunt for remark about numerous questions, together with how he can say he isn’t anti-vaccine given his document and his strengthen from anti-vaccine activists.
Kennedy’s run may be getting a number of monetary strengthen from the precise. An excellent PAC supporting Kennedy’s presidential run, referred to as Heal the Divide PAC, has deep ties to Republicans, F ederal Election Commission records display.
The committee’s cope with is indexed in the care of RTA Strategy, a marketing campaign consulting company that has been paid for its paintings to assist elect Republicans together with Georgia Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene and the previous Georgia Senate candidate Herschel Walker.
The PAC’s treasurer, who works for RTA Technique, is Jason Boles, a previous donor to Trump and lots of different Republicans who comprises “MAGA” and “AmericaFirst” in his bio at the platform X, previously referred to as Twitter.
Kennedy denied understanding Boles or the Heal the Divide PAC when it got here up on the congressional listening to, pronouncing, “I’ve by no means heard of Mr. Boles, and I’ve never heard of that super PAC.”
However video to be had on-line presentations he used to be a visitor speaker at a Heal the Divide tournament simply two days previous. The video includes a “Heal the Divide 2024” emblem with clips of him talking at duration about plans to again the U.S. greenback with bitcoin and valuable metals.
Kennedy says that as president, he would combat for presidency honesty and transparency, heal the political divide, opposite financial decline, finish battle and maintain civil liberties. He has made freedom of speech a significant a part of his platform, arguing that the federal government’s conversation with social media corporations unfairly censors secure speech.
Kennedy’s press place of business didn’t reply to a number of messages asking about his strengthen from the some distance proper.
It additionally didn’t reply to questions on whether or not his stance on bitcoin used to be at odds with being an environmentalist.
Kennedy lists the surroundings as one in all six most sensible priorities on his marketing campaign web site and has spent a few years talking towards air pollution and local weather alternate as an environmental legal professional. But he has made supporting the energy-intensive cryptocurrency bitcoin a key a part of his platform.
Bitcoin mining, the method of producing new cash, makes use of large quantities of electrical energy — greater than some whole nations use, mentioned Scott Faber of the Environmental Running Crew.
That’s as a result of it really works through tasking a community of supercomputers with fixing complex mathematical puzzles — whilst another cryptocurrencies have followed way more calories environment friendly mining strategies.
“No person who claims to be an environmentalist may just strengthen a virtual asset that needlessly consumes extra electrical energy than all American citizens use to energy the lighting fixtures in our houses,” Faber mentioned. “In reality, bitcoin produces extra local weather air pollution than another virtual asset.”
In spite of the environmental downsides of bitcoin, some Democrats, together with elected officers, have advocated for the foreign money.
Kennedy, for his section, informed a crowd at Bitcoin 2023 that environmentalists like himself “will proceed to force you to give a boost to.” On-line, he has promoted the argument that call for for bitcoin will spice up funding in new renewable calories initiatives.
Regardless, his monetary disclosure paperwork display he has already individually invested between $100,001 and $250,000 in bitcoin, and he promised at Bitcoin 2023 that he wouldn’t let the environmental argument impede the foreign money’s use.
“As president, I can ensure that your proper to carry and use bitcoin is inviolable,” he mentioned.
All the way through the previous a number of years, Kennedy has cultivated his ties to the some distance proper. He has seemed on Infowars, the channel run through Sandy Hook conspiracy theorist Alex Jones. He has granted interviews to Trump best friend Steve Bannon and Tucker Carlson. After he headlined a forestall at the ReAwaken The us Excursion, the Christian nationalist highway display put in combination through former Trump nationwide safety adviser Michael Flynn, he used to be photographed behind the scenes with Flynn, Charlene Bollinger and Trump best friend Roger Stone.
The ones appearances have ended in goodwill at the proper, and he has discovered enthusiastic strengthen amongst a phase of Trump’s base, with some suggesting him as a possible vice presidential pick out.
At a July 1 rally within the tiny the city of Pickens, South Carolina, Adrian Palashevsky – a small businessman who described himself as extra of a “libertarian” than a Republican – posited a team spirit price tag, with Kennedy as his most sensible pick out for Trump’s VP.
“I believe they’d get alongside simply wonderful,” he mentioned. “They’re each anti-establishment, and that’s why they’re below such a lot assault.”
DeSantis, one in all Trump’s Republican challengers, has additionally indulged in praise for the perimeter candidate, pronouncing in a contemporary interview that whilst he wouldn’t make Kennedy vp, he would believe appointing him to some of the federal businesses that regulates vaccine protection and protects public well being.
“When you’re president, , sic him at the FDA if he’d be keen to serve, or sic him on CDC,” DeSantis mentioned.
Not everyone seems to be purchasing the Kennedy mystique.
At the once a year assembly of the Nationwide Affiliation of Latino Elected and Appointed Officers in New York a couple of weeks in the past, Kennedy leaned closely on his circle of relatives legacy, bringing up his father’s alliance with hard work chief Cesar Chavez and his uncle’s paintings in Latin American nations.
However in his just about 20-minute speech, he didn’t lay out any plan or coverage proposals of his personal, or discuss explicit problems going through the Latino group. He spent maximum of his time telling a tale about getting arrested with the Mexican American actor Edward Olmos in 2001, an try at referring to with the group that disillusioned each Republicans and Democrats within the target market.
Mario Ceballos, president of a PAC representing LGBTQ+ Latinos, mentioned Kennedy’s speech — and the candidate’s conspiracy idea ideals — saddened him.
“When I used to be dwelling in Mexico, Kennedy used to be an American president that my entire circle of relatives revered,” Ceballos mentioned. “And what he’s presenting are esoteric, unhealthy choices which might be in reality going to harm the similar those that his father and uncle sought after to assist.”
Related Press writers Jill Colvin in West Palm Seashore, Florida, and Meg Kinnard in Pickens, South Carolina, contributed to this file.
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