Robert F. Kennedy Jr. denied that he was racist or anti-Semitic during heated exchanges with Congress members Thursday, as Democrats pressed him on recent comments he made about Covid-19 targeting specific ethnic groups.
Kennedy Jr. was testifying during a House hearing over online censorship when Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-Fla.) brought up comments made by Kennedy Jr. last week during a dinner party in Manhattan—where he said Chinese and Ashkenazi Jewish people were less susceptible to Covid-19 while Caucasian and Black people were targets of the disease.
Kennedy Jr. said the comments—recorded in a video published by the New York Post—were about a study funded by the National Institutes of Health and conducted by “Cleveland Clinic scientists,” which Wasserman Schultz said was not cited by him in the video published by the Post.
Kennedy and Wasserman Schultz spoke over each other as Kennedy pointed and said, “You’re slandering me; this is dishonest.”
Wasserman Schultz further pressed Kennedy Jr. over comments he made last year comparing Covid-19 public health policies to tactics used by Nazi Germany against Jewish people, asking if Kennedy Jr. rejects the comparison, to which Kennedy Jr. replied, “Congressman, what you are saying is a lie.”
Rep. Dan Goldman (D-N.Y.) played a video showing the comments Kennedy Jr. made about Covid-19 targeting Jewish people and asked if he, Goldman, should be concerned about his genetics as an Ashkenazi Jewish person who contracted Covid in 2020—an inquiry Kennedy Jr. responded to by saying, “Not at all. And that statement that you saw there is a truncated version of a larger statement where I was describing a study.”
Kennedy Jr. further defended himself saying he has never been opposed to vaccination and that every statement made about him during the hearing was “inaccurate.”
Rep. Gerry Connolly (D-Va.) told Kennedy that his comments bring “shame on a storied name that I revere,” referring to his father, Robert F. Kennedy, who served as the 64th U.S. attorney general, represented New York in the U.S. Senate and ran as a transformative liberal Democratic presidential candidate before he was shot in the kitchen of the Ambassador Hotel in Los Angeles, where he had just delivered a victory speech after winning the California and Wisconsin primaries, in June 1968. He lingered for a day, then died of his injuries on June 5, leaving behind his pregnant wife, Ethel, and ten children.
Kennedy Jr. said he was not allowed to respond to the questions made about his controversial comments, adding, “This is typical of the accusations against me at this hearing. They are baseless. Every single one.”
Kennedy Jr. has promoted several other conspiracy theories in addition to his claim that Covid-19 targets certain races and gives others immunity. The presidential candidate has claimed that the 2004 election was stolen due to voter fraud that benefited former Republican President George W. Bush and that vaccines can cause autism, among other debunked claims. Kennedy Jr.’s family publicly denounced his claims about Covid-19 targeting certain ethnicities. His brother, Joseph Kennedy II, told The Boston Globe this month that the statements were “morally and factually wrong . . . play on antisemitic myths and stoke mistrust of the Chinese” and “in no way reflect the words and actions of our father, Robert F. Kennedy.” His sister, Kerry Kennedy, also levied further criticism, calling his statement “deplorable and untruthful.”
Kennedy Jr. has pushed back against the “anti-vaxx” label given to him by detractors and has claimed his children are vaccinated. However, during Thursday’s hearing, he said that he has personally kept up with vaccinations—with the exception of the Covid-19 vaccine.