The RFK Jr. Bullshitosphere
Updated: Jul 24
First, what’s the story? I noticed immediately that all the coverage stemmed from a single story in The New York Post (not a great sign) by Jonathan Levine. I’ve had a couple run-ins with Levine over the years, or at least I’ve seen pieces of his that struck me as tendentious, either by design or lack of familiarity with certain political questions. Don’t get hung up on whether I was right or wrong about him. I note this only to highlight that even though I have an extremely low opinion of RFK Jr. I went into this story with more than a little skepticism.
But in this case, Levine was right on the mark. Kennedy’s words are his words. In fact Levine was so right on the mark it’s a bit shocking he was the only one to write it up. Lots of reporters were at this dinner and a lot of them wrote it up. But none mentioned this. The most one can say about Levine’s reporting in this case is that he drew out the obvious implication of Kennedy’s remark which was necessary because Kennedy used the standard many-people-are-saying and just-asking-questions type phrasings that are the calling card of his brand of conspiracy freaks. But again, his words are his words. He’s guilty as charged.
You can see the video here.
Here is a transcript of what RFK Jr. said:
RFK Jr.: We need to talk about bioweapons. I know a lot about bioweapons because I'm doing a book on it for the past two and a half years and, you know, what we the technologies that we now have to develop these ways, we have hundreds of millions of dollars into ethnically targeted microbes. The Chinese have done the same thing. In fact, Covid-19, there's an argument that it is ethnically targeted. Covid-19 attacks certain races disproportionately … the races that are most immune to Covid-19, because of the structure, because of the genetic structure, the genetic differentials among different races of the receptors, of the ACE receptor. Covid-19 is targeted to attack Caucasian and Black people. The people who are most immune are Ashkenazi Jews and Chinese. We don't know if it was deliberately targeted or not, but there are papers out there that show the racial and ethnic differential impact of that. We do know that the Chinese are spending hundreds of millions of dollars developing ethnic bioweapons. And we are developing ethnic bioweapons. That's where all those labs in the Ukraine are about; they're collecting Russian DNA; they're collecting Chinese DNA; so, we can target people by race.
To my mind, though, the anti-Semitism is almost the least interesting part of this. Kennedy is a full-of-himself conspiracy theorist and bullshit artist. The whole line of thought he’s spouting here is textbook. He makes these pretty outrageous claims. Each link in the chain of his argument comes in a factitious wrapping of bullshit. He claims as a given, for instance, that Chinese and Ashkenazi Jews have greater immunity to COVID. There’s no evidence of this. There’s no evidence of this about “Caucasians and Black people” either, though African-Americans have been disproportionately affected by COVID, presumably through a mix of occupational exposure, pre-existing conditions in the United States and more limited access to the health care system. But again, it’s not just that the big neon-light crazy claim isn’t true. The secondary, in-passing claims are equally bogus.
Kennedy also makes the general remark that China and the U.S. are spending hundreds of millions of dollars on “ethnically targeted bioweapons,” as though this is a given, even if his other claims about sparing the Jews may be surprising to some people. I can’t claim to know just what the U.S. or China are or are not doing in what are presumably secret programs. But I’ve been around DC and the national security chatosphere long enough to know bullshit at a distance. Again, I can’t know. Great Powers likely study or consider all sorts of crazy stuff at some hypothetical level. But this kind of talk is generally the fantasy or agitprop of warmongers and xenophobes. I mentioned earlier the factitious nature of Kennedy’s speech. He routinely peppers his comments with “there are papers” or “I could show you papers.” But these papers either don’t exist or don’t show anything remotely like what he claims. In this case he mentions a paper which supposedly backed all this up but which actually notes broadly that some viruses could have differential presentations in different ethnic groups.
Even with my own very limited understanding of virology and human genetic diversity I suspect it would be extremely hard to engineer a virus that was deadly for one ethnic group and not a problem for another. To be specific, perhaps some geneticists and virologists could engineer a pathogen that killed 30% of victims with predominantly European ancestry and only 15% of people with predominantly Chinese ancestry. But is that a very good weapon for China to release into the world? I kind of doubt it. And I suspect even that kind of differential is wildly beyond anyone’s scientific ability. Besides, what if the engineered virus evolved to kill Chinese people just as effectively? Certainly over the last three years we’ve learned that viruses evolve pretty quickly and in unpredictable ways. This whole line of argument seems silly, though again I’m sure there’s some intelligence report somewhere showing that some scientists have studied the question.
Twenty five journalists sat at the large, square banquet table. Call me paranoid, but Bobby was looking directly at me when he made his wrong-headed assertion that the coronavirus had passed over the homes of Ashkenazi Jews.
The stunning moment was surreal and incomprehensible. But I’ve seen the video and heard the audio, so I know it’s true.
“COVID 19 is targeted to attack Caucasians and Black people,” said Kennedy. “The races that are most immune to COVID-19 are Ashkenazi Jews and Chinese.”
Sitting next to Kennedy at that moment was an Ashkenazi Jew, New York Post reporter Jon Levine. Check out his baffled expression on the video.
Contrary to Bobby’s hair-brained theory, I got the coronavirus. My son, brother, sister-in-law, aunt, uncle, nephews, niece, cousins and friends also got COVID. My neurologist’s medical partner got COVID and died. Ashkenazi Jews all.
Bobby knows who I am. My wife, Liz, and I donated to his Riverkeeper nonprofit organization and watched him fly falcons at the Hudson River home of then-Gov. George Pataki. Bobby should also know that Frydman is a Jewish name of European ancestry. I’m not Sephardic. I’m fair-haired and light-skinned. That makes me Ashkenazi.
You’d think his campaign manager, former Ohio congressman and Cleveland Mayor Dennis Kucinich, and staff would’ve prepped Bobby about the probability of Ashkenazi Jews and Chinese journalists being in attendance. In fact, there was a Chinese reporter from the Epoch Times at the table.
That prep session wouldn’t have helped. Bobby knew what he was saying. He has clearly made a political calculation to forsake liberal Jews and, instead, play on the conservative side to Orthodox Jews like Mort Klein, president of the right-wing Zionist Organization of America.
But even Klein, a prominent anti-vaxxer and good friend of RFK Jr. who’s advised him on Israel, is reportedly “worried” about Bobby’s kooky COVID comments.
“This is crazy,” Klein was quoted as saying. “It makes no sense that they would do that. I read everything. I was totally against the vaccine…I wanted to convince myself it was correct not to take it. I have never seen anything like this.”
The Anti-Defamation League also weighed in. “The claim that COVID-19 was a bioweapon created by the Chinese or Jews to attack Caucasians and Black people is deeply offensive and feeds into sinophobic and antisemitic conspiracy theories about COVID-19 that we have seen evolve over the last three years.”
StopAntisemitism added, “We have no words for this man’s lunacy.”
Truth is, I always liked Bobby.
Until, that is, he became a leading voice of the anti-vax movement and fell out with his family by claiming Sirhan Sirhan didn’t assassinate his father. At first, I thought Bobby was a Kennedy contrarian, staking out his own political path as a right-of-center Democrat. I was a wrong. He’s a conspiracist.
Considering running in his father’s footsteps for a U.S. Senate seat in New York, Bobby visited me in my office in 1998. He wanted my strategic media advice about an upcoming New York magazine story that would re-report his arrest for marijuana possession with cousin Bobby Shriver in Barnstable, Mass. when they were both 16 and his guilty plea in 1984 to possessing heroin in Rapid City, S.D. when he was 29.
In both cases, Bobby received probation, plus community service. Better known as a Kennedy slap-on-the wrist.
The story ran, but Bobby didn’t.
When we met, Bobby never made eye contact with me. I chalked up that disconcerting characteristic to the trauma he suffered as a 14-year-old boy while watching his father murdered live on television on June 5, 1968. I decided then to give him a break. That break is over.
Bobby’s crazy COVID commentary is dangerously irresponsible.
The last thing this country needs is more antisemitism and hatred of Asian-Americans.
This Ashkenazi Jew says RFK Jr. has disqualified himself from being president of the United States.
I strongly condemn my brother's deplorable and untruthful remarks last week about Covid being engineered for ethnic targeting. His statements do not represent what I believe or what Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights stand for, with our 50+-year track record of protecting rights and standing against racism and all forms of discrimination.
Another of their siblings, Joseph Kennedy II, also criticized the remarks. He is a former congressman and chair of Citizens Energy.
“Bobby’s comments are morally and factually wrong,” he said in a statement provided to The Globe. “They play on antisemitic myths and stoke mistrust of the Chinese. His remarks in no way reflect the words and actions of our father, Robert F. Kennedy.”
Former Massachusetts Representative Joseph Kennedy III also weighed in.
“My uncle’s comments were hurtful and wrong. I unequivocally condemn what he said,” he tweeted from a personal account. Kennedy III is also serving as President Biden’s envoy to Northern Ireland.
The real issue is RFK Jr.'s sloppy thinking. Whether its the JFK assassination, the RFK assassination, Covid-19 or vaccines, you can always count on RFK Jr. to come out with some very careless remarks. And that's not the kind of person you want as president of the United States.
Previous Relevant Blog Posts on RFK Jr.:
Finally, RFK Jr. gives us the name of one of the masterminds.
Two articles on RFK Jr.
His beliefs on Ukraine show that RFK Jr. is just not serious.
RFK has some wacky views on Wi-Fi.
RFK Jr. has a disturbing relationship with the Nation of Islam.
Besides being paranoid, RFK Jr. is naive about the world in which we live.
Putin knows which candidate to back.
He can't even quote his uncle properly.
He gets the Garrison story all wrong.
RFK Jr.'s favorite JFK assassination book is full of crackpot theories.
Just when you thought he couldn't get any nuttier.