In April, Robert F. Kennedy Jr. launched his campaign against President Biden for the 2024 Democratic presidential nomination. Since then, he has used his campaign platform to share conspiracies about Wi-Fi causing cancer, chemicals in water turning children transgender, and antidepressants leading to school shootings, among other narratives against an elusive “they” (the government, pharmaceutical companies and the media). All with the understanding that any attempt to question or fact-check his stances equates to censorship.
RFK Jr.’s popularity rose during the COVID-19 pandemic because of his fierce support for the anti-vaccination movement. ISD’s Senior Analyst Aoife Gallagher spoke to NPR about the effect of the pandemic on his broader acceptance. “There was this coalescing of different groups that wouldn’t really have crossed paths before the pandemic. What this allowed groups like Children’s Health Defense and Robert F. Kennedy to do was to reach a much wider audience.”
Aoife explained how RFK Jr.’s rhetoric resonates among a wide range of vaccine opponents, far-right extremists and conspiracy theorists, under an umbrella of anti-establishment sentiments.
“People have really embraced the idea of being anti-establishment over the past few years. That contrarian point of view of always going against whatever the mainstream is … has become part and parcel of this wider conspiratorial world I think that a lot of people live in.”