Robert F. Kennedy Jr. convened a panel of health misinformation superstars on Tuesday evening for a roundtable discussion that suggested his medical conspiracism will be a key component of his 2024 presidential run. During the unfiltered conversation, he falsely suggested that millions of deaths in the Great Influenza (or “Spanish flu”) epidemic of 1918 could be attributed to vaccine experiments.
The longshot candidate — known for promoting the debunked link between vaccines and autism, and opposing Covid-19 vaccination efforts — was joined in conversation by four doctors as well as several influencers and alternative medicine promoters, all of whom have gained notoriety for false claims about the dangers of vaccination. The live-streamed event aired on Rumble, a video streaming site favored by far-right extremists and conspiracy theorists, particularly those who have been banned by other platforms.
During the discussion, Kennedy made several unfounded claims regarding the origins of infectious diseases and their relationships to vaccines. At one point, he baselessly asserted that vaccine research had been responsible for the creation of some of the deadliest diseases in human history, including HIV, the Spanish flu, and Lyme disease.
“I will end all gain-of-function research [as president],” Kennedy said. “It’s just a disaster, it’s given us no benefits. It’s given us everything from Lyme disease to Covid, and many many other diseases. RSV, which is now one of the biggest killers of children, came out of a vaccine lab.”
“We can go down the whole list of diseases,” he added. “There’s even good evidence that even Spanish flu came from vaccine research.”
Kennedy then claimed that “the medical research on these diseases and vaccine research has actually created some of the worst plagues in our history. Anybody who reads The River will come away pretty much convinced that HIV also came from a vaccine program, there’s plenty of evidence on that as well.”
Kennedy has previously claimed, without evidence, that AIDS was not caused by the HIV virus but “a gay lifestyle” and the use of alkyl nitrites, or poppers. His 2021 book The Real Anthony Fauci included similar AIDS denialism — including the falsehood that the disease is not caused by HIV — views that he repeated this month on Joe Rogan’s podcast, which commands an audience of millions.
“I do not believe that infectious disease is an enormous threat to human health,” Kennedy added. The presidential hopeful stated that if he assumed office, he would target medical journals and redirect funding grants away from epidemiology.
Further along in the discussion, Kennedy discussed his proposal for a “corporate death penalty” to be leveled against companies found to be defrauding the public. He suggested that some institutes “associated with promoting vaccines” could be subjected to it.
Kennedy and three of Tuesday’s roundtable guests — Dr. Sherri Tenpenny, Dr. Joseph Mercola, and Sayer Yi — were named as members of the “Disinformation Dozen” by the Center for Countering Digital Hate in 2020. After analyzing a sample of anti-vaccine content shared or posted on Facebook or Twitter a total of 812,000 times in early 2021, researchers at the organization found that 65 percent of it could be traced back to this small group.
Tenpenny and Mercola are both osteopathic physicians. Tenpenny has claimed that the Covid-19 vaccine makes people magnetic and may connect them to 5G towers. Suspended from Twitter in 2021, she was reinstated under Elon Musk. She’s also under investigation for unspecified reasons by the State Medical Board of Ohio as of October 2022, and may lose her license simply for failing to cooperate with the probe. Mercola, a kingpin of “natural health” products boosted by Dr. Oz, has peddled quack cures for Covid, earning a warning from the FDA in 2021. He has also claimed the Covid jab will “alter your genetic coding, turning you into a viral protein factory that has no off-switch,” and platformed medical conspiracists who claim that HIV does not cause AIDS.
Also questioning Kennedy was Sayer Yi, whose alternative medicine website was banned from Twitter and Instagram in 2020. Ji has promoted the baseless link between vaccines and autism and falsely claimed the Pfizer vaccine killed more people than Covid itself. Mikki Willis, producer of the 2020 film Plandemic — one of the most notorious pieces of anti-vaccine propaganda to be made in response to the Covid pandemic — interrogated Kennedy on his beliefs around climate change. Plandemic 3, a sequel to his original film, argued that the HIV antiviral treatment drug AZT was actually responsible for the AIDS epidemic of the Eighties and Nineties.
Kennedy’s conspiratorial views on vaccines long predate those fueled by the Covid pandemic becoming mainstream in the United States. In 2005, Kennedy published the article “Deadly Immunity,” which falsely claimed a link between childhood vaccines and autism, in Rolling Stone. Following repeated debunkings of the claim by members of the scientific community, Rolling Stone retracted the article in 2011.
But scientific advancement has not deterred Kennedy from his position. In 2014 Kennedy published the book Thimerosal: Let the Science Speak: The Evidence Supporting the Immediate Removal of Mercury—a Known Neurotoxin—from Vaccines, which claimed certain ingredients used in vaccine preservation were toxic, no evidence has been found to substantiate his assertions.
In recent years Kennedy’s stance has only grown more radical. Last January, he compared vaccination requirements to the plight of the Jewish people in Nazi Germany. In January of this year, he joined a lawsuit with several other vaccine conspiracy theories alleging that the labeling of their claims by journalistic publications as “misinformation” constitutes a violation of antitrust laws.
Source link: https://www.rollingstone.com/politics/politics-news/rfk-kennedy-anti-vaccine-panel-conspiracies-hiv-spanish-flu-1234779689/