The controversies of RFK Jr. | WORLD
Sound journalism, grounded in facts and Biblical truth | Donate

The controversies of RFK Jr.

The presidential candidate’s positions on healthcare, Russia, and the JFK assassination—in his own words

Robert F. Kennedy Jr. at the Libertarian National Convention in Washington on Friday Associated Press/Photo by Jose Luis Magana

The controversies of RFK Jr.

On Tuesday, Robert F. Kennedy Jr. announced he had qualified as a presidential candidate in New York for November’s election. That’s now the seventh state where the independent candidate will appear on the ballot. He’s secured $8 million for a ballot access campaign targeting all 50 states. Recent polls put him at about 16 percent nationally.

Before he announced his presidential campaign, Kennedy was known for his controversial stances on a broad range of topics, from childhood vaccines to the assassination of his uncle, former President John F. Kennedy. A group of Kennedy family members have endorsed President Joe Biden in the 2024 campaign over RFK Jr. Here are the candidate’s own words on four of his most controversial stances.

On the assassination of President John F. Kennedy

Kennedy has repeatedly affirmed his belief that a government conspiracy facilitated the deadly attack carried out by Lee Harvey Oswald in 1963. He repeated his position on a podcast appearance last year with Lex Freidman, a YouTube commentator and host.

“The evidence that the CIA was involved in my uncle’s murder and that they were subsequently involved in the coverup is—and continue to be involved; I mean there are still 5,000 documents that they won’t release 60 years later—I think is so insurmountable and mountainous and overwhelming that it’s beyond any reasonable doubt, including dozens of confessions of people who were involved.”

Kennedy cited recent partial declassifications of JFK files in August 2023 and the alleged ties of Oswald to the CIA. Oswald’s connections to the CIA have been long rumored, including in reports by The New York Sun in 1967. The CIA has denied any connections to Oswald.

Kennedy points to congressional probes of the assassination, apart from the Warren Commission that chiefly handled the investigation, as supporting evidence that there are still missing pieces to the puzzle.

“You know, when Congress investigated my uncle’s murder in the 1970’s, the Church Committee did a two-year investigation and they had many, many more documents and much more testimony available to them than the Warren Commission had. They came to the conclusion that my uncle was killed by a conspiracy. Richard Schweiker, who was the senator at the head of the committee, said straight out ‘the CIA was involved in the murder of the president of the United States.’”

The final report of the Church Committee, delivered in 1976, could not confirm a conspiracy to assassinate the president and stated so plainly in its summary findings. The committee did, however, cast doubt on the FBI’s attempts under Director J. Edgar Hoover to carry out a thorough investigation as presented in the Warren Commission.

On vaccinations and chronic disease

Kennedy’s criticisms of the vaccine industry generally come in two forms: specific cautions over additives to enhance a vaccine’s effectiveness and more general extrapolations about related concerns. On The Joe Rogan Experience podcast last year, Kennedy articulated the reason for his hesitancy toward vaccines.

“Mercury was added to vaccines in a form called thimerosal in 1932. It was allegedly introduced as a preservative. It wasn’t a good preservative. The real reason was it was there as an adjuvant. An adjuvant is a toxic material that they add to dead virus vaccines to amplify the immune response. A dead-virus vaccine, however, will not produce a durable or robust immune response enough to get a license. The way you get a license for vaccines is by showing you got an antibody response. Vaccinologists figured out that if you add something horrendously toxic to the vaccine, that your body confuses that toxic product with the viral particle and mounts this huge, humongous immune response.”

Kennedy argues the body has no way of processing thimerosal and toxins like it, leading to a buildup in the body. While the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention states adjuvants are harmless and rapidly eliminated, Kennedy believes there isn’t enough long-term data to definitively make that case. He’s articulated this stance repeatedly when confronted with claims of being “anti-vaccine.”

“I’ve never been anti-vaccine. Vaccines should be tested like other medicines. There should be a safety test. And unfortunately, vaccines are not safety tested. Of the 72 vaccine doses mandated, none of them—not one—has ever been subject to a pre-licensing placebo-controlled trial.”

His claim is disputed, but Kennedy says he has yet to see a study proving him wrong. In an interview with The Breakfast Club of New York’s WWPR-FM, Kennedy recalled a time he cross-examined Vanderbilt University’s Kathryn Edwards, an internationally recognized expert on virology, about vaccines and their relationship with certain conditions, specifically autism.

“When we got her on the stand, I asked her specifically the question: Has the relationship between autism and any of the vaccines that are given in the first six months of life ever been studied? Because the Institute of Medicine says they haven’t, the National Academy of Sciences says they haven’t. And Kathryn Edwards, after a lot of questioning, finally said, ‘Yes, none of them have been studied.’”

His views on vaccines also overlap with his strong beliefs about chronic illness. While Kennedy doesn’t draw a definitive correlation between vaccines and these diseases, he sees a connection between increases of both.

“In ’89 the new [vaccine schedule] shots started arriving, and that year we started seeing an explosion in chronic disease in this country. So, prior to that, 6 percent of Americans had chronic disease. By chronic disease, I mean neurological diseases like ADD, ADHD, speech delay, tics, Tourette syndrome, ASD, and autism. Autism went from 1 in 10,000 in my generation to one in every 34 kids today. … There are a lot of things in 1989 that could explain that. There are about 11 things. There’s glyphosate from Roundup, BFOA flame retardants which are in all the furniture, neonicotinoid pesticides, cell phones came along—no one knows which one it is. And that vaccine schedule that went from three vaccines to 72 vaccines. And unfortunately, [the National Institutes of Health] will not study that. We have the highest vaccination rate and the highest chronic disease rate in the world, but we also use more chemicals than almost anyone else.”

Among these claims, Kennedy has come under the most scrutiny for linking vaccines and autism—a connection the CDC strongly maintains does not exist.

The National Vaccine Injury Compensation Program or NVICP (also known as the vaccine court) does not list autism as one of its covered injuries, disabilities, or conditions. But the program lists encephalopathy—brain dysfunction—as one of the compensable harms stemming from a range of its vaccines. Kennedy says the case of Sarah Bridges draws a clear connection between vaccines and autism. Bridges won a case against the Department of Health and Human Services in 2001 and was awarded lifelong damages from the NVICP after her son was diagnosed with severe autism linked to a pertussis vaccine. According to a list of the case filings, the NCICP paid out $889,000 in damages and continues to pay the family an annuity.

On Wi-Fi and cancer

On The Joe Rogan Experience, Kennedy claimed that Wi-Fi could cause cancer and possibly lead to separate, more serious maladies, drawing criticisms from NPR, Vice, and other outlets.

“Wi-Fi radiation does all kinds of bad things, including causing cancer. Yeah, there’s cellphone tumors. I’m representing hundreds of people who have cellphone tumors behind the ear—it’s always on the ear that you favor with your cell phone. Glioblastomas, that’s the kind of cancers that they get. Cancer’s not the worst thing. Wi-Fi radiation opens up your blood-brain barrier and so all these toxins that are in your body can go into your brain.”

Kennedy, when pressed by podcast host Joe Rogan, noted that the details of his blood-brain barrier claim are beyond his area of expertise. But he did assert that the possibility of radiation should give users pause before giving devices to young children, keeping a cellular device in a breast pocket, or falling asleep close to their phones.

In 2021, the U.S. Court of Appeals of the District of Columbia Circuit found in favor of the Children’s Health Defense, Kennedy’s organization, in a suit against the Federal Communications Commission over 5G technology. Kennedy challenged the agency’s failure to review its longstanding radio-frequency emission guidelines. In a filing for another ongoing case against the FCC, Kennedy stated that the FCC and agencies like it “no longer have any interest in protecting public health. They have become sock puppets for the industry that they are supposed to be regulating.”

On Putin and the war in Ukraine

When conservative commentator Ben Shapiro last month asked Kennedy about the U.S. role in ending the conflict in Ukraine, the candidate framed his position in the light of Russian concerns about Western encroachment. He pointed to Trump’s withdrawal from the 1987 Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty, the 2016 installation of U.S. Aegis Missile Defense Systems in Romania, and NATO expansion into Eastern European countries.

“Not only did [the United States] put missiles in Romania and Poland which are nuclear-ready, 12 minutes from the Kremlin—not only did we do that. President Trump and his predecessor walked away from our two intermediate nuclear weapons treaties with Russia. So, we said to Russia: ‘We’re unilaterally walking away from these nuke treaties and putting nukes in your backyard.’ If they did that to us, put them in Mexico, Canada, Cuba, we would invade.

“What [Putin] has said consistently is that we need to do this to keep NATO out. He’s got the support of his people; he’s got the support of the Kremlin. Vladimir Putin has said, repeatedly said, ‘I want to negotiate this,’ and [Ukrainian President Volodymyr] Zelenskyy has passed a law in Ukraine that says, ‘We can’t negotiate.’”

In a separate interview with YouTube commentator Lex Fridman, Kennedy decried efforts to make the war seem like a clear-cut struggle of good vs. evil. He pointed to NATO’s eastward expansion in the late 1990s as a direct contradiction to what certain officials in the Clinton, Carter, and Reagan administrations had promised Russia.

“I think it’s important for us to move beyond these kinds of comic book depictions of this insane, avaricious, Russian leader, who wants to restore the Soviet Empire [and] who made an unprovoked invasion of Ukraine. He was provoked and we were provoking him.”

Outlets such as Los Angeles Magazine have called those kinds of statements Russian propaganda. NATO disagrees with these characterizations, stating on its website that it never promised not to add new member states, nor does it intend to threaten Russia.

Kennedy proposed that the United States should go around Zelenskyy to negotiate directly with Putin and then make any additional aid to Ukraine conditional on adopting a peace deal.

Leo Briceno

Leo is a WORLD politics reporter based in Washington, D.C. He’s a graduate of the World Journalism Institute and has a degree in political journalism from Patrick Henry College.


This keeps me from having to slog through digital miles of other news sites. —Nick

Sign up to receive The Stew, WORLD’s free weekly email newsletter on politics and government.

Please wait while we load the latest comments...