Correction (6/13/23): This piece originally stated that Scott McKay was the host of a QAnon event. The event was hosted by Clay Clark and McKay was a speaker.
Several prominent QAnon adherents, COVID-19 misinformers, and other extremists celebrated the announcement of Robert F. Kennedy Jr.’s upcoming presidential campaign, with some right-wing media personalities also touting the anti-vaccine conspiracy theorist as a courageous candidate.
Kennedy, commonly known as RFK Jr., filed paperwork on April 4 to run for president on the Democratic ticket. While he has yet to formally announce his campaign platform, it is reported that former Trump adviser Steve Bannon had pushed Kennedy to run for president in 2024 as a “chaos agent.”
RFK Jr.’s history of extremism
Through a number of nonprofit advocacy groups, chiefly Children's Health Defense, and an active social media presence, Kennedy has spent decades pushing anti-vaccine conspiracy theories and misinformation. Through Children’s Health Defense, Kennedy has frequently attacked Dr. Anthony Fauci, Bill Gates, and the pharmaceutical industry with unfounded claims about so-called vaccine injury, global surveillance through microchips, and censorship of vaccine misinformation.
Kennedy has frequently evoked the Nazis in criticizing the government’s response to COVID-19, and he has spoken alongside white supremacists to boot. At an anti-vaccine rally last January, Kennedy stated, “Even in Hitler’s Germany, you could cross the Alps into Switzerland. You could hide in an attic, like Anne Frank did,” before going on to claim that Gates and the government would use satellites and 5G cell phone technology for surveillance over “every square inch of the planet, 24 hours a day.”
With Kennedy as its spokesperson, Children’s Health Defense was a prolific producer of anti-vaccine content on social media, leading to both the organization and Kennedy being banned from Instagram in 2022.
Kennedy has also engaged with QAnon figures and events. In January, the Children’s Health Defense website published an article from QAnon influencer Kanekoa. Kennedy was also a featured speaker for an event hosted by Clay Clark, which also featured Scott McKay, who has promoted a number of antisemitic and QAnon-related conspiracy theories, and at a rally organized by the German QAnon group Querdenken 711. Kennedy has also peddled claims that the government plans to use digital currency to control the population.
Despite earning him rebukes from public health experts and his own family, Kennedy’s views have gotten a warm response from Fox News hosts Tucker Carlson and Laura Ingraham and endorsements from other prominent conservative pundits, including Rush Limbaugh and Dennis Prager. Now, news of Kennedy’s prospective campaign is receiving a similarly warm welcome.
Right-wing and fringe figures are celebrating RFK Jr.’s 2024 campaign
- On Gettr, Steve Bannon cheered Kennedy’s history of anti-vaccine activism, posting, “RFKjr is the leader in the country of the movement to hold Big Pharma accountable… The Leader.”
- Infowars conspiracy theorist Alex Jones called Kennedy’s campaign “a good thing,” adding, “He's got a lot of guts, and I really support him [for] the Democratic nomination.”
- Turning Point USA leader Charlie Kirk declared on his podcast, “I would vote for Robert F Kennedy Jr. for president over Mitt Romney any day.”
- Blaze Media host Steve Deace posted an image on Twitter of himself with Kennedy, captioning it: “As long as he doesn’t go trans, a man with high character and courage like RFK Jr will be tempting.”
- Right-wing dirty trickster Roger Stone celebrated Kennedy as “a great American. He's a man of enormous courage.” He went on to speculate that his campaign “will help in the end soften Joe Biden up for his defeat by Donald Trump in the general election.”
- On the conspiracy theory website Gateway Pundit, founder Jim Hoft celebrated Kennedy’s potential as a candidate, claiming he “distinguishes himself from many modern Democrats in that he still believes in free speech, the Bill of Rights, the US Constitution, and standing up against government corruption.”
- QAnon influencer Jordan Salther posted to Truth Social, “Can't wait to watch the Democrat primary debates. Imagine RFK Jr. redpilling the hell out of libs on the vaccine.”
- Fox News host Jesse Watters celebrated Kennedy’s campaign announcement, stating, “So RFK Jr. has a vision. I mean, at least he has one. Biden has none.”