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Robert F. Kennedy Jr.’s campaign of conspiracy theories: PolitiFact’s 2023 Lie of the Year

Madison Czopek
By Madison Czopek December 21, 2023
Katie Sanders
By Katie Sanders December 21, 2023

As pundits and politicos spar over whether Robert F. Kennedy Jr.’s presidential campaign will factor into the outcome of the 2024 election, one thing is clear:

Kennedy’s political following is built on a movement that seeks to legitimize conspiracy theories.

His claims decrying vaccines have roiled scientists and medical experts and stoked anger over whether his work harms children. He has made suggestions about the cause of COVID-19 that he acknowledges sound racist and antisemitic.

Bolstered by his famous name and family’s legacy, his campaign of conspiracy theories has gained an electoral and financial foothold. He is running as an independent — having abandoned his pursuit of the Democratic Party nomination — and raised more than $15 million. A political action committee pledged to spend between $10 million and $15 million to get his name on the ballot in 10 states. 

Even though he spent the past two decades as a prominent leader of the anti-vaccine movement, Kennedy rejects a blanket "anti-vax" label that he told Fox News in July makes him "look crazy, like a conspiracy theorist."

But Kennedy draws bogus conclusions from scientific work. He employs "circumstantial evidence" as if it is proof. In TV, podcast and political appearances for his campaign in 2023, Kennedy steadfastly maintained:

  • Vaccines cause autism.

  • No childhood vaccines "have ever been tested in a safety study pre-licensing."

  • There is "tremendous circumstantial evidence" that psychiatric drugs cause mass shootings, and the National Institutes of Health refuses to research the link out of deference to pharmaceutical companies.

  • Ivermectin and hydroxychloroquine were discredited as COVID-19 treatments so COVID-19 vaccines could be granted emergency use authorization, a win for Big Pharma. 

  • Exposure to the pesticide atrazine contributes to gender dysphoria in children.

  • COVID-19 is "targeted to attack Caucasians and black people. The people who are most immune are Ashkenazi Jews and Chinese."

For Kennedy, the conspiracies aren’t limited to public health. He claims "members of the CIA" were involved in the assassination of his uncle, John F. Kennedy. He doesn’t "believe that (Sirhan) Sirhan’s bullets ever hit my father," Sen. Robert F. Kennedy, D-N.Y. He insists the 2004 presidential election was stolen from Democratic candidate John Kerry.

News organizations, including PolitiFact, have documented why those claims, and many others, are false, speculative or conspiracy-minded.

Kennedy has sat for numerous interviews and dismissed the critics, not with the grievance and bluster of former President Donald Trump, but with a calm demeanor. He amplifies the alleged plot and repeats dubious scientific evidence and historical detail. 

Will his approach translate to votes? According to polls since November of a three-way matchup between President Joe Biden, Trump and Kennedy, Kennedy pulled 16% to 22% of respondents.

Kennedy’s movement exemplifies the resonance of conspiratorial views. Misinformers with organized efforts are rewarded with money and loyalty. But that doesn’t make the claims true.

Robert F. Kennedy Jr.’s campaign based on false theories is PolitiFact’s 2023 Lie of the Year.

RELATED: Here is PolitiFact readers’ pick for 2023 Lie of the Year

How an environmental fighter took up vaccines

Kennedy, the third of 11 children, was 9 when he was picked up Nov. 22, 1963, from the Sidwell Friends school in Washington, D.C., because Lee Harvey Oswald had shot and killed Uncle Jack. He was 14 when he learned that his father was shot by Sirhan Sirhan following a victory speech after the California Democratic presidential primary.

RFK Jr., who turns 70 in January, wouldn’t begin to publicly doubt the government’s findings about the assassinations until later in his adulthood

As a teenager, he used drugs. He was expelled from two boarding schools and arrested at 16 for marijuana possession. None of that slowed an elite path through higher education, including Harvard University for his bachelor’s degree and the University of Virginia for his law degree.

He was hired as an assistant district attorney in Manhattan in 1982, but failed the bar exam and resigned the next year. Two months later, he was arrested for heroin possession after falling ill on a flight. His guilty plea involved a drug treatment program, a year of probation and volunteer work with a local fishermen’s association that patrolled the Hudson River for evidence of pollution that could lead to lawsuits.

Kennedy’s involvement with Hudson Riverkeeper and the National Resources Defense Council ushered in a long chapter of environmental litigation and advocacy.

Robert F. Kennedy Jr. fishes with his son Bobby, left, and daughter Kathleen, aka Kick, on Sept. 7, 1993, in Mount Kisco, N.Y. (AP)

An outdoorsman and falconer, Kennedy sued companies and government agencies over pollution in the Hudson River and New York watershed. (He joined the New York bar in 1985.) He earned a master’s degree in environmental law at Pace University, where he started a law clinic to primarily assist Riverkeeper’s legal work. He helped negotiate a 1997 agreement that protected upstate New York reservoirs supplying New York City’s drinking water. 

In 1999, Kennedy founded the Waterkeeper Alliance, an international group of local river and bay-keeper organizations that act as their "community’s coast guard," he told Vanity Fair in 2016. He stayed with the group until 2020, when he left "to devote himself, full time, to other issues."

On Joe Rogan’s podcast in June, Kennedy said that virtually all of his litigation involved "some scientific controversy. And so, I'm comfortable with reading science and I know how to read it critically."

PolitiFact did not receive a response from Kennedy’s campaign for this story.

Robert F. Kennedy Jr., center, president of the New York-based Waterkeeper Alliance, speaks Nov. 15, 2016, with Dakota Access oil pipeline opponents near Cannon Ball, N.D. (AP)

He became concerned about mercury pollution from coal-burning power plants; methylmercury can build up in fish, posing a risk to humans and wildlife. As he traveled around the country, he said women started appearing in the front rows of his mercury lectures. 

"They would say to me in kind of a respectful but vaguely scolding way, ‘If you're really interested in mercury contamination exposure to children, you need to look at the vaccines,’" Kennedy told Rogan, whose show averages 11 million listeners per episode.

Kennedy said the women sounded "rational" as they explained a link between their children’s autism and vaccines. "They weren’t excitable," he said. "And they had done their research, and I was like, ‘I should be listening to these people, even if they’re wrong.’"

He did more than listen. In June 2005, Rolling Stone and Salon co-published Kennedy’s article "Deadly Immunity." Kennedy told an alarming story about a study that revealed a mercury-based additive once used in vaccines, thimerosal, "may have caused autism in thousands of kids." Kennedy alleged that preeminent health agencies — the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the Food and Drug Administration, the World Health Organization — had colluded with vaccine manufacturers "to conceal the data."

Kennedy’s premise was decried as inaccurate and missing context. He left out the ultimate conclusion of the 2003 study, by Thomas Verstraeten, which said "no consistent significant associations were found between (thimerosal-containing vaccines) and neurodevelopmental outcomes."

Kennedy didn’t clearly state that, as a precaution, thimerosal was not being used in childhood vaccines when his article was published. He also misrepresented the comments of health agency leaders at a June 2000 meeting, pulling certain portions of a 286-page transcript that appeared to support Kennedy’s collusion narrative. 

RELATED: Kennedy sued PolitiFact’s owner in 2020 over flu vaccine fact-check

Scientists who have studied thimerosal have found no evidence that the additive, used to prevent germ growth, causes harm, according to a CDC FAQ page about thimerosal. Unlike the mercury in some fish, CDC says, thimerosal "doesn’t stay in the body, and is unlikely to make us sick." Continued research has not established a link between thimerosal and autism.

By the end of July 2005, Kennedy’s Salon article had been appended with five correction notes. In 2011, Salon retracted the article. It disappeared from Rolling Stone.

Salon’s retraction was part of a broader conspiracy of caving "under pressure from the pharmaceutical industry," Kennedy told Rogan. The then-Salon editor rejected this, saying they "caved to pressure from the incontrovertible truth and our journalistic consciences."

Kennedy has not wavered in his belief: "Well, I do believe that autism does come from vaccines," he told Fox News’ Jesse Watters in July.

Robert F. Kennedy, Jr., left, stands with protesters on Feb. 8, 2019, at the Capitol in Olympia, Wash., to oppose a bill to tighten measles, mumps and rubella vaccine requirements for school-aged children. (AP) 

David Remnick, editor of The New Yorker, interviewed Kennedy for a July story. Noting that Kennedy was focusing more on vaccine testing rather than outright opposition, Remnick asked him whether he was having second thoughts.

"I’ve read the science on autism and I can tell you, if you want to know," Kennedy said. "David, you’ve got to answer this question: If it didn’t come from the vaccines, then where is it coming from?"

RELATED: Looking back at PolitiFact’s Lies of the Year, 2009-2022

How COVID-19 helped RFK Jr.’s vaccine-skeptical crusade

In 2016, Kennedy launched the World Mercury Project to address mercury in fish, medicines and vaccines. In 2018, he created Children’s Health Defense, a legal advocacy group that works "aggressively to eliminate harmful exposures," its website says. 

Since at least 2019, Children’s Health Defense has supported and filed lawsuits challenging vaccination requirements, mask mandates and social media companies’ misinformation policies (including a related lawsuit against Facebook and The Poynter Institute, which owns PolitiFact). 

From the beginning, the group has solicited stories about children "injured" by environmental toxins or vaccines. This year, it launched a national bus tour to collect testimonials. The organization also produces documentary-style films and books, including Kennedy’s "The Wuhan Cover-Up and the Terrifying Bioweapons Arms Race" and "The Real Anthony Fauci: Bill Gates, Big Pharma, and the Global War on Democracy and Public Health." 

In 2020, Children’s Health Defense and the anti-vaccine movement turned attention to the emerging public health crisis.

Kolina Koltai, a senior researcher at Bellingcat, an investigative journalism group, had seen anti-vaccine groups try to seize on Zika and Ebola outbreaks, with little success. But the COVID-19 pandemic provided "the exact scenario" needed to create mass dissent: widespread fear and an information vacuum. 

Children’s Health Defense published articles in March and April 2020 claiming the "viral terror" was an attempt to enact the "global immunization agenda" and a "dream come true" for dictators. The group echoed these points in ads and social media posts and grew its audience, including in Europe.

On Twitter, Children’s Health Defense outperformed news outlets that met NewsGuard’s criteria for trustworthiness from the third quarter of 2020 to the fourth quarter of 2021, according to a report by the German Marshall Fund think tank, even as Children’s Health Defense published debunked information about COVID-19 and vaccines.

In 2019, Children’s Health Defense reported it had $2.94 million in revenue, and paid Kennedy a $255,000 salary. Its revenue grew 440% through 2021, according to IRS filings, hitting $15.99 million. Kennedy’s salary increased to $497,013. (Its 2022 Form 990 for tax disclosure is not yet public. Kennedy has been on leave from the organization since he entered the presidential race in April.)

On social media, the message had limits. Meta removed Kennedy’s personal Instagram account in February 2021 for spreading false claims about COVID-19 and vaccines, the company said, but left his Facebook account active. A year and a half later, Meta banned Children’s Health Defense’s main Facebook and Instagram accounts for "repeatedly" violating its medical misinformation policies. Several state chapters still have accounts.

As the group’s face, Kennedy became a leader of a collective movement opposed to masks and stay-at-home orders, said Dr. David H. Gorski, managing editor of Science-Based Medicine and a professor of surgery and oncology at the Wayne State University School of Medicine. 

"The pandemic produced a new generation of anti-vaxxers who had either not been prominent before or who were not really anti-vax before," Gorski said. "But none of them had the same cultural cachet that comes with being a Kennedy that RFK Jr. has." 

Rallying a crowd before the Lincoln Memorial on Jan. 23, 2022, Kennedy protested COVID-19 countermeasures alongside commentator Lara Logan and anti-vaccine activist Dr. Robert Malone. The crowd held signs reading "Nuremberg Trials 2.0" and "free choice, no masks, no tests, no vax." When Kennedy took the stage, mention of his role with Children’s Health Defense prompted an exuberant cheer.

In his speech, Kennedy invoked the Holocaust to denounce the "turnkey totalitarianism" of a society that requires vaccinations to travel, uses digital currency and 5G and is monitored by Microsoft Corp. co-founder Bill Gates’ satellites: "Even in Hitler’s Germany, you could cross the Alps into Switzerland. You could hide in an attic like Anne Frank did." 

Days later, facing criticism from his wife, the actor Cheryl Hines, Jewish advocacy groups and Holocaust memorial organizations, Kennedy issued a rare apology for his comments. 

Asked about his wife’s comment on Dec. 15 on CNN, he said his remarks were taken out of context, but he had to apologize because of his family.

Robert F. Kennedy Jr., speaks Jan. 23, 2022, during an anti-vaccine rally in front of the Lincoln Memorial in Washington. (AP)

Recycle. Repeat. Repeat. 

When he’s asked about his views, Kennedy calmly searches his rhetorical laboratory for recycled talking points, selective research findings, the impression of voluminous valid studies, speculation, and inarguable authority from his experience. He refers to institutions, researchers and reports, by name, in quick succession, shifting points before interviewers can note what was misleading or cherry-picked. 

There is power in repetition. Take his persistent claim that vaccines are not safety tested.

  • In July, he told "Fox & Friends," "Vaccines are the only medical product that is not safety tested prior to licensure."  

  • On Nov. 7 on "PBS NewsHour," Kennedy said vaccines are "the only medical product or medical device that is allowed to get a license without engaging in safety tests."

  • On Dec. 15, he told CNN’s Kasie Hunt that no childhood vaccines have "ever been tested in a safety study pre-licensing."

This is false. Vaccines, including the COVID-19 vaccines, are tested for safety and effectiveness before they are licensed. Researchers gather initial safety data and information about side effects during phase one clinical trials on groups of 20 to 100 people. If no safety concerns are identified, subsequent phases rely on studies of larger numbers of volunteers to evaluate a vaccine’s effectiveness and monitor side effects. 

Kennedy sometimes says that some vaccines weren’t tested against inactive injections or placebos. That has an element of truth: If using a placebo would disadvantage or potentially endanger a patient, researchers might test new vaccines against older versions with known side effects. 

But vaccines are among "the most tested and vetted" pharmaceutical products given to children, said Patricia Stinchfield, a pediatric nurse practitioner and the president of the National Foundation for Infectious Diseases.

Kennedy encourages parents to research questions on their own, because doctors and other experts are invariably compromised. 

"They are taking as gospel what the CDC tells them," Kennedy said on Bari Weiss’ "Honestly" podcast in June. 

Public health agencies have been "serving the mercantile interests of the pharmaceutical companies, and you cannot believe anything that they say," Kennedy said.

Experts fret that the Kennedy name carries weight.

"When he steps forward and he says the government’s lying to you, the FDA is lying to you, the CDC is lying to you, he has credence, because he’s seen as someone who is a product of the government," said Dr. Paul Offit, a pediatrics professor in the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia’s infectious diseases division and the director of the Vaccine Education Center. "He’s like a whistleblower in that sense. He’s been behind the scenes, so he knows what it looks like, and he’s telling you that you’re being lied to." 

President Bill Clinton chats with Ethel Kennedy and Robert Kennedy Jr. before a memorial mass on the 25th anniversary of Robert F. Kennedy Sr.’s death, June 6, 1993, at the Arlington National Cemetery. (AP)

Kennedy name-drops studies that don’t support his commentary. When speaking with Rogan, Kennedy encouraged the podcaster’s staff to show a particular 2010 study that found that exposure to the herbicide atrazine caused some male frogs to develop female sex organs and become infertile. 

Kennedy has repeatedly invoked that frog study to support his position that "we should all be looking at" atrazine and its impact on human beings. The researcher behind the study told PolitiFact in June that Kennedy’s atrazine claims were "speculation" given the vast differences between humans and amphibians. No scientific studies in humans link atrazine exposure to gender dysphoria.

In July, Kennedy floated the idea that COVID-19 could have been "ethnically targeted" to "attack Caucasians and Black people. The people who are most immune are Ashkenazi Jews and Chinese." The claim was ridiculously wrong, but Kennedy insisted that it was backed by a July 2020 study by Chinese researchers. That study didn’t find that Chinese people were less affected by the virus. It said one of the virus’s receptors seemed to be absent in the Amish and in Ashkenazi Jews and theorized that genetic factors might increase COVID-19 severity.  

Five months later, Kennedy invoked the study and insisted he was right: "I can understand why people were disturbed by those remarks. They certainly weren't antisemitic. ... I was talking about a true study, an NIH-funded study." 

"I wish I hadn’t said them, but, you know, what I said was true."

Kennedy answered using scientific terms ("furin cleave," "ACE2 receptor"), but he ignored explanations found in the study. He didn’t account for how the original virus has evolved since 2020, or how the study emphasized these potential mutations were rare and would have little to no public health impact.

Public health experts say that racial disparities in COVID-19 infection and mortality — in the U.S., Black and Hispanic people often faced more severe COVID-19 outcomes — resulted from social and economic inequities, not genetics.

Kennedy says "circumstantial evidence" is enough.

Antidepressants, or SSRIs, are linked to school shootings, he told listeners on a livestream hosted by Elon Musk. The government should have begun studying the issue years ago, he said, because "there’s tremendous circumstantial evidence that those, like SSRIs and benzos and other drugs, are doing this."

Experts in psychiatry have told PolitiFact and other fact-checkers that there is no causal relationship between antidepressants and shootings. With 13% of the adult population using antidepressants, experts say that if the link were true they would expect higher rates of violence. Also, the available data on U.S. school shootings show most shooters were not using psychiatric medicines, which have an anti-violence effect.

Conspiracy theories, consequences and a presidential campaign

The anti-censorship candidate frames his first bid for public office as a response to "18 years" of being shunned for his views — partly by the government, but also by private companies.  

"You're protected so much from censorship if you're running for president," Kennedy told conservative Canadian podcaster and psychologist Jordan Peterson in June. 

In June, Kennedy’s Instagram account was reinstated — with a verified badge noting he is a public figure. Meta’s rules on misinformation do not apply to active political candidates. (PolitiFact is a partner of Meta’s Third Party Fact-Checking Program, which seeks to reduce false content on the platform.)

In July, he was invited to testify before the Republican-led House Select Subcommittee on the Weaponization of the Federal Government. He repeated that he had "never been anti-vax," and railed against the Biden White House for asking Twitter to remove his January 2021 tweet that said Baseball Hall of Famer Hank Aaron’s death was "part of a wave of suspicious deaths among elderly," weeks after Aaron, 86, received a COVID-19 vaccine. The medical examiner’s office said Aaron died from unrelated natural causes.

Robert F. Kennedy, Jr., prepares to sign a book after testifying July 20, 2023, at a House Judiciary subcommittee hearing on what Republicans say is the politicization of the FBI and Justice Department. (AP)

Throughout 2023, alternative media has embraced Kennedy. He has regularly appeared on podcasts such as Peterson’s, and has also participated in profiles by mainstream TV, online and print sources.

"You’re like, ‘But you're talking right now. I’m listening to you. I hear your words. You’re not being censored,’" said Whitney Phillips, an assistant professor in the School of Journalism and Communication at the University of Oregon who researches how news media covers conspiracy theories and their proponents. "But a person can believe they’re being censored because they’ve internalized that they’re going to be," or they know making the claim will land with their audience.

Time will tell whether his message resonates with voters.

Kyle Kondik, managing editor of Sabato’s Crystal Ball at the University of Virginia Center for Politics, said Kennedy may be a "placeholder" for voters who are dissatisfied with Trump and Biden and will take a third option when offered by pollsters.

The only 2024 candidate whose favorability ratings are more positive than negative? It’s Kennedy, according to FiveThirtyEight. However, a much higher percentage of voters are unfamiliar with him than they are with Trump or Biden — about a quarter — and Kennedy's favorability edge has decreased as his campaign has gone on.

Nevertheless, third-party candidates historically finish with a fraction of their polling, Kondik said, and voters will likely have more names and parties on their fall ballots, including philosopher Cornel West, physician Jill Stein and a potential slate from the No Labels movement.

Kennedy was popular with conservative commentators before he became an independent, and he has avoided pointedly criticizing Trump, except on COVID-19 lockdowns. When NBC News asked Kennedy in August what he thought of Trump’s 2020 election lies, Kennedy said he believed Trump lost, but that, in general, people who believe elections were stolen "should be listened to." Kennedy is one of them; he still says that the 2004 presidential election was "stolen" from Kerry in favor of Republican George W. Bush, though it wasn't

American Values 2024 will spend up to $15 million to get Kennedy’s name on the ballot in 10 states including Arizona, California, Indiana, New York and Texas. Those are five of the toughest states for ballot access, said Richard Winger, co-editor of Ballot Access News.

Presidential candidate Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. speaks Oct. 9 during a campaign event at Independence Mall in Philadelphia. (AP)

Four of Kennedy’s siblings called Kennedy’s decision to run as an independent "dangerous" and "perilous" to the country. "Bobby might share the same name as our father, but he does not share the same values, vision or judgment," the group wrote in a joint statement.

Kennedy brushes it off when asked, saying he has a large family, and some members support him.

On her podcast, Weiss asked whether Kennedy worried his position on autism and vaccines would cloud his other positions and cost him votes. His answer ignored his history. 

"Show me where I got it wrong," he said, "and I’ll change."

In a campaign constructed by lies, that might be the biggest one. 

PolitiFact Researcher Caryn Baird contributed to this report.​

RELATED: Looking back at PolitiFact’s Lies of the Year, 2009-2022

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Our Sources

Interview with Kyle Kondik, Larry Sabato’s Crystal Ball managing editor, Dec. 14, 2023

Interview with Richard Winger, Ballot Access News co-editor, Dec. 13, 2023

Interview with Patricia Stinchfield, pediatric nurse practitioner and president of the National Foundation for Infectious Diseases, Dec. 11, 2023

Interview with Dr. Paul Offit, professor of pediatrics in the division of infectious diseases at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia and the director of the vaccine education center, Dec. 11, 2023

Interview with Dorit Reiss, a law professor at University of California Law San Francisco, Dec. 11, 2023

Interview with Kolina Koltai, a senior researcher and trainer at Bellingcat who researched vaccine misinformation, Dec. 13, 2023

Interview with Richard Carpiano, professor of public policy at the University of California Riverside’s School of Public Policy, Dec. 13, 2023

Interview with Whitney Phillips, assistant professor of digital platforms and ethics in the School of Journalism and Communication at the University of Oregon, Dec. 19, 2023

Email interview with Dr. David H. Gorski, managing editor of Science-Based Medicine and a professor of surgery and oncology at the Wayne State University School of Medicine, Dec. 9, 2023

PolitiFact, RFK Jr.’s Wi-Fi claim about human blood-brain barriers isn’t backed by definitive research, July 10, 2023

PolitiFact, COVID-19 wasn’t targeted to spare Jewish and Chinese people, as Robert F. Kennedy Jr. claimed, July 19, 2023

PolitiFact, No evidence atrazine in the water supply is causing more kids to identify as transgender, June 28, 2023 

C-SPAN, Robert Kennedy Jr. Announces 2024 Presidential Campaign, April 19, 2023

The Associated Press, How a Kennedy built an anti-vaccine juggernaut amid COVID-19, Dec. 15, 2021 

The Associated Press, RFK Jr. says he’s not anti-vaccine. His record shows the opposite. It’s one of many inconsistencies, July 31, 2023

Forbes, Here’s how much Robert F. Kennedy Jr. is worth, Aug. 16, 2023

Forbes, How RFK Jr. Brought In More Than $9 Million Over The Past 18 Months, July 1, 2023

Robert F. Kennedy Jr.’s Instagram account

The New York Times, 5 Noteworthy Falsehoods Robert F. Kennedy Jr. Has Promoted, July 6, 2023

The New York Times, From ‘Data Dumping’ to ‘Webbing’: How Robert F. Kennedy Jr. Sells Misleading Ideas, Sept. 12, 2023

The New York Times, What’s Behind Kennedy’s Poll Numbers? Voters Dread a Trump-Biden Rematch, Oct. 7, 2023

The New York Times op-ed by Kerry Kennedy Meltzer, Vaccines Are Safe, No Matter What Robert Kennedy Jr. Says, Dec. 30, 2020

The Washington Post, Majority of anti-vaccine ads on Facebook were funded by two groups, Nov. 15, 2019

Los Angeles Times, Column: Robert F. Kennedy Jr. is a threat to your health — and our democracy, June 19, 2023

San Francisco Chronicle opinion article, Robert F. Kennedy Jr.’s presidential campaign is a climate disaster, Oct. 9, 2023

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U.S. Office of Government Ethics personal financial disclosure, Robert F. Kennedy Jr., June 30, 2023 via CNBC

ProPublica Nonprofit Explorer, Children's Health Defense, various years

Legal Planet, RFK Jr. and Climate Change Conspiracy Theories, Oct. 9, 2023 

NPR, ‘The Perfect Storm': How Vaccine Misinformation Spread To The Mainstream, Dec. 10, 2020

Salon, Correcting our Record, Jan. 16, 2011

Time Magazine, Fresh Water: Let Rivers Run Deep, Aug. 2, 1999

Politico Magazine, RFK Jr. Is Our Brother and Uncle. He’s Tragically Wrong About Vaccines, May 8, 2019

The New Yorker, The alternative facts of RFK Jr., July 7, 2023

The New Yorker, Is RFK Jr. the first podcast president? June 19, 2023

Maintenance Phase podcast, RFK Jr. and The Rise of the Anti-Vaxx Movement, July 28, 2023

Maintenance Phase podcast, RFK Jr. and The Mainstreaming of the Anti-Vaxx Movement, Aug. 1, 2023 

Honestly with Bari Weiss, RFK Jr. is striking a nerve. He explains why, June 1, 2023

World Mercury Project news release, Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. Announces The Launch of Children's Health Defense, Sept. 12, 2018

FiveThirtyEight, Presidential candidate favorability ratings, accessed Dec. 13, 2023

The Joe Rogan Experience, Robert Kennedy Jr. episode, June 5, 2023

Wall Street Journal, Instagram Bans Robert F. Kennedy Jr. Over Covid-19 Vaccine Misinformation, Feb. 11, 2021

The Verge, Instagram bans prominent anti-vaxxer Robert F. Kennedy, but Facebook page remains active, Feb. 11, 2021

American Values 2024, PAC supporting Robert F. Kennedy Jr. to spend between $10 million and $15 million pursuing ballot access, Dec. 4, 2023

Siena College Research Institute, In 3-Way Race, Independent Robert Kennedy Jr. Garners 24% Across 6 Battleground States; Trump 35%, Biden 33%, Kennedy 24%; RFK Noses Ahead Among Voters Under 45, Nov. 7, 2023

Waterkeeper Alliance, Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. Resigns as Waterkeeper Alliance President, Nov. 10, 2020

The New York Times, A Kennedy and his mentor part ways over river group, Nov. 5, 2000

NewsNation, I can’t listen to myself’: RFK Jr. explains neurological disease, June 28, 2023

The Washington Post, RFK Jr. tests the conspiratorial appetite of Democrats, June 5, 2023

Salon, Was the 2004 election stolen? No. June 2006

The Washington Post, He was there when JFK was shot, and he’s over the conspiracy theories, July 24, 2023

E&E News, RFK Jr.: Green hero-turned-anti-vaccine activist takes on Biden, May 18, 2023 

Vanity Fair, Robert F. Kennedy Jr. on the Environment, the Election, and a ‘Dangerous’ Donald Trump, August 2016

CNN op-ed by Jake Tapper, RFK Jr.’s reign of error: Correcting the record about yet another false claim he just made, June 22, 2023

The Nation, Just Another RFK Jr. Lie. I Know, Because It’s About Me, June 22, 2023

CBS News, RFK Jr.: Dad believed Warren Commission ‘shoddy, Jan. 12, 2013

Hudson River Maritime Museum, The origins of Riverkeeper, April 9, 2020 

National Review, Letter from RFK Jr., June 16, 2023

Politico Magazine, RFK Jr.’s Ultimate Vanity Project, Oct. 8, 2023

The Washington Post, These vaccine skeptics are outperforming news outlets on Facebook, Twitter, study finds, Feb. 24, 2022

NBC News, YouTube removes video of Robert F. Kennedy Jr. and Jordan Peterson for vaccine misinformation, June 19, 2023

The Hill, Robert Kennedy Jr. sees ‘overwhelming evidence’ CIA involved in JFK assassination, May 8, 2023

NBC News, Why Steve Bannon and Alex Jones love Robert F. Kennedy Jr., April 28, 2023

The Guardian, Guests urged to be vaccinated at anti-vaxxer Robert F Kennedy Jr’s party, Dec. 18, 2021

Robert F. Kennedy Jr.’s post on X, June 18, 2023

Robert F. Kennedy Jr.’s post on X, July 15, 2023

The Jordan B. Peterson Podcast’s post on X, June 5, 2023

The Associated Press, Anti-vaccine activist RFK Jr. challenging Biden in 2024, April 5, 2023

Reuters, U.S. court rules again against vaccine-autism claims, March 15, 2010

CNN, With Robert F. Kennedy Jr. interview, Musk again uses Twitter to promote candidates aligned with his views, June 5, 2023

NBC News, RFK Jr. comes ‘home’ to his anti-vaccine group, commits to ‘a break’ for U.S. infectious disease research, Nov. 3, 2023, RFK Jr.’s COVID-19 Deceptions, Aug. 11, 2023, FactChecking Robert F. Kennedy Jr., Aug. 9, 2023

The New York Times, 5 Noteworthy Falsehoods Robert F. Kennedy Jr. Has Promoted, July 6, 2023

NBC News, Robert F. Kennedy Jr. names Dennis Kucinich as 2024 campaign manager, May 18, 2023

MSNBC, RFK Jr., in Fox News interview, says he flew on Epstein's jet twice, Dec. 6, 2023

BRIDGES-PARLET, et al v. HHS 1:95-vv-00067, archived case accessed Dec. 11, 2023

NBC News, The conspiracy candidate: What RFK Jr.’s anti-vaccine crusade could look like in the White House, June 19, 2023

PR Newswire, Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. Launches The World Mercury Project, Nov. 16, 2016

Vanity Fair, How Robert F. Kennedy Jr. Became the Anti-vaxxer Icon of America’s Nightmares, May 31, 2021

CNN, What To Make Of RFK Jr.?, June 10, 2023

The Washington Post, Reaction, Aug. 3, 2003

Newsweek, Robert F. Kennedy Jr. on Vaccines, COVID and Dr. Fauci: 'I Read the Science,' March 1, 2021

McGill Office for Science and Society, The Anti-Vaccine Propaganda of Robert F. Kennedy, Jr., April 16, 2021

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Pediatrics, Safety of Thimerosal-Containing Vaccines: A Two-Phased Study of Computerized Health Maintenance Organization Databases, Nov. 5, 2003 

YouTube, Shot in the Arm Clip (2023) - Robert F. Kennedy Jr. on Samoa Measles Outbreak, Aug. 30, 2023

Forbes, Robert Kennedy's Dangerous Anti-Vaccine Activism, July 20, 2014

The Washington Post, Robert Kennedy Jr.’s belief in autism-vaccine connection, and its political peril, July 18, 2014

MMWR, Notice to Readers: Summary of the Joint Statement on Thimerosal in Vaccines, July 14, 2000

Internet Archive, Deadly Immunity originally published on, archived Dec. 7, 2016

PR Newswire, Robert F. Kennedy Jr. to Advance Autism Awareness to Action as Keynote of AutismOne Conference, April 10, 2023

Time, Robert F Kennedy Jr. Is Dead Wrong About Vaccines, June 22, 2023

CBS News, Robert F. Kennedy Jr. apologizes for "holocaust" comment in vaccine debate, April 13, 2015

Children’s Health Defense, Medical Racism: The New Apartheid, accessed Dec. 13, 2023

NPR, An Anti-Vaccine Film Targeted To Black Americans Spreads False Information, June 8, 2021

Children’s Health Fund, Who We Are Our History, accessed Dec. 13, 2023

The BMJ, Wakefield’s article linking MMR vaccine and autism was fraudulent, Jan. 6, 2011

General Medical Council, Dr. Andrew Wakefield Determination on Serious Professional Misconduct (SPM) and sanction, May 24, 2010

The Free Press, What RFK Jr. Gets Right—and What He Gets Wrong, June 20, 2023

The Associated Press, Takeaways from AP’s reporting on who gets hurt by RFK Jr.'s anti-vaccine work, Oct. 18, 2023

The Defender, Leading Samoa Medical Freedom Hero Goes Free After Court Case Dismissed, Feb. 18, 2021

World Health Organization, Naming the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) and the virus that causes it, Feb. 11, 2020

U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, COVID-19 Vaccinations in the United States, updated as of May 11, 2023

Human Vaccines & Immunotherapeutics, The dramatic increase in anti-vaccine discourses during the COVID-19 pandemic: a social network analysis of Twitter, Feb. 3, 2022

JMIR Infodemiology, Public Figure Vaccination Rhetoric and Vaccine Hesitancy: Retrospective Twitter Analysis, March 10, 2023

The Guardian, Samoa measles outbreak: WHO blames anti-vaccine scare as death toll hits 39, Nov. 27, 2019

The Washington Post, Who killed Bobby Kennedy? His son RFK Jr. doesn’t believe it was Sirhan Sirhan, June 5, 2018

77WABC, Robert Kennedy Jr. blames CIA for President Kennedy assassination, May 8, 2023

Pediatrics, Thimerosal, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and GlaxoSmithKline, April 1, 2004 

Time Magazine, Joe Rogan, May 23, 2022

Science Direct, Vaccine-related advertising in the Facebook Ad Archive, Jan. 16, 2020

PR Newswire, Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. Announces The Launch of Children’s Health Defense, Sept. 12, 2018

NPR, Are School Shootings Becoming More Frequent? We Ran The Numbers, May 21, 2019

Melbourne Vaccine Education Center, The dangers of vaccine misinformation: Robert F Kennedy Jr., July 13, 2023

MSNBC, RFK Jr., anti-vaxxers, and a measles outbreak: Mehdi’s deep dive, July 6, 2023

ABC News, Samoan nurses jailed over deaths of two babies who were given incorrectly mixed vaccines, Aug. 2, 2019

BBC News, Samoa arrests vaccination critic amid deadly measles crisis, Dec. 6, 2019

The Washington Post, Deadly measles outbreak hits children in Samoa after anti-vaccine fears, Nov. 27, 2019

The Telegraph, Samoa's perfect storm, accessed Dec. 15, 2023

Samoa Observer, John F. Kennedy’s nephew joins Samoa's Independence celebration, June 1, 2019

ABC News, Low vaccination rate and deadly medical mistake led to Samoa measles outbreak: health experts, Nov. 27, 2019

Health Feedback, Human error in vaccine preparation led to the deaths of two children in Samoa after MMR shot – MMR vaccine itself is safe and effective, Oct. 24, 2019

The Lancet, Measles epidemic in Samoa and other Pacific islands, March 2020

U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, How Vaccines are Developed and Approved for Use, accessed Dec. 15, 2023

University of Maryland Medical System, COVID Vaccine Testing and Approval, Sept. 29, 2022

Children’s Health Defense, Litigation Actions, accessed Dec. 15, 2023

World Health Organization, COVID-19 pandemic fuels largest continued backslide in vaccinations in three decades, July 15, 2022

The Associated Press, RFK Jr.'s anti-vaccine group kicked off Instagram, Facebook, Aug. 18, 2022

Rolling Stone, ‘I’m a Full Anti-Vaxxer Now’: How the Conspiracists Are Winning Over Fresh Converts, Jan. 23, 2022

USA Today, Defeat the Mandates rally in Washington, Jan. 23, 2022

C-SPAN, Rally Against COVID-19 Vaccine Mandates, Jan. 23, 2022

University of Minnesota, Vaccine exemptions among US kindergarteners increase post-pandemic, Nov. 10, 2023

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UNICEF, New data indicates declining confidence in childhood vaccines of up to 44 percentage points in some countries during the COVID-19 pandemic, April 20, 2023

Huffpost, RFK Jr. Is Spreading Misinformation Again (And This Time It's Not About Vaccines), June 28, 2023 

The Associated Press, COVID treatments weren’t suppressed to OK vaccines’ emergency use, Dec. 30, 2022 

The Washington Post, There was an effective vaccine. An outbreak struck anyway, July 7, 2020

PolitiFact, Why Holocaust comparisons by anti-vaccine activists like RFK Jr. are grossly inaccurate, Jan. 27, 2022

Cheryl Hines tweet, Jan. 25, 2022

Robert F. Kennedy Jr. tweet, Jan. 25, 2022

The Associated Press, RFK Jr. apologizes after condemnation for Anne Frank comment, Jan. 25, 2022

The Associated Press, RFK Jr. remarks on Anne Frank, vaccines draw condemnation, Jan. 25, 2022

PBS NewsHour, Robert F. Kennedy Jr. on why he thinks he has a chance as an independent candidate, Nov. 7, 2023

Children’s Health Defense, Mercury, Vaccines and the CDC’s Worst Nightmare, accessed Dec. 14, 2023

Children’s Health Defense, Does the Coronavirus Pandemic Serve a Global Agenda? March 20, 2020

Children’s Health Defense, Coronavirus Provides Dictators and Oligarchs with a Dream Come True, April 9, 2020

Kennedy24, Did Mr. Kennedy have a role in the measles outbreak in Samoa? Aug. 15, 2023

BBC, How a wrong injection helped cause Samoa's measles epidemic, Dec. 2, 2019

Scientific American, How Robert F. Kennedy, Jr., Distorted Vaccine Science, Jan. 11, 2017, What journalists should know when reporting on conspiracy theories, Aug. 1, 2022

The New York Times, Robert F. Kennedy Jr.’s Relatives Condemn His Bigoted Comments on Covid, July 17, 2023

The New York Times, A Kennedy’s Crusade Against Covid Vaccines Anguishes Family and Friends, Feb. 26, 2022

CNN, RFK Jr. repeats unfounded Covid-19 claims while defending himself from antisemitism accusations, Dec. 15, 2023

Kerry Kennedy post on X, Oct. 9, 2023

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BMC Medicine, New insights into genetic susceptibility of COVID-19: an ACE2 and TMPRSS2 polymorphism analysis, July 15, 2020

Internet Archive, FOX and Friends on FOX News July 14, 2023 5:00am-6:00am PDT, archived July 14, 2023

Club Random Podcast, Robert F. Kennedy Jr. | Club Random with Bill Maher, June 25, 2023

Steyn Online, RFK Jr runs for President, May 8, 2023

Vice, Robert F. Kennedy Jr.'s Group Is a Top Buyer of Anti-Vax Facebook Ads, Nov. 15, 2019

Vice, Here's Robert F. Kennedy Jr. Explicitly Voicing His Support For Anti-Vax Godfather Andrew Wakefield, Oct. 15, 2019

PolitiFact, What’s behind the dubious claim that psychiatric drugs fuel mass shootings? Aug. 16, 2019

CNN, Robert F. Kennedy Jr. repeatedly suggested that chemicals in water are impacting sexuality of children, July 13, 2023

Rolling Stone, RFK Jr. Group Has Been Cozying Up to White Supremacists, June 14, 2023

EU Disinfo Lab, The US anti-vax group Children’s Health Defense’s expansion to Europe, Feb. 1, 2023

German Marshall Fund, Daily Wire, Children’s Health Defense Capitalize on Vaccine-Hesitant Messaging to Boost Social Media Engagement, Feb. 24, 2022

Children’s Health Defense, Our team, accessed Dec. 19, 2023

Yahoo Finance, Children’s Health Defense to Launch Weekly Newsletter in Five Languages, July 19, 2021

Vice, Anti-Vaccine Organization Children’s Health Defense Says It Was Banned from Instagram and Facebook, Aug. 18, 2022

Disinfo Check by Edmo Belux, The US anti-vax group Children’s Health Defense’s expansion to Europe, January 2023

National Review, A Reply to RFK Jr.’s Reply, June 30, 2023

CBS News, Rolling Stone Retracts Autism Article, but Lots of Junk Journalism Remains, Jan. 22, 2011

Rolling Stone, Was the 2004 Election Stolen? accessed Dec. 19. 2023

PBS NewsHour, Debunking some of RFK Jr.’s contradictory statements, July 31, 2023

STAT News, Correcting Robert F. Kennedy Jr.’s vaccine ‘facts,’ Sept. 22, 2017

CNN Politics, Fact check: RFK Jr. claimed he’s never told people to avoid vaccination. He did – less than two years ago, July 21, 2023 

Science News, A COVID-19 vaccine may come soon. Will the blistering pace backfire? July 10, 2020 

Science News, How COVID-19 vaccines were made so quickly without cutting corners, June 29, 2021

Medical News Today, How did we develop a COVID-19 vaccine so quickly? Nov. 13, 2021

U.S. Food and Drug Administration, Vaccine Development – 101, Dec. 14, 2020

U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Science Summary: CDC Studies on Thimerosal in Vaccines, accessed Dec. 19, 2023

National Review, The Reality of RFK Jr., May 20, 2023

National Review, RFK Jr. Responds to Pradheep Shanker, June 16, 2023

Institute of Medicine, Immunization Safety Review: Vaccines and Autism (2004), accessed Dec. 19, 2023

The New York Times, Robert F. Kennedy Jr., Soon to Announce White House Run, Sows Doubts About Vaccines, April 17, 2023

Time Magazine, Spotify’s Joe Rogan Controversy Isn’t Over Yet, Feb. 11, 2022

The New York Times, Robert Kennedy Jr. Admits He Is Guilty In Possessing Heroin, Feb. 18, 1984

The Washington Post, What does the Kennedy name mean now? Nov. 15, 2023

IndieGogo, Get Mercury out of Medicine: World Mercury Project, accessed Dec. 20, 2023

Children’s Health Defense, CHD Launches Nationwide Bus Tour Collecting the Accounts of People Harmed by Vaccines and COVID Countermeasures, Aug. 24, 2023

PolitiFact, Who is Robert Malone? Joe Rogan’s guest was a vaccine scientist, became an anti-vaccine darling, Jan. 6, 2022

Vanity Fair, Robert F. Kennedy Jr.’s Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World, Sept. 27, 2023

The New York Times, How R.F.K. Jr. Has Turned His Public Crusades Into a Private Windfall, Nov. 16, 2023

Politico, RFK Jr.’s Ultimate Vanity Project, Oct. 8, 2023

Children’s Health Defense Indiana chapter’s Instagram page, archived Dec. 20, 2023

Children’s Health Defense Tennessee chapter’s Facebook page, archived Dec. 20, 2023

Children’s Health Defense California chapter’s Facebook page, archived Dec. 20, 2023

Children’s Health Defense Pennsylvania chapter’s Instagram page, archived Dec. 20, 2023

Children’s Health Defense Minnesota chapter’s Facebook page, archived Dec. 20, 2023

Children’s Health Defense Ohio chapter’s Facebook page, archived Dec. 20, 2023

The Chicago Tribune, RFK Son’s Sentence On Heroin Charge Cut, March 17, 1985

The Journal of Pediatric Pharmacology and Therapeutics, Thimerosal-Containing Vaccines and Autism: A Review of Recent Epidemiologic Studies, July 2010

The Journal of Pediatric Pharmacology and Therapeutics, Thimerosal-Containing Vaccines and Autism: A Review of Recent Epidemiologic Studies, July 2010

U.S. Food and Drug Administration, Thimerosal and Vaccines, Feb. 1, 2018

Spaces conversation, Reclaiming Democracy with @ElonMusk and @RobertKennedyJr, June 5, 2023

NBC News, ‘We’re living in a weird period of history’: Full RFK Jr. Interview, Aug. 14, 202

DJ Vlad on YouTube, Robert F. Kennedy Jr Tells His Life Story (Full Interview), Nov. 23, 2023

DJ Vlad on YouTube, Robert F Kennedy Jr Names 2nd Shooter Who Killed His Father with Sirhan Sirhan (Part 7), Nov. 12, 2023

USA Today, Fact check: Post falsely links antidepressant use to school shootings, April 10, 2023

LeadStories, Fact Check: NO Confirmed Link Between Antidepressants And '90% Of School Shootings,' March 31, 2023

Science-Based Medicine, RFK Jr. resurrects an old antivax half-truth about "saline placebos" in randomized controlled trials of vaccines, July 3, 2023

New York Post, RFK Jr. says COVID may have been ‘ethnically targeted’ to spare Jews, July 15, 2023

Fox News, Robert F. Kennedy Jr: Fauci 'caused a lot of injury,' July 10, 2023

Fox News, Polarization in America is ‘more dangerous’ than any time since the Civil War: RFK Jr., July 14, 2023 

The New York Times, Robert F. Kennedy Jr.  Hired by Morgenthau, March 28, 1982

The New York Times, Robert Kennedy Jr. and Cousin, Shriver Son, in Marijuana Case, Aug. 6, 1970

RealClear Politics, General Election: Trump vs. Biden vs. Kennedy, accessed Dec. 20, 2023

Environmental Protection Agency, Mercury Emissions: The Global Context, accessed Dec. 19, 2023

Pace University, Pace Environmental Litigation Clinic, Dec. 20, 2023

The New York Times, NEW YORK DAY BY DAY; A Quiet Victory For Robert F. Kennedy Jr., June 4, 1985

Children’s Health Defense, New York Health Commissioner Repeals Mask Mandate for Unvaxxed After Federal Lawsuit Filed, Sept. 2, 2021

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