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Bill McCarthy
By Bill McCarthy April 27, 2020

Biden plotted to kidnap John F. Kennedy Jr.? Another unsubstantiated conspiracy

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  • FBI files obtained by the Associated Press in 2000 showed that John F. Kennedy Jr. was the target of at least three kidnapping threats. Joe Biden was not involved.

  • The files also revealed that in 1994, Biden received a death threat in a letter that was supposedly — but not likely — signed by Kennedy Jr. 

  • A historian and author of a biography on Kennedy said there’s no proof in the FBI’s files of a Biden-involved kidnapping plot against Kennedy.

A widespread Facebook post falsely claims that former Vice President Joe Biden was once part of a scheme to kidnap John F. Kennedy Jr., the son of former President John F. Kennedy. 

"Joe Biden was involved in a plot to kidnap JFK Jr. according to the just declassified FBI files, and also made several threats," the April 26 post says.

The post is the latest in a series of unsubstantiated conspiracies related to the younger Kennedy, who died in 1999 when a plane he was piloting crashed in the Atlantic Ocean. 

The post was flagged as part of Facebook’s efforts to combat false news and misinformation on its News Feed. (Read more about our partnership with Facebook.)

Kennedy Jr. has become a favorite figure of QAnon conspiracy theorists, some of whom claim that he is not only alive, but also the leader in their movement known in online forums as "Q." 

Other Facebook posts have previously claimed, without evidence, that Kennedy once touted the possibility of a Donald Trump presidency in a magazine, and that his plane crash occurred days after he was declared the frontrunner in a race for the Senate seat Hillary Clinton later held.

Our research found that the latest post about Biden is also inaccurate.

The claim hinges on a collection of FBI records that the Associated Press obtained in 2000 through a Freedom of Information Request. According to the records, which remain heavily redacted, Kennedy was the target of at least three kidnapping threats before he died.

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The threats came in 1972, when Kennedy was in elementary school; in 1985, shortly after he graduated from Brown University; and in 1995, when he was 38 years old. None of the plots involved Biden, who was a senator from 1973 to 2009, when he became vice president.

Biden was mentioned in the FBI files as a "victim" — not as a suspect. 

That’s because in 1994, Biden received a death threat in a letter postmarked from Worcester, Mass., that prompted an FBI investigation. "Dear Sen. Biden: You are a traitor …," the letter said, according to the FBI records. It was signed, "John F. Kennedy Jr."

But the case was eventually closed with no suspects identified, according to the records. 

"The FBI dismissed it as a hoax," said Steven M. Gillon, professor of history at the University of Oklahoma and author of a recent biography about Kennedy, adding that the FBI chose not to pursue the letter "because they did not believe that John wrote it."

Gillon said he got access through a lawsuit to thousands of pages of documents related to Kennedy’s life and death, which he reviewed while writing his biography. The documents were mostly about Kennedy’s death, Gillon told us, but some were about threats against him.

"There is no mention, none at all, of a Biden attempt to kidnap JFK Jr.," Gillon said. "The statement (in the Facebook post) is false."

We found no credible reports implicating Biden in any kidnapping threats while searching Google and the Nexis database, either. The FBI and Biden campaign declined to comment.

We rate this Facebook post Pants on Fire!

Our Sources

Facebook posts, April 26, 2020

Google and Nexis searches, April 27, 2020

FBI Records: The Vault, "John F. Kennedy Jr.," accessed April 27, 2020

The Daily Beast, "QAnon, the Pro-Trump Conspiracy Theorists, Now Believe JFK Jr. Faked His Death to Become Their Leader," Aug. 2, 2018

The Associated Press, "FBI Tells of 3 JFK Jr. Kidnapping Threats," June 20, 2000

CBS News, "FBI: Kidnap Plots Were Set For JFK Jr.," June 20, 2000

PolitiFact, "Another Clinton body count hoax — this one starring JFK Jr. — is wrong," Nov. 8, 2019

PolitiFact, "No, John F. Kennedy Jr. didn’t tout a Donald Trump presidency in George magazine," April 8, 2019

Email interview with Steven M. Gillon, scholar-in-residence at the History Channel, professor of history at the University of Oklahoma and author of "America's Reluctant Prince: The Life of John F. Kennedy Jr.," April 27, 2020

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Biden plotted to kidnap John F. Kennedy Jr.? Another unsubstantiated conspiracy

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