Robert F. Kennedy Jr., an environmental lawyer and prominent vaccine skeptic, is challenging President Biden for the 2024 Democratic presidential nomination.
Kennedy, 69, hails from one of the country’s most well-known political families. His father, Robert F. Kennedy, was a senator and U.S. attorney general. His uncle was President Kennedy.
In announcing his long-shot candidacy for president Wednesday, Kennedy vowed to “end the corrupt merger of state and corporate power that is threatening now to impose a new kind of corporate feudalism on our country.”
His campaign platform emphasizes civil liberties, transparency in government, economic revitalization and issues Kennedy says will unite Americans.
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“During this campaign and during my administration my objective will be to make as many Americans as possible forget that they are Republicans or Democrats and remember that they are Americans,” Kennedy said. “We need to focus on the values we share instead of the issues that divide us.”
Opposing censorship and defending civil liberties
In recent years, Kennedy has become a controversial figure among Democrats for his anti-vaccine activism and outspoken criticism of COVID-19 lockdowns. He was banned on Instagram in 2021 for spreading misinformation about the vaccines, and members of his family have called his social media posts “dangerous misinformation.”
In response to that censorship, Kennedy’s campaign website calls freedom of speech “the capstone of all other right and freedoms.” He promises to “dismantle the censorship-industrial complex, in which Big Tech censors, deplatforms, shadowbans, and algorithmically suppresses any person or opinion the government asks them to.”
In his address, he blamed former President Trump for shutting down the country in 2020 as the coronavirus pandemic wreaked havoc across the world. “The worst thing that he did to this country was the lockdown,” Kennedy said.
“We will respect the right to privacy and freedom from unreasonable searches and seizures, by ending mass surveillance of American citizens and the abuse of civil asset forfeiture. We will make sure that the Covid-era suspension of the right to assembly, trial by jury, and freedom of worship will never happen again,” Kennedy’s website states.
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The nefarious collusion between big government and big corporations was a major theme of Kennedy’s campaign announcement. He warned that “corporate feudalism” in America commoditizes children and harms people with “chemicals and pharmaceutical drugs” that “hollow out the middle class.”
Kennedy’s issue page elaborates on his belief that U.S. regulators have been “captured by those they are supposed to regulate.”
“Wall Street controls the SEC. Polluters and extractive industries dominate the EPA and BLM. Pharma controls the CDC, NIH, and FDA. Big Ag controls the USDA. Big Tech has captured the FTC. No wonder trust in government is at all-time lows,” the website states. “It’s time to earn it back.”
According to his website, a Kennedy administration would “make government transparent” by strengthening protections for whistleblowers, prosecuting corrupt officials and reducing the influence of lobbyists.
Before his anti-vaccine activism, Kennedy was an acclaimed environmental lawyer known for winning a $290 million case against Mosanto, whose weed-killer Round-up was alleged to cause cancer. In 2008, Kennedy was even considered as a candidate to lead the Environmental Protection Agency based on his work to clean up the Hudson River.
In Boston, Kennedy presented his environmental work as unifying, speaking about his desire to work with “rural and working class Americas, and particularly hunters and fishermen.” He said these “bullet people” were “alienated from the mainstream environmental community.”
“There’s no daylight between good environmental policy and good economic policy,” Kennedy said. “Good environmental policy is good economic policy.”
Kennedy’s speech did not mention climate change, and his webpage does not either. Instead, The Democratic candidate emphasizes supporting sustainable agriculture with subsidies, incentivizing a transition to clean energy sources, and protecting wild lands from mining, logging, oil drilling and suburban sprawl.
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Revitalizing the economy and tackling national debt
Kennedy railed against the national debt and inflation in his announcement speech, chastising the government for borrowing money from China and Japan “to pay for the wars and the bailouts and the lockdowns.”
“Between 1900 and 2008 we printed $1 trillion, that was all of the money we printed in a century. Between 2008 and today we’ve printed $10 trillion. Ten centuries worth of wealth to pay for bailouts and lockdowns,” Kennedy said, linking government spending to inflation. “Inflation is a tax on the poor,” he added.
Kennedy’s website derides off-shoring and “misguided ‘free trade’ schemes” as harmful to the economy. He calls for breaking up “too big to fail” banks and monopolies and says that when crisis strikes, the government should “bail out homeowners debtors, and small business owners instead.”
In his speech, Kennedy also vowed if elected president to “end the chronic disease epidemic,” calling it a root cause of poverty.
“Autoimmunity, allergies, diabetes, obesity, addiction, anxiety, and depression afflict two-thirds of the population, up from a few percent in our grandparents’ time,” Kennedy’s website states. “A Kennedy administration will go beyond making existing modalities available to all, to include low-cost alternative and holistic therapies that have been marginalized in a pharma-dominated system.”
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Ukraine and defense spending
A longtime critic of foreign intervention, Kennedy said Americans need to “have a national conversation” about the war in Ukraine. Calling for a “mature conversation” about U.S. support for Ukraine, he said, “we can’t be telling one side that they’re Nazis and the other side that they love Putin,”
Among the issues Kennedy says Americans must consider is whether support for Ukraine is in the national interest. While questioning whether it makes sense to “push Russia close to China” by supporting Ukraine, Kennedy said “we are in the Ukraine for all the right reasons.”
“We are there because of our compassion for the Ukrainian people who have been brutalized, who have been illegally invaded and have shown extraordinary valor and courage defending their country,” Kennedy said. He acknowledged that his own son, Connor, joined a foreign legion and fought in Ukraine during the Kharkiv offensive as a machine gunner.
Kennedy criticized Biden for holding “regime change” in Russia as an objective of U.S. involvement in the war. “This is the same strategy that did not work for us in Iraq,” he said. His website calls for “diplomacy” with Russia to end the war, including offering to withdraw American troops and nuclear-capable missiles from Russia’s borders in exchange for Russian withdrawal from Ukraine.
As president, Kennedy would “start the process of unwinding empire,” his website states. He would pull back U.S. troops from abroad and return the military “to its proper role of defending the homeland.”
“We will end the proxy wars, bombing campaigns, covert operations, coups, paramilitaries, and everything else that has become so normal most people don’t know it’s happening,” according to Kenendy’s website.
A long-shot campaign
Kenendy is the second nationally known Democrat to launch a long-shot primary challenge against the president. Marianne Williamson, the best-selling author and spiritual adviser, last month launched her second straight campaign for Democratic presidential nomination and has been campaigning in New Hampshire, South Carolina and other early voting primary states.
Biden, whose approval ratings among all Americans remain in negative territory, has repeatedly said that he intends to seek a second term in the White House, but he has yet to make any formal announcements. Biden told reporters this past weekend that an announcement would come “relatively soon.”
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As Kennedy jumps into the race, a new national poll from USA TODAY/Suffolk University suggested that 14% of voters who backed Biden in 2020 would support Kennedy in 2024.
According to the survey, which was conducted Sunday through Tuesday, two-thirds of Biden’s 2020 supporters said they’d back the president again for the Democratic nomination, with Kennedy at 14%, Williamson at 5% and 13% undecided.
Fox News’ Paul Steinhauser and Thomas Phippen contributed to this report.