RFK Jr. Appeals to Black Voters, a Demographic He Previously Targeted with Vaccine Disinformation

Credits: Time

Independent presidential candidate Robert F. Kennedy Jr. hosted a roundtable campaign event with Black leaders on Sunday, addressing a range of issues from police reform to the Israel-Hamas conflict. Notably absent from the discussion was his track record of disseminating vaccine disinformation within the Black community.

In 2021, Kennedy produced a film titled “Medical Racism: The New Apartheid,” leveraging the actual history of medical racism in the United States to promote conspiracy theories suggesting that Covid vaccines aimed to harm Black communities.

The documentary-style film featured Kennedy, along with figures like Tony Muhammad, a Nation of Islam minister who asserted that vaccines are “genetically modified” to harm Black children, and Kevin Jenkins, CEO of the Urban Global Health Alliance, who claimed that vaccine campaigns were part of a plot to “wipe out” Black people.

RFK Jr. (Credits: Politico)

Released in the spring of 2021, coinciding with the widespread availability of Covid vaccines in the U.S., the film emerged amid the devastating impact of the pandemic, which disproportionately affected Black communities.

NBC News questioned Kennedy on Sunday about any remorse regarding the spread of vaccine skepticism among the African American community during the initial rollout of Covid vaccines. Kennedy bluntly responded, “No.”

Once an outspoken anti-vaccine activist, Kennedy took a more subdued stance on the topic during his 2024 campaign. When asked if he believes vaccinating children leads to autism, Kennedy tersely stated, “What I believe is irrelevant.”

He claimed, without a scientific basis, that a significant body of research links autism to early vaccination with certain vaccines.

Despite an increased prevalence of autism spectrum disorder due to heightened awareness and diagnosis, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention maintains that “studies continue to show that vaccines are not associated with ASD.”

Kennedy, a prominent figure in the modern anti-vaccine movement for two decades, previously focused his activism on childhood vaccines, particularly the measles, mumps, and rubella vaccines. Vaccine skepticism has contributed to a resurgence of measles cases globally, with recent outbreaks reported in the U.S.

In an elementary school in Weston, Florida, a measles outbreak was reported this week, while another cluster of cases occurred in Philadelphia last month.

Although measles was declared eliminated from the U.S. in 2000, the disease has made a comeback due to vaccine disinformation, leading some parents to opt out of vaccinating their children.

Kennedy has played a role in spreading misinformation about the measles, mumps, and rubella (MMR) vaccine, endorsing the views of disgraced doctor Andrew Wakefield, who instigated the original MMR vaccine panic in the 1990s.

Despite the CDC asserting that two doses of the MMR vaccine are 97% effective, providing lifelong protection, Kennedy disparaged the vaccine, referring to it as “leaky.”

When asked if he would recommend parents give their children the MMR vaccine amid a rise in measles cases in the U.S., Kennedy declined to answer, simply stating, “I’m not gonna—,” and walked away.

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