The conspiracy theorist, anti-vaxxer, and longshot Democratic presidential nominee Robert F. Kennedy Jr. claimed at an Upper East Side press event this week that COVID-19 may be a genetically engineered bioweapon that was “ethnically targeted” to spare Ashkenazi Jews and Chinese people, reports the New York Post.
The same press dinner had already gone viral for a flatulence-punctuated argument between two attendees about climate change. (“It seems fitting that it landed during an event intended to raise Kennedy’s stature with the media,” my colleague Inae Oh wryly noted.)
At the event, Kennedy reportedly said, “COVID-19. There is an argument that it is ethnically targeted. COVID-19 attacks certain races disproportionately.” He added, “COVID-19 is targeted to attack Caucasians and Black people. The people who are most immune are Ashkenazi Jews and Chinese.”
Robert F. Kennedy Jr. claims coronavirus was an "ethnically targeted" bioweapon designed to be more deadly for caucasians and blacks — and spare Jews and Chinese https://t.co/xfAdovs0sY pic.twitter.com/og4xHdKs7x
— Jon Levine (@LevineJonathan) July 15, 2023
There is, of course, no evidence to support RFK Jr’s claims about COVID-19, but they do touch on well-worn antisemitic tropes. As the Post notes, a 2020 study by psychologists at Oxford University study found that 20 percent of British adults agreed with the statement, “Jews have created the virus to collapse the economy for financial gain.”
It’s tricky to know if, and how, to cover the Kennedy candidacy, my colleague David Corn recently wrote in his newsletter. “Obviously, Bobby Jr. is exploiting—and abusing—his DNA. He certainly knows that anything Kennedy has long been catnip for the media and the public.” Corn even warned, before news of his fundraiser comments broke, that the candidate will no doubt “make common cause with antisemites and extremists to get attention.”
He added, “Robert Kennedy once said of Lyndon Johnson, ‘He tells so many lies that he convinces himself after a while that he’s telling the truth. He just doesn’t recognize truth or falsehood.’ It is disturbing that this observation can be applied to his son.”