With Democratic presidential candidate Robert F. Kennedy Jr. in the headlines for his appearance before a House subcommittee on censorship and his recent comments where he cited a false conspiracy theory on COVID-19, ABC7 News dove into the archives to uncover the time the environmental lawyer battled it out with a Bay Area construction company to save a coral reef in the Bahamas from a development.
His base is nowhere near large enough to secure him the nomination, but his campaign does pose a threat to Biden’s re-election because it fuels leftist distrust of democracy. Believe it or not, liberals and conservatives converge in conspiracy. Kennedy’s popularity on the Westside of Los Angeles, a hot spot of “conspirituality” – where wellness and spirituality meet conspiracy theories – explains why.
It is popular in the media to denigrate conspiracy theorists. But as someone who grew up with a father who believed he was being tortured by the CIA, I have no interest in belittling Kennedy devotees. There are many reasons to distrust the US government. Vaccines aren’t one of them, but Kennedy’s appeal goes beyond his crusade against life-saving vaccines.
On Wednesday morning, I visited Gold’s Gym in Venice Beach to ask its members about their controversial workout partner. The verdict was divided. Some dislike him for his anti-vaccination scaremongering. Most requested anonymity because they have to share the gym with him.
Republicans called Kennedy Jr. and others as witnesses as part of their probe into alleged censorship against conservatives at large technology companies.
Kennedy Jr. has previously come under fire for his previous comments from excerpts and high profile organizations like the American Jewish Committee and the Anti-Defamation League.
Kennedy Jr. has a history of repeatedly sharing unfounded conspiracies that man-made chemicals in the environment could be making children gay or transgender and causing the feminization of boys and masculinization of girls.
The top Democrat on the subpanel, Rep. Stacey Plaskett accused her Republican colleagues of “endorsing” Kennedy Jr.’s “dangerous views” and giving them a platform in Congress. In her questioning of Kennedy Jr., Plaskett, who is Black, said Kennedy’s previous comments in general “manipulate and prey on Black people’s feelings about the atrocities of the past in order to prevent them from seeking lifesaving vaccines in the present.”
Democrats largely did not engage with Kennedy and used their time to protest Kennedy’s invitation or ask questions of their witness, civil rights lawyer Maya Wiley, about the impact of Kennedy’s statements on race and ethnicity, and the broader problem of disinformation on social media platforms.
But Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-Fla.), who had raised an unsuccessful motion at the outset of the hearing to move the committee into executive session over Kennedy’s past remarks on the effects of the Covid-19 virus on Asian and Jewish people, did confront Kennedy directly for his comments about Covid-19 health policies and the Holocaust.
During a press event at an Upper East Side restaurant last week, Kennedy claimed that the Covid-19 virus was “targeted to attack Caucasians and Black people” before adding that “the people who are most immune are Ashkenazi Jews and Chinese.” Kennedy then said that Chinese researchers are making “ethnic bioweapons” and collecting data samples from different ethnic groups “so we can target people by race.” The video was first reported on by The New York Post.
An organization that Kennedy founded, Children’s Health Defense, currently has a lawsuit pending against a number of news organizations, among them The Associated Press, accusing them of violating antitrust laws by taking action to identify misinformation, including about COVID-19 and COVID-19 vaccines.
Ahead of the hearing, Jordan said that while he disagreed with Kennedy’s remarks, he was not about to drop him from the panel. Speaker Kevin McCarthy took a similar view, saying he did not want to censor Kennedy.
The panel wants to probe the way the federal government works with technology companies to flag postings that contain false information or downright lies. Hanging over the debate is part of federal communications law, Section 230, which shields technology companies like Twitter and Facebook from liability over what’s said on their platforms.
Lawmakers on the panel were also hearing testimony from Emma-Jo Morris, journalist at Breitbart News, who has reported extensively on Biden’s son, Hunter Biden; and D. John Sauer, a former Solicitor General in Missouri who is now a special Assistant Attorney General at the Louisiana Department of Justice involved in the lawsuit against the Biden administration.
Morris tweeted part of her opening remarks in which she described an “elaborate censorship conspiracy” that she claimed sought to halt her reporting of Hunter Biden.
A witness called by Democrats, Maya Wiley, the president and CEO of the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, implored the lawmakers to consider the platforms where Americans share views — but also “how deeply vital that they be based in fact, not fiction.”
The U.S. has been hesitant to regulate the social media giants, even as outside groups warn of the rise of hate speech and misinformation that can be erosive to civil society.
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