By Patrick Lawrence / Original to ScheerPost
Our corporate newspapers and broadcasters went into attack mode as soon as Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. announced, in mid–April, he would seek the Democratic Party’s nomination to run for president next year. But it does not seem to have been enough to cast him as a conspiracy theorist—how weary one grows of this term—or a deranged fanatic, or a liar or a kook or a crank. R.F.K. Jr. is still standing. So are his polling numbers—which, in my view, are the true cause of the panic on the Democratic side of the political ledger.
There was only one obvious thing to do next. As of this past weekend R.F.K. Jr. must be marked down as an anti–Semite. Go ahead, try to persuade me you are surprised. Kennedy is now in for a Jeremy Corbyn job.
To the fullest extent conjured occasions permit, this is likely to resemble the concerted campaign to destroy the principled leader of the British Labour Party, who was removed as party leader in 2020 on fabricated charges of anti–Semitism. Words Kennedy never uttered will be put into his mouth. Words he uttered will be twisted or otherwise misrepresented. Thoughts he never thought will be assigned to him. If Kennedy articulates truths that cannot be denied, these will be distorted or airbrushed out of all the news reports, never to be mentioned. We know this, and—the saving grace here—Kennedy knows it better than we do: It is exactly what happened as Saturday tipped into Sunday.
I am daily astonished at how low America’s corrupt Democratic elite and mainstream media that serve this elite will stoop in pursuit of the domestic political hegemony liberals crave as arduously as they do the imperium abroad. I should mention this once and not again: I have no intention of apologizing for the alarm that suffuses columns on this topic. Those known as liberals—an identity that lost its meaning in the American context long, long ago—are railroading this republic into more trouble—political, legal, constitutional, institutional, ethical, moral, spiritual—than I have seen it over the course of more decades than I care to count.
The New York Post, the Murdoch tabloid we were not to take seriously when it reported on Hunter Biden’s laptop computer just before the 2020 election, put out a story Saturday morning stating that R.F.K. Jr. had recently claimed the Covid–19 virus “was a genetically engineered bioweapon that may have been ‘ethnically targeted’ to spare Ashkenazi Jews and Chinese people.” This assertion was purportedly made during the Q & A portion of a July 11 press event reporter Jon Levine described—leave it to the Post—as “a raucous, booze and fart-filled dinner at Tony’s Di Napoli on East 63rd Street.”
“Covid–19. There is an argument that it is ethnically targeted. Covid–19 attacks certain races disproportionately,” the Post quoted Kennedy as saying with his usual aplomb. “We don’t know whether it was deliberately targeted, but there are papers out there that show the racial or ethnic differential and impact.” Caucasians and Blacks have proven more susceptible to infection, Chinese and European Jews less: This is what Kennedy found in the peer-reviewed scientific papers he cited.
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The Post had the integrity to publish a 1–minute 47–second video—a snippet or the whole is not clear—that either Levine or a colleague recorded during the lunch. I cannot comment on the decisive question concerning the breaking of wind at Tony’s, but nothing raucous goes on in the video, and what Levine chose to quote in his copy was (1) a provocative misrepresentation of Kennedy’s point and (2) left out the most startling part of his comments. The Levine piece, with the video just under the headline, is here.
To the first point, anyone who finds it odd for someone to state that diseases strike some groups of people more severely than others is simply too prone to malign suggestion to make his or her way in our propagandized world. It has been understood for who knows how long that sickle-cell anemia strikes hardest in Black and Latin American communities, to take one common example. Covid–19 is no different. The Mayo Clinic has a report on its website analyzing the relative vulnerabilities of various racial and ethnic groups to Covid–19 infections.
As to Kennedy’s reference to European Jews and the Chinese, he clarified subsequent to the lunch that this relied on a study conducted by the Cleveland Clinic indicating that some ethnic and racial groups, among them Ashkenazi Jews, were less susceptible to the Covid–19 virus than other groups, among which are Blacks. This—the blood simmers as I write this sentence—is the basis of the charge that R.F.K. Jr. displayed anti–Semitic tendencies while consuming his pasta with white clam sauce at Tony’s earlier this month.
Here is the portion of Kennedy’s recorded remarks I found revelatory. In it, he reiterates that scientific studies show Caucasians and Blacks to be most vulnerable to Covid–19 infection and European Jews and Chinese are least vulnerable, “because of the genetic structures, the genetic differentials among different races:”
And we need to talk about bioweapons. I know a lot about bioweapons because I’ve been doing a book on them for the past two and a half years. And… the technology we now have… we’ve put hundreds of millions of dollars into ethnically targeted microbes. The Chinese have done the same thing…. We know the Chinese are spending hundreds of millions of dollars developing ethnically targeted bioweapons, and we are developing ethnic bioweapons. That’s what all those labs in the Ukraine are about. They’re collecting Russian DNA. They’re collecting Chinese DNA so they can target people by race.
Why aren’t our mainstream media picking up on this interesting, highly consequential story? Believe me, they will go nowhere near the question of American-made bioweapons and those three dozen laboratories in Ukraine. Nah, the fantasies of a conspiracy theorist.
We have a man who has spent his professional life in the precincts of science, a man who researched the topic of ethnically targeted bioweapons for two-plus years and is writing a book about them, a man who is plainly conversant with the pertinent scientific vocabulary and the theories expressed therein, a man who knows who is doing what to develop bioweapons and says so with no apparent fear or favor… and we must conclude he hates Jews.
The Post, an afternoon paper on the print side, published the Levine piece at 7:55 a.m. Saturday. By Sunday morning the mainstream dailies and networks were abuzz with the Post report and had their teeth thoroughly clamped on the Kennedy-as-anti–Semite theme.
CNN hid behind the Anti–Defamation League and the American Jewish Committee. The latter “told CNN in a statement Saturday that Kennedy’s ‘assertion that Covid was genetically engineered to spare Jewish and Chinese people is deeply offensive and incredibly dangerous.’” Deeply offensive? More deeply offensive than letting the AJC misquote Kennedy to say Covid–19 was genetically engineered to protect Jews and letting this gross distortion of Kennedy’s view stand without challenge?
The New York Times seems hardly to have contained itself, having a brand new way of smearing R.F.K. Jr. It headlined its piece in Sunday’s editions “Robert F. Kennedy Jr. Airs Bigoted New Covid Conspiracy Theory About Jews and Chinese.” The Jonathan Weisman report that follows earns the distorting head. Kennedy does not speak with the authority of considerable knowledge, as anyone who has heard or watched him would say. He “rants.” And at that Upper East Side lunch he “strayed into new and bigoted territory.”
Oh, hell’s bells. We’ve got him down as a crank and a fanatic. Let’s get “bigot” on the list.
The New York Post, oddly enough given what it got up to last weekend, ran a very curious piece a month ago this week carrying the headline, “Mainstream news outlets want to end Robert F. Kennedy Jr.’s primary challenge.” This appeared June 17; Kennedy declared April 19:
Two months later, Kennedy is polling as high as 20% and his campaign is gaining momentum. And the media—unwilling to let Biden be primaried by this pedigreed populist—have decided it’s time to step in.
And step in they have. Over the past weeks, major print and broadcast organizations have laid the foundations for a powerful narrative designed to hobble Kennedy’s campaign before a single vote is cast. The strategy is to disqualify Kennedy by labeling him a font of misinformation, out to serve America’s monied technocrats. In other words: a Republican in Kennedy clothes.
You never know what you’re going to get when you pick up the Post. It broke the Biden laptop story so well the liberal authoritarians had to censor it. Michael Goodwin wrote consistently good comment on Russiagate and the lynching of Donald Trump, and at the moment he misses nothing in the case of the FBI’s corruption. Then the paper piles on Kennedy along with the liberal press—this after publishing an excellently forthright piece reporting on liberal media’s orchestrated pile-on.
I will stay with “orchestrated,” thank you. The Atlantic, The New Yorker, the major corporate dailies, the networks: Who hasn’t published a hit piece or three since Kennedy announced his candidacy. Among these, The New York Times has displayed in full its … let’s say its leadership qualities. News reports, opinion pieces—there is no telling the difference when it comes to casting Kennedy as the Beelzebub of Democratic politics, no lie (of which too many to count) too brazen. Michelle Goldberg recently wrote a fanged-teeth opinion item usefully deconstructed in The Scrum, the Substack newsletter I publish. “It illustrates clearly how propaganda is constructed,” Cara Marianna observed, “how it is used to control not only what we think and believe, but the ‘acceptable boundaries’ of discourse itself.”
What is all this about, anyway? Why is it so necessary to nail to the cross a man who did dedicatedly honorable work as an environmental lawyer for decades (some of which, in the Hudson Valley, I reported upon long ago), and who has plainly done extensive homework on vaccines and other topics, even as his critics seem to have limited theirs to repeating what others (who have in turn done no homework) say?
In its transparent silliness the Kennedy-as-anti–Semite bit is an easy call. This is about the Jewish vote, primarily but not only in New York. Commanding the support of mainstream American Jews has been an imperative in Democratic politics since the Holocaust industry got going after the 1967 War and the Israeli lobby in Washington set itself the task of running U.S. policy in the Middle East. There is a supreme irony here that is near to impossible to miss. Kennedy’s support for Israel verges on the “unconditional,” as Hillary Clinton first used this term years ago. This, along with R.F.K. Jr.’s venomous attacks on “the genocidal regime in Iran,” are the two positions he articulates that I find most objectionable, but there is simply no denying he holds them. Kennedy, surely, knows all about the Jewish vote, and maybe he is playing to it. But I doubt this. “There is nobody running in either party who will be a better friend to Israel than me as president,” Kennedy said in an interview with a prominent rabbi not long ago.
But turning American Jewry against Kennedy is a narrow dimension of the larger project. In my reckoning, were Kennedy to win the nomination he would stand a good chance of defeating any Republican rival by uniting voters across party lines, which is the essence of his campaign strategy. But the focus of those intent on destroying R.F.K. Jr. is far more immediate. It can be defined in three parts.
One, mainstream Democrats and the media serving them must at all costs keep Kennedy’s numbers down. He was polling at 20 percent among Democrats—and far higher among all voters—very quickly after he declared. Suppressing his showing in the opinion surveys is the orthodox liberals’ most pressing concern. If Kennedy’s number creep up to, say, 25 percent or so, the Democratic National Committee’s plan not to hold any primary debates will look corrupt such that it carries political costs.
Parenthetically, we have to figure that Kennedy’s polling performance has at this point either stalled, a consequence of the media campaign against him, or it has not stalled and the polls are not reporting accurately, given the campaign against him is, let’s say, a whole-of-media op. I cannot read this at the moment.
Two, the polling numbers are crucial because under no imaginable circumstance will the DNC let Kennedy stand on a debating stage opposite President Biden. Impossible. Can you picture Biden, who cannot remember even where his regime is waging wars and which ones are over, facing a challenger with Kennedy’s chapter-and-verse approach to every topic he takes up? Television and the perspiring Nixon’s five o’clock shadow sank his campaign when he ran against R.F.K. Jr.’s sprightly uncle in 1960. Television and another Kennedy would similarly do in the befuddled, incoherent Biden.
Farhad Manjoo, a Times columnist for reasons I cannot make out, gives the game away on this point. Here we have a faux-intellectual case for why there can be no Biden–Kennedy debate. A month ago Manjoo published an item headlined, “It’s Not Possible to ‘Win’ an Argument With Robert F. Kennedy Jr.” This is perfectly true for pols and columnists who complacently assume that, per common practice at this point, there is no reason for pols or columnists to know what they are talking about. Biden is the reigning master of this kind of chicanery.
Manjoo debated Kennedy long ago, some readers may recall, on the contentious results of the 2004 election in Ohio, which Majoo defended and Kennedy questioned. Manjoo lost, proving per usual in such cases unable to rise to Kennedy’s granular command of the evidence. “When you’re dealing with a conspiracist, there’s no real way to ‘win’ an argument,” Manjoo now has the nerve to write. “For people whose views aren’t anchored to facts, winning is simply getting attention—and when you publicly argue with someone like Kennedy, you’ve already lost.”
I cannot forgive Manjoo for mendacity of this extravagance. Examine the case: Kennedy marshaled a universe of facts suggesting voter suppression and a crooked recount probably swung the election to Bush, while he, Manjoo, assumed casually acquired conventional wisdom would carry the day. Manjoo has since recorded a 7- minute, 18-second audio essay making the point he plainly intends to salvage from this incident: It is wrong to debate Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. “And therefore Biden must not,” is his obvious subtext. What crapulous hackery in the service of power.
Without suggesting equivalence of any kind, there are two presidential aspirants who argue against the proxy war in Ukraine, who oppose empire and the grotesque war machine that supports it, who think Americans are greatly, urgently in need of Washington’s attention. The war-mongering descendants of Cold War liberals seek to cast one as a criminal who should be in jail and the other as a cracked madman who cannot be taken seriously.
This brings us to the last and biggest reason R.F.K. Jr. so profoundly provokes the Democratic elite’s ire. He stands explicitly against the American empire—a term he has no hesitation using. On his website and in his interviews and campaign speeches, Kennedy attacks the corporatization of the American political economy, the censorship regime it sponsors, the wars of adventure, the institutional corruption in Washington. He praises whistleblowers such as John Kiriakou and Thomas Drake, who have paid big for their principles. On Day 1, he promises, he will drop all charges against Julian Assange.
This is a man who understands the Deep State for what it is and is intent on challenging it. And he does so in the name of inspiring Americans to insist on rebuilding our crumbling republic according to the ideals his uncle and his father were the last authentically to articulate. The Atlantic headlined its take-down of Kennedy, in unstated contempt, “The First MAGA Democrat.” What kind of people are they who find repellent the thought of dismantling the imperium and reviving this broken nation? Answer: People who think being liberal Democrats is more important than being Americans–or being, indeed, human.
Suppressing the polling percentages, keeping Kennedy off the debating stage: Questions of campaign strategy and tactics are one thing. It is what R.F.K. Jr. stands for that makes him the greatest source of the angst so obviously abroad among liberals. Given all that is at issue in the 2024 presidential election, the need for an open debate between two candidates diametrically opposed on issues of war and peace and the fundamental direction of this nation could hardly be greater. What kind of people would deprive voters of this pressing occasion? Answer: See the conclusion of the previous paragraph.
There is one feature of this anti–Kennedy circus that I urge readers not to miss. It was an old trick of mine during my correspondent years to use events as mirrors: If Prime Minister Lee or Watanabe did this, what prompted his action? The question usually led somewhere interesting. Look in the mirror at Kennedy and what do you see reflected back? As mainstream Democrats and their captive media intensify their campaign against R.F.K. Jr., I see reflected a man gaining in presence, in support, in voice—a candidate who threatens the liberal elite and will go the distance. I hope he does.
Patrick Lawrence, a correspondent abroad for many years, chiefly for the International Herald Tribune, is a media critic, essayist, author and lecturer. His most recent book is Time No Longer: Americans After the American Century. His web site is Patrick Lawrence. Support his work via his Patreon site. His Twitter account, @thefloutist, has been permanently censored without explanation.