RFK Jr revives antisemitic conspiracy theory that Covid-19 was ‘ethnically targeted’ to spare Jewish people

Health experts and Jewish civil rights groups condemn presidential candidate’s latest baseless statements

Alex Woodward
Saturday 15 July 2023 16:50 BST
Related video: Joe Biden announces national plan to combat antisemitism

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Louise Thomas

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Anti-vaccine conspiracy theorist Robert F Kennedy Jr has revived an antisemitic conspiracy that blames Jewish people for the emergence of Covid-19, a claim that follows a string of offensive statements and falsehoods elevated by the long-shot candidate for the US presidency.

During a press event in New York City on 11 July, Mr Kennedy baselessly stated that “there is an argument to be made” that the disease is “ethnically targeted”.

“Covid-19 is targeted to attack Cucasians and Black people. The people who are most immune are Ashkenazi Jews and Chinese,” he said, according to video of the event from The New York Post. “We don’t know whether it was deliberately targeted or not but there are papers out there that show the racial or ethnic differential and impact.”

His remarks follow antisemitic conspiracy theories that circulated at the onset of the pandemic, and follow other statements from the candidate elevating spurious conspiracy theories surrounding Covid-19 and vaccines that have fuelled his campaign.

“The claim that Covid-19 was a bioweapon created by the Chinese or Jews to attack Caucasians and Black people is deeply offensive and feeds into sinophobic and antisemitic conspiracy theories,” according to a statement from the Anti-Defamation League.

“Layer upon layer of antisemitism,” wrote Jonathan Weisman, author of (((Semitism))): Being Jewish in America in the Age of Trump.

“If you still think there is a left or even non-insane case for supporting or even indulging RFK Jr then you have been conned or have conned yourself,” wrote MSNBC host Mehdi Hasan. “Madness. Racist, conspiratorial, dangerous madness.”

“We have no words for this man’s lunacy,” wrote nonprofit US watchdog Stop Antisemitism.

Mr Kennedy responded to the reporting on Saturday morning, and a statement from a campaign spokesperson to The Independent claimed that the Post “got it wrong”.

“I have never, ever suggested that the Covid-19 virus was targeted to spare Jews,” Mr Kennedy wrote on Twitter before echoing his claim that the US and other governments are “developing ethnically targeted bioweapons”.

He pointed to a 2020 National Institutes of Health study finding that the impacts of the disease are disproportionately felt among Black people and people with cardiovascular and pulmonary conditions, cancer and other risk factors.

“In that sense, it serves as a kind of proof of concept for ethnically targeted bioweapons,” Mr Kennedy stated. “I do not believe and never implied that the ethnic effect was deliberately engineered.”

Mr Kennedy’s campaign, an insurgent effort for the Democratic nomination boosted by right-wing media to drive a wedge among Democratic voters, has painted a dark and conspiratorial worldview amplifying debunked and misleading claims and outright falsehoods.

Earlier this year, US Holocaust Memorial Museum shot down his suggestion that life is worse for people today than it was for Anne Frank.

“Making reckless comparisons to the Holocaust, the murder of six million Jews, for a political agenda is outrageous and deeply offensive,” the organisation said. “Those who carelessly invoke Anne Frank, the star badge, and the Nuremberg Trials exploit history and the consequences of hate.”

Mr Kennedy and his organisation Children’s Health Defense also have promoted James Corbett, a prominent conspiracy theorist who has claimed that “Hitler was a Rothschild” and “Hitler and the Nazis were 100 per cent completely and utterly set up” by the “international banking community and the international crony capitalists.”

His connections to Mr Corbett join a long list of associations with and appearances on right-wing media platforms with far-right pundits.

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