RFK Jr, Fox News’ useful idiot

Robert F Kennedy Jr’s right-wing media boosters are turning on him

Friday 13 October 2023 21:30 BST
<p>Robert F Kennedy Jr. speaks during a campaign event at Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts of Miami-Dade County on October 12, 2023 in Miami, Florida</p>

Robert F Kennedy Jr. speaks during a campaign event at Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts of Miami-Dade County on October 12, 2023 in Miami, Florida

In Robert F Kennedy Jr’s warped reality, the forces of evil are never far from the door.

Yet even he seemed blindsided by how quickly Fox News turned on him after he announced he would run as an independent candidate for the 2024 presidency.

“Who is the liberal now and who is the conservative? Who is the left and who is the right?” asked Kennedy outside Philadelphia’s Independence Hall on Monday to a crowd of 1,0000 supporters.

Suddenly it was Fox News asking him just that.

Barely 24 hours after Kennedy had declared his independence from the party of his revered uncle and father, Sean Hannity turned the screws in a primetime ambush.

Robert F Kennedy Jr announces presidential run as an independent

“Everybody is now trying to analyse, you know, whether there’s a three-way race with you, Donald Trump and Joe Biden,” declared Hannity.  “You know, who would you more likely draw from? So I hope you don’t mind, but I did a little research on you.”

Hannity then confronted Kennedy with a litany of past statements that were designed to impress upon millions of viewers how unpalatable many of his views were.

In the months before Kennedy’s switch, Hannity had been one of Kennedy’s biggest boosters when he was a potential agent of chaos in the Democratic primary, and seen as someone who could destabilise Joe Biden’s reelection chances.

In July, Hannity hosted Kennedy in an hour-long “town hall” replete with soft ball questions about government censorship and US military adventurism.

“Many of his fellow Democrats and others in the media mob, make no mistake, they are right now furious with RFK Jr,” Hannity said in happier times.

This week things were different. Kennedy seemed wholly unprepared for Hannity to read him back his own past descriptions of the NRA as a “terrorist organisation”, aversion to fossil fuels and support for Bernie Sanders were recited back to him.

“You have a litany of talking points from statements I’ve made over 40 years,” Kennedy stammered. “Some of them are stale. Some of them I never said. But, you know, what is your question? Why is the Democratic Party– why I’m not running for the Democratic Party?”

Presidential candidate Robert F Kennedy, Jr. speaks during a campaign event at Independence Mall, on 9 October

Fox’s useful idiot had now become a threat to Trump, and he needed to be taken down.

Poll after poll has shown Kennedy having a low net favourability among Democrats.

Conversely, Republicans came to embrace Kennedy as exactly the kind of anti-Biden Democrat they could get behind.

There’s a long list of Kennedy’s bats*** crazy statements that would be disqualifying for any presidential candidate in normal times, and he has a dark, well-documented history of drug addiction and marital infidelity, more of which will come to light the longer his campaign goes on.

Plus, his anti-vax statements helped create a measles crisis in Samoa in 2019, where dozens of children died. But that wasn’t what Hannity chose to mention, and not what his supporters seem to care about anyway.

I attended two recent Kennedy rallies — his last as a Democrat, in New Jersey, and his first as an independent, in Philly.

At both events, supporters I spoke to pointed to his past work as an environmental lawyer cleaning up New York’s Hudson River and taking on Monsanto, and his bravery in trying to disrupt the two party system.

A portrait of Robert F Kennedy hangs from a wall at his New Jersey campaign launch in Elizabeth on Thursday 28 September

“Don’t be fooled by all of the tinfoil stuff that swirls around Bobby,” one supporter told me.

“Bobby understands how to run a government and how to pull the levers in Washington to try to make some change.”

During those events, Kennedy instead focused on long-winded stories of American decline, and a rigged system that “swindled, cheated and belittled” ordinary voters.

Kennedy frequently floods the zone in lawyerly tones with facts, data and studies that tend to bamboozle audiences and interviewers.

He presents basic solutions to complex problems with a zealous certainty and seems acutely aware of his base, saving harsher criticisms for Biden than “President Trump.”

In a post-truth world, with high apathy and hostility towards the two frontrunners, there was a growing sense of discomfort among strategists from both parties that Kennedy could syphon off enough votes to spoil one of their chances.

But the elephants in the GOP and its media partners have begun to stomp all over his campaign.

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