Antivaccine nonsense Bad science Medicine Politics Skepticism/critical thinking

RFK Jr.: So antivaccine that even his family calls him out on it

RFK Jr. has been a frequent topic of this blog since 2005 because of his extreme antivaccine views. Now the Kennedy siblings have called him out for his antivax views, and it’s true. Junior dishonors Robert F. Kennedy’s legacy through his promotion of child-endangering antivaccine pseudoscience.

Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. has been a frequent topic of this blog dating back to 2005, when I first became aware of him through his conspiracy theory-based antivaccine “report” Deadly Immunity, jointly published by and Rolling Stone, to both publications’ eternal shame, especially Rolling Stone, which reposted the article several years later after having “accidentally” removed it during a site redesign. At the time, I deconstructed RFK Jr.’s tinfoil hat opus in great depth on the first version of this blog and later reposted the same. Since then, I’ve periodically written about RFK Jr.’s antivaccine stylings whenever he came up in the news, to the point where he has his own set of tags on this blog.

One thing that’s always puzzled me is why the rest of the Kennedy clan has remained so silent for so long about their prominent family member’s promotion of ideas that endanger children. I understand to some extent. The Kennedy clan has suffered numerous tragedies and are the frequent target of attacks. In a way, they are not unlike American royalty, and, of course, royal families are insular. They stick together, and don’t usually air their dirty laundry in public. Oddly enough, with RFK, Jr., that’s changed. His near-constant antivaccine propagandizing over the last 14 years (at least) has apparently become too much for the Kennedys in the face of the largest measles outbreak in a generation, to the point that three of his relatives (Kathleen Kennedy Townsend, Joseph P. Kennedy II, and Maeve Kennedy McKean) have authored an op-ed in Politico entitled RFK Jr. Is Our Brother and Uncle. He’s Tragically Wrong About Vaccines. The subtitle is even more devastating: “We love Robert F. Kennedy Jr., but he is part of a misinformation campaign that’s having heartbreaking—and deadly—consequences.” Indeed.

I can only guess at how much anguish and soul searching occurred in the Kennedy clan before the decision to write this op-ed was made. After all, no one knows what the repercussions in the family might ultimately be. We also don’t know what the Kennedys have been saying to RFK Jr. in private at family gatherings and private conversations. Given that Kathleen Kennedy Townsend is the former chair of the Global Virus Network, whose mission is to “strengthen medical research and response to current viral causes of human disease and to prepare for new viral pandemic threats” and part of whose research involves the development of vaccines, I can only guess that there was…disapproval of her brother’s ravings. Given that Maeve Kennedy McKean is the executive director of Georgetown University’s Global Health Initiative and how important vaccines are to improving global health, I can’t imagine that she was pleased with her uncle’s crankery. You get the idea.

The non-RFK Jr. Kennedys begin:

Americans have every right to be alarmed about the outbreak of measles in pockets of our country with unusually high rates of unvaccinated citizens, especially children. Right now, officials in 22 states are grappling with a resurgence of the disease, which was declared eliminated in the United States in 2000. With over 700 cases already reported and indications that more outbreaks will occur, 2019 will likely see the most recorded cases of measles in decades. And it’s not just measles. In Maine, health officials in March reported 41 new cases of whooping cough, another disease once thought to be a relic of the past—more than twice as many cases as this time last year.

This problem isn’t only an American one. The World Health Organization reports a 300 percent increase in the numbers of measles cases around the world this year compared with the first three months of 2018. More than 110,000 people are now dying from measles every year. The WHO, the health arm of the United Nations, has listed vaccine hesitancy as one of the top 10 threats to global health in 2019. Most cases of preventable diseases occur among unvaccinated children, because parents have chosen not to vaccinate, have delayed vaccination, have difficulty accessing vaccines, or the children were too young to receive the vaccines.

Quite right! (By the way, according to the CDC, the total number of measles cases is now up to 764 cases and climbing.) Now here’s where the Kennedys call out their famous relative:

These tragic numbers are caused by the growing fear and mistrust of vaccines—amplified by internet doomsayers. Robert F. Kennedy Jr.—Joe and Kathleen’s brother and Maeve’s uncle—is part of this campaign to attack the institutions committed to reducing the tragedy of preventable infectious diseases. He has helped to spread dangerous misinformation over social media and is complicit in sowing distrust of the science behind vaccines.

We love Bobby. He is one of the great champions of the environment. His work to clean up the Hudson River and his tireless advocacy against multinational organizations who have polluted our waterways and endangered families has positively affected the lives of countless Americans. We stand behind him in his ongoing fight to protect our environment. However, on vaccines he is wrong.

As if this weren’t enough, the three Kennedys go on to contrast RFK Jr.’s antivaccine activism with the history of the Kennedy family with respect to vaccines and global health, calling him an “outlier” in the Kennedy family and noting:

In 1961, President John F. Kennedy urged the 80 million Americans, including almost 5 million children, who had not been vaccinated for polio to receive the Salk vaccine, which he called “this miraculous drug.” In the same year, he signed an executive order creating the U.S. Agency for International Development, which has spent billions of dollars over the past decades in support of vaccine campaigns in developing countries.

President Kennedy signed the Vaccination Assistance Act in 1962 to, in the words of a CDC report, “achieve as quickly as possible the protection of the population, especially of all preschool children … through intensive immunization activity.” In a message to Congress that year, Kennedy said: “There is no longer any reason why American children should suffer from polio, diphtheria, whooping cough, or tetanus … I am asking the American people to join in a nationwide vaccination program to stamp out these four diseases.”

While serving as attorney general, Robert F. Kennedy promoted community empowerment models to address urgent social needs like better health care, leading to the development of community health centers, which our uncle Ted Kennedy championed throughout his long career in the Senate. Community health centers have been on the front lines of vaccination campaigns for more than 50 years in rural America, in inner-city neighborhoods and on Native American reservations to immunize our most vulnerable populations.

Senator Kennedy led numerous campaigns for reauthorization of the Vaccination Assistance Act, took up the fight for the Child Immunization Initiative of 1993, and authored many other measures to increase the availability of vaccines for uninsured adults through community health centers.

This is a marked contrast to RFK Jr.’s record. I find it worth recounting from time to time, just how bad RFK Jr. has been promoting antivaccine pseudoscience for as long as I’ve had this blog—at least. I only noticed him in 2005; I’m not familiar with his antivaccine activities prior to that. It doesn’t matter. Since 2005, his history of antivaccine activism has been so voluminous that to cover it all would require more verbiage than even Orac likes to use in a blog post.

Since the cranktastic conspiracyfest “report” Deadly Immunity, RFK Jr. has can’t seem to stop the conspiracy mongering over the mercury-containing preservative thimerosal in vaccines and his obsession with his belief that there is link between mercury in vaccines and autism. It’s a belief he can’t seem to let go of, even though thimerosal was removed from all childhood vaccines other than the flu vaccine in 2002 (and even then thimerosal-free flu vaccines have become the norm), with no slowdown in the rate of increase in autism diagnoses, a slowdown that would be expected to be detectable a few years later. It’s a link that’s long been refuted by epidemiological studies (also this), but that hasn’t stopped him from trying to use various cases to “prove” a link between vaccines and autism, insinuate that the CDC is covering up a thimerosal-autism linkout-crank another vaccine-autism crank Sharyl Attkissonuse the case of Poul Thorsen to distract from inconvenient science, and link his environmental activism to his antivaccine activism, thus tarnishing the environmentalist movement as long as the Kennedy name.

In 2014, RFK Jr. wrote a book entitled Thimerosal: Let the Science Speak: Mercury Toxicity in Vaccines and the Political, Regulatory, and Media Failures That Continue to Threaten Public Health. Around that time, there was also a bit of amusing mainstream media attention in the form of an article by Keith Kloor in The Washington Post entitled Robert Kennedy Jr.’s belief in autism-vaccine connection, and its political peril. There are a few juicy tidbits that I learned in the article, although at the time I thought that the article seemed a bit more sympathetic to RFK, Jr. than I would liked. If you really want to see how far RFK Jr. has fallen, how much of a crank he has become, just look at how in 2017 he and his antivaccine group World Mercury Project teamed with Robert De Niro (who’s become quite the antivaccine crank himself) to issue a “$100,000 challenge” to pro-vaccine advocates. to “prove” that vaccines are safe for pregnant women by pointing to a peer-reviewed study showing that”thimerosal is safe in the amounts contained in vaccines currently being administered to American children and pregnant women.” Of course, he got to pick the judges and charge a “processing fee” of $50 to “to discourage frivolous submissions from flooding WMP staff.” It was a scam worthy of that old antivax crank Jock Doubleday himself!

RFK Jr.’s antivaccine activity has continued, and he’s adopted the old antivaccine dodge of donning the mantle of a “vaccine safety activist” to disguise his antivaccine beliefs. One of the more disturbing incidents with which RFK Jr. has been involved in recent years was when Donald Trump invited him to Trump Tower during the transition period after the 2016 election to meet with him, apparently, about heading up an “vaccine safety commission,” a move that inspired antivaccine groups to gather up anecdotes of “vaccine injury” to send to President-Elect Trump. It’s not clear what exactly happened during that meeting. RFK Jr. claimed that President-Elect Trump had invited him to chair a “vaccine safety” commission, but the transition team denied that claim within hours. Of course, given how long Donald Trump’s history of spouting antivaccine pseudoscience was, it was a horrifying site to see an antivaxer like RFK Jr. meet with the President-Elect. Fortunately, the ongoing measles outbreak appears to have reversed President Trump’s antivaccine proclivities, at least for now.

If you want to get an idea of just how far down the rabbit hole of antivaccine beliefs RFK Jr. has gone, take a look at the sorts of antivaccine pseudoscience he’s championed, whether Mark Geier’s or overwhelmingly awful epidemiological studies. He’s so far down that hole that his name has become toxic even to critics of medicine like Peter Götzsche, who, upon finding out that he’d be sharing the stage with RFK Jr., promptly (albeit grudgingly while complaining about the “Twitter mob”) withdrew his acceptance of a speaking invitation from an antivaccine physicians’ group disguised as a group advocating “informed consent.”

Now that’s toxic.

Risibly, RFK Jr. has been referring to himself at least since 2014 as not just “pro-vaccine,” but “fiercely pro-vaccine.” (I first saw him say that on The Dr. Oz Show, of course.) It’s a line he trots out often when he’s called out for being antivaccine. Of course, as I’ve documented more times than I can remember, RFK Jr. is not a “vaccine skeptic.” He is not a “vaccine safety activist.” He is “fiercely” antivaccine and has been for many years. It’s good to see his family calling him out for it.

By Orac

Orac is the nom de blog of a humble surgeon/scientist who has an ego just big enough to delude himself that someone, somewhere might actually give a rodent's posterior about his copious verbal meanderings, but just barely small enough to admit to himself that few probably will. That surgeon is otherwise known as David Gorski.

That this particular surgeon has chosen his nom de blog based on a rather cranky and arrogant computer shaped like a clear box of blinking lights that he originally encountered when he became a fan of a 35 year old British SF television show whose special effects were renowned for their BBC/Doctor Who-style low budget look, but whose stories nonetheless resulted in some of the best, most innovative science fiction ever televised, should tell you nearly all that you need to know about Orac. (That, and the length of the preceding sentence.)

DISCLAIMER:: The various written meanderings here are the opinions of Orac and Orac alone, written on his own time. They should never be construed as representing the opinions of any other person or entity, especially Orac's cancer center, department of surgery, medical school, or university. Also note that Orac is nonpartisan; he is more than willing to criticize the statements of anyone, regardless of of political leanings, if that anyone advocates pseudoscience or quackery. Finally, medical commentary is not to be construed in any way as medical advice.

To contact Orac: [email protected]

79 replies on “RFK Jr.: So antivaccine that even his family calls him out on it”

Well that’s going to make for some interesting family gatherings. Good on them for doing this; it couldn’t have been a lightly-taken decision but RFK, Jr. needs to be taken down a few notches. I honestly don’t know why he didn’t just stick with his professional expertise where he had legitimacy.

His ego is why.

That’s the thing; he traded legitimacy and respect for his environmental work for becoming a source of family shame and not taken at all seriously by any medical, scientific or public health organisation.

Well, from our point of view. This guy thinks he’s better than everyone else and that everyone should be bending to not be a shame in his eyes. That’s what I think.

There has to be a reason why otherwise smart, capable people can support the opinions they do in the face of overwhelming communal discouragement. I guarantee that there’s no way to sway RFK jr. from what he thinks, whether he gets pilloried in public or not. People who are intransigent, whether by ego or zealotry, double down on their stance in the face of public shaming.

We had a National and provincial Election in South Africa on the 8th, which is what probably triggered this comment.
Your comments about RFK Jr. invite parallels with Thabo Mbeki, South Africa’s President from 1999 to 2008, when he was forced to resign and Kgalema Mothlanthe took over until the 2009 election when Jacob Zuma became President.
Mbeki was perhaps the most intelligent man ever to be President of South Africa. Unfortunately, he was also an exceptionally arrogant man who ignored evidence that contradicted his viewpoints. In addition, he was extremely thin skinned (a surprising thing for a successful politician to be) and responded to dissent with ad hominem attacks and straw man arguments. He was wrong about several things, but the most damaging one was his beliefs on HIV/AIDS.
Even as Vice President under Mandela, Mbeki rejected the scientific consensus, authoring a document that questioned the correlation between HIV and AIDS. As President, he is quoted as saying “How can a virus cause a syndrome? It can’t.” He even hosted a conference of AIDS Denialists in South Africa. By one estimation, his denialism cost over 350,000 lives. Eventually, an organisation called the Treatment Action Campaign (TAC) took the South African Government to Court and successfully forced it to roll out ARV Treatment. Mbeki constantly attacked the TAC, accusing it of being in the pocket of foreign pharmaceutical companies. A few years ago, he wrote a public letter “explaining” his decisions. It was simply a rehash of the same claims the Courts rejected when they ruled in the TAC’s favour and it was torn to pieces by the experts.
I see the same attitudes in both Mbeki and RFK Jr. Arrogance. A lack of self awareness. Disregarding experts in favour of their own belief systems. Rejection of evidence that refutes their beliefs. Doubling down. Conspiracy ideation.
At root, neither is able to admit they got it wrong. Ever.

I think, at least in part, he’s a believer.
Of course, there are clear indication he’s willing to misrepresent in the service of his beliefs.

Kennedy is a complete believer. Anti-vaccine advocacy has become his main (almost sole) activity. It is hard to see how Kennedy might be using this as a stalking horse for some other activity, so I can only conclude that he believes he is correct on this and that everyone else is wrong.

His first public foray was in 2005, but he had obviously held anti-vaccine views for some time. It is possible to see how Kennedy could be seduced by the “anti-toxins” approach of the mercury anti-vaxxer school, but there may be different reasons why Kennedy got into this space.

What happened was that Kennedy got instant national recognition. I think this is the key to why he continues to push this barrow. Even over a decade after thiomersal was removed from all chilhood vaccines, he launches the World Mercury Project to remove mercury from vaccines.

Two years ago, RFK jr left the environmental group he had been associated with for more than 30 years ( March 2017) so maybe anti-vax is his focus now. I used to get invitations to meet him at fundraiser soirees at a Georgian mansion on the river but haven’t heard of any similar offers recently.
He has a website, Child Health Defense. SRSLY, that’s what he calls it.


How about his ego leading him from a voice in a group ( to being the solo master voice of Child Health Defense?



RFK Jr is a perfect reason why you should send water back to the lab rather than swishing it around in your mouth to determine its pollution level. That stuff gives you the woo brain.

^^^ this. It can’t have been easy, but it’s ilpir and helpful, given that he’s misusing his family name to promote antivaccine misinformation.

I couldn’t stop grinning when I read this Politico article this morning. I’m so glad they brought up the real pro-vaxxer in the family–President Kennedy. I think this will help people to understand RFK Jr doesn’t have the support of the Kennedy family in his quest to bring measles and other nasty preventable infections back to the US.

I didn’t realize that Kathleen Kennedy Townsend was and Maeve Kennedy McKean is a leader of a pro-vaccine science and advocacy organization.

Perhaps it’s a good time to remind the Cleveland Clinic that their employee superquack Mark Hyman wrote the preface to RFK Jr’s anti-vax screed “Thimerosal: Let the Science Speak”.

I send this out to any vaccine-haters who might be reading this.
I am flagrantly allergic to thimerosal, which I learned when it was the preservative of choice for contact lens solutions. I have since had flu vaccines from multidose vials, which contain thimerosal. There was not enough in the doses I have gotten to stimulate any kind of allergic reaction, which would in all likelihood occur at a much lower concentration than would be needed to make major structural changes in a human brain.

OK, we’ll take your word on that and get the whole family the flu shot 🙂 #Dumb@ss_…NoBodyzTh@t$tup!d

Mr. Ball, why do you think insults are a valid form of evidence? Something you keep forgetting to provide me. Let us try again:

Do please explain why it is better to let a baby get chicken pox, rather than protecting them by maintaining community immunity with a varicella vaccine. What is “good” about an infant suffering from dozens of itchy open wounds that are susceptible to bacterial infections, or the possibility of stroke:

Just support your answer with PMID authored by reputable qualified researchers.

At least, we all can witness a $tup!id Dumb@ss being the puppet of RFK jr. #Cant_th!nkForHimself

I had my annual flu shot on Monday. I am waiting for the autisms to kick in.

A sore arm is obviously the first sign of autism.

I knew when I posted that that some ignorant antivaxxer (or is that redundant?) would take the bait and try to rise out of the primordial slime their primitive brains live in and attempt to rebut me, hopefully with, you know, actual facts or logic. I didn’t expect that someone who appears to live unaware of either could slither over to a keyboard and attempt to impress me with a literacy level unseen since the days when trilobites ruled the Earth.
Do please come back and try to insult me on a more intelligent level if you ever grow a central nervous system, David Ball, or at least a limbic system.
I would descend to your level of discourse but I would probably need a mining engineer to help me get down so low.
If you have trouble reading this, just ask and I will repeat it using simpler words.

If you have trouble reading this, just ask and I will repeat it using simpler words.

I expect you will need to use pictures.


Ball’s too busy bending over for the RFK jr. vaccine shot…Give him time to reply back.


Since his name is Ball, we know he’s got at least one.
(Sorry everyone, especially you, Mr. Ball. It was such an obvious gag that someone had to say it.)

“OK, we’ll take your word on that and get the whole family the flu shot”
Smartest thing you’re ever likely to post on here.

”RFK Jr. has been referring to himself at least since 2015 as not just “pro-vaccine,” but “fiercely pro-vaccine.””

He has also patted himself on the back for being ”rabidly pro-science” (in his book on the urgent need to remove non-existent thimerosal from “vaccines”). The rabid part I can agree with.

It’s good to see other members of the clan repudiating crazy Uncle Bob. The practical effect of the article however can only be a degree of damage control for the family image. The odds of RFK Jr. seeing the light and curtailing his antivax campaign are about as good as Paul Offit receiving a medal at an Autism One conference for his work on behalf of children.

“It’s good to see other members of the clan repudiating crazy Uncle Bob. ”

I do not see what’s good about this. No member of any family should in principle be presumed to hold the values and ideas of a relative. Families are not supposed to be cults and anyone should know that.

“RFK Jr. has been referring to himself at least since 2015 as not just “pro-vaccine,” but “fiercely pro-vaccine.””

I’ve tried to look on the Internet as to what substance there was to his claim of being “pro-vaccine”. Found nothing. Anyone knows of any vaccine he endorses, or what kind of “alternative schedule” he would propose? Found nothing. If he claims to be “pro-vaccine”, he at least ought to explain how much “pro-vaccine” he is. Otherwise, it’s just hot air.

The thing that revulsed me on Children’s Health Defense website is their claim that vaccines are linked to SIDS. Ludicrous.

OMG. What planet are you on? Loads of families are extremely cultish and will defend their members to the end of time. Those who won’t play are shunned absolutely. I know this first hand.

Compare and contrast to the Sears Family of physicians: If Dr. Bill and Dr. Jim Sears called out their son/brother Dr. Bob Sears for the anti-vax quack and all around incompetent pediatrician he is, well that would most definitely help sway vaccine hesitant parents away from the Sears alternative vaccine schedule. But as it is, all the Sears are just as loony anti-vax as Bob, but prefer to use Bob as the prow of their public-health destroying vessel called “The Sears Family”.

“OMG. What planet are you on?”

Given my pseudonym, I clearly am on another planet. You know what’s great about being on an other planet? It gives you another and sometimes clearer view of things.

What’s more: changing your point of view may enable you to use the epistemology of direct realism to make valid conclusions. Like, oh! The Earth is round! Not changing your point of view puts you at the risk of illusion.

(The first part is on direct realism, the rest is off-topic but nonetheless interesting).

@Christopher Hickie: Yes, cultish behaviours in families of physicians can be very problematic. I know that first hand. There are situations where things should be called out for the bullshit they are, but cannot be, in these cases.

@Politicalguineapig: “Also, in case you missed it, RFK is saying his family name makes him an authority, which makes him fair game for pushback.”

Yes, I did miss it. Until I read Orac’s article, I moreover ignored he was part of the Kennedy family. I thought it was just a coincidence. I’m perhaps too much of a “skeptic”… It indeed makes him fair game, though that doesn’t fully invalidate my criticism: No one should assume that the Kennedy family holds the same viewpoint as one of his members, as a matter of principle. And that principle also applies to cultish families of physicians, which I know quite a lot about. Thanks to the epistemological tool of direct realism.

It’s a pity that Alois Hitler Jr. didn’t repudiate the views of his more famous sibling.

On principle you are probably right in saying it should not matter. Unfortunately, argument from authority and argument from celebrity, fallacious as they are, works. That is why you get celebrities selling all sort of stuff in adds, it sells. In this instance, the fact that three others from the Kennedy klan speaks out against RFK JR helps deflate the argument with people that would otherwise be convinced by his idiocy.

Maybe people shouldn’t be assumed to agree with their relatives, or to have their family members’ abilities, virtues, or character flaws, but in practice they often are. The name “Kennedy” still has political currency in Massachusetts, where Joseph Kennedy III holds a Congressional seat. What little I know of him I like, but none of it is relevant to vaccines. (And now I am going to post this and see whether my own representative has said anything about vaccines.)

Folks, in order not to induce me to go over the two comments that I fix to myself, please do not bug me with fallacious fallacies and psychobabble. I’ll treat here comments that fit one of these two criteria (fallacious fallacies or psychobabble).

@Politicalguineapig: I’m very much happy you cannot differentiate whether or not I’m sarcastic or not. There’s a definition of the concept of irony which is “faking faking”. Up to you to determine what this really means. And no, I do not intent to tone down the “paranoia” (which technically is a statement concerning the state of mind of another person that it is often conveniently used not to bother consider whether the other person is saying untrue things or not. “Oh! It’s paranoia! I do not have to discuss specific points”. Too easy). I do intend to keep the “paranoia” extremely high pitched, up to the point where you’ll be forced to concede to yourself (not to me) that you’d be well advised to consider a differential diagnosis.

@Narad: the link you provided is so full of psychobabble, that I’m at a loss to pinpoint the killer argument that it’s supposed to contain. I guess it’s a rhetorical attempt at ridicule. Fine by me. As long as you and lurkers do not fall into the trap of conflating psychobabble with relevant arguments.

@The Danish Salmon of Doubht: You’re mostly right. I won’t go any further into dissection of your points. But there would be a bit more to say.

which technically is a statement concerning the state of mind of another person

You haven’t demonstrated the noumenal existence of plural minds, which I suppose is why your new favorite word seems to be “psychobabble.” But, hey, you’re the epistemologist, or something.

Narad, it’s “psychobabble” when you conflate the statement of a person with the inferred psychological status of another person. It obscures discussion, and you know it. If you do not like the word “psychobabble”, please give me another one.

“You haven’t demonstrated the noumenal existence of plural minds”

Did I make such a claim? Grow up, Narad.

“But, hey, you’re the epistemologist, or something.”

Well, I have to admit that I’m more of that than others. Yes. But as Steve Novella puts it:

“I am sometimes questioned by well-meaning but confused scientists who do not understand the role that scientific skepticism plays in society. Isn’t science itself enough? Aren’t all scientists skeptical, or at least they should be?

What they miss is that skepticism is a real and deep intellectual skill set that works with science. It includes specialized knowledge that is not necessarily acquired during scientific training. There are frequent examples of this, and Gallagher’s article is now a prime example as well. He hits almost every true-believer trope there is. Ironically he has created a classic case study in the need for scientific skepticism.”

There you go, Narad. But please do not pull me out of my slumber for a 5th post with “personal attacks” or “psychobabble” or whatever you wish to call it. Whatever you wish to call it, it will remain of the same substance.

Forgot about this one:

You haven’t demonstrated the noumenal existence of plural minds”

Did I make such a claim? Grow up, Narad.

Well, it’s that, phenomenal, or — if one properly makes ontology walk the plank –nothing.

@Narad: I’m not sure whether or not you’re making the correct philosophical distinction between metaphysics and epistemology. Not sure whether or not you really want to dive into this specific rabbit hole. (I tend not to be a big fan of Kant the CryptoTheocrat, by the way.)

I think there’s value for the article beyond it, while I agree RFK Jr. would not change his mind. He has gone around talking to legislators, using the Kennedy name. This can counter any weight the name gives him when he interacts with policy makers, if activists use it to alert policy makers to the fact that he’s an outlier.

Maybe they just want to be on record as the sane part of the family—they probably know they are unlikely to change his mind. I totally respect them for having the courage to speak out; in fact it’s the most encouraging pro-science thing I’ve heard in a long while.

”RFK Jr. has been referring to himself at least since 2015 as not just “pro-vaccine,” but “fiercely pro-vaccine.””

Like I said, delusional.

F68: No member of any family should in principle be presumed to hold the values and ideas of a relative. Families are not supposed to be cults and anyone should know that.

Sure, but it’s one thing to call out a relative at the thanksgiving table or the family reunion, it’s another thing entirely to have to make a public announcement when a family member is making a fool of themselves. Also, in case you missed it, RFK is saying his family name makes him an authority, which makes him fair game for pushback.

I do not see what’s good about this. No member of any family should in principle be presumed to hold the values and ideas of a relative. Families are not supposed to be cults and anyone should know that.

On everyday trivial matters such as who’s the better football team (that would be American Armoured Wanker Ball) and Chocolate or Vanilla, sure, life would be boring. But in matters of fact, vaccines are a beneficial public health measure we should support as public figures or vaccines cause autism, autoimmune diseases, inappropriate hair growth, not so much.

American Armoured Wanker Ball!!! I nearly choked. Thank you for that.

Several things. RFK Jr drove his ex-wife to suicide. She was having huge problems because he cheated on her and she was already having big problems with major depression. He is an absolute POS who has always been a POS trading on his father’s name and reputation.

All the Kennedys do this. I know people who know them well. They get away with their abhorrent behavior because they do a little bit of good to disguise the other crap in their personal lives. Prime example is this recent stuff to make sure there will no offshore wind farms to obstruct the view from their compound. RFK Jr’s dismissal of his own behavior is only the tip of that giant iceberg.

RFK Jr is a total POS and a total hypocrite. As you say, his baffling and rather obsessive endorsement of this anti-scientific sh$t indicates some kind of OCD. I don’t get it at all, but it’s a kind of psychopathology that exists in that family to deny the evil that is tolerated and even encouraged within it. That observation comes from someone in the family from Joe’s time in the 1930s.

I don’t want to be sued, so please do not repost this anywhere else.


Thanks you for your observation & comment but I must warn you: there are a metric ton of @ssh0le on the internet so your last line about repost, I and I think many other won’t repost your comment but then again, there are a metric ton of @ssh0le on the internet…


It’s a good thing every woman who ever got cheated on didn’t kill herself. I’m not sure anyone can be driven to suicide unless it’s already on their mind, but I would sue you if I was well-known and you said such unsubstantiated things about me. What a pointless rant.


What exactly would it bring to you if you were the targeted person and you’d sue her?


I would sue you if I was well-known and you said such unsubstantiated things about me.

Don’t keep a diary.

I’m not sure anyone can be driven to suicide unless it’s already on their mind

Can someone be driven to having suicide on their mind, or does it spring fully formed like Athena? Turtles away.

“I don’t want to be sued, so please do not repost this anywhere else”
Do you actually know how the internet works? |:

It’s about time! He’s just as responsible for any body count, as Jenny McCarthy and all the rest of the pro disease crowd.

@ Sara Owen:

I understand how background information about a person may influence how you judge them – in fact, it may even reflect their true personality and how they behave in other situations ( e.g. a person who treats his co-workers/ employees badly may also be awful to his family members OR NOT). Some sceptics have mentioned RFK jr’s legal history ( drugs- not good) or contrast it with his public efforts for the environment ( good).

If we all were perfect and fair, none of this would influence us at all when we consider his anti-vax activities. But we’re not perfect. Although you may have a personal relationship to him ( maybe once removed or not), most of us don’t. You may be personally angry with him. As sceptics, we have to careful to stick to discussing his pseudoscience. Even if he were the finest person on the planet, distributing heaps of money to the poor, saving endangered animals every day and intervening in diverse international peace talks frequently, his beliefs and actions about vaccines would still be wrong.

I am as guilty of this as anyone when I noted how he married an actress, bought a multi-million dollar house and has been a falconer since his youth ( if you’re not living in Medieval Europe, keeping falcons means you probably have too much money).
As I said, none of us are perfect. And yes, personality IS a factor in how people behave. AJW leaving his wife for a model DOES say something about his personality but not necessarily his science ( although it may lead us to suspect his business activities).

And I don’t think that anyone will sue you but you may see your material in other places because anti-vaxxers read RI.

Tangential on falconry: You don’t have to be stupid rich to do falconry, but it is a ton of work (my brother’s soccer coach did it for a while), so often only the super rich have the money to pay someone else to care for and train their falcons for them.

Until they “improved” the greenbelt trail across from my house by paving it, hawkers (not peddlers, but as opposed to falconers) would come to it and fly their birds off. I met both of them, and if they were stupid rich, they did a good job of hiding it.
I chatted with one who had his yellow-tail on his arm while I was walking my dog. My dog, despite being a first-rate companion animal, was bred to be a solo hunter, and the two hunting animals had a clear antipathy. The dog barked and strained at the leash, while the hawk kept screeching and trying to get off the gauntlet. Nature shows itself in some strange ways.

We had a company on site using hawks to scare away the seagulls at work. I had to take the handler up onto the roof with a cherry picker because it wouldn’t come back. She asked me to get out of the cage and fetch it. Bloody hawk was crouched over a dead seagull with its wings spread hissing at us. I politely declined. On the plus side I did get to hold it while she climbed back into the cage.

DW:As I said, none of us are perfect.

True, but unlike anti-vaxxers, we can hope to be more than human tire-fires. For a movement that claims to be all about the kids, the leaders sure don’t seem to spend much time with their kids, or, for that matter tend to think about them much.

WE can check on ourselves- this is part of executive functioning although not everyone develops this ability by adulthood..
Am I just carping about him because I don’t like him and think him a spoiled ass riding upon his family name**?. So discounting that ( if we ever could) would mean to focus on what he actually is preaching. Right, it’s bad.

UNFORTUNATELY- or maybe not- because we are human we can’t help speculating about why he got this way, how anti-vax benefits him somehow or why his personality is as it is.

I know a smart businessman who became a spokesman for all sorts of conservative poppycock- he wrote a wacky book and has been a guest on various television shows beloved by righties- HOWEVER- he lost his father to a terrorist bombing when he was 10 years old. Maybe if I lost my father that way I might be different . ( BUT my own father lost his father to a violent robbery of his business when my father was young and he didn’t grow up prejudiced and self-promoting ) So how can we say?

** although it can be argued that his family name already has a lot of negatives attached to it

” I’m not familiar with his antivaccine activities prior to that.”

On that website he tells about it.
“RFK: Yeah, my brother Max’s wife, Vicky Strauss Kennedy, introduced me to a psychologist named Sarah Bridges. Her son Porter was vaccine-injured and later diagnosed with autism. After an eight year legal battle, she had finally received compensation from the vaccine court, which acknowledged that Porter got his autism, seizures and brain damage from thimerosal and pertussis vaccines. She persuaded me to start looking into the science.”

One claim is that there were 5000 cases not rewarded after this one by the HHS.
She might also be a source for the ‘the government did acknowledge the link and now they don’t’ you sometimes hear.

“My son has been compensated by the government for his vaccine injury. My son has a diagnosis of autism. Vaccines and autism do mix, the federal government recognized this in my son’s case.” page 26

I heard another story from RFK jr ( possibly on a taped interview) that said that when he was speaking about environmental pollution in rivers, land, etc several mothers approached him because vaccines are toxic sludge in their own way.
Your story rings truer to me- someone close to him turned him on to anti-vax. The story I heard sounds like a people pleaser for an audience: people asked me because I was such a great crusader for purity.

“My son has been compensated by the government for his vaccine injury. My son has a diagnosis of autism. Vaccines and autism do mix, the federal government recognized this in my son’s case.”

Testimonies to the IACC are crafted for maximum emotional impact and should not be taken at face value. I’d be more interested in the NVICP decision but I suspect that would be quite different than Bridges version of events.

I didn’t find that yet. She speaks about it, writes about it, but didn’t publish it afaik.

RFK Jr is delusional.
He compares vaccination to the Holocaust, without a clue as to how offensive this is.
He still blames mercury even though thiomersal was removed from children’s vaccines in 2001.
He announced he was appointed to chair Trump’s so-called Vaccine Safety Committee. He either dreamed this up or took Trump at his word. Either option is delusional, IMHO.
As I have done before, I present the late Dominick Dunne’s opinion of RFK Jr:

“That fucking asshole. This pompous, pompous, POMPOUS man. I don’t care what he has to say. He’s not a person that I have any feeling or respect for.”

Couldn’t have said it better myself.

I was particularly disturbed by this comment:

“”The ban was stupid,” Wiest said. “He could have contracted this in March and been back to school by now.”

It will be unfortunate karma if the kid gets shingles in fifty years.

I thought so at first, too. However, the quote at the end of the article about taking nine kids and getting them infected was from the governor of Kentucky. Pretty sad.

From the WaPo article:

“Jerome’s father, Bill Kunkel, said he thinks his son was exposed to chickenpox in early April, when his infected cousins visited the home.”

It looks an awful lot like intentional exposure to me.

Back in March, RFK Jr. was deprived of a chance at more demagoguery when several medical professionals decided against appearing on a Connecticut legislative panel with him.

RFK Jr. evidently thought this was a golden opportunity to publicly triumph over his foes in debate. So why doesn’t he now seize the opportunity of challenging his pro-vaccine relatives to a debate?

Might be fun.

If they turn him down he can call them “toadies”, “this gang” and “fundamentally anti-American”, the way he characterized opponents after his Connecticut photo-op fell through. 🙂

F816: I can’t tell if you’re being sarcastic or not. Also, I kinda think you need to dial down the paranoia in your daily life. (See previous thread re: Ken Kesey was not a documentarian.)

Soul-searching, in a Mafia family? What’s happening is that Robert F is causing bad PR, and the rest of them perceived a need to defend their mafia’s name.

Perhaps everyone knows about his Aunt, Eunice Kennedy Shriver, not only the founder of the Special Olympics but also school vaccine mandates. She was force behind the scenes twisting arms and sending letters to get them passed. He is quite clearly taking on the family.

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