Democrats attempted to prematurely shut down a House hearing on censorship with Robert F. Kennedy Jr. less than an hour into the event on Thursday, claiming that the Democratic presidential candidate’s "despicable" comments last weekend about Jews and Chinese people made him unfit to testify.
Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D., Fla.) introduced a motion to "move into executive session" about 40 minutes into the hearing, citing "Kennedy’s despicable anti-Semitic, anti-Asian comments." The motion drew support from Democrats—who had signed a letter earlier in the week trying to get Kennedy’s invitation to the hearing rescinded—but failed to pass the Republican-controlled committee.
The hearing, which was convened by Republicans to "examine the federal government's role in censoring Americans," comes as Kennedy has faced days of controversy for claiming that COVID-19 was "targeted to attack Caucasians and Black people" and that the "people who are most immune are Ashkenazi Jews and Chinese."
Kennedy has denied he is anti-Semitic and defended his comments, including during his opening remarks at Thursday morning’s hearing.
"I have never uttered a phrase that was either racist or anti-Semitic. I have spent my life fighting, my professional career fighting for Israel," said Kennedy. "I have a better record on Israel than anybody in this chamber today."
Kennedy argued that the anti-Semitism accusations against him, including the letter to prevent his testimony that was signed by over 100 Democrats, were a form of censorship.
"I’m being censored here," Kennedy said. "I don’t think there’s a single person who signed this letter who thinks I’m anti-Semitic."
The Democratic candidate, who has also been a vocal critic of COVID vaccines, said descriptions of him as "anti-vax" are also an attempt by his opponents to shut down his speech.
"This kind of division is more dangerous to our country than any time since the American Civil War," Kennedy said. "We need to end that polarization. Do you think you can do that by censoring people? I’m telling you, you cannot."
Rep. Barry Moore (R., Ala.) said the motion from Democrats was evidence of the necessity of the hearing.
"This is a hearing on censorship that began with a motion from the other side of the aisle to censor Mr. Kennedy," said Moore. "They have kept him from speaking."