Robert Kennedy Jr., who has won a substantial amount of Democratic support since announcing his run for president, is a longtime ally of the notorious anti-Semite Louis Farrakhan, who credits the candidate with turning him on to anti-vaccine theories.
The Kennedy-Farrakhan courtship began in 2015, when Kennedy visited the Nation of Islam leader at his home in Chicago to discuss the measles vaccine administered routinely to young kids. Farrakhan said in a social media post after the meeting that the vaccine was "designed" to harm black males. "Some of us are afraid, but Mr. Kennedy found his way to our door," Farrakhan has said.
Kennedy now has vocal support from Farrakhan, who has praised Adolf Hitler, compared Jews to "termites," and maintains a massive following through the Nation of Islam. Farrakhan has credited Kennedy with introducing him to the controversial and widely disputed theory that childhood measles vaccines are linked to autism. Kennedy has cosponsored events with the Nation of Islam and its leader, whom he has praised as a "truly great partner" in the "battle" to publicize the autism theory.
Nineteen percent of Democratic voters say they support Kennedy over President Joe Biden, according to a Fox News poll. The anti-vaccine activist's popularity among Democrats could cut against the party's efforts to portray the Republican base as anti-science bigots. While Biden is still the heavy favorite, Kennedy's surprisingly strong numbers show that a sizable chunk of Democratic voters are open to supporting a candidate who has pushed anti-vaccine conspiracy theories.
The Kennedy family scion's numbers could be cause for concern for Biden, with one analyst arguing they show the commander in chief "ceding a significant and potentially embarrassing chunk of voters to an anti-vaccine activist."
Researchers have largely disputed Kennedy's claims about the measles vaccine, asserting it is based on a misinterpretation of data regarding autism cases for children who have been vaccinated.
That hasn't deterred Kennedy and Farrakhan.
"I thank God for Minister Farrakhan for getting involved in this. He's been a truly great partner in this battle," Kennedy said at a protest with the Nation of Islam outside CDC headquarters in Atlanta in Oct. 2015.
The Nation of Islam in 2016 promoted Kennedy's film Vaxxed, which accuses the federal government of covering up a link between vaccines and autism in black children. Kennedy, who runs the anti-vaccine group Children's Health Defense, in 2017 hosted Nation of Islam officials at a press conference with actor Robert De Niro in which they promoted a vaccine-autism link. In 2021, Kennedy hosted Nation of Islam's Tony Muhammad for a discussion of Kennedy's documentary Medical Racism: The New Apartheid. Kennedy posited that health officials "are conducting an experiment on black Americans" by vaccinating black children against measles.
Kennedy debuted the documentary at a Feb. 2021 Nation of Islam conference, winning the praise of Farrakhan, who called the movie "brilliant."
Farrakhan and Kennedy carried their unlikely alliance through the coronavirus pandemic. During a 2020 speech in which Farrakhan called a vaccine a "vial of death," the preacher urged his supporters to "follow Robert Kennedy." In another speech that year, Farrakhan asserted that Anthony Fauci and Bill Gates had plotted to administer the vaccine across the globe to "depopulate the Earth."
Nation of Islam minister Ava Muhammad said at the event that the goal of the vaccine was to "cull the population of our planet by 2-3 billion" because "white people see their [population] numbers going down, and the numbers of indigenous people, black, red, and brown, going up." The Nation of Islam has cited Kennedy in its claim that the polio vaccine is linked to higher cancer rates in black people.
But Kennedy hasn't always felt so warmly about Farrakhan. According to excerpts of Kennedy's private diary leaked in 2013, Kennedy lamented that civil rights leader Jesse Jackson had a "love affair with Louis Farrakhan and his Jewish xenophobia."
Kennedy is hardly the only prominent liberal to find common cause with Farrakhan, and the minister is hardly a pariah in Democratic politics. Former president Barack Obama managed to suppress a picture of himself engaged in what the Philadelphia Tribune described as a "warm conversation." The British boy band Coldplay last year dedicated a song to the anti-Semitic preacher, who once mocked Coldplay lead singer Chris Martin for having Jewish friends.
Farrakhan and Kennedy did not respond to requests for comment.