Robert Kennedy Jr. once hailed Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan as a "truly great partner" in pushing a controversial link between vaccines and autism. Now, the Democratic presidential candidate has disavowed the anti-Semitic preacher amid a scandal over his own controversial remarks about Jews.
Kennedy distanced himself from Farrakhan as part of a clean-up effort after the Democrat asserted that the coronavirus may have been "ethnically targeted" to harm black and white people, while Ashkenazi Jews appeared to have greater immunity to the virus. Kennedy, who was denounced by some Jewish groups and Democratic Party leaders, claimed his statements were taken out of context and that he is not anti-Semitic.
Kennedy’s remarks brought his relationship with Farrakhan back into the spotlight. Farrakhan has railed against "satanic Jews" and in 2013 claimed that "the Jewish media" promoted "sexual degeneracy, profanity, and all kinds of sin." Farrakhan said in 2018 that "powerful Jews are my enemy."
Asked this week about his relationship with Farrakhan, Kennedy claimed he is an "opponent" of Farrakhan and has "never endorsed anything that Louis Farrakhan has said."
But Kennedy’s previous actions appear to contradict that claim.
In 2015, Kennedy visited Farrakhan and introduced him to the unfounded theory that measles vaccines are linked to higher rates of autism, the Washington Free Beacon reported. A Nation of Islam official who attended the meeting said that Kennedy informed the group that the measles "vaccine is genetically modified to give black boys autism," a claim without evidence.
Kennedy called Farrakhan a "truly great partner" at a protest outside Centers for Disease Control and Prevention headquarters in October 2015. Kennedy continued over the next few years to work with the Nation of Islam on the vaccine issue. In 2020, Farrakhan urged his supporters to "follow Robert Kennedy," and claimed that scientists administered the coronavirus vaccine in order to "depopulate the Earth."
Kennedy claimed in his recent interview that he was not aware of Farrakhan’s history of anti-Semitism when they began working together in 2015. But Kennedy’s writings in his private diary appear to contradict that. According to a 2013 report, Kennedy wrote that he was disenchanted with civil rights leader Jesse Jackson because of his "love affair with Louis Farrakhan and his Jewish xenophobia."
Kennedy claimed he cut ties with the Nation of Islam after a colleague informed him of Farrakhan’s comments about Jews. Kennedy said he asked his friend, Nation of Islam official Tony Muhammad, to publicly disavow Farrakhan. When Muhammad declined, according to Kennedy, "that was the end of our friendship."
Kennedy did not say when that conversation occurred, but he worked with Muhammad as recently as 2021. Kennedy hosted Muhammad to discuss his documentary Medical Racism: The New Apartheid. Kennedy pushed the unfounded claim that scientists are "conducting an experiment on black Americans" by vaccinating black children against measles.
In his interview, Kennedy said the "worst two accusations that anybody can make about you are that you’re an antisemite or a pedophile."
Kennedy recently interviewed Scott Ritter, a convicted child sex offender, on his podcast. The pair criticized United States support for Ukraine in its defensive war against Russia.
Kennedy’s campaign and Tony Muhammad did not respond to requests for comment.