Robert F. Kennedy Jr. Announced His Presidential Bid With a Speech Missing His Anti-Vaccine Activism

RFK instead focused heavily on his family legacy, promises to end polarization, and a few digs about the lying media.
​A support of Robert F. Kennedy Jr. wears a pin with his face on it at his presidential campaign announcement in Boston. Photo via Getty Images
A support of Robert F. Kennedy Jr. wears a pin with his face on it at his presidential campaign announcement in Boston. Photo via Getty Images 

In a lengthy, meandering announcement event in Boston on Wednesday, anti-vaccine activist Robert F. Kennedy Jr. formally declared his candidacy for president, running as a Democrat against President Biden in the primaries. Despite an audience studded with enthusiastic anti-vaccine luminaries, Kennedy and his other speakers—including his wife, the actor Cheryl Hines, and former Ohio Congressman Dennis Kucinich—carefully avoided talking too much about vaccines , except in the most indirect of ways. It’s clearly a campaign strategy to appeal to a broad base of Democratic voters, most of whom are thus far not that interested in voting for him, according to recent polling. 


Kennedy lives in Malibu, but chose to announce his candidacy in Boston, which he stressed is important to his family history and legacy – which, as he mentioned, at length, is that Kennedy family. (RFK Jr.’s father, is, of course, Bobby Kennedy, who was assassinated during his own presidential run in 1968, and the nephew of former President John F. Kennedy). He also simultaneously broadcast his campaign announcement on Twitter Spaces, a first for a presidential candidate. Before mentioning anything whatsoever about the anti-vaccine activism that’s defined his later adult life and shaped his legacy, Kennedy talked about his memories of burying his father, stressed his bona fides as an environmental lawyer, praised the glory of God’s creation, promised to end political polarization, and made some crowd-pleasing digs about the lying media. 

“We know the media lies to us now and everybody knows that,” he said, to applause. “When the corporate captive media and the corporate captive government hears other sources of truth they have to brand that as misinformation.” In reality, he declared misinformation is really “statements that depart from government orthodoxy”


“Misinformation,” of course, has been a subject of enormous interest to Kennedy; as the chair of the anti-vaccine organization Children’s Health Defense, he recently announced a nonsensical class action lawsuit against President Biden and Anthony Fauci for “censorship.” Among the people who came to support Kennedy were tech millionaire turned major anti-vaccine activist Steve Kirsch, who tweeted that he was seated onstage and that another major anti-vaccine figure, Del Bigtree, was “here helping with the production.”

Also present was anti-vaccine scientist and self-proclaimed “inventor of mRNA” Robert Malone MD, who wrote on Substack earlier this week, “RFK, Jr. is a personal friend and I truly believe that he is a viable candidate who if elected would make a great president.” Malone added, “The fact is that Bobby has been fighting corporatism for his entire career and that is something I can support. His positions on the pseudo mRNA vaccines and vaccine mandates is what initially brought me into his circle and I will always be grateful to him for his stance on this [sic] issues.” 

Eventually, a full 30 or 40 minutes into his speech, Kennedy talked about COVID lockdowns earlier in the pandemic, framing them as an attack on the middle class, especially the Black middle class. He framed the lockdowns as something President Trump did to the American people: “The worst thing that he did to our civil rights was the lockdown,” he said, generating a smattering of confused applause from the audience. He also talked about “the chronic disease epidemic” as another example of an attack on the middle class – again generating a smattering of excited, quickly diminishing applause when his audience realized he was not, in fact, about to talk about vaccines.


As his speech wound to a close, Kennedy did briefly mention autism, something he has falsely insisted is caused by vaccines, a foundational lie that has formed the basis of his advocacy; he also made some vague references to “pharma.”

“When I am the president of the United States, I am going to end the chronic disease epidemic in this country,” he said, to prolonged applause. 

Finally, Kennedy promised to talk about “one last big subject” (“Yes!” someone in the audience cried.) 

“I want to talk about the war in Ukraine,” Kennedy said, as the excitement level in the room audibly dropped again. He then launched into another long set of talking points about how as Americans “we have to respect people’s differences of opinion.” (He also repeatedly referred to Ukraine as “the Ukraine,” which is not what the country is called.)   

Before a fire alarm in the building prompted Kennedy to finally, eventually come to a close, the speech was an excellent preview of what his longshot candidacy will probably look like. (“Nice try,” Kennedy told the fire alarm, to applause.) Only at the very end did Kennedy again obliquely reference his current advocacy, saying he posed a danger to the Powers That Be: “To the vested interests, I’m not safe. My job is to keep you safe.”

In all, the campaign promises to be a melange of his usual covid-skeptical talking points, shaped into a slightly more mainstream-friendly form, with a noticeable hole where the vaccine stuff usually goes, and combined with heavy ruminations about his political legacy. There are signs that Kennedy expects this to be a long campaign: in an email to supporters earlier this month, Children’s Health Defense announced that Kennedy is “on leave” from his position as chairman of the board, and that Mary Holland, the organization’s general counsel and president, a longtime anti-vaccine activist in her own right, had also gone on leave to join his campaign.