Robert F. Kennedy Jr. — the son of the late attorney general, senator, and presidential candidate of the same name — has long been an attorney and political activist. Of late, he’s become well-known for something else: his stance on vaccines.
Kennedy has argued that vaccines cause autism, and has sued on behalf of those who object to government requiring them, or their children, to be vaccinated. Kennedy filed such a suit last month in New York, per The Journal News.
Now, members of Kennedy’s famous family are criticizing his work on the issue.
“RFK Jr. Is Our Brother and Uncle. He’s Tragically Wrong About Vaccines” is the headline of a Politico magazine piece, one authored by Kathleen Kennedy Townsend, Joseph P. Kennedy II, and Maeve Kennedy McKean.
The relatives state that while they “love” Kennedy, they disagree strongly with his stance on mandatory vaccination.
RFK Jr., the letter says, “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.”
The three Kennedys also praise their relative for his work on the environment, but the piece goes on to critique the “heartbreaking consequences” of Robert’s spreading of theories regarding vaccination. The authors also state that — in consideration of President John F. Kennedy’s health-related initiatives in the 1960s, the late Sen. Edward Kennedy’s advocacy of health care, and other work done by the family over the years — that “Bobby is an outlier in the Kennedy family.”
Townsend, a former lieutenant governor of Maryland, and Joseph Kennedy, a former congressman from Massachusetts, are RFK’s siblings. McKean, the executive director of Georgetown University’s Global Health Initiative, is his niece.
Kennedy family members, including siblings, hit out at RFK Jr. over his anti-vax conspiracy theories https://t.co/scVsJs6NQ2— The Daily Beast (@thedailybeast) May 8, 2019
There has been little connection established between vaccinations and autism, and the paper originally making that claim, by Dr. Andrew Wakefield, was redacted by the medical journal The Lancet in 2010.
In 2017, The Scientific American wrote about how Kennedy has “distorted” vaccine science. President Trump, who has flirted with anti-vaccination theories in the past, was reportedly considering appointing Kennedy to a government panel on vaccine safety, but no such appointment ever took place.
“Those who delay or refuse vaccinations, or encourage others to do so, put themselves and others, especially children, at risk,” the Kennedy relatives write for Politico. “It is in all our interests to make sure that immunizations reach every child on the globe through safe, effective and affordable vaccines.”
Such efforts aren’t unheard of in politics. In the 2018 midterm elections, six siblings of Rep. Paul Gosar, a Republican from Arizona, made an ad endorsing his opponent, per The New York Times. Despite the lack of support from his own family, Gosar won the election.