Democratic presidential candidate Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. repudiated accusations that he peddled a racist and antisemitic conspiracy theory about COVID-19 during a New York City dinner last week.
In an interview with Jewish News Syndicate published Monday, Kennedy expressed regret that his controversial remarks about COVID-19 were picked up by The New York Post during what he thought was an off-the-record dinner. The Post first reported video showing Kennedy discussing an argument that the coronavirus is ‘ethnically targeted’ to ‘attack Caucasians and black people’ while sparing ‘Ashkenazi Jews and Chinese.’ His comments created an uproar and were condemned by Jewish groups, the White House and even members of the Kennedy family.
‘I made a statement in a meeting that was presented to us as Chatham House rules, as a closed meeting,’ Kennedy told JNS. ‘I made an accurate statement about an NIH-funded study. I regret ever talking about that now because it’s clear that even accurate facts will be distorted and misconstrued in ways that hurt people.’
‘The last thing I want to do is be hurtful to people, particularly Jewish people, who have already suffered more than any other race,’ he added.
In the lengthy interview, Kennedy was emphatic that he is not an antisemite.
‘The worst two accusations that anybody can make about you are that you’re an antisemite or a pedophile,’ he said. ‘I don’t think there’s anything worse.’
Kennedy told the outlet that an affection and affinity for Israel is ‘part of the DNA of our family,’ pointing to his uncle, President John F. Kennedy, and father, Robert F. Kennedy, a former U.S. attorney general and senator, who strongly supported Israel.
Kennedy pledged to continue that legacy if elected president and said, ‘It’s been a great disappointment and troubling development to me that the Democratic Party has drifted away from its traditions.’
He also said that moving forward, he will be more cautious before speaking in public.
‘It’s clear to me now that I need to be much more careful,’ Kennedy told JNS.
‘I have to learn a lesson from this, and the lesson I learn is that I have to understand that the words that I use have impact, and they can be misused and misinterpreted,’ he said. ‘I regret talking about that study, and I am going to be careful to make sure that I don’t do anything like that in the future.’
Kennedy’s controversial remarks included the Democratic presidential candidate saying he did not know whether the virus was ‘deliberately targeted or not,’ but that there were ‘papers out there that show the racial or ethnic differential and impact’ on different groups.
‘There is an argument that it is ethnically targeted. COVID-19 attacks certain races disproportionately,’ he said. ‘COVID-19 is targeted to attack Caucasians and Black people. The people who are most immune are Ashkenazi Jews and Chinese.’
According to the Post, Kennedy also claimed the Chinese ‘are spending hundreds of millions of dollars developing ethnic bioweapons,’ and that the U.S. was also ‘developing ethnic bioweapons.’
White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre ripped his comments as ‘false,’ ‘vile’ and said they ‘put our fellow Americans in danger.’ Kennedy’s nephew, former Rep. Joe Kennedy III, said his uncle’s comments were ‘hurtful and wrong,’ while his sister Kerry Kennedy condemned them as ‘deplorable and untruthful.’
After the Post story broke, Kennedy attempted to clarify his remarks on social media, calling the Post’s story ‘mistaken’ and linking a study detailing the different effects COVID-19 had on people of different races to support his claims.
‘I accurately pointed out — during an off-the-record conversation — that the U.S. and other governments are developing ethnically targeted bioweapons and that a 2021 study of the COVID-19 virus shows that COVID-19 appears to disproportionately affect certain races since the furin cleave docking site is most compatible with Blacks and Caucasians and least compatible with ethnic Chinese, Finns and Ashkenazi Jews,’ he said.
Kennedy also responded to his family, telling Fox News Digital, ‘The reactions of these family members are based on the New York Post’s misreporting and willful mischaracterization of what I said. This is an example of how the media manipulates Americans into turning against one another. Fortunately, I am sure that the love within our family will prevail over these attempts to divide us. May the same be true for the country.’
Kennedy described his long-shot bid for the Democratic nomination as a ‘mass experiment in truth-telling’ and told JNS he will attempt to maintain his personal integrity and a ‘clear conscience’ on the campaign trail.
‘Ultimately, the success of this venture is in God’s hands, and the only thing I have control over is the little piece of real estate inside of my own shoes,’ he said. ‘My biggest objective is to end this process with my integrity intact. My second objective is to get elected president of the United States.’
Fox News’ Brandon Gillespie and Kathleen Joyce contributed to this report.