And by extension, on everything else? Three prominent members of the Kennedy clan hope not, but it’s tough to consider Robert Kennedy Jr a credible voice on much of anything after his full embrace of the anti-vaccination movement. Kathleen Kennedy Townsend, Joseph P. Kennedy II, and Maeve Kennedy McKean combined up for a Politico essay that attempts to rescue the family’s legacy on public health by begging people to stop listening to RFK Jr’s “misinformation campaign”:
The World Health Organization reports a 300 percent increase in the numbers of measles cases around the world this year compared with the first three months of 2018. More than 110,000 people are now dying from measles every year. The WHO, the health arm of the United Nations, has listed vaccine hesitancy as one of the top 10 threats to global health in 2019. Most cases of preventable diseases occur among unvaccinated children, because parents have chosen not to vaccinate, have delayed vaccination, have difficulty accessing vaccines, or the children were too young to receive the vaccines.
These tragic numbers are caused by the growing fear and mistrust of vaccines—amplified by internet doomsayers. Robert F. Kennedy Jr.—Joe and Kathleen’s brother and Maeve’s uncle—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.
We love Bobby. He is one of the great champions of the environment. His work to clean up the Hudson River and his tireless advocacy against multinational organizations who have polluted our waterways and endangered families has positively affected the lives of countless Americans. We stand behind him in his ongoing fight to protect our environment. However, on vaccines he is wrong.
And his and others’ work against vaccines is having heartbreaking consequences. The challenge for public health officials right now is that many people are more afraid of the vaccines than the diseases, because they’ve been lucky enough to have never seen the diseases and their devastating impact. But that’s not luck; it’s the result of concerted vaccination efforts over many years. We don’t need measles outbreaks to remind us of the value of vaccination.
The trio put on a game effort to rescue RFK Jr’s credibility on other issues, but it’s a lost cause. The enthusiasm into which Robert poured his ‘tireless advocacy’ against vaccines has to suggest that his judgment might not be much better on other issues. That’s all the more true considering the number of years and the compilation of clear data contradicting RFK’s hysteria on vaccination safety. And it’s not as though this was RFK Jr’s only other conspiracy-theory flier — remember how he declared that George W. Bush stole the 2004 election, and the proof was in the exit polls? Or how hog producers were more dangerous than Osama bin Laden?
RFK’s cheese slid off his cracker many years ago, but it’s tough not to feel some sympathy for the Kennedy authors of this piece. They almost certainly didn’t do this as a first resort. The Kennedys are much more inclined to circle the wagons rather than form circular firing squads. One has to imagine all of the attempts to shake some sense into RFK on this subject that the authors have tried, only to discover that RFK is impervious to sense. This essay sounds like a so be it declaration — a decision to sever the family’s reputation once and for all from their brother and uncle.
That won’t be cost-free for them, either. Kudos for taking a stand on this issue and making clear just how far out in left field RFK Jr really is. It’s not their fault that this reality makes it impossible to salvage RFK’s credibility — he shredded it himself long before now.