Leading anti-vaccine activist Robert Kennedy Jr. has announced he is running for president as a Democrat.
Kennedy filed his statement of candidacy on Wednesday. He is the second person to declare a Democratic presidential run, after self-help author Marianne Williamson. President Joe Biden has yet to formally declare his candidacy, although he has repeatedly said he intends to run for reelection.
Kennedy, an environmental lawyer, is the nephew of former President John F. Kennedy and the son of former U.S. Attorney General Robert Kennedy. He has worked on several high-profile cases throughout his career, including Dewayne Johnson v. Monsanto, which found that agrochemical giant Monsanto failed to warn people about the cancer risks posed by its herbicide Roundup.
But Kennedy is also a prominent anti-vaxxer. He has promoted the scientifically discredited link between vaccines and autism since 2005, and in 2011 he founded the anti-vax group Children’s Health Defense.
Public health experts and even his own family members have described his anti-vax work as misleading and dangerous.
At the start of the pandemic, Kennedy criticized public health restrictions aimed at slowing the spread of Covid-19, such as face masks and the newly developed vaccines. He repeatedly compared the restrictions to the Nazis and the Holocaust, going so far in 2022 as to imply that Americans had it worse than Anne Frank did.
He also accused Anthony Fauci, who led the White House Covid response, of “fascism.”
CBS News journalist Robert Costa reported that white nationalist and former Donald Trump adviser Steve Bannon had been pushing Kennedy for months to run. According to CBS, Bannon thought Kennedy would be “a useful chaos agent in the 2024 race and a big name who could help stoke anti-vaccine sentiment around the country.”
Although he is running as a Democrat, Kennedy also has ties to the far right. A photo posted on Instagram (and subsequently removed) showed him backstage at a Reawaken America event in July 2021. NPR has described Reawaken America as “part conservative Christian revival, part QAnon expo, and part political rally.”