Sheldon Kirshner

Kennedy’s Foray into Bigotry

Robert F. Kennedy, the attorney-general in John F. Kennedy’s administration and the victim of an assassination in 1968, must surely be spinning in his grave.

Kennedy’s son, Robert Jr., a candidate running against President Joe Biden for the Democratic Party’s presidential nomination, claims that the coronavirus pandemic was “ethnically targeted” to spare Chinese and Jewish Americans.

“COVID-19 is targeted to attack Caucasians and Black people,” he said at a recent event in New York City. “The people who are most immune are Ashkenazi Jews and Chinese. We don’t know whether it was deliberately targeted or not.”

His absurd and dangerous comments, which smack of conspiratorial antisemitism and anti-Asian prejudice, were recorded and published by The New York Post, setting off a firestorm of justifiable criticism.

Kennedy’s father, a liberal, certainly would have been ashamed of his execrable and unsubstantiated remarks, which might well have been lifted from the noxious playbook of a bigot.

His foray into the nether world of racism is not entirely surprising, given his bent for conspiracy theories. Described by The New York Times as “a leading purveyor of anti-vaccine information,” Kennedy has a disturbing track record. He tried to popularize incorrect claims of a link between childhood vaccines and autism. And during the COVID-19 pandemic, he attempted to cast doubt on the safety of the vaccines.

Spouting another outrageous lie, Kennedy suggested that unvaccinated Americans, perhaps like himself, would ultimately be persecuted like Anne Frank, the Dutch Jewish diarist who perished in a Nazi concentration camp in Germany. Even Kennedy’s wife, Cheryl Hines, called his outlandish supposition “reprehensible and insensitive.”

Kennedy’s latest blast, which has offended Chinese people and Jews, is similarly ridiculous, yet he has neither backed down nor apologized. Indeed, he has conveniently dismissed the allegation that he is antisemitic as a “disgusting fabrication.”

Whether Kennedy is an antisemite per se is open to debate. But his most recent statement about Jews, Chinese and the coronavirus opens the floodgates of antisemitism by virtue of his insinuation that they were or are somehow complicit in the spread of COVID-19.

It goes without saying that a person of his pedigree and influence can cause enormous damage, which explains why members of his own family are embarrassed and repelled by his strange views.

His sister, Kerry, lambasted them as “deplorable and untruthful” saying they do not represent the principles of their late father or of the Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights organization.

His brother, Joseph Kennedy II, declared that they are “morally and factually wrong,” pander to “antisemitic myths” and generate mistrust of Chinese people.

His nephew, Joseph Kennedy III, “unequivocally” condemned them as “hurtful and wrong.”

Kennedy is deluding himself if he imagines that his verbal outbursts do not merit a harsh rebuke. Kennedy has blundered into an swamp, and if he possesses even a smidgeon of common sense, he will turn back before it is too late, acknowledge his egregious mistakes and appalling lack of judgment, and issue a sincere apology to both the Chinese and Jewish communities.

At a moment in time when antisemitism in the United States is one the rise, Kennedy owes it to himself, his family and all decent Americans to staunchly disavow his bigoted views.

At the very least, the Democratic Party should reprimand him and warn him that, unless he makes immediate amends, he should withdraw his candidacy from the presidential nomination race.

About the Author
Sheldon Kirshner is a journalist in Toronto. He writes at his online journal,