How a Kennedy built an anti-vaccine juggernaut amid COVID-19

December 15, 2021

Robert F. Kennedy Jr. strode onto the stage at a Southern California church, radiating Kennedy confidence and surveying the standing ovation crowd with his piercing blue Bobby Kennedy eyes. Then, he launched into an anti-vaccine rant. Democrats “drank the Kool-Aid,” he told people assembled for a far right conference, branded as standing for “health and freedom.”

“It is criminal medical malpractice to give a child one of these vaccines,” Kennedy contended, according to a video of the event, one of his many assertions that ignored or went against legal, scientific and public health consensus.

Then, Kennedy hawked his book. If just 300 attendees preordered it on Amazon that night, he told the crowd, it would land on the bestseller list and they could “stick it to Amazon and Jeff Bezos...”

A different research team found Kennedy’s group, along with the now-removed group called Stop Mandatory Vaccination, bought more than half of the anti-vaccine advertising on Facebook prior to the pandemic. A member of that team, David Broniatowski, of George Washington University, said the groups had targeted Facebook ads to reach women of childbearing age using demographic data.

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