July 18, 2023
Organizations advocating for Jewish and Asian people immediately criticized presidential candidate Robert F. Kennedy Jr. after he spread a conspiracy theory at an event last week about the groups and COVID-19, reports USA Today.
Kennedy, during a dinner in New York last week, said there is an “argument” that COVID-19 is “ethnically targeted.” He claimed COVID-19 is “targeted to attack Caucasians and Black people” while sparing Ashkenazi Jewish people and Chinese people.
The term Ashkenazi is generally used to refer Jewish people whose ancestors lived in parts of Europe. The majority of American Jews describe themselves as Ashkenazi.
Ted Deutch, CEO of the American Jewish Committee, tweeted on Saturday, July 15, that Kennedy’s comments are “deeply offensive and incredibly dangerous.”
The Anti-Defamation League has warned that racist and antisemitic theories spread during the pandemic, including “conspiracies alleging that Jews are behind the coronavirus and are using it as a tool to expand global influence and derive profit.”
Jane Shim, director of the Stop Asian Hate Project, part of the Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund, called Kennedy’s argument “irresponsible, hateful comments,” The Washington Post reported.
There have been disparities in rates of COVID-19 infections, as well as hospitalizations and deaths from the virus, in groups across the country. Experts attribute those differences to access to health care and other factors.
On Saturday, Kennedy tweeted criticism of the New York Post, which published video of his comments. He continued spreading conspiracy theories about the COVID-19 virus.
The presidential candidate in recent years has become a leading voice in the anti-vaccine movement. Health experts have called his work dangerous, and members of his family have condemned him for spreading misinformation.
Kennedy has criticized lockdowns sparked by the pandemic, suggesting things were worse for Americans than for Anne Frank, the Jewish teenager who died in a concentration camp during the Holocaust.
He apologized for the comments, his second public apology for Holocaust comparisons. In 2015, Kennedy used the word “Holocaust” to describe children he believed were harmed by vaccines.
Research contact: @USATODAY