Robert F. Kennedy Jr. defended himself strongly Thursday in his opening statement in a hearing on the alleged “weaponization” of the federal government over remarks he is said to have made that have led to accusations of anti-Semitism and racism.
Kennedy, who has mounted a 2024 primary challenge to President Biden, told the House Judiciary Select Subcommittee on Federal Government Arming that there is “no evidence” that he is anti-Semitic and that the attacks on him in recent days are intended to silence him.
“Anti-Semitism, racism – these are the most horrible and disgusting pejoratives, and they are applied to me to silence me,” he said.
Kennedy faced widespread backlash after unsubstantiated remarks he reportedly made pointing to a theory that COVID-19 was “ethnically targeted” with Caucasians and blacks most susceptible and Ashkenazi Jews and Chinese the most immune.
After receiving criticism online, Kennedy argued that the New York Postwho originally published a story about his comments, was “wrong” and never suggested that the coronavirus was designed to save Jews.
His comments were denounced by many prominent Democrats, including Democratic National Committee Chairman Jaime Harrison, the campaign arm of House Democrats and Kennedy’s nephew, former Rep. Joe Kennedy III (D-Mass.).
Kennedy told the audience that he has never “uttered a sentence” that was racist or anti-Semitic. He said he has spent his life defending Israel.
“But I’m being censured here through that lens, for defamation, for misinterpretations of what I’ve said, for lies, for association,” he said.
Kennedy argued that censorship is not the way to end political polarization and that it “only exacerbates and amplifies the problem.” He said the country must set an example of respect for others.
“If you think I’ve said something that’s anti-Semitic, let’s talk about the details,” he said.
“I denounce anyone who uses the words I said to imply something negative about people who are Jewish,” Kennedy added.
Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-Fla.), a member of the committee, made a motion to move the committee into executive session after Kennedy’s initial statement, arguing that the comments violate a committee rule against evidence or testimony in a hearing that tends to “defame, degrade or incriminate” any person.
The motion was carried on a party-line vote and the hearing continued.