Conspiracy theorist and Democratic presidential candidate Robert F. Kennedy Jr. spouted wild claims about “ethnically targeted microbes” at a press dinner in Manhattan, according to a video published Saturday by the New York Post.
It was the same dinner table where the conversation about climate change devolved into a shouting match between two older male attendees, leading one to deploy some targeted flatulence.
Kennedy has promoted many falsehoods about science and medicine. Seen at Italian fixture Tony’s Di Napoli in the Post’s video, he tells his companions: “In fact, COVID-19, there is an argument that it is ethnically targeted. COVID-19 attacks certain races disproportionately.”
He went on to say that “COVID-19 is targeted to attack Caucasians and Black people” because of “the genetic structure” of the virus.
“The people who are most immune are Ashkenazi Jews and Chinese,” Kennedy said, giving no evidence. He made sure to say he did not know whether the virus was “deliberately targeted or not.”
In a Saturday tweet addressing the Post story, which Kennedy called “mistaken,” he wrote that he does “not believe and never implied that the ethnic effect was deliberately engineered.”
Conspiracy theories linking Jewish people to the spread of COVID-19 began cropping up in 2020 when an Oxford University poll found a shocking 20% of English people backed the idea to some extent.
Jewish groups denounced the theories as rank antisemitism, echoing old-world conspiracies about Jewish people that helped fuel the Holocaust and are demonstrably untrue. The virus also disproportionately affected some Orthodox Jewish populations that displayed skepticism in the face of social distancing and lockdown orders.
That the virus disproportionately affected Black people in its earlier days is believed to be linked to structural inequalities that generally lead to worse health outcomes for Black people. The COVID-19 death rate for white people has increased since the start of the pandemic, but regional vaccination rates factor into the discrepancy.
Kennedy also claimed both the U.S. and China have put “hundreds of millions of dollars” into other “ethnically targeted microbes,” saying U.S.-funded labs in Ukraine were collecting “Russian DNA … so we can target people by race.”
The plausibility of ethnically targeted bioweapons is heavily doubted by scientists, although reports that other nations are working on such projects have circulated for decades.
In his tweet addressing the Post story, Kennedy pointed to a July 2020 study, falsely claiming it was a “proof of concept” for an ethnically targeted bioweapon.
Kennedy’s dinner made headlines earlier in the week for the confrontation between attendees Anthony Haden-Guest, an art critic, and Doug Dechert, a former gossip columnist.
When Deschert loudly called climate change a “hoax,” Haden-Guest snapped back to call him a “miserable blob,” among other insults. Page Six described the incident as “a foul bout of screaming” and, courtesy of Deschert, “polemic farting.”
Some polls in recent months have shown support for Kennedy from one in five Democratic voters.