Robert F. Kennedy Jr., an anti-vaccine activist and scion of one of the most famous American political families, is running for president.
Kennedy, 69, filed a statement of candidacy last week with the Federal Election Commission.
Kennedy, a nephew of President John F Kennedy and son of the US attorney general and New York senator Robert F Kennedy, was once a bestselling author and environmental lawyer who worked on issues such as clean water.
But more than 15 years ago he became fixated on a belief that vaccines are not safe. He emerged as one of the leading voices in the anti-vaccine movement, his work described by public health experts and members of his own family as misleading and dangerous.
Kennedy’s efforts intensified amid the COVID-19 pandemic and the development of a vaccine.
His anti-vaccine charity, Children’s Health Defense, prospered, with revenues more than doubling in 2020 to $6.8m, according to filings with charity regulators.
The organization has targeted false claims at groups that may be more prone to distrust the vaccine, including mothers and Black Americans, experts have said, which could have resulted in deaths during the pandemic.
In 2021, Kennedy released a book, The Real Anthony Fauci, in which he accused the top infectious disease doctor of assisting in “a historic coup d’etat against western democracy” and promoted COVID treatments such as ivermectin, which is meant to treat parasites, and the anti-malaria drug hydroxychloroquine.
His push against the COVID vaccine has linked him with anti-democratic figures and groups. Kennedy has appeared at events pushing the lie that the 2020 presidential election was stolen and with people who cheered or downplayed the insurrection at the US Capitol on 6 January 2021.
A photo posted on Instagram showed Kennedy backstage at a July 2021 Reawaken America event with the Trump ally Roger Stone, former national security adviser Michael Flynn and anti-vaccine profiteer Charlene Bollinger. All three have promoted the lie about the 2020 election being stolen.
Bollinger has appeared with Kennedy at multiple events. She and her husband sponsored an anti-vaccine, pro-Trump rally near the Capitol on January 6. Bollinger celebrated the attack and her husband tried to enter the Capitol. Kennedy later appeared in a video for their Super Pac.
Kennedy has repeatedly invoked Nazis and the Holocaust when talking about measures aimed at mitigating the spread of Covid, such as mask requirements and vaccine mandates.
He has sometimes apologized for those comments, including when he suggested that people in 2022 had it worse than Anne Frank, the teenager who died in a Nazi concentration camp after hiding with her family in Amsterdam for two years.
Kennedy has invoked his family’s legacy in his anti-vaccine work, including sometimes using images of JFK.