RFK Jr. is lying about the pandemic

In his early days Robert F. Kennedy Jr. (photo, left) struggled with drugs and initially failed the New York bar exam, but then bootstrapped himself to a highly successful environmental law career, much of it working for nonprofits and teaching law students (read his bio here).

I’ve attended environmental law seminars and can tell you it’s a very complicated area of legal practice. It takes smart lawyers to handle it, and above all requires precise reading of statutes and careful attention to factual detail. So you’d expect Kennedy to be good at that.

Which has left many peoples’ heads shaking at his embrace of wildly false conspiracy theories about the Covid pandemic. How could someone with his ability go so far off the rails? And what’s in it for him?

Mother Jones has a theory; they say here that he’s “made a lot of money pushing baseless or disproven notions about vaccines, Covid, and other hot-button subjects.” Now he’s parlaying his notoriety into an independent run for the presidency. He won’t win, but could play a spoiler role.

The Mother Jones article is savage. Point by point, it tears down Kennedy’s claims about Event 201, a private brainstorming session in pandemic planning held in New York in October 2019. Let’s go over some of those points.

Kennedy claimed Bill Gates and Avril Haines co-hosted Event 201.

Wrong. Event 201 (website here) was hosted by Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security (profiled here), partnering with the World Economic Forum (profiled here) and Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation (profiled here). These are private think tanks and/or philanthropic organizations; the Seattle-based Gates Foundation is well known for its global health initiatives.

Discussion leaders were Eric Toner, Crystal Watson, and Tara Kirk Sell from Hopkins; Ryan Morhard from WEF; and Jeffrey French from Gates. Avril Haines participated; the other participants were Latoya D. Abbott, Sofia Borges, Chris Elias, Brad Connett, Chris Elias, Timothy Grant Evans, George Fu Gao, Jane Halton, Mathew Harrington, Martin Knuchel, Eduardo Martinez, Stephen C. Redd, Hasti Taghi, Lavan Thiru, and Adrian Thomas. Their affiliations and biographies are available at the Event 201 website (linked above).

Kennedy claimed (a) the CIA and (b) social media companies participated.

(a) Wrong. His CIA claim is based on Avril Haines’ presence. She had worked in government before Event 201, but was a Columbia University program director at the time. She never worked for the CIA; in her current role as Biden’s Director of National Intelligence (DNI), the CIA director reports to her.

(b) Wrong again. No social media companies were represented at Event 201. Hasti Taghi from NBCUniversal was the only media executive at Event 201.

The government participants were Redd from U.S. Centers for Disease Control, Gao from China’s similar agency, and Thiru from Singapore’s central bank (equivalent to the U.S. Federal Reserve). Elias represented the Gates Foundation and Kunchel was from Lufthansa Airlines.

Kennedy claimed NSA concluded Covid began circulating in Wuhan in September 2019.

That’s false. The NSA never said that. This is what House Republicans asserted, in a Foreign Affairs Committee minority report of August 2021. According to Mother Jones, a Biden administration report (here) in June 2023 said “there was no consensus position among the [U.S.] intelligence agencies on whether Covid emerged due to natural exposure to an infected animal or a laboratory-associated incident. But it did state that ‘almost all’ of the agencies assessed that Covid ‘was not genetically engineered’ and that all of the agencies agreed it was ‘not developed as a biological weapon.'” Mother Jones says Kennedy “cooked up a non-existent NSA conclusion.”

Other points:

Kennedy portrays Event 201 as a planning session “to formulate a secret strategy for global censorship and totalitarianism.” Mother Jones asks why, then, conduct it “in full public view and ask people to tweet about it?” and adds, “If the Deep State wanted to cover up a lab leak, would it create a plan to do so by live-streaming a conversation among corporate execs and nonprofit leaders?” You can watch the entire event on YouTube here (Segment 1), here (Segment 2), here (Segment 3), and here (Segment 4). In fact, it was a routine brainstorming session. Pandemics are a subject of ongoing scientific study and discussion. This was such a discussion.

Kennedy sees Gao’s participation as nefarious. He’s the Chinese official you’d bring into such a discussion. Why would you exclude China from a brainstorming session on global pandemic preparation and planning? (For more on that, go here.) Covid-19 wasn’t even discussed at Event 201. The discussion was based on a fictional outbreak of coronavirus originating at a Brazilian pig farm.

Kennedy misrepresented what was discussed at Event 201. Mother Jones says he’s “flat-out wrong to say that there was no consideration of public health or the repurposing of medicines. That was covered. He also mischaracterized the simulation as only concentrating on the flow of information.” The fourth session did address disinformation and misinformation, but it was not “a planning session for a totalitarian clampdown.” It was a discussion by these thought leaders of how (and whether) governments should try to manage misinformation during a global health crisis. Specifically,

The panel was asked, “How can government, international business, international organizations ensure that reliable information is getting to the public and prevent highly damaging and false information, to the extent that’s possible, about the pandemic from spreading and causing deepening crisis around the world? How much control of information should there be and by whom? And how can false information be effectively challenged?”

“The ensuing conversation,” Mother Jones says, “was rather pedestrian … standard stuff. … That’s it. No diabolical planning about covering up a lab leak that came from a bioweapons program.” Kennedy, Mother Jones says, has claimed “the whole simulation was designed and conducted to hide ‘the fact that this was a lab-generated virus’ and to plan how to exploit a pandemic to ‘execute a coup d’etat against democracy.’ Only an observer removed from reality could watch the three-and-a-half-hour-long Event 201 and reach that conclusion,” referring to the videos I linked above.

I admire Kennedy’s environmental work. I’ll listen to him when he talks about environmental law (unless he’s lost his marbles there, too, but I could figure that out very quickly). But he’s turned into a charlatan. He’s too smart a lawyer for all the things he’s said to be honest mistakes. Since Mother Jones didn’t come out and say it, I will: He’s gone over to the Dark Side. I’d never vote for him, and you shouldn’t, either.

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