(Reuters)—Anti-vaccine activist Robert F. Kennedy Jr., a member of a storied U.S. political dynasty, announced on Wednesday a long-shot bid to challenge incumbent President Joe Biden for the 2024 Democratic presidential nomination.
Kennedy, 69, faces little chance of success, but his campaign could serve as a platform to advance claims that childhood immunizations pose health risks — a theory that has been discredited by multiple scientific reviews.
At a rally in Boston, Kennedy did not mention vaccines or question their effectiveness. He said he would prioritize research on chronic diseases if elected president.
“This is crippling to the middle class of this country. We need to figure out what it is,” he said.
Kennedy has been banned from YouTube and Instagram for spreading misinformation about vaccines and the COVID-19 pandemic.
He is the nephew of former President John F. Kennedy, who was assassinated in 1963, and the son of former U.S. Senator Robert F. Kennedy, who was assassinated in 1968 during his own presidential bid.
Kennedy invoked his father and uncle, but also acknowledged that many current members of the extended family do not support his presidential bid.
His anti-vaccine activism has earned him allies on the right. In 2017, Republican then-President Donald Trump tapped him to oversee a vaccine review panel, drawing criticism from scientists who said it could legitimize unfounded skepticism.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, Kennedy criticized social-distancing requirements and vaccine mandates. At a January 2022 rally in Washington he suggested that Americans had fewer freedoms during the pandemic than Jews living in Nazi Germany. He later apologized for his remarks.
Self-help guru Marianne Williamson has also said she will challenge Biden for the Democratic nomination.
Biden, 80, said last Friday that he will run for re-election and will make a formal announcement “relatively soon.”
(Reporting by Andy Sullivan; Editing by Scott Malone, Jonathan Oatis and Deepa Babington)
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