Given that many Americans see Joe Biden as too old and Trump, well, as Trump, there is a thirst for someone new and a fresh approach. At first glimpse, RFK Jr fits the bill. He has the family pedigree, a history of admirable legal work in the area of environmental activism, compared to Biden and Trump he is a ‘youthful’ 69 and wants to clear up corruption in American politics. What’s not to like?
His big problem is his anti vaccine campaigning. He runs the inappropriately named Children’s Health Defence and his 2024 bid is funded by big money anti vaxxer Steve Kirsch.
His antivaccine beliefs will prove a major stumbling block for his election prospects. So much so that he had been unusually quiet on this issue until a Joe Rogan Podcast on June the 11th gave him the opportunity to spell out his thinking in a rambling three hour (!) video.
The podcast, a flagship of the ever more vocal (at least online) right wing in America, was seen by millions of people and as usual, shared on. Scientists are busy debunking his nonsense – it really is not difficult – and with their help this is my effort to counter the harm Rogan and RFK are creating.
First, what about the medium? Rogan has now given an easy ride to just about all the worlds anti-vaxx publicists (and climate change deniers) and studiously avoids challenging them in any meaningful way. He is offering lots of money (although a tiny fraction of his earnings) as a donation to charity if prominent scientists will “debate” the issue with RFK on his show, a PR trick that no scientist with any sense would fall for. More on that later. Let’s look at what RFK Jr got wrong. There is so much……
1. Ethyl mercury in vaccines does not causes chronic illness
In the podcast he blames mercury for chronic illness. Why, he wonders, is mercury (eg in fish) not recommended for pregnant women, while it was used in ‘huge doses’ for children’s vaccines as a preservative. An effective soundbite, but totally misleading. He avoids some very basic chemistry.
For example, chlorine, if ingested as an element is a marked poison, Sodium is a highly reactive metal element that needs careful handling. When combined together they become our familiar table salt. Similarly, the difference between the ethanol in alcoholic drinks and methanol, the latter a slightly different, but way more toxic alcohol. The ethyl mercury used in vaccines is relatively safe, methyl mercury found in polluted sea life is highly toxic. RFK makes something innocent sound like blue murder. Good studies show clearly that this is not a problem.
He implies that Thiomersal – (the mercury preservative in vaccines) doesn’t work by suggesting it doesn’t even kill bacteria – shock horror!!- Yet many antibiotics don’t kill bacteria, but work by preventing them reproducing. These are called bacteriostatic antibiotics and are really useful. In other words, Thiomersal did a good job without problems, even though no longer widely used.
He quotes an interview with Paul Offit, (a vaccine expert and co-inventor of the rotavirus vaccine which saves hundreds of lives every day) to whom he spoke to twenty years ago on the matter of mercury. Paul pointed out the chemistry. After watching the Rogan interview he penned a complete rebuttal to RFKs claims. That conversation was mainly about the safety of Thiomersal. RFK’s subsequent article in the Rolling Stone back then was titled “Deadly Immunity” and the lies had consequences, to quote Paul:
“RFK Jr.’s statement about my $186 million dollar deal with Merck was a complete and utter lie. And it’s resulted in hate mail, physical altercations with anti-vaccine activists, and three death threats. One caller threatened my children. By falsely labelling me as someone willing to line my pockets at the expense of children’s health, RFK Jr. put both me and my family at risk”
Rolling Stone retracted the article when they were informed about its wild inaccuracies. That was 20 years of anti vaccine activity ago.
2. No, TDAP does not kill or brain damage 1 in 300 given the vaccine.
He claims that TDAP (Tetanus, Diphtheria, Pertussis) vaccine kills or damages 1 in 300 children and that “Bill Gates is killing children in Africa by using it after it has been withdrawn from use in the USA. He is just lying. TDAP is still given to older children in the US as a booster and has not been associated with any problems. He doesn’t make it clear where he gets the 1 in 300 number from, but its pretty despicable to make this claim while ignoring the benefits of avoiding the ravages of Tetanus, Diphtheria or Polio – all really dreadful diseases which have killed and injured so many people.
3. Its dishonest to claim vaccines have never been tested against placebo
He goes on the claim vaccines never undergo ‘true’ placebo controlled trials, but a glimpse at the literature shows the original Polio trials were placebo controlled, so indeed were the recent COVID vaccine trials. Later in the show, he mentions the Pfizer COVID vaccine placebo controlled RCT. The self-contradiction can charitably be called lazy.
It also hangs on the definition of what is a placebo. Those opposing vaccines believe that a placebo should be a saline infection, or drops in the case of oral vaccines such as rotavirus. More accurate is to test a vaccine against a placebo identical to the vaccine, but without its active ingredient. The usual use of the latter type of placebo means that the claim that vaccines have never been tested against ‘true placebo’ becomes a play on words.
When new vaccines are developed against conditions against which vaccines already exist, they are rightly compared to the best vaccine available. It would be unethical to deny the control group access to effective treatment. Comparing a new treatment to the best treatment currently available is absolutely the right thing to do and common for new drugs. Big Pharma should do this far more often when introducing new drugs. So to claim there have been no vaccines tested against placebo is just wrong. There is nothing nefarious going on at all.
4. Vaccines do save lives
He claims vaccines have made no difference to the decline in mortality from what used to be common and terrible disease and their consequent death and disability. In the years shortly before vaccines were introduced, Measles killed 400 American children, hospitalised 50,000, lead to 1000 cases of encephalitis, and caused many cases of deafness and other problems. For me, even a small number of deaths due to measles or paralysis due to Polio are completely unacceptable as they are preventable with vaccination. This graphs below shows the reality of how many people vaccines have helped.
5. No, vaccine manufacturers can be prosecuted.
He repeats the sound bite that vaccine manufactures are immune from prosecution. The Vaccine Injury Compensation Programme in the USA, and a similar scheme here in the UK, started because people who believed their children were harmed by vaccines sued vaccine manufacturers. Faced with complex litigation after millions of doses were administered they were simply opting out of production. Prevention of illness benefits society, so when vaccines do cause harm, a no fault scheme is a worthy way of dealing with compensation as vaccination saves the public purse plenty of money as well as preventing suffering.
Vaccine manufacturers can still be sued for negligence, fraud, production problems and other misbehaviours which RFK denies. He himself has sued vaccine manufacturers, which he claims is not allowed. What they are not liable for are rare side effects which are expected in numbers way less than the benefits.
6. Vaccines are tested for safety
He claims vaccines are not tested for safety, but this is pure bullshit. The original COVID trial follow up continued for two years and extensive post marketing surveillance has picked up rare problems which have changed the way vaccines are administered. He seems annoyed that COVID vaccines were developed so quickly, and would have preferred for them to have been studied for years before roll out, with the consequent death toll and economic costs. Bobbie, thats called progress! Vaccine rollouts in the future will now be available much more rapidly due to improved technologies.
7. Hepatitis B jabs are a force for good
His claim that Hepatitis B vaccination is not needed is little short of bizarre. Hep B is an infection worth avoiding as it can lead to liver damage needing transplantation. For many people at risk, (thats alot of people) Hep B vaccines are safe and effective. Following RFKs advice will cause infection, liver disease, and death.
8. No, mRNA vaccines do not increase risk of death.
He claims, on the basis of the original Pfizer RCT that the vaccines increase your risk of death by ‘21%’. I have no idea where the figure came from as in the original trial there were 6 deaths, four of which were in the placebo group. However the trial was not powered to look at the risk of death so this was not statistically significant. Further, masses of post marketing surveillance have shown that the vaccine does not increased your risk of death, it decreases it. Like Trump, on these platforms he feels free to say whatever he likes and can get away with it! In that sense Rogan is a complicit easy ride.
9. No, vaccines do not cause Autism
To continue to claim that vaccines cause autism is terrible. Incredible amounts of cash and time have been spent looking at this and however it is done, vaccines have been clearly shown not to cause Autism. His claims that rates of Autism have increased since vaccines were rolled out after WW2, is true, but they also increased in line with fossil fuel consumption, organic food sales and any number of any of the huge changes we have seen in one generation.
Rates across nations with very different levels of vaccination are similar and the underlying rate of the illness has not increased with various individual vaccine rollouts.
The great thing is that we are diagnosing Autism more carefully. RFK and others fail to ever mention the hideous warehouses across in the early 20th century America – life long prisons for Autistic children who were diagnosed as ‘Educationally Subnormal’. (For a potted history read “Neurotribes” by Steve Silberman). It is simply that we are better at doing things and are being less cruel to children who are not neurotypical.
I’ll say it again – Vaccines do not cause Autism. The evidence is overwhelming, but anitvaxxers wont let it go. They cherry pick poor studies which support their view, ignore what contradicts their opinion and continue to intentionally do anxiety, anger and harm.
Further, many people now diagnosed as being on the Autistic Spectrum have a great deal to offer the world.
10. Vaccines do not cause chronic disease
When RFK comes across anything technical he struggles. He tries to put the blame for chronic illnesses on vaccines, but that is clearly not true – nations with higher rates of vaccination do not have as much chronic disease as the US, just one hint that vaccines do not cause chronic disease.
More likely candidates are the hideous US lifestyle of terrible food and polluted air consumed by Americans living stressful lives in the nation with the worlds worst social and health inequality. But increasing taxes, clamping down on drivers, introducing congestion charges, encouraging public transport or shrinking the fast food industry are not vote winners.
11. WI-FI does not cause cancer
He states that cellphones cause cancer and that he is legally representing people with cancer on the side of their head they use their phone. In other words, anyone with a brain tumour on the same side of their head as that they use for their phone can sue the phone manufacturer.
I’m guessing that will be about 50% of people who use phones and are unlucky enough to get cancer of the brain. He claims this is also due to Wi-Fi, despite routers with a wide range of non directional emissions which are a fraction of those from a cellphone next to your ear. In other words, Rogans response to getting rid of his Wi-Fi was child-like and doesn’t seem to make any sense.
When gently challenged RFK said ..there are tens of thousands of studies that show the horrendous danger of WiFi radiation,” Tens of thousands? I’m struggling to find one, and the study he refers to live is an opinion piece for an organisation he supports with ‘research’ linked to a company that provides advice regarding, er, electromagnetic radiation.
Again he has no real evidence at all for this. Ionising radiation such as X Rays radio waves are harmful as they damage molecular structures, radio waves are not ionising and will not break chemical bonds, or cause cancer, or much else.
How about research? This 14 year follow up of 776,000 people using phones, found 3268 tumours, and no difference between those who used phones and those who didn’t. Another study concluded: “In Australia, there has been no increase in any brain tumour histological type or glioma location that can be attributed to mobile phones”
Spending hours daily on a phone is not a great idea for all sorts of reasons, but to claim its causing cancer and needs to stop is bizarre – if good theatre.
12. Vaccine EUA’s did not prevent cheap drugs for COVID being used.
He states an Emergency Use Authorisation for vaccines would not be allowed if effective mediations for that condition exists and that this was the reason for Ivermectin’s ‘suppression’ by the ever lurking “Them”. It is simply not the case at all. There are effective treatments for COVID, and they have not in any way been inhibited by EUAs for vaccines, or vice versa. Indeed, if Ivermectin was useful, it would have got an EUA itself. Lots of various drugs have been given EUA for use in COVID19. How can he get it so wrong?
13. Ivermectin is no use for COVID19
When Rogan contracted COVID19, like Trump, took he took everything going. This included expensive Monoclonal antibodies and cheap steroids which do work and added them to the list of polypharmacy which don’t. Its idiotic to claim that Ivermectin or Vitamin D worked for him while he was not in a high risk group, and also took proven effective treatments which do work.
He touting of the libertarian poster drug Ivermectin as an effective treatment is frustrating. Trial after trial has clearly shown that it make no difference. Its main danger is when effective treatment is avoided by ill people due to belief in something that doesn’t work – real harm will be done, deaths will be caused, misery experienced, and long term symptoms developed. He doesn’t seem to mind this at all. I can hardly believe what I am seeing! Even so and again, the worst is yet to come……
14. No Bobbie, HIV infection really does cause AIDS
Kennedy has sadly become an AIDS denialist as detailed in his book attacking Antony Fauci. He states that AIDS was initially caused by recreational drugs or malnutrition and has since been used to make millions for drug companies. With Rogan, he attacks the use of AZT, the first treatment for people with HIV – despite it being a giant leap forward for people with HIV at that time.
Agreed, it didn’t work so well as an anti cancer drug due to said toxicity, but this was due to the high doses given in the attempt to treat cancer. As a cancer drug, it didn’t work and it as dropped. It works far better for HIV because it can be used in less toxic doses and was the first step along the way to effective treatment.
AZT is still used as a component of highly active anti retroviral treatment (HAART) which has saved the lives of millions of HIV positive people and could save more in a world of sensible politics. To state to so many viewers that the only initial treatment available to treat HIV infection was killing them is disgraceful. Would he have denied people with HIV access to AZT back in the days when it was the only treatment available? Rogan didn’t ask him this. I find his comments outrageously stupid.
15. No, HIV deniers are not heroes – they cause death
In his hideous book on Antony Fauci, RFK praises a woman called Christine Maggiore. She was a HIV denialist who refused treatment for her own HIV infection and wrote a book denying that HIV was the cause of AIDS. She had three children, who she refused to test for HIV and to whom she risked infecting with her own untreated HIV infection. 12 years after her diagnosis of HIV, she sadly but unsurprisingly died of AIDS related illness – her choice you might say, but her untested and untreated daughter died of AIDS too. Aged just 3.
I have no doubt she “loved” her daughter, but nevertheless through her own actions directly caused her death. HIV misinformation kills – it is estimate to have led to the deaths of 330,000 people in South Africa whose leaders were swayed by HIV denialists. RFK, a potential president, buys into this garbage.
16. Three Spanish flu howlers
First, his claims that the Spanish Flu was caused by vaccines is about as bad as it gets. At that time, there was research going on into vaccines against meningitis, though not close to the initial outbreak. If that vaccine had gone wrong, it would have caused, er, meningitis. Vaccination development was a priority for the military then as antibiotics had not even imagined and infectious disease still a big killer of young people. Indeed, in 1918 viruses had never been identified and were not known to be the cause of Influenza.
Then, he ludicrously states most people with flu die not of the virus, but of bacterial pneumonia, failing to know or state that fact that bacterial pneumonia is a direct result of infection with the influenza virus. Any doctor in the world will see this as simple, basic lack of effort in understanding a simple medical fact.
Finally, he claims that this might have been due to people wearing masks. Wow! This nonsense if beyond belief and hints of Trumps and Johnsons behaviour – just say anything you want that you think sounds good – anything!
17 – No, it’s a good thing that drug companies pay for drug applications.
This is another big issue for RFK and a whole host of others. He suggests that 50% of funding for drug approvals comes from the drug companies themselves and that this is a problem. It isnt. For one thing 20% of drug applications fail to get through which undermines his argument of FDA corruption.
Further, the expense drug companies incur when applying to the FDA means they take care to ensure that the application has merit. If the process were cost free to them, how many low quality applications would be lodged, just in case of success. This would cost the taxpayer, not only in the US, but here and in the EU a small fortune. It is right the drug companies should pay!
We pay the garage that ensures our cars are fit for the road with the annual MOT – does that mean that garages are incentivised to pass dangerous cars. No it doesn’t – if they did they would be in big trouble, as would the FDA is they passed drugs which turned out to be more dangerous than the condition they treat. This is just a way overused soundbite.
18 – No, the Blood Brain Barrier is not breached by WI-Fi
He talks about some gibberish about the blood brain barrier being damaged by cellphones, so toxins can get into the brain and cause inflammation. Jeez!! Uniquely for this podcast, Rogan presses him on this and RFK has to admit this is “beyond his area of expertise” – indeed. Any decent interviewer would have been able to to expose RFKs lack of expertise all the whole way through.
19. Why scientists are not going to Debate RFK on Rogans podcast
At the end of all this Rogan has offered cash incentives for scientists to “debate” the issue with RFK, live on his show. It in unlikely and vaccine expert wants to do this and for good reason.
The BBC were taken to task recently for asking nutty climate deniers like Nigel Lawson to provide ‘balance’ when discussing evident global heating. Nor can broadcasters do this for someone denying that cancer is real, viruses exist or that the world is round. Rogan wants a bear pit argument to boost his ratings, yet so often working scientists and medical experts are not media savvy or schooled in the verbal jousting Rogan calls ‘debating’ and in which of course, lawyers like RFK have a lifetimes experience.
Science develops by publishing findings of research and opening them to criticism, reproduction and either acceptance or rejection. Not by verbal jousting with celebrities or politicians with vested interests.
Exposing RFKs lies – there are so many of them – would not only need someone with the relevant expertise, they would also need to hold their own in front of a biased Joe Rogan and an eloquent lawyer with decades of experience in convincing people of the unconvincable, not be distracted by the infuriating gibberish they talk, and avoid leading questions they ask and traps they lay out. Celebrity scientists who would want to do this are thin on the ground and those who have experienced Joe Rogan interviews have not had a great time.
It’s rather like asking a geography expert to debate the existence of Greenland with a brilliant speaker who knows Greenland doesn’t exist. Or debating the non-existence of God with a creationist with a lifetime of public speaking behind them.
Further, if someone had the time, energy and courage for such a ‘debate’ they would make RFK look the idiot he is. What then? They would be subjected to the hate and threats other people have had to endure when attempting to debunk popular liars.
Rogan repeated his offer of $100,000 to charity on Twitter, this time to vaccine expert Peter Hotez, in a Tweet viewed 50 million times. 50 million times!! Perhaps the reply should be, “No, let’s do a joint interview with respected journalists who skill is to bring out the facts, not just create sensation.” Rogan is not an independent minded person and appearing on his show would result in danger to any advocate of vaccines. I don’t blame anyone for saying no. Peter Hotez, a well known vaccine advocate, has had threats and stalkers at his home after refusing the bait.
When the shoe is on the other foot, RFJ has some tricks up his sleeve. When interviewed by another US pundit who asked him about how he might help Democrat voters overcome their concerns about his antivaxx obsession, RFK simply asked her to “Tell me anything I’ve got wrong”. The flummoxed interviewer wasn’t able to do this as she was badly briefed. He refused to answer her good question and she had to let him off the hook. Again millions of people were listening to clever manipulation the medium of TV interviews.
CONCLUSION – RFK is not fit for office.
I had admiration for RFKs legal work with the environment and his history of publications on this seems, at first reading, admirable. Those concerned by a difficult future and how things are so clearly going wrong will be drawn to him.
If his commitment to environmentalism is genuine, might he, even with his anti-vaccine nonsense, do more good than harm? A recent analysis also shows how weak his commitment to social and environmental really are. He seems to have nothing concrete to offer and claims to be a “radical free marketeer” when that free market is in desperate needs of vigorous regulation. Thats another story.
This post has show how wrong RFK is about so much when it comes to matters medical. How he manipulates data for his own benefit, how he seeks publicity for health damaging ideas and how he leads people astray. Or perhaps he actually believes everything he says.
Either way, he is totally unfit for any public office involving responsibility or decision making.