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Robert F. Kennedy Jr. formally announces bid for president

Robert F. Kennedy Jr. formally announces run for president in Boston on Wednesday
Robert F. Kennedy Jr. formally announces run for president in Boston on Wednesday 00:28

Anti-vaccine activist Robert F. Kennedy Jr., the nephew of the late president John F. Kennedy and son of former U.S. attorney general and slain 1968 presidential candidate Robert F. Kennedy, announced his long-shot bid for the Democratic nomination for president on Wednesday. 

In a speech in Boston, Kennedy stressed his 30 years as an environmental lawyer and said the country is living in toxic polarization. But he notably did not mention his own anti-vaccine views or group, the Children's Health Defense, which researchers have found is among the most influential spreaders of anti-vaccine misinformation. Facebook and Instagram have both removed the group's accounts for spreading misinformation. 

Members of the famously tight-knight Kennedy family have spoken out against his anti-vaccine advocacy, and he joked Wednesday that they were not in attendance. 

But a large part of his speech was spent blasting the response to coronavirus pandemic and specifically lockdowns, calling them the biggest transfer of wealth in the country and claiming they did not work. He blamed former President Donald Trump for caving to bureaucracy.

Election 2024 Kennedy
Robert F. Kennedy Jr. speaks at an event where he announced his run for president on Wednesday, April 19, 2023, at the Boston Park Plaza Hotel, in Boston. JOSH REYNOLDS / AP

"A lot of people say President Trump gets blamed for a lot of things that he didn't do. And he gets blamed for some things that he did do. But the worst thing that he did to this country, to our civil rights, to our economy, to the middle class in this country is lockdowns," Kennedy said.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, Kennedy had repeatedly criticized the government's approach, and at a 2022 event, he said that "even in Hitler's Germany, you could cross the Alps into Switzerland. You could hide in an attic like Anne Frank did." He later apologized for those remarks. 

In Wednesday's speech, Kennedy also slammed the U.S. health care system, and vowed to end the "chronic disease epidemic as president." 

Former Trump adviser Steve Bannon had been encouraging Kennedy to run for months, believing he could be both a useful chaos agent in the 2024 race and a big name who could help stoke anti-vaccine sentiment around the country, CBS News previously reported.

Kennedy has been linked with far-right figures, and has appeared on InfoWars. He has also appeared at events pushing the lie that the 2020 presidential election was stolen and with people who cheered or downplayed the attack on the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021.

At Wednesday's announcement, Kennedy tried to instead link himself with the Democratic Party, calling himself a "Kennedy Democrat." He was introduced by two-time presidential candidate and former congressman Dennis Kucinich and his wife, actress Cheryl Hines. 

Kennedy, who filed a statement of candidacy with the Federal Election Commission in early April, formalized his announcement at the Park Plaza in Boston. His campaign said campaign representatives filed additional paperwork with the Federal Election Commission Wednesday to move the process forward.  

Kennedy's challenge to President Biden has little to no chance of succeeding, and his anti-vaccine stance is at odds with the overwhelming majority of Democrats. Self-help author Marianne Williamson, who ran in 2020, has also announced she's running for the Democratic nomination.  

It's not yet clear if other Democrats who could pose more of a threat to Mr. Biden will jump into the race. The president hasn't yet announced that he's running for reelection, although he and the White House have indicated that he will. 

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