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RFK Jr. campaign disavows its email calling Jan. 6 defendants "activists"

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Washington — The campaign of independent presidential candidate Robert F. Kennedy Jr. disowned language used in a fundraising email on Thursday that referred to those facing charges in the Jan. 6, 2021, Capitol riot as "activists" who have been "stripped of their Constitutional liberties." 

The email urged supporters to sign a petition calling for the release of WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, who is facing extradition to the U.S. and whom the email refers to as a "political prisoner." It compared those jailed for their actions during the Capitol riot to Assange and Edward Snowden, a former National Security Agency contractor who is living in exile in Russia after revealing information about highly classified U.S. surveillance programs. 

"The Brits want to make sure our government doesn't kill Assange. This is the reality that every American Citizen faces — from Ed Snowden, to Julian Assange to the J6 activists sitting in a Washington DC jail cell stripped of their Constitutional liberties," the email said, referring to a British court's recent decision to delay Assange's extradition until the U.S. government gives assurances, including that he will not be given the death penalty. 

In a statement to CBS News, Kennedy's campaign said "the statement was an error that does not reflect Mr. Kennedy's views." 

NBC News was the first to report the fundraising email.

"It was inserted by a new marketing contractor and slipped through the normal approval process," the campaign said, adding that it has terminated its contract with this vendor.

Referring to the defendants as "activists" mirrors former President Donald Trump's messaging. Trump, who is the presumptive Republican nominee, has repeatedly defended Jan. 6 rioters and called them "hostages." He's also vowed to free them if reelected. 

Kennedy told the Washington Post in November that he would consider pardoning those convicted in connection to the riot. 

"If prosecutorial malfeasance is demonstrated, then yes," he said. "Otherwise, no."

A Democratic National Committee spokesperson said past comments from Kennedy about potential pardons show the email aligns with his views. 

"There's one big problem here for RFK Jr. as he tries to disown his campaign's embrace of January 6th insurrectionists — it captures his views perfectly," DNC spokesperson Matt Corridoni said in a statement. 

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