Donald Trump reportedly has met with Robert F. Kennedy, Jr., and invited him to head up a planned “vaccine safety and scientific integrity commission” with an as-yet-unknown directive, although it looks like a shot across the bow of the nation’s ship of public health. It also now looks unclear whether or not Trump and Kennedy are on the same page about the invitation itself.
The idea of Kennedy being a part of any federal initiative related to vaccines is appalling, given his record of ignoring scientific evidence that doesn’t fit in with his ill-advised, fantastical fear-mongering about them. Why Trump would choose a lawyer over, say, someone with expertise in vaccines, toxicology and epidemiology is unclear. Perhaps it was Kennedy’s comparison of vaccines to “a holocaust” that drew Trump’s attention. What is clear is that these two are leaping at the chance to leverage some brand synergy.
I’ve covered Kennedy’s problematic response (or nonresponse) to scientific evidence as it relates to vaccines before. I’ve also covered Trump’s equally problematic relationship with facts as they relate to vaccines and autism, and the ways in which people who cling to one conspiracy theory are so likely to glom onto others. Paranoia can be a hell of a drug, for sure, something that savvy showmen easily manipulate for attention.
But it should surprise no one that Trump and Kennedy found each other. They’re not just having a meeting of conspiracy-oriented minds over vaccine fear-mongering. Maybe paranoia or an attraction to conspiracy theories led them to their mutually shared beliefs. But they also share another feature that keeps them from admitting when they’re wrong, and that’s their commitment to their respective name brands.
Kennedy’s claims about vaccines are staggeringly, blatantly incorrect. He’s had that pointed out to him, repeatedly. It may be that optimistic people looked at his name and lineage and thought that he might be reasonable and objective in assessing these facts. They mistook this Kennedy, who refuses to acknowledge even the most direct evidence controverting his claims, for someone who would go where data led him. Their mistake.
I don’t know if RFK would be more upset at his kid spewing flat-earth anti-vaxx bullsh%$, or his offer to work with Donald Trump, but I’m pretty sure that he would be peeling the bark off of his kid right now if he were still here.