Jewish, Asian Democrats call to nix RFK Jr. from testifying to Congress

Lawmakers cite antisemitism and bigotry from presidential candidate, but weaponization subcommittee chief says censoring him plays into concerns of censorship that panel is probing

Robert F. Kennedy Jr. speaks at an event where he announced his run for president, at the Boston Park Plaza Hotel, in Boston, April 19, 2023. (Josh Reynolds/AP)
Robert F. Kennedy Jr. speaks at an event where he announced his run for president, at the Boston Park Plaza Hotel, in Boston, April 19, 2023. (Josh Reynolds/AP)

WASHINGTON (JTA) — Two Jewish Democrats joined with a Chinese American congresswoman in leading a call on Republicans to disinvite Robert F. Kennedy Jr. from testifying in Congress about censorship, after the vaccine conspiracy theorist and Democratic presidential candidate said COVID-19 was “ethnically targeted” to spare Ashkenazi Jews and Chinese.

“Mr. Kennedy has repeatedly and recently spread vile and dangerous antisemitic and anti-Asian conspiracy theories that tarnish his credibility as a witness and must not be legitimized with his appearance before the US Congress nor given the platform of an official committee hearing to spread his baseless and discriminatory views,” said the letter, sent Tuesday to Reps. Kevin McCarthy of California, the speaker of the US House of Representatives, and Jim Jordan of Ohio, the chairman of the Judiciary Committee.

The letter, signed by 102 Democrats, was initiated by Reps. Debbie Wasserman Schultz of Florida and Dan Goldman of New York, who are Jewish, and Judy Chu of California, who is Chinese American.

McCarthy and Jordan declined to disinvite Kennedy from testifying at the subcommittee Jordan created to examine the alleged “weaponization” of government.

Kennedy, a leading anti-vaccine activist, drew fire after he said last week that COVID-19 was “targeted to attack Caucasians and Black people.”

“The people who are most immune are Ashkenazic Jews and Chinese,” he said. “We don’t know whether it was deliberately targeted or not, but there are papers out there that show the racial and ethnic differential of impact.”

The claim is baseless and has been derided by scientists.

House Speaker Kevin McCarthy in the Rayburn Room at the Capitol Building in Washington, May 11, 2023. (AP Photo/Nathan Howard)

Kennedy has since defended his remarks, noting that he said he did not know if the “targeting” was deliberate, which he believes undercuts his critics’ claims that he was playing into antisemitic and anti-Asian tropes. Kennedy is mounting a long-shot primary challenge against US President Joe Biden.

McCarthy said he disagreed with Kennedy’s remarks but said it was inappropriate to censor a witness who was appearing before the weaponization subcommittee in order to discuss allegations that the government censored his views. “If you’re going to look at censorship in America, your first action to censor him probably plays into some of the problems we have,” McCarthy said.

In the same remarks to reporters, McCarthy called on Democrats to curb progressives who he said are antisemitic, a reference to Washington Rep. Pramila Jayapal, who over the weekend said Israel was a “racist state.” She later walked back the statement.

“They should take action against their own,” McCarthy said of the Democratic Party.

The House on Tuesday overwhelmingly passed a resolution saying that Israel was not racist and condemning antisemitism.

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