Robert Francis Kennedy Jr. delivered a powerful opening address before Congress today that denounced the un-American practice of censorship of free speech, lamented the authoritarian turn within his own party, and defended himself from attacks that Democratic members of the House lobbed at him. RFK Jr is Joe Biden’s main challenger for the Democratic nomination for the presidency.
Mr. Kennedy opened his speech by saying that due to the attacks on him by his own party members that he was setting aside his prepared statement “for a moment” to address his critics that Congress should be focused on more important things.
“We cannot do that [focus on discussing other items] without the First Amendment – without debate. When I gave my announcement speech in Boston two months ago, I talked about all those issues [rising grocery prices, a cost of living crisis, inflation]…that deeply concern you [the critic] and that you have devoted your career to alleviating those issues. 5 minutes into my speech when I was talking about Paul Revere, YouTube deplatformed me. I did not talk about vaccines in that speech…it was a verboten subject.”
He continued “I was talking about my campaign and the conversations that we ought to be having with each other as Americans but I was shut down. And that is why the First Amendment is important..congenial respectful debate is the fertilizer, it’s the water, it is the sunlight for our democracy. We need to be talking to each other.”
He then pointed to a document signed by many Democratic members of Congress that objected to the hearing on censorship. “This is an attempt to censor a censorship hearing,” Kennedy remarked and he said that “censorship is antithetical to our party. It was appalling to my father, to my uncle [President John Kennedy], to FDR, to Harry Truman, [and] to Thomas Jefferson.” Free speech, Kennedy contended “sets us apart from all the previous forms of government” and “the 1st Amendment was not written for easy speech.”
Kennedy pointed out that he was the victim of censorship by both Democratic and Republican administrations alike and that he had the dubious honor of being “the first person censored by the Biden administration- [just] two days after they came into office.” RFK Jr. further elaborated that he was not censored for factually false information but was censored for malinformation, which is “information that is true but inconvenient to the government.”
RFK Jr. also observed that he had been a victim of a smear campaign and that he was not an anti-vaxxer, an antisemite, or a racist. Kennedy said, “In my entire life I have neither uttered a phrase that was racist or antisemitic.” Kennedy elaborated that he was a proud defender of the State of Israel. It is only through smears, misinterpretations, outright lies, and spurious associations about his previous remarks that target him as an antisemite or any other pejorative.
Kennedy sagely commented that the “toxic polarization” gripping the country cannot be resolved through censorship. It must be resolved, Kennedy maintained, by free and fair bipartisan debates and agreements.