A number of high-profile Jewish groups are denouncing Democratic presidential contender Robert F. Kennedy Jr.’s false remarks that “Ashkenazi Jews and Chinese” people are “most immune” to Covid-19.
Speaking at a dinner in New York City earlier this week, Kennedy said “there’s an argument that it is ethnically targeted,” according to video shared by the New York Post on Saturday.
“Covid-19 is targeted to attack Caucasians and Black people. The people who are most immune are Ashkenazi Jews and Chinese,” Kennedy said, adding that “we don’t know whether it’s deliberately targeted that or not.”
Ashkenazi Jews trace their roots to Central and Eastern Europe and represent a majority of the US Jewish population.
The American Jewish Committee told CNN in a statement Saturday that Kennedy’s “assertion that Covid was genetically engineered to spare Jewish and Chinese people is deeply offensive and incredibly dangerous.”
“Every aspect of his comments reflects some of the most abhorrent antisemitic conspiracy theories throughout history and contributes to today’s dangerous rise of antisemitism,” the organization said.
The Anti-Defamation League also criticized Kennedy’s remarks, telling CNN that his claim “feeds into sinophobic and antisemitic conspiracy theories about Covid-19 that we have seen evolve over the last three years.”
In a tweet Saturday, Kennedy said that the dinner conversation was supposed to be off the record and that he “never, ever suggested that the Covid-19 virus was targeted to spare Jews.” Rather, he said, he was referring to a study that “serves as a kind of proof of concept for ethnically targeted bioweapons.”
According to the New York Post, the event’s organizer, Doug Dechert, said the event had been on the record.
While there are disproportionate rates of Covid-19 illness and death across different demographics, this has been attributed to racial disparities, not genetics.
Since the start of the pandemic, the risk of dying from Covid-19 has been nearly twice as high for Black and Hispanic people in the United States than for White people, data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shows. Black and Hispanic people also faced a higher risk of coronavirus infection and were more than twice as likely to be hospitalized.
“Given generations of systemic disinvestment in the health of Black communities in the United States, the starkly disproportionate rates of Covid-19 illness and death are not surprising,” Dr. Marcella Nunez-Smith, a chair of the Presidential Covid-19 Health Equity Task Force, wrote in a report last year.
Kennedy, who is polling between 15% and 20% nationally in the Democratic primary, is a longtime vaccine skeptic who has promoted several health-related conspiracy theories. He was a strident critic of the government’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic and its top infectious disease expert, Anthony Fauci. He also railed against the coronavirus vaccine and vaccine mandates.
CNN’s KFile reported earlier this week that Kennedy has repeatedly shared unfounded conspiracies that man-made chemicals in the environment could be making children gay or transgender and causing the feminization of boys and masculinization of girls.
CNN’s Jacqueline Howard contributed to this report.