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RFK Jr. argues that Biden is a bigger threat to democracy than Trump

<i>CNN via CNN Newsource</i><br/>Independent presidential candidate Robert F. Kennedy Jr. argued that President Joe Biden is a greater threat to democracy than former President Trump because Kennedy was blocked on social media platforms during the Biden administration
CNN via CNN Newsource
Independent presidential candidate Robert F. Kennedy Jr. argued that President Joe Biden is a greater threat to democracy than former President Trump because Kennedy was blocked on social media platforms during the Biden administration

By Aaron Pellish, CNN

(CNN) — Independent presidential candidate Robert F. Kennedy Jr. argued Monday that President Joe Biden is a greater threat to democracy than former President Donald Trump.

His argument made on CNN’s “Erin Burnett OutFront” centered around being blocked on social media platforms during the Biden administration, which he labeled as an effort to “censor political speech” and undermine the First Amendment.

“I can make the argument that President Biden is the much worse threat to democracy, and the reason for that is President Biden is the first candidate in history – the first president in history that has used the federal agencies to censor political speech, so to censor his opponent,” he said.

Kennedy pointed to his removal from social media platforms, which he attributes to pressure from the Biden administration, as evidence of the president’s efforts to censor political speech.

Kennedy’s Instagram account was suspended in 2021 “for repeatedly sharing debunked claims about the coronavirus or vaccines” but was reinstated last year shortly after he announced his presidential campaign. Meta, Instagram’s parent company, cited his White House bid as the reason for restoring Kennedy’s account in a statement.

In December, the Supreme Court blocked Kennedy from joining a challenge to a case brought by the Missouri and Louisiana’s attorneys general concerning the Biden administration’s communications with social media companies about posts the government views as disinformation. Kennedy currently has a similar case pending in a lower court.

Kennedy, who has made freedom of speech issues a central focus of his campaign, testified last year before the House Judiciary’s subcommittee on the weaponization of the federal government. Kennedy was invited by House Republicans to speak as part of their investigation into alleged censorship against conservatives at social media companies.

Kennedy said that while he believes Biden and Trump are both ill-suited to be reelected in November, he does not believe rhetoric suggesting either candidate would “destroy democracy.

He added that if he had to label one a greater threat to democracy than the other, he’d choose Biden because he feels the president has been “weaponizing the federal agencies” against his opponents.

The independent candidate acknowledged that Trump’s attempt to overthrow the results of the 2020 presidential election “clearly is a threat to democracy,” but maintained his belief that Biden is the greater threat.

“I think that is a threat to democracy, (Trump) overthrowing — trying to overthrow the election clearly is threat to democracy,” Kennedy said. “But the question was, who is a worse threat to democracy? And what I would say is … I’m not going to answer that question. But I can argue that President Biden is because the First Amendment, Erin, is the most important.”

“I’m not going to defend President Trump on that, and it was appalling. And there’s many things that President Trump has done that that are appalling,” he added.

The Democratic National Committee responded to Kennedy, saying in a statement that “there is no comparison” between Biden and Trump.

“With a straight face Robert F. Kennedy Jr. said that Joe Biden is a bigger threat to democracy than Donald Trump because he was barred from pushing conspiracy theories online,” DNC senior adviser Mary Beth Cahill said in a statement. “There is no comparison to summoning a mob to the Capitol and promising to be a dictator on day one. Robert F. Kennedy Jr. laid to rest tonight any doubts that he’s a spoiler candidate by pushing his MAGA talking points in prime time.”

In the interview, Kennedy minimized the potential risks of questioning the integrity of elections, as he’s done in previous presidential elections, but said he feels it’s important for voters who believe the election was stolen to not be persecuted for their belief.

“People who say that the election is stolen… we shouldn’t make pariahs of those people. We shouldn’t demonize them. We shouldn’t vilify them. What we should be doing is saying, let’s all get together, Republicans and Democrats, and fix the election system,” he said.

Kennedy said during the interview he believes the 2000 presidential election was “stolen,” and cited a Rolling Stone article he wrote in 2006 in which he questioned whether the 2004 presidential election was stolen.

Kennedy, 70, initially launched his presidential campaign as a Democrat challenging Biden in the primary last year, before pivoting to run as an independent in October. Last month, he announced attorney Nicole Shanahan, 38, as his vice presidential nominee at a campaign rally in Oakland, California.

He has never held office but has inspired a small contingent of supporters drawn to his advocacy against public health mandates and the influence of money on decisions made by government and private corporations. Kennedy has attempted to distance himself from his previous anti-vaccine rhetoric since launching his campaign last year, but he continues to attack Covid-19 vaccine mandates and pandemic-era lockdowns at campaign events.

Responding to family’s rebukes

The son of former Democratic presidential candidate Robert F. Kennedy and the nephew of former Democratic President John F. Kennedy, Kennedy Jr. regularly uses his family’s legacy to bolster his campaign message – but several members of his family have criticized him for challenging Biden.

Kennedy called Biden “a 40-year friend to me and my family,” but said he’s not worried about running for president without his family’s support, adding he feels “loved by them” despite their political differences.

Kennedy’s comments come after members of his extended family, including some of his siblings, celebrated St. Patrick’s Day at the White House last month and shared their support for Biden in a social media post. Biden replied to one post from Kennedy’s sister, Kerry Kennedy: “From one proud Irish family to another — it was good to have you all back at the White House.”

And in a CNN interview last week, Kennedy’s sister Rory Kennedy said she’s concerned he’ll undermine Biden’s chances of defeating Trump.

Kennedy told Burnett on Monday that he grew up disagreeing with members of his family regularly and still loves his family members who support Biden for president.

“I have a big family, about 105 cousins on the last time we counted,” Kennedy said. “I have a big family. I don’t know anybody in America who’s got a family who agrees with him on everything.”

“I come from a family, from a milieu where we came home at night, and ate dinner with my father and he would orchestrate debates between us and we were – in the same way that his father did with him. And we could disagree on issues, and we could disagree with passion and information, but we still loved each other. And I love Rory. I love my family. I feel loved by them.”

Kennedy also noted some members of his family are supportive of his campaign, including his daughter-in-law Amaryllis Fox Kennedy, his campaign manager, and his first cousin Anthony Shriver, who he said also works for his campaign.

Kennedy also downplayed concerns about playing the role of spoiler, arguing he believes neither Biden nor Trump will advance policy goals he wants prioritized, such as the national debt and the reduction of the US defense budget.

“I don’t think either President Trump or President Biden are going to solve the debt crisis in this country, which is existential. I don’t think either of them are going to get us out of foreign wars, this addiction that we have to forever wars,” he said.

“The chance for me to actually change the nature of governance in this country, to restore democracy, to restore our nation’s moral authority abroad, give us a foreign policy that is not based on war or projecting military power abroad, but on projecting economic power and moral strength. The chances of that happening are too great and too important for me to give up this contest,” he added.

This story has been updated with additional reporting.

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