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RFK Jr. campaign walks back fundraising emails that said January 6 defendants were stripped of constitutional liberties

By Aaron Pellish and Eva McKend, CNN

(CNN) — The campaign of independent presidential candidate Robert F. Kennedy Jr. is walking back language used in campaign fundraising emails that referred to January 6 defendants as “activists” who have been “stripped of their constitutional liberties.”

The fundraising appeals, sent to supporters on Wednesday and Thursday, sought to stoke fears of government overreach, a core theme of the campaign, by comparing the plight of Julian Assange, the founder of WikiLeaks whom the emails referred to as a “political prisoner,” with the legal cases against those arrested in connection to the January 6, 2021, attack on the US Capitol.

“We must free Assange now!” the text in both fundraising messages reads. “The Brits want to make sure our government doesn’t kill Assange. This is the reality that every American Citizen faces – from Ed Snowden, to Julian Assange to the J6 activists sitting in a Washington DC jail cell stripped of their Constitutional liberties.”

The language closely parallels the rhetoric former President Donald Trump and his allies use to defend the January 6 rioters.

Kennedy campaign spokesperson Stefanie Spear told CNN that the language used in the fundraising emails was “an error” and that the campaign has terminated its contract with the vendor responsible. Spear said the campaign’s view is that those who “violated the law” in connection with the January 6 insurrection should face “appropriate” penalties.

“That statement was an error that does not reflect Mr. Kennedy’s views. It was inserted by a new marketing contractor and slipped through the normal approval process,” Spear said in a statement.

“Anybody who violated the law on Jan. 6 should be subject to appropriate criminal and/or civil penalties,” she added.

The campaign messages were sent days after Kennedy argued on CNN that President Joe Biden represented a greater threat to democracy than Trump, even while acknowledging that the former president’s effort to overturn the 2020 election “clearly is a threat to democracy.” Kennedy’s argument centered around his being blocked on social media during the Biden administration.

“(Trump) overthrowing — trying to overthrow the election clearly is threat to democracy,” Kennedy said on CNN’s “Erin Burnett OutFront” on Monday. “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.”

Trump and his Republican allies have repeatedly defended those arrested in connection to the January 6 Capitol attack, at times referring to them as “hostages” and likening them to political prisoners. Trump has said he would pardon a “large portion” of January 6 rioters if he’s reelected.

This story has been updated with additional information.

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