Biased Media Coverage of RFK Jr. Endangers Fair Elections
President John F. Kennedy with his nephew, Robert F. Kennedy, Jr — The White House, c.1962
The single greatest risk to our electoral process is neither manipulation of the polls nor attacks undermining results; it is a press corps that covers candidates with a predetermined bias. The treatment of Robert F. Kennedy Jr. exemplifies this trend.
Kennedy has been inappropriately ridiculed, with his views ignored. This effort continues, even though some polls indicate 20% of Democrats across the United States are prepared to vote for him in the presidential primaries. Relentless personal assaults dominate articles and editorials while he is denied the ability to respond. By stooping to the vulgar tactics of the tabloids, the press has deviated from its central role in supporting the democratic process and protecting freedom of expression.
Kennedy is condemned as a conspiracist and a critic of vaccination; he is punished by an enforced silence, without a chance to defend these charges. While extended rants against him are tolerated, we are mostly prohibited from hearing Kennedy’s words. When some of his thoughts appear, they are framed in disparaging commentary. The evidence he may hold in suggesting any conspiracy or his concerns about vaccine safety is not presented for evaluation.
In defense of not hearing him out, writers claim that RFK Jr. is deluded, has lost his way, and is somehow not the same empowered attorney who successfully battled corporate polluters of America’s streams and rivers. His defamers consistently refer to his past work as if those efforts are now irrelevant. We are assured that Kennedy’s previous accomplishments should be dismissed in any current assessment of his sanity or candidacy.
A one-sided, distorted portrayal without a counter-argument provides no opportunity for the electorate to evaluate whether Kennedy remains astute and focused on relevant issues. We can’t know the specifics of his appraisal of corporate capture of government agencies if he is not allowed to speak. There is minimal reporting about Mr. Kennedy’s position on the war between Russia and Ukraine; his evaluation and possible solutions are deemed unworthy of consideration. And with the depiction of his environmental work as an endeavor of the past, a key part of his platform has been dismissed.
Pundits continue to tell us that the case is closed regarding Kennedy’s judgment and potential as a leader, but we can’t possibly develop an informed position until we know what he has to say. Voters require an open debate on the issues to make any decision, and Kennedy deserves to be heard.
The reasons for declining to debate him are revelational. Some say that no matter what evidence is presented in questioning his positions, Kennedy counters with endless facts and studies to substantiate his points. This rejection of reasonable discourse is nonsensical.
The angriest critics deride his invocation of the legacy of President John F. Kennedy and Robert F. Kennedy. Without historical analysis, they insist that candidate Kennedy’s political agenda bears no resemblance to theirs. However, we have been kept from hearing RFK Jr. speak about the important ideals of his uncle and father.
The growing repression and censorship is an attempt to ensure that Kennedy’s words won’t be considered. And whatever the motivation, the hostile approach is intended to prevent him from attaining the Democratic nomination and the presidency.
The embarrassing bias and deficiency with most news coverage and the failure of reporters to delve into Kennedy’s platform with an open mind are symptomatic and symbolic of the degradation of the fourth estate.
Voting is the means to ensure democracy, but equitable results of the primaries and the general election are dependent on an informed public. It is an unequivocal obligation of the free press to comprehensively and honestly report on every prominent candidate.
This opinion piece with my perspective on election coverage was published on July 14, 2023, by the Orlando Sentinel, a Florida newspaper that is part of the Tribune network. The Sentinel version is available by clicking here. The Substack version is available here.
One of our country’s most important freedoms is that of free speech.
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