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Making Sense with Sam Harris / #325 — A Few Thoughts About RFK Jr. | Making Sense with Sam Harris

#325 — A Few Thoughts About RFK Jr. | Making Sense with Sam Harris

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In this episode of “Making Sense with Sam Harris,” Sam discusses the recent appearances of Robert F. Kennedy Jr. on various podcasts and shows, highlighting the problem of platforming individuals who spread misinformation. RFK Jr., a lawyer and activist, has been known for his misrepresentation of facts, particularly in the fields of science and medicine. Sam explores the dangers of giving a platform to someone who systematically misrepresents established science and spreads conspiracy theories.

Main Takeaways

The Problem with Platforming RFK Jr.

  • RFK Jr. has been appearing on many podcasts and shows recently, including Rogan, Jordan Peterson, and Tucker Carlson.
  • There is a problem with platforming people like RFK Jr. who have a pattern of misrepresentation with respect to facts.
  • RFK Jr. is a lawyer and activist, not a scientist or doctor, and has worked to create a mood of suspicion with respect to the scientific establishment.

RFK Jr.’s Contradictions on Climate Change

  • RFK Jr. sings an entirely different tune with respect to established science on the topic of climate change.
  • RFK Jr. has said that anyone who spreads misinformation about climate change should be jailed, including the Koch brothers.
  • RFK Jr. believes that corporations and think tanks spreading climate change misinformation should be prosecuted and destroyed.

RFK Jr.’s Spread of Conspiracy Theories

  • RFK Jr. has spread various conspiracy theories, including blaming SSRIs for mass shootings and claiming cell phones cause brain cancer.
  • RFK Jr. has been spreading vaccine fear for 20 years, particularly the debunked claim that the MMR vaccine causes autism.
  • While RFK Jr. accurately describes the national mood of distrust, he has been part of the problem all along.

Debunking RFK Jr.’s Vaccine Misinformation

  • Vaccine injury is a real thing, but the COVID vaccines are still crucial for protecting those who cannot get vaccinated and do not prevent transmission.
  • Thimerosal, the preservative with traces of ethyl mercury, was removed from childhood vaccines 22 years ago to appease parents’ concerns about autism rates, but the rate of autism has not decreased since then.
  • Children absorb more methyl mercury, the natural environmental form of mercury, in their first months of life than they ever got ethyl mercury in vaccines, and methyl mercury has a longer half-life in the bloodstream, making it more likely to do harm.

RFK Jr.’s Misrepresentation of Vaccine Safety

  • RFK Jr. spreads fear about childhood vaccines and the spurious link to autism, and he systematically misrepresents the conclusions of the studies he cites and appears to make things up.
  • Vaccines are subjected to greater scrutiny than drugs, and the CDC spends tens of millions of dollars every year on the vaccine safety data link, which represents about 7 million Americans, 500,000 of whom are children.
  • Kennedy’s claim that hepatitis B vaccines had fewer than five days of safety testing is false, as safety monitoring for the hepatitis B vaccine, like all vaccines tested before being licensed, involved determining the side effects in the vaccinated and unvaccinated group for weeks after each dose.


The Dangers of Platforming RFK Jr.

RFK Jr.’s recent appearances on popular podcasts and shows have raised concerns about the platforming of individuals who consistently misrepresent facts. As a lawyer and activist, RFK Jr. lacks the scientific expertise to make accurate claims in fields such as climate change and vaccine safety. His contradictory stance on climate change, advocating for the prosecution and destruction of those spreading misinformation while spreading conspiracy theories himself, highlights the problem of giving him a platform.

Debunking Vaccine Misinformation

RFK Jr.’s spread of vaccine fear, particularly the debunked claim that the MMR vaccine causes autism, is dangerous and undermines public health efforts. While vaccine injury is a real concern, the COVID vaccines are crucial for protecting vulnerable populations and reducing transmission. RFK Jr.’s misrepresentation of vaccine safety studies and his ignorance of the difference between ethyl and methyl mercury further demonstrate his lack of credibility in this area.

The Importance of Trustworthy Institutions

RFK Jr.’s pattern of spreading misinformation and conspiracy theories erodes trust in important institutions such as the CDC and FDA. While valid concerns about wealth inequality, US foreign policy, and racism exist, spreading false information and mistrust is not the solution. Podcast hosts and media outlets should exercise caution when platforming individuals like RFK Jr. without fact-checking their claims.


Platforming individuals who spread lies and misinformation only exacerbates societal problems and erodes trust in crucial institutions. RFK Jr.’s history of misrepresentation and conspiracy theories should serve as a warning against giving him a platform without careful scrutiny and fact-checking. It is essential to prioritize truth and accuracy in public discourse for the betterment of society.

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