Julia Shapero at The Hill:
Democratic presidential candidate Robert F. Kennedy Jr. suggested Wednesday that Russia has been “acting in good faith” in various efforts to end the war in Ukraine and placed blame on the U.S. for the 16-monthlong conflict.
Kennedy said in an interview on SiriusXM’s “The Briefing with Steve Scully” that Russian President Vladimir Putin has “repeatedly said yes” to negotiations.
I’ve been doing my best to ignore the farcical presidential candidacy of Robert F. Kennedy Jr. His noxious views on vaccines, the origin of AIDS, the alleged dangers of wi-fi and other forms of junk science deserve no wide hearing. Polls showing he’s favored by 20 percent of likely Democratic voters over President Biden are almost as laughable as Kennedy’s views. It’s early; he’s got iconic American name recognition; and there’s almost always an appetite, among Democrats anyway, for anybody but the incumbent. His lies have been thoroughly debunked by Judd Legum at Popular Info, Michael Scherer in The Washington Post, Naomi Klein in The Guardian, and Brandy Zadrozny on NBC News.
But I’ve come to believe I have a responsibility to write about Kennedy because of my own shameful role in sending his toxic vaccine views into public discourse: I was the Salon editor, in partnership with Rolling Stone, who 18 years ago published his mendacious, error-ridden piece on how thimerosal in childhood vaccines supposedly led to a rise in autism, and how public health officials covered it up. From the day “Deadly Immunity” went up on Salon.com, we were besieged by scientists and advocates showing how Kennedy had misunderstood, incorrectly cited, and perhaps even falsified data. Some of his sources turned out to be known crackpots.
But as subsequent articles and books continued to debunk Kennedy’s conspiracy theory, it felt irresponsible to leave it up. Six years later, in 2011, my successor as editor in chief, Kerry Lauerman, in consultation with me and others, decided we should take it down. Rolling Stone later did the same. (In the interests of transparency, we preserved the corrections page.)
Go back to 2005. I was a reporter with ABC News and Salon.com reached out to see if we were interested in doing a TV spot tied to the publication of the Kennedy Jr. piece. I interviewed him via phone, with a TV crew in his office, and prepared a spot for “World News Tonight with Peter Jennings.”
In Kennedy’s bizarre retelling a few days ago (the relevant part starts at 27:55 into the interview), I worked with him “for three weeks doing this incredible documentary” (no and no) about his Rolling Stone story – please note he makes zero mention of the article having since been retracted and disappeared – and then “the night before the piece was supposed to run, he called me up and said, ‘The piece just got killed by corporate.’” (I didn’t say that in any way and the piece wasn’t killed.) “All my career, I have never had a piece killed by corporate and I’m so mad,” he said I said. (I hadn’t. I had been at ABC News for two years. I had had plenty of pieces killed. Not once did “corporate” play a role in killing any of them.)