The controversial anti-vaccine activist and son of the late Robert F. Kennedy was removed for "sharing debunked claims about the coronavirus or vaccines," the company said in a statement

By Julie Mazziotta
Updated February 12, 2021 04:53 PM
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Robert F. Kennedy Jr. speaking at a protest against Germany's coronavirus restrictions
| Credit: Sean Gallup/Getty

Multiple large-scale studies have found that vaccines are safe. There is no scientific link between vaccines and autism, according to the Centers for Disease Control.

Instagram has banned Robert F. Kennedy Jr., the son of the late Robert F. Kennedy and a controversial anti-vaccine activist, from their platform for repeatedly sharing false claims about COVID-19 and vaccines.

"We removed this account for repeatedly sharing debunked claims about the coronavirus or vaccines," Facebook, which owns Instagram, said in a statement.

Kennedy, a former environmental lawyer, has spent the last few years vehemently fighting against vaccines. He has lobbied Congress to allow parents to opt out of state requirements for vaccinating their children, and a 2019 study found that his nonprofit, called Children's Health Defense, had paid for more than half of the ads on Facebook that promoted false claims about vaccines, according to The New York Times.

During the pandemic, Kennedy has used his Instagram and Facebook pages to put out misinformation about the safety of the COVID-19 vaccines to his combined 11,000 followers. Facebook said that they do not have plans to remove his page on that platform "at this time."

Despite his efforts to discredit vaccines, Kennedy has said that he is not against safe vaccines and has vaccinated his children. His Facebook page, though, is filled with posts with vaccine misinformation. He also spoke at an August protest in Berlin to rally against Germany's coronavirus restrictions, which he said was a form of "totalitarianism."  

In a statement to PEOPLE, Kennedy defended the content he shares online and doubled down on his false assertion that vaccines are being "hastily" created. In fact, all vaccines currently available for use, including the COVID-19 vaccines, have undergone large clinical trials and extensive analysis to ensure that they are safe.

Kennedy claims in his statement that his removal from Instagram is "a formula for catastrophe and a coup d'état against the First Amendment."

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In December, Kennedy's niece, Dr. Kennedy Meltzer, published an op-ed in the Times calling out her uncle for the "dubious" claims against the COVID-19 vaccines that he posts on social media.

"I love my uncle. But when it comes to vaccines, he is wrong," Meltzer, an internal medicine resident physician at New York-Presbyterian Hospital/Weill Cornell Medical Center, wrote. "His concern — that the COVID vaccine is potentially unsafe, and hasn't been properly tested — is widespread, and dangerously wrong."

"As a doctor, and as a member of the Kennedy family, I feel I must use whatever small platform I have to state a few things unequivocally," she continued. "I love my uncle Bobby. I admire him for many reasons, chief among them his decades-long fight for a cleaner environment. But when it comes to vaccines, he is wrong."

Mariah Kennedy Cuomo, the daughter of Kerry Kennedy and New York Gov. Andrew Cuomosaid she was "so proud" of her cousin and called the op-ed "life-saving."

Mariah's mother Kerry, the president of the RFK Human Rights organization and sister to Kennedy, tweeted that her niece's op-ed was "excellent."

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