Republicans are stirred up over a claim that independent 2024 presidential candidate Robert F. Kennedy Jr. supports race-based reparations.
The former Democrat, a 69-year-old member of the Kennedy family political dynasty who may now be best known for his anti-vaccine activism, announced earlier this month that he would end his primary challenge to President Joe Biden and instead continue his campaign for the White House as an independent candidate.
Criticism over Kennedy’s supposed support for racial reparations suddenly appeared this week after a policy of “racial healing” was posted to his campaign website. As part of a plan for “targeted community repair,” Kennedy’s platform argues that “we must set federal dollars aside to rebuild Black infrastructure.”
Kennedy denies that the policy supports race-based reparations. Regardless, conservatives on social media, particularly supporters of former President Donald Trump, quickly flocked to the claim. Some celebrated the prospect of Kennedy drawing Black voters away from Biden and boosting the chances of Republicans winning back the White House.
“Many Conservatives are upset that RFK Jr. is calling for reparations and leaning into more liberal policies since he declared independent,” @WarClandestine posted. “Idk why y’all are upset, we WANT him to appeal to the Left and siphon votes from Biden, not Trump. Let him cook.”
“RFK coming out in favor of reparations just skyrocketed Trumps [sic] numbers,” posted @saras76, alongside three “crying face” emojis.
“RFK Jr says he support [sic] reparations,” @Travis_in_Flint wrote. “Trumps [sic] odds of winning just went up even more. Biden is going to be obliterated.”
“Now that RFK supports race-based reparations, his support amongst Republican voters should drop to near zero,” wrote conservative commentator Rogan “DC Draino” O’Handley. “He’ll now pull even more black Democrat votes from Biden, which will sink Biden’s chances in narrow swing states.”
When reached for comment, a spokesperson for the Kennedy campaign directed Newsweek to the candidate’s response to O’Handley’s X post, which included a defense of his policy and a denial of the notion that he had proposed race-based reparations.
“My policy of Targeted Community Repair is not the same as race-based reparations,” Kennedy wrote. “The program will make capital and resources available to the poorest and most desperate communities in America. These include inner cities, the rust belt, Appalachia, the devastated towns of the farm belt, etc.”
“Yes, because Black people are disproportionately poor, this program will benefit them disproportionately,” he continued. “But the criteria will be indicators like poverty, addiction rates, violence, etc. Not skin color.”
Claims that Kennedy specifically supports race-based reparations were widely promoted on conservative websites and right-leaning news outlets like the New York Post. The Republican National Committee’s account, RNC Research, on X shared an article by the Post, headlined “RFK Jr. comes out in favor of reparations, carving out lane to Biden’s left.”
Amplification of the claim comes as conservatives may be growing wary of Kennedy’s candidacy due to new polling data that indicates he may take twice as many votes away from Trump than Biden in a hypothetical three-way 2024 race, regardless of his family name and his status as a former Democrat.
An NPR/PBS NewsHour/Marist poll released this week found that Biden has a substantial 44 to 37 percent lead over Trump in a three-way race with Kennedy, who was the choice of 16 percent of respondents.
Kennedy snatches 10 percent of Republican support away from Trump when he is introduced to the race, with only 5 percent of Democrats peeling away from Biden. In a two-way contest without Kennedy, Biden holds a far more narrow 49 to 46 percent lead over the ex-president.