Robert Kennedy Jr, Tucson, AZ
Robert F. Kennedy Jr. speaking with supporters at a campaign rally at the Fox Tucson Theatre in Tucson, AZ, February 5, 2024. Photo credit: Gage Skidmore / Wikimedia (CC BY-SA 2.0 DEED)

Trump is nervous that Bannon’s IED “spoiler” candidate may blow up in his face.

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Shortly following the announcement of Nicole Shanahan as Robert F. Kennedy Jr.’s running mate, the Kennedy campaign suffered a major blow when New York staffer Rita Palma was captured on video appearing to admit their raison d’etre was to act as a spoiler for the benefit of Trump in the 2024 election. Not long after the footage surfaced earlier this month, Palma was fired from the campaign for getting caught saying what has long been understood about the Kennedy family black sheep’s controversial independent presidential run. 

Ties between competing candidates’ teams are, for obvious reasons, ordinarily nonexistent. The Trump and Kennedy campaigns, however, have displayed some peculiar overlap. Palma attended Trump’s Stop the Steal rally, while Kennedy campaign communications director Del Bigtree appeared at an event ahead of the rally that preceded the January 6 insurrection. 

Present at the Shanahan announcement event was Dr. Jay Bhattacharya, a Stanford University health economist who worked to push a “dangerous and discredited herd immunity” anti-lockdown strategy in the Trump White House — a strategy codified as the Great Barrington Declaration in October 2020. 

And there are the claims that MAGA puppet master Steve Bannon helped birth Kennedy’s wild-card campaign, and the telling fact that the Trump and Kennedy campaigns share the same largest donor. Indeed, at one point Trump reportedly sounded Kennedy out about being his 2024 running mate, an overture the latter claims he rejected.

But what is overlooked is how early Kennedy himself got involved with MAGA’s pandemic-driven assault on public health, carried out for the benefit of protecting the economy and big business interests, and bolstering Trump’s 2020 reelection campaign. 

In August 2020, long before the vaccines were available, Kennedy linked up with Dr. Simone Gold, leader of America’s Frontline Doctors (AFLDS). Gold was fresh off of her political breakout appearance, a July 2020 press conference on the steps of the Supreme Court, where she and a small group of Trump-aligned physicians promoted hydroxychloroquine (HCQ) as a COVID-19 cure — and argued against lockdowns. 

The following month, Kennedy appeared with Gold — a physician, attorney, and future insurrectionist — on Marcus Lamb’s Christian talk show Ministry Now to discuss this miracle cure’s “censorship” by the government. 

Kennedy explained to Lamb that “the pharmaceutical machine” was against HCQ and accused researchers of intentionally overdosing patients on the drug, “killing people,” to obscure its life-saving use for COVID-19. 

Lamb would go on to die at 64 of unvaccinated COVID-19 in 2021, after urging his followers not to get vaccinated.  

The reality, despite Trump and Elon Musk’s endorsement of questionable HCQ research starting in March of that year, is that the drug had already been credibly proven ineffective against the novel virus by the time Gold and Kennedy were promoting it. A major randomized control trial out of the University of Minnesota showed no use for HCQ against COVID-19 in June 2020, weeks before AFLDS’s aforementioned SCOTUS-steps “White Coat Summit,” live-streamed by Breitbart and tweeted out by Trump.

A 2022 House report would reveal that while people like Gold and Kennedy went directly to the public to promote HCQ, Trump insiders — including Bannon — were involved through the summer of 2020 in “a knife-fight with the FDA” to try to strong-arm a new emergency use authorization for the drug. 

Following the failure of HCQ, AFLDS and Kennedy would endorse the next false COVID-19 cure pushed by the Right, the now infamous antiparasitic ivermectin. They would, of course, decry the vaccines that actually worked to reduce transmission and severity of COVID-19 disease — which would prove disastrous for public health but profitable for groups like AFLDS and Kennedy’s Children’s Health Defense (CHD). 

It is worth noting that Kennedy attempted to get his debunked vaccines-cause-autism crusade picked up by the Trump administration back in 2017, but was ultimately blown off. Thanks to his work promoting a false COVID-19 cure to give false confidence in reopening the economy, and helping the Right wage war on the vaccines, he has since managed to worm his way deeply into MAGA World. 

Which, in one of life’s little ironies, has not exactly endeared him to Trump himself

Now that anti-vax misinformation has found such a place of honor in the MAGA movement — and given that Operation Warpspeed was carried out under Trump, who was desperate to make the vaccines available before the 2020 election, safety testing be damned — there’s a fair chance this Kennedy-as-spoiler-candidate strategy could backfire. 

With recent polls showing the rightward-veering Kennedy pulling more votes from Trump than from Biden, Trump is reportedly getting very nervous about the prospect of Bannon’s IED candidate blowing up in his face.

Allison Neitzel, MD, is a physician-researcher and founder of the independent research group MisinformationKills, which has aided in her investigation into the dark money and politics behind public health disinformation with a focus on the pandemic. 


  • Allison Neitzel

    Allison Neitzel, MD, is physician-researcher and founder of the independent research group MisinformationKills, which has investigated the dark money and politics behind public health disinformation with a focus on the pandemic. Her book on the topic, Misinformation Kills: How Politics and Dark Money Hijacked COVID, is due for publication later this year.

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