(The Center Square) – Democratic presidential candidate Robert F. Kennedy Jr. testified before Congress Thursday about government censorship of Americans, especially related to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Reporting has shown that the federal government has worked with companies like Facebook and Twitter to have posts removed on a range of topics, including COVID-19 and the vaccine.
The hearing came after U.S. District Judge Terry Doughty ruled in Missouri v. Biden earlier in this month that the White House and FBI must stop pressuring social media companies to censor conservative speech, citing the First Amendment.
“Plaintiffs are likely to succeed on the merits in establishing that the government has used its power to silence the opposition,” the judge said in an injunction. “Opposition to COVID-19 vaccines, opposition to COVID-19 mask and lockdowns, opposition to the lab leak theory of COVID-19, opposition to the validity of the 2020 election, opposition to President Biden’s policies, statements that the Hunter Biden laptop was true, and opposition to policies of the government officials in power. All were suppressed. It is quite telling that each example or category of suppressed speech was conservative in nature.”
Kennedy pointed to the ruling as proof of what many critics have been vocalizing for years.
“This Injunction is based on a mountain of evidence that a veritable army of federal agents colluded with social media companies to censor information, viewpoints, and speakers the government didn’t want people to hear,” he testified.
Kennedy, who is a lawyer and author, trails President Joe Biden in the polls for the Democratic nomination.
A Quinnipiac University poll released last month had Biden ahead by 53 points.
Kennedy and his nonprofit, Children’s Health Defense, have fought several legal battles around censorship and were involved in this latest ruling.
“Finally, we are also bringing an antitrust suit against The Washington Post and other media who were part of the Orwellian ‘Trusted News Initiative’ (TNI). The TNI is a news censorship cartel whose members include the BBC, The Washington Post, Associated Press, Reuters, Google, Facebook, and Microsoft,” he testified. “Whenever non-mainstream online news publishers report facts or viewpoints deemed by the TNI to be “misinformation,” TNI members censor, shadow-ban, or deplatform those publishers.
“This so-called ‘misinformation’ has frequently included wholly legitimate, accurate reporting, for example that COVID might have originated in a virology lab in Wuhan, or that the COVID vaccines did not prevent infection or transmission,” he added.
Kennedy said collusion between the federal government and major corporations pose threats to free speech.
“When companies like Facebook, Google, or The Washington Post collude with the government to censor online news, they violate the First Amendment,” he testified. “When they collude with each other, they violate the Sherman Act.”
Kennedy testified that his experience with censorship is personal.
“On January 23, 2021, three days after Joe Biden was sworn in as President, Clarke Humphrey [Digital Director for the White House Covid Response Team] sent an email to Twitter flagging one of my tweets and instructing Twitter to ‘move on the process of having it removed ASAP,” he said. “Three weeks later, Instagram shut down my account, which had almost 600,000 followers. The company gave no explanation.”
Democrats on the subcommittee sparred with Kennedy, bringing up controversial past comments, such as his comparison of COVID mandates to the Holocaust.
U.S. Rep. Debbie Wassermann Schultz, D-Calif., accused Kennedy of antisemitism at the hearing.
“Do you think it was just as hard to wear a mask during COVID as it was to hide under floorboards or false walls so you weren’t murdered or dragged to a concentration camp?” Schultz said in a string of tough questions.
Kennedy pushed back against claims of antisemitism, saying Schultz was slandering him.
“You’re slandering me incorrectly,” Kennedy said. “What you’re saying is dishonest!”