Kennedy Family Feud Over Vaccines

    Former Maryland Lt. Gov. Kathleen Kennedy Townsend (D) is publicly feuding with her brother, Robert F. Kennedy Jr., over the issue of vaccines.

    Townsend, a former chair of the Global Virus Network; another one of her brothers, former U.S. Rep. Joseph P. Kennedy II (D); and her daughter, Maeve Kennedy McKean, have penned an op-ed in Politico taking RFK Jr. to task for his high-profile opposition to mandatory vaccines.

    The op-ed, which posted Wednesday, opens with the authors discussing the measles outbreak in the U.S. and the dangers of infectious diseases spreading globally in part because vaccines are not universally available. The authors warn about “internet doomsayers” who are sowing “fear and mistrust” about vaccines.

    The piece gets very personal very fast.

    “Robert F. Kennedy Jr.—Joe and Kathleen’s brother and Maeve’s uncle—is part of this campaign to attack the institutions committed to reducing the tragedy of preventable infectious diseases,” they write. “He has helped to spread dangerous misinformation over social media and is complicit in sowing distrust of the science behind vaccines.”

    The Kennedys – McKean is the executive director of Georgetown University’s Global Health Initiative – go on to praise RFK Jr.’s highly-touted environmental work.

    “We love Bobby,” they write. “He is one of the great champions of the environment. His work to clean up the Hudson River and his tireless advocacy against multinational organizations who have polluted our waterways and endangered families has positively affected the lives of countless Americans. We stand behind him in his ongoing fight to protect our environment. However, on vaccines he is wrong. And his and others’ work against vaccines is having heartbreaking consequences.”

    The authors go on to highlight some of the work President Kennedy, the late attorney general Robert F. Kennedy, and the late Sen. Edward M. Kennedy (D-Mass.) did to promote public health — and vaccines specifically. They conclude by urging “everyone” to “communicate the benefits and safety of vaccines, and advocate for the respect and confidence of the institutions which make them possible. To do otherwise risks even further erosion of one of public health’s greatest achievements.”

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    Josh Kurtz
    Co-founder and Editor Josh Kurtz is the leading chronicler of Maryland politics and government. He began covering the State House in 1995 for The Gazette newspapers, and has been writing about state and local politics ever since. He later became an editor at Roll Call, the Capitol Hill newspaper, and spent eight years at E&E News, an online subscription-only publisher of news websites covering energy and environmental issues. For seven of those years, he led a staff of 20 reporters at E&E Daily, which covers energy and environmental policy on Capitol Hill and in national politics. For 6 1/2 years he wrote a weekly column on state politics for Center Maryland and has written for several other Maryland publications as well. Kurtz has given speeches and appeared on TV and radio shows about Maryland politics through the years.