Robert F. Kennedy Jr. denounces corporate power during Butler County speech

Presidential candidate Robert F. Kennedy Jr. on Tuesday said corporations and the “military-industrial complex” have too much power in the U.S. and are causing high housing prices, fueling wars and draining federal funding that should go to help Americans.

Kennedy, a longtime environmental attorney, anti-vaccine activist and author, spoke at the Marriott Cincinnati North in West Chester Twp. to a crowd of about 250 people.

“We are living in the military industrial complex,” Kennedy said, “We’ve become a shadow of democracy at home. None of us believes that our voices are audible to anyone in the government.”

Earlier this year Kennedy was running for president in the Democratic primary, but this month announced he was dropping his primary bid and instead running as an independent in the 2024 election.

Kennedy is the son of the late U.S. Sen. Robert F. Kennedy, who was assassinated in 1968 while running for president. He is the nephew of the late President John F. Kennedy, who was assassinated in 1963.

He spent a good portion of the speech talking about being a child during and after his uncle’s presidency, telling stories about visiting Europe and finding how much people loved America.

“They didn’t hate us for our freedoms. They loved us for our freedoms,” Kennedy said. “They started hating us when we started betraying our own values at home and abroad. When we started compromising our own freedom.”

Credit: Nick Graham

Credit: Nick Graham

Kennedy criticized U.S. funding of Ukraine’s war with Russia, saying that Russia tried to negotiate a settlement on very “beneficial” terms of just keeping NATO out of Ukraine but was rejected.

He said the U.S. has spent trillions of dollars on wars and the money would be better spent on Americans and improving the environment and schools.

Kennedy said San Francisco is overrun with homeless people and chaos, housing is too expensive, people are getting deeper in credit card debt and he blamed federal government spending for inflation.

He was particularly critical of BlackRock, an American multinational investment firm which he repeatedly said “owned” various companies and swaths of property. He was also critical of other investment companies, defense firms, credit card companies and Amazon. Kennedy said wars, 9-11 and the COVID-19 pandemic pushed the country even more into the grasp of the military-industrial complex.

He said the corporate strategy is to feed Americans divisions over race, guns and abortion so people don’t notice what the companies are up to.

“I thought it was a really good speech,” said Jakob Ross, 32, of Englewood, saying he liked Kennedy’s comments about the corporations and the decline of the middle class.

Justin D. Kelley, 36, of Oakwood, works near the hotel and stopped in to hear Kennedy because he saw the campaign bus outside and thought it would be interesting to attend a campaign speech. Kelley left the speech unimpressed by Kennedy.

“For me what he was saying is everything is rigged and everything is out to ruin you,” said Kelley. “That’s all he pretty much talked about, and BlackRock about 15 times. What I didn’t hear was what he wants to do to resolve it.”

Someone in the crowd also called out for Kennedy to say what he was going to do if elected.

Kennedy said his plan is to “figure out the things that unite Americans” and focus on those things “so we can all go over the castle wall and take back our country from BlackRock.”

Credit: Nick Graham

Credit: Nick Graham

“You give me a sword and some ground to stand on and I’m going to win your country back for you,” Kennedy said, asking for money and volunteers. “I need your help. I need an army.”

He said the “central problem” is corporate power and that companies had captured the government agencies that regulate them. Kennedy touted his history of suing companies and federal agencies.

He first gained prominence for his environmental work advocating for the Hudson River and Long Island Sound in New York.

In the last two decades Kennedy became controversial as he promoted disproven claims about a link between vaccines and autism and was accused of spreading misinformation about COVID-19 and the vaccines for it.

In 2021 the Center for Countering Digital Hate’s Disinformation Dozen report accused Kennedy and his anti-vaccine group, Children’s Health Defense, of spreading false and misleading information about vaccines on social media.

In 2022 Facebook and Instagram suspended the Children’s Health Defense accounts for violating rules prohibiting misinformation about COVID-19, a decision Kennedy denounced as censorship, the Associated Press reported.

The current frontrunners for president are President Joe Biden, a Democrat, and former President Donald Trump, a Republican. Political pundits are speculating on what impact independent and third party candidates will have on the race as polls show Biden and Trump in a virtual dead heat.

The Biden and Trump campaigns did not respond to a request for comment on Kennedy’s local appearance.

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