By Jeff Louderback
During a town hall with Sean Hannity on July 25, a montage of President Joe Biden’s gaffes appeared on a big screen. When the video stopped, Mr. Hannity asked Mr. Kennedy if he believed Mr. Biden was fit for office.
Since he announced his candidacy for the 2024 Democratic presidential nomination in April, Mr. Kennedy has repeatedly expressed his disapproval of Mr. Biden’s job performance, but he has refrained from personal attacks about the 80-year-old’s mental fitness.
“I’m not reluctant to say whether or not Biden is fit for office for partisan reasons,” Mr. Kennedy said. “What I’ve tried to do during this campaign is avoid personal attacks on people.
“I will say, whether he’s up to it or not, whether he’s making his own decisions—the decisions that are coming out of the White House are bad decisions,” he added.
Mr. Hannity initially asked if Mr. Kennedy thought Mr. Biden was “physically, mentally, cognitively strong enough to lead our country.”
“Well, he’s never been very good with words,” Mr. Kennedy responded, which drew laughter from the audience.
The town hall was held at the Glasshouse in New York City and taped before Mr. Kennedy appeared at an event with rabbi Shmuley Boteach to discuss fighting anti-semitism and supporting Israel.
That event was scheduled before a secretly recorded video was leaked to the media earlier this month where Mr. Kennedy can be heard describing research that reported that the COVID-19 virus disproportionately affected Caucasian and black people while being comparably mild for Ashkenazi Jews and Chinese people, whom Mr. Kennedy suggested had a stronger immune response to the virus.
Democrats and other critics of Mr. Kennedy condemned the comments as “racist” and “anti-Semitic.”
Mr. Kennedy has vehemently denied the allegations.
On July 20, Mr. Kennedy was a witness at a House hearing on censorship that saw Democrats attempt to prevent him from testifying. During the gathering, Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-Fla.) introduced a motion to move the hearing into executive session, which would have closed the hearing from public view.
“Mr. Kennedy has repeatedly made despicable anti-Semitic and anti-Asian remarks as recently as last week,” Ms. Wasserman Schultz said, citing a section of House rules that she said Mr. Kennedy’s comments violated.
In a recorded vote, all 10 Republicans present at the hearing voted to shelve Ms. Wasserman Schultz’s motion. All eight Democrats present voted in favor of the motion.
Mr. Kennedy testified that he has “never uttered a phrase that was racist or anti-Semitic,” and he continued to defend himself on July 25 in New York at the World Values Network presidential candidate series event, which was hosted by Mr. Boteach.
Mr. Hannity asked Mr. Kennedy about the allegations of anti-semitism.
“I’ve been involved in controversial issues for most of my career, and usually, it doesn’t affect me at all. Anti-semitism is one that cuts me and hurts me, hurts our shareholders, and hurts our family,” Mr. Kennedy said.
“I’ve literally never said an anti-semitic word in my life, but I believe that [Democrats on the House committee] probably thought whatever they were doing was right in one way or another. And I think we all have this capacity to judge ourselves on our intentions rather than our actions,” he added.
“I think if we’re going to really heal the divide between Americans—which is one of the things that I’m trying to do with this campaign—we can’t react even to hatred with hatred. We have to react with forgiveness. React with kindness and react with generosity,” Mr. Kennedy continued. “If you harbor resentments, it’s like swallowing poison and hoping someone else dies. It corrodes our own souls. So I think for me, my reaction was, was appropriate, I think, which is to say that that’s not true.”
Mr. Kennedy has drawn support from conservatives, moderates, independents, Libertarians, and some Democrats for his wide-ranging stances. He discussed his platform during the town hall, telling Mr. Hannity that he supports securing the borders, having law and order, backing the military, and approving school choice.
Mr. Kennedy faces a daunting challenge to defeat Mr. Biden. Earlier this year, the Democratic National Committee voted to give its full support to the president.
He noted that he was “the first person censored by the Biden White House” and referenced what he said was the White House enlisting Facebook and Twitter to censor him in the first two days after Biden took office in January 2021.
Mr. Hannity challenged Mr. Kennedy about the candidate’s stance on the Ukraine war.
NATO’s expansion following the Cold War encouraged Russia to become increasingly defensive and eventually hostile, Mr. Kennedy has said.
Mr. Kennedy has urged Mr. Biden to negotiate a peaceful end to the Russia-Ukraine war, which started when Russia invaded the neighboring nation in February 2022.
“So, to appease Putin, who I think is evil, they’ve already given up Crimea. It was annexed. So, what? They have to give up the Donbas area?” Mr. Hannity asked Mr. Kennedy.
“Ukraine, because of our pushing the Ukraine into the war on two occasions in–” Kennedy responded before Mr. Hannity interrupted.
“We pushed them into it, or did Vladimir Putin invade?” Mr. Hannity said.
“In 2019, France, Germany, and Russia all agreed to the Minsk accords. That year, Volodymyr Zelenskyy ran for president. He was a comedian. He had no political experience. Why did he win? Because he ran on one issue: signing the Minsk accords,” Mr. Kennedy explained.
Mr. Kennedy added that he does not trust Mr. Putin but said: “We don’t want peace. We want the war with Russia.”
Russia will not lose the war it started, Mr. Kennedy explained.
“Russia is not going to lose this war. Russia can’t afford it,” Mr. Kennedy said. “It would be like us losing a war to Mexico. They are not going to lose the war.”