The Republican senator joined up with Robert F. Kennedy Jr., who was recently banned from Instagram for promoting COVID-19 vaccine lies.
Sen. Ron Johnson (R-WI) on Sunday appeared on the podcast of vaccine conspiracy theorist Robert F. Kennedy Jr. and promoted medically discredited treatments for COVID-19. Johnson also did not rebut unsupported allegations from Kennedy attacking Dr. Anthony Fauci and medical officials coordinating the pandemic response.
The appearance came just a few days before Johnson said he questioned the "big push to make sure everybody gets a vaccine" during an interview with a Wisconsin radio show.
Johnson appeared on the April 18 episode of the "RFK Jr The Defender" podcast and spent much of the program with Kennedy lamenting the criticism both men have received for peddling misinformation about COVID-19 treatments.
As the virus spread in 2020, Johnson repeatedly promoted the use of the drug hydroxychloroquine as a treatment for COVID-19, much as Donald Trump had. He even invited an anti-vaccine activist to testify in front of a Senate panel in Dec. 2020 on behalf of the treatment, which medical experts warned was dangerous and ineffective.
On the program with Kennedy, Johnson reiterated his bewilderment at the criticism he had received for promoting the false remedy.
"I thought I was doing a public service, holding hearings, asking — just highly qualified doctors that had the compassion but also the courage to treat COVID patients," Johnson told the host.
Kennedy accused Dr. Fauci of working on behalf of the pharmaceutical industry instead of advocating for patients during the outbreak and argued that hospitals were being flooded toward this end.
Johnson did not debunk Kennedy's allegations or express disagreement with the claim.
Both men also criticized the lockdowns put in place to arrest the spread of the virus.
Kennedy complained that "nobody" brought up the idea that "maybe the lockdown is actually going to kill more people than COVID over the long term."
Johnson responded to the statement by reiterating a previously made comparison that "we tragically lose 36,000 people per year on the highway, but we don't shut the highways down."
Kennedy has spent over a decade and a half promoting falsehoods about vaccines. He has repeatedly promoted the claim that diagnoses of autism are related to vaccines, which has been proven to be untrue by multiple studies.
In 2019, his sister Kathleen Kennedy Townsend, along with his nephew Joseph P. Kennedy II and niece Maeve Kennedy McKean, co-wrote an op-ed criticizing Kennedy for being part of "a misinformation campaign that's having heartbreaking—and deadly—consequences."
"He has helped to spread dangerous misinformation over social media and is complicit in sowing distrust of the science behind vaccines," they wrote.
But Kennedy moved ahead with his campaign, now focusing on COVID-19 vaccines.
On Feb. 10, Kennedy's Instagram account was taken down after he posted about vaccines.
"We removed this account for repeatedly sharing debunked claims about the coronavirus or vaccines," said a spokesperson for Instagram's parent company, Facebook.
Johnson has similarly promoted misinformation about the vaccine.
"I don't believe if you have the COVID, you should be taking the vaccine, that there could be some issues there," Johnson told the Washington Post in Dec. 2020.
In March, Johnson said he would not take the vaccine because he "had COVID" and, he said, "that probably provides me the best immunity possible, actually having had the disease."
The Centers for Disease Control, however, notes, "you should be vaccinated regardless of whether you already had COVID-19."
"It is possible—although rare—that you could be infected with the virus that causes COVID-19 again," the website warns.
Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.