“There is no time in history where the people who were censoring speech were the good guys,” Democratic presidential candidate Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. told Breitbart News Sunday host Joel Pollak.
Pollak asked Kennedy about his championing of free speech over big tech censorship. The bestselling author, environmental lawyer, and child health advocate has experienced censorship firsthand. During the COVID-19 pandemic, many of Kennedy’s social media posts questioning the wisdom of the lockdowns were labeled “misinformation.”
In his presidential announcement speech last week, the candidate said, “I’m in a lawsuit involving Amazon for censoring one of my books. They were censoring people who criticized the lockdowns while they were raking in money from the lockdowns.”
“I’m wondering if you can make a pitch to our audience about a common cause that you, running as a Democrat, may have with many conservatives who feel that they’ve been canceled or otherwise censored or marginalized in public discourse,” Pollak asked.
“It’s more than a personal aggrievement. It’s really just a direct assault on our democracy,” Kennedy stated.
Kennedy explained that in crafting the Bill of Rights, America’s Founders “put the right to free expression in the First Amendment because all the other rights depended on it—because the government that has the power to silence its critics has license for any kind of atrocity.”
“They also understood just theoretically that the whole basis for democracy was the free flow of information,” he said, adding that democracy’s advantage over “tyrannical and monarchical” systems of government is that “through the free flow of information, the best policies can triumph in the marketplace of ideas.”
“We’re now in this situation where without free speech, democracy just withers and dies. Free speech is the fertilizer; it’s the sunlight; it’s the water for democracy,” he continued. “There is no time in history where the people who were censoring speech were the good guys. They’re always the bad guys because, of course, that is the first and last step of totalitarianism: silencing critics.”
Pollak noted that Breitbart News founder Andrew Breitbart “used to say we always need more voices, not fewer voices. The answer to speech you don’t agree with is more speech, not less speech.”
Kennedy argued that “misinformation” and even “lies” are still Constitutionally protected speech. “There are certain kinds of speech that are not protected. But, you know, those things are.”
“What we really ought to be looking at is why? What is the cause of this blizzard and tsunami of misinformation that everybody is worried about?” Kennedy asked. “And if you look at why this is happening, it’s clear that it’s happening because people don’t trust the government anymore, and they don’t trust it because the government lies, and the media lies.”
“Twenty-two percent of Americans now trust the government, and about 22 percent trust media. That’s the lowest level in our history,” he said. “And the reason they don’t—there’s a very good reason—is that the government and the media, the mainstream media, the corporate-owned media, they are now lying just as a matter of course. And because of that, people are looking for other sources of information. And when those other sources challenge government orthodoxies, the government’s response is to censor them or to label them as misinformation and say that they’re dangerous.”
“And so now you’ve got this terror, particularly on the left, that misinformation is somehow going to destroy our democracy,” he added. “And it’s kind of a bait and switch because the real threat to our democracy is that our government is lying to us. And people don’t trust the institutions of our democracy anymore and with very good reason.”
In his announcement speech, Kennedy explained that his father, Robert F. Kennedy, Sr., predicated his famous and tragically shortened 1968 presidential campaign on the belief that he could unite Americans from diverse backgrounds by telling them the truth.
“Every nation, every individual has a darker side and a lighter side,” Kennedy told Pollak. “The easiest thing for political leaders to do is to appeal to those darker instincts—the greed, the anger, the fear, the bigotry. But people are able to hear a different message if they’re spoken to honestly. And my father did that, and he was ruthlessly honest, and it allowed people—even people who did not agree with him on all the issues—it allowed them to take the risk of seeing themselves transcending their own narrow self-interests and their fear-driven lies and seeing themselves as part of a larger community, as part of this noble experiment that we have in this country of being in self-governance [and] of being the world’s exemplary democracy, and summoning people to find the hero in themselves and really feel like we are part of something bigger than ourselves.”
Kennedy noted that at the beginning of the pandemic, cable news hosts were “telling us in these very plaintiff voices, we’re all in it together. But they were working and getting their $12 million salaries, and yet other people in our country were being put out of work and were being compelled to do things that they didn’t want to do to accept these interventions and these mandates.”
“It became very clear that we weren’t all in it together, that that was just a lie,” he continued. “And people know when they’re being lied to. People like leadership; they don’t like bullying, and they don’t like liars. And the people unfortunately who are running both political parties today spend a lot of the time saying things that are not true.”
In his announcement speech, Kennedy lamented the seemingly insurmountable political divisions pitting Americans against each other today.
“When I talk to both Republican friends and Democratic friends, they talk about this division in almost apocalyptic terms,” he told his campaign audience. “Nobody can see a safe way or a good way out of it, and people are preparing for a kind of a dystopian future.”
“One of the principal missions of my campaign and of my presidency is going to be to end that division,” he continued. “And I’m going to try to do that by encouraging people to talk about the values that we have in common rather than the issues that keep us apart. And also—and this I think is the most important thing—I’m going to do that by telling the truth to the American people.”
Rebecca Mansour is Senior Editor-at-Large for Breitbart News. Follow her on Twitter at @RAMansour.