‘What’s the worst thing that could happen?’

Independent presidential candidate Robert F. Kennedy Jr. has repeatedly dismissed the severity of the Jan. 6, 2021, attack at the U.S. Capitol over the last year, based on a series of interviews reviewed by NBC News. 

“What’s the worst thing that could happen? Right?” Kennedy asked in October on the Aubrey Marcus Podcast. “I mean, we have an entire military, Pentagon, a few blocks away.”

“Then, you know, put the ones who broke the law in jail and let’s move on,” he added. 

On Jan. 6, 2021, it took the National Guard more than three hours to respond to the crisis. In that time, more than 140 police officers were injured during the attack and five officers involved ultimately lost their lives in the months after. Members of Congress and then-Vice President Mike Pence were also evacuated from the House chamber, and the certification of the 2020 election was effectively delayed.  

Kennedy’s campaign did not immediately return a request for comment.

In an interview last month on Fox News, Kennedy said that if elected president, he would “look at individual cases” when asked about potentially pardoning Jan. 6 rioters.

Last spring, Kennedy bemoaned Democrats’ “obsession” with the Jan. 6 attack. 

“To me, it’s much more serious if we’re starting to censor free speech. You can rebuild a Capitol,” Kennedy said on another podcast, The Jimmy Dore Show

On Thursday, as first reported by NBC News, Kennedy’s campaign walked back a fundraising email to supporters that referred to Jan. 6 defendants as “activists” who have been “stripped of their Constitutional liberties,” echoing Trump’s rhetoric about the 2021 riot.

Kennedy spokesperson Stephanie Spear later said the language was an “error.”

“That statement was an error that does not reflect Mr. Kennedy’s views. It was inserted by a new marketing contractor and slipped through the normal approval process,” she said.

Kennedy has also suggested that Biden is a greater threat to democracy than Trump, seemingly dismissing the consequences of the Republican’s efforts to overturn his 2020 election loss. His comments are based his contention that the Biden administration is unlawfully trying to pressure social media companies to remove certain content online. 

“What’s more dangerous? That or the president of the United States, who is instructing social media sites to censor his opponents?” Kennedy also said in his October interview. The former Democrat-turned independent candidate appeared to be referring to a case before the Supreme Court that could affect the level of contact between government officials and social media companies regarding content removal.

“I can make the argument that President Biden is the much worse threat to democracy, and the reason for that is President Biden is the first candidate in history, the first president in history, that has used the federal agencies to censor political speech … to censor his opponent,” Kennedy said recently in an interview on CNN

Kennedy, a prominent anti-vaccine activist, has used social media to spread misinformation related to vaccines and Covid. In 2022, the Children’s Health Defense group, an anti-vaccine group led by Kennedy, was kicked off Instagram and Facebook, both owned by Meta, for such misinformation. 

In another instance, Kennedy, in a September interview with PragerU, suggested that he was “at least equally worried” about social media censorship as a physical assault on democracy like the Jan. 6 attack.

When asked in the exchange if he thought that the attack was an insurrection, Kennedy responded: “You know, I don’t know. I’ve seen all kinds of … contrary evidence, and I don’t — I have not, again, drilled down on it.”

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