RFK Jr. gets his shot on Jesse Watters Primetime?
On Monday, Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. appeared on FOX News in what was at least his sixth one-on-one interview on the country's number-one cable news channel since he declared his candidacy for the Democrat presidential nomination last April 19. His platform on this occasion was Jesse Watters's 7 P.M. E.T. program Primetime, which next week will move to 8 P.M. E.T., taking over the coveted time slot vacated when Tucker Carlson was fired by FOX News on April 21.
Watters at 7 P.M. during the past year-plus has covered many important stories and conducted some noteworthy interviews. Ultimately, his approach is lighter than Carlson's and includes humorous elements that appear to be increasingly in sync with the latest direction of FOX News in prime time, which next week will see Greg Gutfeld's comedy show move from late night (11 P.M. E.T.) to one hour earlier, considered the last hour of prime time.
Right off the bat, Kennedy's sit-down in New York City with Watters (the segment was recorded shortly before the program aired) started on a lighter note. (Transcript courtesy of FOX News. Video here.)
JESSE WATTERS, FOX NEWS ANCHOR: Let's turn it over to Robert F. Kennedy Jr. He's a 2024 Democratic presidential candidate.
Mr. Kennedy, why have you been dodging Primetime?
ROBERT F. KENNEDY JR. (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I'm telling you, Jesse, I had to fire a lot of my staff....
KENNEDY: ... because I kept seeing you on the air saying, why won't he come on my show? And I would call them and say, why am I not on your show?
Those guys are all gone now.
WATTERS: They're — good. Good. I'm glad. I'm glad you have gotten your campaign figured out.
KENNEDY: Happy birthday.
WATTERS: Thank you very much. Now I'm going to take it easy on you.
Off to a light start: as the chyron says, "Why Did RFK Jr Dodge Jesse?"
The numerous references to "Laughter" noted in the FOX-provided transcript are indicative of the overall tenor of the encounter.
When they finally got down to business, Watters opened with a question about — what else, and how predictable — Kennedy's alleged vaccination denialism.
WATTERS: My mother, when she found out you were coming on — she's a big Democrat — she says: "He's dangerous. He's an anti-vaxxer. He says that autism comes from vaccines, and you must challenge him on that."
Is my mom crazy?
KENNEDY: Well, I do believe that autism does come from vaccines.
But I think most of the things that people believe about my opinions about vaccines are wrong. I — all I have said about vaccines, we should have good science. We should have the same kind of testing, placebo-controlled trials, that we have for every other medication.
Vaccines are exempt from pre-licensing placebo-controlled trials, so that there's no way that anybody can tell the risk profile of those products or even the relative benefits of those products before they're mandated. And we should have that kind of testing.
And I think most people...
WATTERS: So, my kids got vaccinated. Are they going to have problems?
KENNEDY: Well, do they have problems now?
WATTERS: Well, they have problems because I'm their father, but not those types of problems.
Jesse Watters next turned the discussion to Anthony Fauci, M.D. — who retired recently after four decades as the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases at the National Institutes of Health, better known as the federal government's "czar" of AIDS and then COVID-19.
WATTERS: Tell me about Fauci. You wrote this big fat book. I could only get through a little bit of it. I can't read anything longer than 700 pages.
WATTERS: And you think Fauci is the devil. Would you prosecute him if you ever got to the White House?
KENNEDY: I mean, if — if there were crimes that he committed, of course, we would. I would tell the attorney general to prosecute him and not hold off.
Do I think that he committed crimes? I think he caused a lot of injury. I think that he — particularly by withholding early treatment from Americans, we racked up the highest death count in the world. We only have 4.2 percent of the globe's population, but we had 16 percent of the COVID deaths in this country, and that is — that was from bad policy.
There's country countries [sic] that did the opposite of what we did, that provided ivermectin, hydroxychloroquine, other early treatments to their populations, and had 1/200th of our death rate. So there are many, many things that we did wrong in this country, and some of those were, I would say, knowing, knowingly, that some of the things that were done by public health officials at that time, that they knew that they would be harmful to…
The big news there was Kennedy's answer that he would see to it that his attorney general prosecuted Fauci if the evidence showed that "there were crimes committed."
Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. in the New York City studios of FOX News on Jesse Watters Primetime, July 10, 2023.
The next questions were about U.S. policy toward China.
WATTERS: Why hasn't the Biden administration punished China?
KENNEDY: Punished China. For what?
WATTERS: For the lab leak.
KENNEDY: Oh, for the Wuhan lab?
WATTERS: For withholding PPE during the pandemic.
KENNEDY: Well, I think one of the reasons we haven't investigated the Wuhan lab is because the U.S. government, not just through NIH, but through the CIA and through USAID, was actually funding the studies in the Wuhan lab.
And we did a very, very big technology transfer of bioweapons technology to the Wuhan lab, and bioweapons technology that was developed at NIH expense.
Watters next pivoted from the present and the future (re: China) to the past, and the possible role of the Central Intelligence Agency in the assassinations of RFK Jr.'s uncle President John F. Kennedy in 1963 and his father, former attorney general and U.S. senator Robert F. Kennedy in 1968.
WATTERS: You have seen what the government's capable of with regard to your uncle, possibly with regard to your father.
We have seen evidence that suggests the CIA was involved in assassinations here on American soil. In 2023, do you still think the CIA is capable of something like that?
KENNEDY: Well, I think the CIA was involved in — certainly in this research. They were funding it through USAID.
And NIH, I think, in the end, gave about $26 million in funding to the Wuhan lab. But USAID, which was functioning as a CIA surrogate, gave over 64 million. And the Pentagon also gave a lot of money.
WATTERS: But you didn't answer my question. The question was, is the CIA still capable of political assassinations in the United States?
KENNEDY: I couldn't say yes or no to that question.
I think that there's — I couldn't say. And even with my uncle's assassination, you can't really say the CIA killed John F. Kennedy. You can say members at the CIA, people who were working for the CIA were definitely involved, people like E. Howard Hunt, David Atlee Phillips, David Morales, people who've already — who have confessed to it, many of them in deathbed confessions.
But they may have been operating on a rogue basis, rather than the CIA doing it. These were people who were involved in the Miami station who were angry at President Kennedy for refusing to invade Cuba. And, also ...
Eventually, the questions moved to domestic politics.
WATTERS: You're an avenger, in a way, because you're coming back. You're saying unpopular things, kind of a populist on the left.
Do you think you actually might be running against Kamala Harris, instead of Joe Biden?
KENNEDY: What do you mean?
WATTERS: Because Joe Biden does not seem like he might be able to make it across the finish line.
Do you think Kamala is your real opponent?
KENNEDY: Well, if Joe Biden drops out, then I think Kamala will — I would assume Kamala would come in, but, also, many other people would come in.
So I may be running against a field of Democrats at that point. I mean, I think that has to happen before November of this year.
And finally, back to the beginning of the interview, and a lighter-than-air send-off.
WATTERS: You saw him at the beach, President Biden, with his shirt off, probably trying to copy you.
Were you impressed?
KENNEDY: I didn't see that picture.
WATTERS: It's good you didn't.
Many of our female producers would like you to take your shirt off.
KENNEDY: I will do it if you do it.
WATTERS: Here we go, everybody. No, we don't want to do that to the audience.
RFK Jr., thank you very much for joining us. And I'm glad you fired everybody that said that you shouldn't come on the show.
KENNEDY: That will never happen again, Jesse.
WATTERS: Now I'm going to vote for you. Thank you very much.
KENNEDY: Thank you.
And so it ended, a quick seven minutes after it began. In the opinion of this reporter, it missed the mark in a number of ways, primarily in focusing on issues that are not exactly central to the 2024 presidential race — including the economy, the open border, the recent Supreme Court decisions that RFK Jr. has expressed opinions on via his tweets, and more.
As I noted earlier, Watters's show seems to be in sync with where FOX News, at least in prime time, is now heading: emphasizing a lighter take on the news and what used to be called infotainment, and the frequent presence of comedians in prime time like Kat Timpf, Tyrus, and Jimmy Failla and "infobabes" (a term coined by the late Rush Limbaugh) like Tomi Lahren and Charly Arnolt who have become regular contributors to Sean Hannity's 9 P.M. E.T. program.
Where are serious analysts and former regular guests like Victor Davis Hanson and Glenn Greenwald to be found? Maybe we can hope, at most occasionally, on Laura Ingraham's Ingrahan Angle show, which is moving to 7 P.M. E.T. next Monday,
And to wrap this review up with a bow: At least we still have FOX News. Neither of the other major cable news channels, CNN and MSNBC, has had, nor will likely ever have, RFK Jr. on their channels. Not to mention the fact that they will never express anything other than the government-media complex party line on current affairs.
What a difference 55 years makes
Sen. Robert F. Kennedy on The Tonight Show, NBC TV, April 24, 1968.
On April 24, 1968, Sen. Robert F. Kennedy (D-N.Y.), a candidate for the Democrat presidential nomination, appeared on The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson, guest-hosted that week by Harry Belafonte. Kennedy was accorded 21 minutes of that iconic NBC late-night show for a serious Q&A about the issues of the day. A recording of the interview is on YouTube here.
The country was divided then, as it is now. Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. had been assassinated less than three weeks earlier. The mainstream media, even a broadcast television network's late-night entertainment program, in this case, was more serious then.
The party line of blacklisting unpopular opinions has its advocates
When I say, essentially, thank God that we still have FOX News as an MSM channel, I am not kidding.
The blacklisting and canceling on the part of the rest of the MSM — print and broadcasting — has its promoters, at the highest levels. This party line was advanced in an article published yesterday at Columbia Journalism Review. The name of the publication says it all: the official journal of the country's leading graduate school of journalism.
The article, by Jon Allsop, "The complicity of RFK Jr. coverage," is extraordinary for its hubris and chutzpah. Robert F. Kennedy, Jr., the author asserts:
... is not a liberal icon — he is a conspiracy theorist, most notably on vaccines, whose views range from the esoteric to the dangerous. Despite — or, much more likely, because of — this, Kennedy has recently sparked chatter everywhere from bullet-point items in political tipsheets to long-form profiles in hallowed magazines, which have typically emphasized both his kookiness and his Kennedyness. He has also made the rounds of right-wing or right-wing-curious podcasts.
Without missing a beat, the author begins to make the case for canceling (this used to be called blacklisting) someone like RFK Jr.
As I wrote in May after CNN's decision to give Donald Trump a live town hall sparked a previous iteration of this debate—to platform a known liar or not—this is, in many ways, a false choice: how one platforms a candidate matters (CNN made some bad editorial choices that blunted its ability to challenge Trump's claims), and it is not "censorship" for one outlet to deny one politician a certain type of platform, in particular. In some respects, Kennedy's candidacy requires us to think along similar lines. . .
If his views are out there anyway, and have a significant audience, isn't it best for us to loudly and clearly debunk them?
Some sharp articles, including Traister's [at New York Magazine] and Zadrozny's, [at NBC News] have already interrogated Kennedy's policies and the sort of damage he'd be liable to do as president, not least to the vaccine approval process. And yet, at the same time, even good coverage risks introducing Kennedy's ideas to those who might not otherwise have heard about them, and of actively inflating his political relevance; a glut of glossy magazine profiles, even if they're all insightful on their own terms, can collectively elevate a candidate to discourse centrality. I find it hard to escape the conclusion that while no Kennedy coverage would be too little, the current level of coverage is way too much. [Emphasis added.]
Without belaboring any more of Allsop's pseudo-intellectual pro-censorship screed, readers can access it for themselves here.
This is what we are up against: a shockingly widespread and deeply ingrained Maoist-inspired doctrine of canceling free speech and the Constitution along with it. It's why publications like American Thinker exist.
And it's also why, IMHO, the continued existence of the FOX News channel — its flaws and imperfections notwithstanding — is also essential to our nation's survival.
Peter Barry Chowka is a veteran journalist who has covered national politics and the politics and economics of health care, popular culture, and media for over five decades. He is a regular contributor to the BBC Radio and Television. His web page with links to his work is http://peter.media. Peter's extensive American Thinker archive: http://tinyurl.com/pcathinker. Peter's Twitter account is @pchowka.