RFK Jr. Joins the War on Climate Scientists

RFK Jr. has filled a top campaign position with an anti-vaccine activist named Del Bigtree who has called global warming “an enslavement system.”

Robert F. Kennedy Jr. made headlines when a Super PAC supporting his presidential bid ran a pricey Super Bowl ad, stealing the look of a famous 1960 spot for his uncle John F. Kennedy. But he got far less attention for another move that says a lot about his campaign: He has tapped Del Bigtree to run his communications team. Bigtree, like RFK Jr., is a well-known anti-vaccine activist. But he also voices full-throated conspiracy theories denying the reality of human-caused climate change.

Here’s what we know about the campaign’s chief communicator. Del Bigtree is an LA-based producer of conspiracy theory content. He leads the Informed Consent Action Network, or ICAN, a well-funded advocacy group that spreads vaccine misinformation, including baseless claims that childhood vaccines cause autism. He hosts the group’s podcast, “the Highwire,” and he produced the 2016 pseudo-documentary “Vaxxed.”

He’s dabbled in election denial. He told the crowd at the “MAGA Freedom Rally D.C.” near the Capitol on Jan. 6, “we’re being led off of a cliff.”  “I wish I could tell you that [Anthony] Fauci cares about your safety…” he said. “I wish I could believe that voting machines worked… but none of this is happening.”

These election fraud and anti-vaccine conspiracies converge with some far-out ideas about climate science. In one podcast segment titled “The Real Cause of Climate Change,” he says he’s been trying to convince friends and family that natural “solar cycles” are behind global warming, not greenhouse gas emissions from humans. He speculates about the possibility that “these god-complex scientists know that we’re heating on a natural cycle and are going to try to see if man can stop that natural cycle.” He adds, “That’s what I’m starting to wonder what is really going on, as they try to tell us we’re creating it. I don’t know, the whole thing is so bogus.”

In another podcast, “Planet Panic,” Bigtree defends the continued burning of coal, questions the reliability of renewable energy, and points to shadowy ulterior motives behind federal climate policies. That’s where he draws this comparison between vaccine science and climate science: “These people expect us to change our lives completely and they keep pointing to the scientists and the specialists who know this stuff—but your scientists were so wrong… Why are we supposed to listen to you at all? It’s why I’m in the vaccine space,” he says, connecting the dots. He goes on to say, “global warming is a control—an enslavement system.” Here, as well as in other episodes (like one called “COVID Today, Climate Change Tomorrow,”) Bigtree argues that climate advocates are seeking a “climate change lockdown.”

Respect for science matters and this staffing choice shows definitively which side RFK Jr. is on when it comes to the war on scientists. That war was on display recently in the defamation trial of two right-wing bloggers who attacked climate scientist Michael Mann to try to smear his work and ultimately climate science itself. Mann won. But in the 12 years since he first filed his case, attacks against all types of scientists have escalated. They’ve been vilified by climate deniers and anti-vaxx activists alike to discredit expertise. Kennedy may be an independent, third-party candidate, but he has joined the right-wing war on scientists.

No candidate who thought climate change was an important issue would have picked Bigtree to run communications. Despite his past work as an environmental lawyer, RFK Jr. does not take climate change seriously. Climate gets only a single offhand mention on the Environment tab of his campaign website, which only endorses policies “that make sense to skeptics and activists alike” — in other words, no real climate policies at all. (We’ve detailed Kennedy’s own conspiratorial thinking about climate policies here and here.) This staffing decision is also significant because RFK Jr. in interviews has sought to downplay his campaign’s focus on anti-vaccine controversies. The Bigtree selection throws that out the window.

As the controversial Super Bowl ad shows, the RFK Jr. campaign piggybacks on the reputations of his famous father and uncle. But he’s really become the antithesis of everything they stood for.

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Reader Comments

20 Replies to “RFK Jr. Joins the War on Climate Scientists”

  1. This article is written from a captured ideology that most Americans can see right through.
    I would be embarrassed to have my name or company anywhere near this

    The common man

  2. If, like me, you know a number of vaccine injured people, your trust in the stuff the governments and media is shoveling has evaporated some time ago. And if you are aware enough to notice that the same people who pushed the jab are pushing the “climate crisis,” your trust in them may also be gone with the wind. RFK Jr has told the truth about the dangers of vaccines, the corruption of Fauci, and has take many other positions the Power That Be don’t like. Have the climate fanatics noticed that the Earth has gained a continent’s worth of greenery since CO2 went up? Or that ALL the CO2 adds up to .04% of the atmosphere? It’s the gas of life, chums, and it ain’t about to make the Earth uninhabitable. Wake up.

  3. this is very embarrassing for you and undermines your creditibity. RFK2 has been an outstanding environmental lawyer for three decades. There is not one iota of evidence that he is undermining climate change. I have attended his fundraisers and he is a vocal supporter of climtae change initiatives. He is running a campaign to appeal to all parts of the political spectrum. He hired a “communications” person, not a policy person. You are coming across as a partisan. I have lost respect for you as a result of this post.

    1. I’d be happy to be proved wrong. If you could direct me to a site where he calls for regulating CO2 emissions, cap and trade, or other serious efforts to reduce emissions, please send the link. I’ve looked for such statements but haven’t found them.

    2. His climate policies are weak and he does not speak about environmental racism or environmental justice, which is as disqualifying as his position on the genocide taking place in Gaza. His 1990s market based solutions will not address a 21st century challenge at scale. And let’s not forget he was a lawyer for NRDC who are TERRIBLE on climate justice, so I don’t know that I would tout that bonafide.

  4. Thank you for this excellent reporting. To those negative commenters, you are missing the obvious: Leadership requires that you choose good people to work for you. This ding bell sounds ridiculous as a a communications professional myself, he will greatly influence policy for this candidate. God forbid!

  5. CO2 and carbon credit trading are corporate ways around eliminating pollution which is the defining human impact on our planet. Mr Kennedy has a proven track record of prosecution of polluters and forcing them to clean up the mess that they created. His decades of activism have made huge enemies of corporations around the world and these multiple entities with multi interlocking industries and corporate boardmembers will say and hire others to lie and cheat to get rid of him. I believe that we the people outnumber these elitist types and can help Mr Kennedy clean up our food,medicines, air,water and bought and paid for government.

  6. what an absolutely embarrassing smearing hit piece article to write. Your bias is showing hard here. Not only has he been an undeniably PROLIFIC environmental lawyer responsible for some of the largest cases brought against polluters and captured agencies he also does have a framework (although unconventional) for renewable energy and climate change.

    There are copious amounts of videos (even recently California Libertarian) where he outlines his framework for energy. While rhetorically he uses claims like “the Free Market is the best policy for renewable energy and elimination of Carbon”, if you actually dig into his message his policies closely align with env full cost accounting https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Environmental_full-cost_accounting.

    He wants to eliminate all subsidies (he often cites Carbon subsidies are close to 5Trillion dollars worldwide), enforce the Energy companies to INTERNALIZE all their costs (externalities, pollution, cleanup etc..) and have the US create a decentralized grid where houses/individual buildings can be small energy producers who can sell their energy back to the grid at the same rate as the centralized power stations. He wants to create an infrastructure and marketplace for electrons similar to the telecom infrastructure.

    He has hundreds of videos on this topic over the years (and even on the campaign trail) its really not hard to find this information and you should inform yourself a bit more before writing such an smearing article.

  7. Dan, Dennis Baldocchi warned us that the worst fact of life today is that we have proven beyond all doubt, last year and this year, that we have totally failed to protect the human race from destroying our civilization, especially with the totally out of control weather extremes attributed to the record level of atmospheric CO2 (reaching 420 ppm, which is 140 ppm above pre-industrial levels) caused by continual high levels of fossil fuel combustion. It is without debate that the physics and chemistry of increasing CO2 and methane on climate is well established and solid. We have been aware of climate warming from fossil fuel emissions and rising CO2 since the pioneering work of the Swedish chemist, Svante Arrhenius, in 1898 whose warning we also failed to pay attention to.

    Nicholas Dirks, Sandy Tolan and Will Durant have also warned us that intellectuals do not want to take on the complications and impurities that come with being public, our mental machinery will not change in time so solve our problems, and when a civilization declines it is because our political or intellectual leaders fail to meet the challenges of change.

    Now What!?

  8. It’s always good to know that your thoughts are reaching people, even if they don’t agree. The Washington Post has a nice write-up about RFK Jr.’s views on climate change here that highlights how vague they are: https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/interactive/2023/presidential-candidates-2024-policies-issues/robert-kennedy-jr-climate-change/. We agree that Kennedy is not himself a climate denier, although we are not at all sure he recognizes the gravity of the problem. Surely, if a candidate hired a communications director who was openly racist, people would think it reflected badly on them. We think hiring someone who is openly a climate denier is equally telling.

    1. Norwiegen Ice Core studies prove beyond a shadow of doubt that there has been 5-10x the amount of CO2 in our atmosphere and the planet was thriving. Further the starting point for BS global temp increases have used the coolest the planet has been in 100s of 1,000s of years. Naturally the temp has no where to go but up.

      AGW is a huge scam. Get over it

  9. Thanks for your reporting on RFK, please keep it up! I can’t understand how he can boost cryptocurrency while also claiming to be the environment candidate. It’s like he’s using the legitimately good things he did for the environment in the past to shroud his increasingly anti-environmental stances. And as you point out, by fueling suspicion of science and government-funded scientific research in other areas, he’s priming his supporters to doubt climate research as well. It’s like he’s Alex Jones trussed up to appeal to a mainstream audience. Bad news for the planet!

  10. This is such an obvious smear piece. Not once did you mention his years as an environmental lawyer. He has almost dedicated his life towards fighting big companies in court to protect Mother Nature. He single-handedly lead to them cleaning up the east river in New York. Even if what you said is true about him associating with an entity that denies climate change, journalistic integrity should dictate that you point to his years as an environmental lawyer at some point in the article. However did not. In fact you barely talked about him in the article. You wrote a handful of sentences about “RFK is associated with Del Bigtree” and then spent the majority of the article writing about Del Bigtree and not RFK. The headline “RFK Joins the war on climate science” does not even mention Del Bigtree, and in fact beyond an association with them you can not point to RFK himself taking place in any sort of climate denial. Terrible journalism, no integrity. Shameful

  11. His climate policies are weak and he does not speak about environmental racism or environmental justice, which is as disqualifying as his position on the genocide taking place in Gaza. His 1990s market based solutions will not address a 21st century challenge at scale. And let’s not forget he was a lawyer for NRDC who are TERRIBLE on climate justice, so I don’t know that I would tout that bonafide.

  12. See, the thing is, these guys RFK jr and Bigtree, they bring RECEIPTS. They’re not just pulling “theories” out of thin air. They cite peer reviewed studies published in medical journals (before the big money get them retracted), they consult top independent Drs. and scientists and other experts in their fields. The problem is there’s a bias toward the “science” that is bought and paid for by those with a financial stake in the outcome and against independent, objective science, which is often panned and discredited if their findings don’t match the preferred narrative. You can see the bias in action in this and the stories of most mainstream media publishers/broadcasters. To hear them tell it, the science is settled and whatever they (the mainstream/captured media) want us to believe is correct and any dissenting science is wrong, quacks, conspiracy theory etc. The reality is the independent, non-financially conflicted science is often the right one. Follow the money.

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About Dan

Dan Farber has written and taught on environmental and constitutional law as well as about contracts, jurisprudence and legislation. Currently at Berkeley Law, he has al…

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About Evan

Evan George is the Communications Director for the UCLA Emmett Institute. He was previously the News Director at KCRW, where he led the newsroom’s broadcast and digital…

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About Dan

Dan Farber has written and taught on environmental and constitutional law as well as about contracts, jurisprudence and legislation. Currently at Berkeley Law, he has al…

READ more