An attorney for Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. tells NHJournal the potential 2024 presidential candidate plans to sue YouTube over its decision to ban his recent speech at the prestigious New Hampshire Institute of Politics (NHIOP) from its video platform.
“We will be filing suit,” said John Howard, a legal adviser to Kennedy.
Kennedy spoke at the NHIOP last Friday, recounting his efforts on behalf of environmental causes and his suspicions regarding the expanded regime of childhood vaccines he suggests are linked to increased cases of autism in children.
The Institute, based on the campus of St. Anselm College, is a must-stop destination for politicians considering a run for the White House. Asked by NHJournal if he had any plans to challenge President Joe Biden in the Democratic primary, Kennedy said “I’m thinking about it.”
Manchester Public Television often broadcasts political speeches from the NHIOP venue to its viewers, as well as posts them on the station’s YouTube channel. The possibility of a Kennedy challenge to President Joe Biden is particularly newsworthy given the DNC’s decision to strip New Hampshire of its First in the Nation primary status.
But when MPTS executive director Jason Cote attempted to post RFK’s remarks, he received a message that the content was being blocked.
“YouTube will not allow us to post the video because of controversial vaccination content,” Cote told NHJournal. “MPTS has recorded more than 100 wonderful NHIOP events, and I cannot recall this happening before.
“First time for everything, I guess,” he added.
On Wednesday, a spokesperson for YouTube confirmed to NHJournal the speech was banned from the platform.
“We removed the content for violating our policies on COVID-19 vaccine misinformation. Our policies are enforced for everyone, regardless of the speaker’s political views,” the spokesperson said in a statement. “While we do allow content with educational, documentary, scientific or artistic context, such as news reports, the content we removed from this channel was raw footage and did not provide sufficient context.”
Kennedy’s attorney said they are taking the matter to court.
“Justice Anthony Kennedy said the right to think is the beginning of freedom, and speech must be protected from the government because speech is the beginning of thought,” said Howard. “We should keep those principles in mind. YouTube may not be the government, but its actions have all the signs of government censorship. The people of New Hampshire—all Americans, really—deserve to hear from people who seek their vote.”
Alphabet, the parent company of YouTube and Google, is already under scrutiny from Congress over its uneven — some say politically biased — application of content restrictions on its platforms. Alphabet CEO Sundar Pichai has been subpoenaed by the House Judiciary Committee to answer accusations regarding “the federal government’s reported collusion with Big Tech to suppress free speech.”
While Kennedy is viewed as a longshot presidential candidate, he garnered praise from Granite State Democrats for intervening on behalf of the state’s FITN primary. On the eve of the Democratic National Committee’s vote to strip New Hampshire of its place at the front of the 2024 line, Kennedy published an open letter to the DNC urging it “not to interfere in New Hampshire’s plan to hold the nation’s first primary.
“My Uncle Jack spoke to voters in Dover on the eve of the 1960 New Hampshire primary. He said that ‘We Democrats realize that the days when presidential candidates can be nominated in smoke-filled rooms, by political leaders and party bosses, have forever passed from the scene.’ He said ‘that no man has won a national election who was unwilling to test his candidacy with the people.’
“I echo those thoughts,” Kennedy wrote.
Some of New Hampshire’s top Democrats turned out for his NHIOP speech, including state party chairman Ray Buckley and state Senate minority leader Donna Soucy (D-Manchester).
Best-selling author Marianne Williamson has announced her candidacy in the 2024 Democratic presidential primary. She is scheduled to make campaign appearances across the Granite State between March 8 -13.
Polls consistently show a majority of Granite State Democrats would prefer to back someone other than Biden as their party’s nominee. And while no prominent local Democrats have endorsed Kennedy or Williamson, some have expressed dissatisfaction with Biden.
Asked if he wants Biden to run again, former N.H. Speaker of the House Steve Shurtleff (D-Penacook) told the AP, “In my heart of hearts, no. I think a lot of people just don’t want to say it.”