RFK Jr. Campaign Email Misstep: ‘Jan. 6 Defendants Are Activists’

In the lead-up to the November presidential election, with President Joe Biden and former President Donald Trump poised for a rematch, another candidate, Robert F. Kennedy Jr., has officially thrown his hat into the ring. However, his campaign recently stirred controversy within his party with a fundraising email that may have ruffled feathers.

On April 3, the Kennedy campaign sent out a communication to supporters that referred to the individuals involved in the January 6 Capitol riot as “activists,” languishing in a D.C. jail and purportedly deprived of their constitutional rights. The email grouped these individuals with Julian Assange and Ed Snowden, suggesting a commonality in their treatment by the justice system. Following the dissemination of the email, Stephanie Spear, a spokesperson for Kennedy, clarified to NBC News that the language used was mistakenly included by a new marketing contractor and failed to undergo the campaign’s usual review process, stating it did not align with Kennedy’s actual opinions.

NBC News highlighted that currently, only 15 individuals associated with the January 6 events are detained awaiting trial, with the majority already convicted. To date, more than 1,350 people have faced charges related to the riot, with over 950 convictions and approximately 718 guilty pleas. Roughly 500 of these individuals are serving sentences as determined by the judiciary.

Despite the campaign’s retraction of the email’s wording, Kennedy has previously expressed intentions to pardon Assange and Snowden should he be elected, and he has not ruled out the possibility of pardoning some of those involved in January 6, contingent on evidence of prosecutorial misconduct. Otherwise, he maintains that those convicted should serve their sentences.

The campaign’s characterization of the January 6 defendants as “activists” mirrors Trump’s own rhetoric, who has labeled them “hostages.” It remains to be seen how this parallel stance will impact voter perceptions and reactions in the forthcoming election.