Robert Kennedy, Jr., and the EPA?

Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. is (per the November 5th Huffington Post) under consideration by President-Elect Barack Obama to head the EPA?

The Robert F. Kennedy, Jr., who, in June of 2007, equated those people criticizing mothers of autistic children who believe that thimerasol in vaccines causes autism with those who “once blamed autism on ‘bad parenting,’ and ‘uninvolved’ moms”—with those who believe that”bad parenting” causes autism?

Being myself (as I wrote back in June of 2007) an “involved mother” of an autistic child, I appreciate this concern about public perceptions of mothers of autistic children. Once upon a theory of autism causation, mothers were held accountable for being cold “refrigerator mothers” whose extreme emotional reserve was thought to make their children autistic. Now, as Kennedy writes, scorn is cast upon some mothers of autistic children for being “too involved.”

But based on what he wrote back in June of 2007 and also in his 2005 Rolling Stone piece, Deadly Immunity: Robert F. Kennedy Jr. investigates the government cover-up of a mercury/autism scandal—-it might be said that Kennedy’s somewhat extensively “involved” in putting forth a certain hypothesis about what causes autism that is not substantiated by the latest studies? A hypothesis that has perhaps heralded the rise of dubious autism “treatments” such as chelation?

Seed Magazine endorsed Obama for his “embrace of transparency and evidence-based decision-making, his intelligence and curiosity echo this new way of looking at the world.” Here’s hoping this is not just a promise, but the reality for the next four years.

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    • Cliff


    • Harold L Doherty

      Robert F Kennedy Jr. would be an excellent choice to head the EPA.

      I am not a member of either faction in the autism vaccine wars. I have never accepted that the evidence proved a causal relationship between vaccines/thimerosal and autism. But there is also some credible information, specifically from Dr. Bernardine Healey, that active investigation of such potential links was discouraged and that possible links should be investigated.

    • abfh

      Obama owes the Kennedys a huge favor for endorsing him instead of Hillary Clinton. That’s politics. Caroline Kennedy is sure to have a position in Obama’s administration. As for RFK Jr., let’s just hope Obama puts him someplace where his ignorance won’t do too much harm.

    • alyric

      Hopefully somebody somewhere will review the man’s background before irrevocable decisions are made. i thought thr US was good at that.

      Our Harold is factually challenged as usual. Healy made no such claim to cover-ups and discouragement. She simply made nice soundbite style comments she couldn’t back up. Lord, the funniest thing was when Harold’s hero, Dan Olmsted tried to follow up with Healy on the subject. No dice and she hasn’t been forthcoming since either.

    • donald savitz

      I can only hope if Kennedy go to the EPA he will make the water plants that put FLUORID in there water they will havt to test for arsenic and put it in there water quality that the send out ever year. In one of water co has 5.5 ppb would make one wounder what the limit is.

    • Pingback: I can’t stand the rain - and neither can this autism study « The Oyster’s Garter()

    • Kristina Chew, PhD
    • Devin

      Although RFK Jr. is not being considered for FDA Head and therefore would have nothing to do with regulating vaccines, he is still a poor choice for EPA Head.

      not only is RFK Jr. an environmental hypocrite (do as I say, not as I do), he also has a LOT of personal baggage (busted for heroin, divorced his 1st wife 3 weeks before marrying 2nd wife, who was already 6 mos. pregnant!)& more issues that will come back to haunt both Kennedy and Obama.

      We’ve had enough drug and sex scandals in D.C. We want a gov’t we can trust. Obama needs to select cabinet officials with integrity, RFK JR. is not that man.

    • ron

      An agent of change?

      So far two Clinton Retreads and now a Kennedy with an interesting past

      Yeah gonna be different.

      Same old DC crap is what appears to be occuring out of the gate.

      Approval rating already dropping.

    • Regan

      I don’t want to jump to conclusions, given that every president-elect expects a *honeymoon*, but as someone who has been involved with research under the purview of the EPA (and USDA for that matter), with all due respect to RFK Jr’s political interest in environmental policy, I do not believe that he would be be, as an already polarized and perhaps biased public figure, the best choice to be the head of that agency, –if this is a serious>/i> suggestion, I hope that now President Elect Obama will consider who would best fit the post with a broad and deep background, including a scientific background, rather than who would be the best *political* or popular choice.

    • Regan

      Harold Doherty said,
      Robert F Kennedy Jr. would be an excellent choice to head the EPA

      Fair enough.

      Please describe the function of the EPA and why in particular Mr. Kennedy would be an excellent choice.


    • Harold L Doherty

      Regan, here is the Wikipedia description of the EPA. If you disagree with that description perhaps you can modify it on Wikipedia:

      “The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA or sometimes USEPA) is an agency of the federal government of the United States charged with protecting human health and with safeguarding the natural environment: air, water, and land. The EPA was proposed by President Richard Nixon and began operation on December 2, 1970, when it was passed by Congress, and signed into law by President Nixon, and has since been chiefly responsible for the environmental policy of the United States.[3] It is led by its Administrator, who is appointed by the President of the United States. The EPA is not a Cabinet agency, but the Administrator is normally given cabinet rank. The current Administrator (as of 2007) is Stephen L. Johnson, and the current Deputy Administrator is Marcus Peacock. The agency has approximately 18,000 full-time employees.[1]”

      Robert F Kennedy Jr has been actively involved in raising awareness of environmental threats for many years. THAT is why I believe he would be a good administrator of an agency “charged with protecting human health and with safeguarding the natural environment”

      Is that “fair enough”?

    • Harold L Doherty


      I don’t know what you mean by reference to Dan Olmsted as “my hero”? I have never mentioned Mr Olmsted on my blog site. Can you explain or substantiate that remark in ANY way or is just another “alyricism”?

      As for Dr. Healy:

      “According to Healy, when she began researching autism and vaccines she found credible published, peer-reviewed scientific studies that support the idea of an association. That seemed to counter what many of her colleagues had been saying for years. She dug a little deeper and was surprised to find that the government has not embarked upon some of the most basic research that could help answer the question of a link.

      The more she dug, she says, the more she came to believe the government and medical establishment were intentionally avoiding the question because they were afraid of the answer. ”

      Dr Healy also specifically mentioned the IOM 2004 report recommendations:


      The committee recommends a public health response that fully supports an array of vaccine safety activities. In addition the committee recommends that available funding for autism research be channeled to the most promising areas.

      Policy Review

      At this time, the committee does not recommend a policy review of the licensure of MMR vaccine or of the current schedule and recommendations for the administration of the MMR vaccine.

      At this time, the committee does not recommend a policy review of the current schedule and recommendations for the administration of routine childhood vaccines based on hypotheses regarding thimerosal and autism.

      Given the lack of direct evidence for a biological mechanism and the fact that all well-designed epidemiological studies provide evidence of no association between thimerosal and autism, the committee recommends that cost-benefit assessments regarding the use of thimerosal-containing versus thimerosal-free vaccines and other biological or pharmaceutical products, whether in the United States or other countries, should not include autism as a potential risk.”

    • Kristina Chew, PhD

      Dr. Healy definitely has credentials as a top-level administrator, including being the head of the Red Cross, a position from which she resigned from under “heavy criticism.”

      A reminder to tell Obama’s transition team about why Kennedy is not a good choice.

    • RAJ

      The head of the EPA is responsible for enforcing environmental law, not making environmental law. Vaccines do not come under the jurisdiction of the EPA. Given the Bush years of appointing industry executives and lobbyists for some of the greatest corporate polluters, RFK jr would be an excellent choice for strictly enforcing current environmental law. This is a position that calls out for an environmental activist, not a scientist who commissions more studies and wrings his hands when corporate polluters do not obey existing law.

      Another excellent choice would be Christy Whitman, Bush’s first EPA adminstrator who quit in disgust when she was blocked fron enforcing any environmental laws.

    • Chris H.

      Actually, RJK, jr has refused to acknowledge the science that is counter to his beliefs. This shows that he is a poor candidate for a post that requires science, any critical thinking and decision making.

      If he is unreasonable on one subject, he would be just as unreasonable as the Bush appointees who actually stifled government scientists. See the legacy of George Deustch: (it is worth to read the additional articles on the left, including the 29 Jan 2006 article titled “Climate Expert Said NASA Tried to Silence Him”).

    • hj

      How concerned about toxins can someone really be when stepped-up china white is just fine?

    • hj


    • Kristina Chew, PhD

      The Ness on Robert Kennedy Jr. as antivaccinationist crank.

    • Harold L Doherty

      Ms Chew

      I am in neither of the vaccine autism camps.

      But I am disappointed that you, even if your PhD is in the area of classic literature, would attempt to smear Dr Healy personally instead of addressing the points she raises. She has pointed out that the IOM did not conduct lab or biological testing on the vaccine autism hypotheses before actively discouraging research along those lines as demonstrated in the IOM 2004 citation I provided in response to Alyric.

      Can you address those issues instead of attempting to demean Dr Healy?

      The citation I provided in response to

    • alyric

      Harold quoting Healy:

      “She dug a little deeper and was surprised to find that the government has not embarked upon some of the most basic research that could help answer the question of a link.

      The more she dug, she says, the more she came to believe the government and medical establishment were intentionally avoiding the question because they were afraid of the answer. ””

      Any of that supported by references or even an argument of more depth than a 30 second soundbite? Haven’t seen a thing. Healy’s good at motherhood statements and she’s a lousy administrator going by her track record so even if this little stir she’s created is designed as her stab at a poswition under Obama. let’s hope they keep that track record in mind.

    • Anthony Henry Smith

      Keep RFK out of EPA

      The job at the EPA calls for someone with a keen sense of both ethics and science. Kennedy is not that person.

      The following letter was written in support of Robert H. Boyle (founder of Riverkeeper and author of “The Hudson River, A natural and unnatural history”) and others who resigned from Riverkeeper rather than support R. F. Kennedy, Jr.’s compromise of the principle that ethics must never be separate from science.

      This letter was first published in the Putnam County News and Recorder, Cold Spring, New York, on August 30, 2000 and they have carried it on their website ever since for which they have my thanks. (AHS, 2008)


      Supports Former Riverkeeper Board Members’ Action

      The Fishkill Ridge Caretakers, Inc. supports Robert H. Boyle, former president of the Riverkeeper, Inc. and former Riverkeeper, Inc. board members John Fry, treasurer, Nancy Abraham, Kathryn Belous Boyle, Pat Crow, Theresa Hanczor, Robert Hodes, Ann Tonetti and Alexander Zagoreas in the action they have taken in resigning from Riverkeeper in opposition to the hiring of a convicted environmental felon to serve in the position of staff scientist on the staff of Riverkeeper.

      In issuing this statement of support, The Fishkill Ridge Caretakers wishes to emphasize that ethics cannot be separated from science and that the environmental movement will prosper best in an atmosphere of demonstrated personal responsibility and earned mutual respect.

      We encourage individuals as well as environmental organizations to join us in similar expressions of support for the principled stand taken by Boyle and fellow board members in their defense of the ethical integrity of the environmental movement here in the Hudson River Valley.

      Boyle and 8 of the 22 Riverkeeper board members resigned from Riverkeeper, Inc. in protest of the hiring of William Wegner. For eight years Wegner operated a ring of smugglers who stole bird eggs directly from the nests of protected cockatoo species in Australia. Wegner and his ring then smuggled the eggs by air to the United States. Birds that hatched and survived were then sold for as much as $12,500.00 each. A federal judge accepted Wegner’s plea of guilty to charges of conspiracy and tax fraud and sentenced him to five years in prison. The judge also found that Wegner had attempted to obstruct justice by committing perjury at the trial of a co-defendant Wegner paid a $10,000.00 fine.

      Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. has stated that everyone deserves a second chance and notes that he himself had been given a second chance in that he had once been convicted of a drug offense.

      We note, however, that Kennedy’s offense was essentially a victimless crime while Wegner’s offense was a crime against the environment, the people of Australia, the people of the United States and against the birds. In order to avoid detection during the flight, smugglers flushed newly hatched chicks down the plane’s toilet

      Although Wegner has been convicted and served his sentence, nothing he or anyone else can do will correct the damage he has done or make his victims whole again.

      Wegner’s prison sentence seems to have done little to improve his ethical sense. The resume Wegner submitted to Riverkeeper accounts for his period of incarceration without referring to the fact of the incarceration itself Wegner describes work he performed and omits the significant information that he performed this work while he was serving time as a prison inmate.

      Kennedy overstepped his position as attorney for Riverkeeper when, in November of 1999, he hired Wegner. Boyle terminated Wegner after learning of the hiring and upon review of Wegner’s resume, court records and media accounts. The matter came to a climax at a board meeting on June 20th when Kennedy insisted that Wegner be rehired over Boyle’s objection.

      While we hope Riverkeeper continues to work to produce changed human beings who think and act differently in regard to the Hudson River and all that pertains to it, we also recognize the primary mission of Riverkeeper is not the rehabilitation of Wegner or of those like him.


      Anthony Henry Smith

      (for The Fishkill Ridge Caretakers)
      (Fishkill Ridge Community Heritage, a separate organization, has also supported this letter from their beginning.)

    • Richard Albright JD, MS, PHD

      Bobby Kennedy Jr., would make an excellant choice for the head of EPA. He is a committed environmentalist which is what that agency has lacked for many years. He is also highly knowledgable about military munitions a growing threat to our environment. Non of the other candidates mentioned have any knowledge of the munitions issues and the threat munitions pose to drinking water.

    • Regan

      Well, there’s some peace in not having the appointment made yet, but I confess to being pretty interested in who will be appointed.

      Just for an idea of who else has their hat in the ring, at least according to Discover Magazine:

      Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection head Kathleen McGinty; California Air Resources Board chairwoman Mary Nichols; Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection head Ian Bowles; Kansas governor Kathleen Sibelius; New Jersey environmental commissioner Lisa Jackson; environmental lawyer, activist, and prolific blogger Robert F. Kennedy Jr.

      Just if anyone is interested in checking on all the folks’ records, not just Mr. Kennedy’s.

    • Regan

      From the Washington Post a few hours ago,
      “…Obama is expected to name Carol Browner, former head of the Environmental Protection Agency, as the head of a new policy council to coordinate climate, environment and energy issues. He is also planning to make official other choices: Steven Chu, a Nobel laureate in physics, as his energy secretary; Lisa Jackson, the chief of staff for New Jersey’s governor, as head of the EPA; and Nancy Sutley, deputy mayor of Los Angeles, as head of the White House Council on Environmental Quality…”

      On a related note, the choice for Health and Human Services Secretary is Former Senate Majority Leader Tom Dashle