House Democrats targeted Robert F. Kennedy Jr. during a congressional hearing Thursday on federal government censorship, claiming the former presidential candidate breached house rules that prohibit defamatory or degrading testimony.
Kennedy, a critic of President Biden’s handling of the COVID-19 pandemic, was invited to testify at the House Judiciary Subcommittee on the Weaponization of the Federal Government. But he was met with resistance from Democrats seeking to limit his comments and remove him from the panel.
“This is an attempt to censor a censorship hearing,” Kennedy said.
He was particularly critical of Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz’s (D-Fla.) ill-fated bid to take the hearing into executive session and discuss his alleged rule breach. The motion was voted down 10-8 due to the Republican majority on the panel.
Democrats then sought to limit Kennedy’s remarks right from the start — Rep. Stacey Plaskett (D-VI) questioned why he should get 10 minutes to speak, while other witnesses only usually get five.
After chants of “no to hate speech” were heard, Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio) acquiesced and said Kennedy would get five minutes.
Jordan then remarked to Plaskett, “If you want to cut him off and censor him some more, you’re welcome to do it.”
“Oh, that’s not my job,” Plaskett replied. “That’s your job. Why don’t you threaten the witness so that they do not want to be a witness?”
In his opening remarks, Kennedy lamented the Democrats’ efforts to censor his speech, and broader efforts to censor his candidacy for the nation’s highest office. He said his speech announcing his candidacy was censored five minutes in by YouTube, and the Biden administration had attempted to censor him when he discussed vaccines just three days after taking office.
“Censorship is antithetical to our party,” he said, drawing on the words of prominent Democrats throughout history. “The First Amendment was not written for easy speech. It was written for the speech that nobody likes you for.”
Kennedy reminded the hearing of his Uncle Ted Kennedy’s record of finding common ground and passing legislation.
“He didn’t try to censor people,” he said.
Democrats were left disappointed as their censoring efforts failed to stand up to the committee’s Republican majority. Whether that majority in Congress will stem the tide of Democrats’ attempts to censor, or whether the Democrats will find other routes to accomplish their wishes remains to be seen.