Late last month, Democratic presidential candidate Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. sat for an interview with ABC News Live anchor Linsey Davis. The wide-ranging conversation covered a multitude of topics, but what ended up making news was what the network chose not to air.
Kennedy is known for his controversial takes on vaccines. Rather than allowing the audience to make up its own mind about his positions, ABC News admitted that it edited statements he made on the topic. “We should note that during our conversation, Kennedy made false claims about the COVID-19 vaccines,” Davis said in a disclaimer. “We’ve used our editorial judgment in not including extended portions of that exchange in our interview.”
On Thursday’s show, Kennedy joined Megyn for the first time since he announced his 2024 run, and they discussed what happened during the ABC News interview and how it differed from his experience on The Megyn Kelly Show.
What Happened at the ABC News Interview
News organizations have the right to edit interviews however they see fit, but typically an outlet doesn’t explicitly advertise what cuts it makes to the finished product. In the case of ABC News, viewers saw about 20 seconds of Davis and Kennedy talking about potential links between vaccines and autism before the interview abruptly cut to a question about whether or not Kennedy has the support of his family.
As it turns out, there was a longer exchange about vaccinations that was removed, and we know this because of the disclaimer Davis read from her anchor desk after the interview finished airing. She also went on to ‘fact check’ what Kennedy purportedly said about the number of deaths and hospitalizations the COVID-19 vaccines may or may not have prevented and autism.
It was an unusual move for the network to air a rebuttal to claims that didn’t actually make the air. “So she cut out everything that followed and then offered a 33-second disclaimer on how wrong you are on vaccines, rebutting claims we didn’t get to hear,” Megyn noted. “Whatever [Kennedy] had said… wound up on the editing room floor, which was longer than the 20-second exchange ABC chose to air.”
Kennedy told Megyn that, in the unaired footage, he laid out the scientific studies – including ones from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) – that speak to the relationship between vaccines and autism. “By the way, I didn’t go on there saying I’m going to push this issue between autism and vaccines – she chose to ask me about it,” he explained. “When I pushed back on that and cited scientific studies supporting it – of which there are hundreds – she left her propaganda in place, cut mine out, and then… gave this very unusual statement saying we have censored him because he was promoting misinformation.”
How the Media Stifles Debate
The situation speaks to how journalism has changed. Megyn said people jump to conclusions about Kennedy’s positions because they’ve been conditioned to believe “he is a nutcase on vaccines” and, therefore, shouldn’t be given a platform. She admitted that she even found herself in that camp at one point. Megyn explained that her friend encouraged her to pick up one of Kennedy’s books, and she did despite her own preconceived notions. “I started reading it, started looking up the sources that you cited and supported, then went to my team and said let’s check his sources,” she shared.
That exercise ultimately led to the two-part interview that aired in March 2022 (you can watch the whole conversation in episode 282 and episode 283). “We went to your worst critics… and said, ‘Where’s he wrong,’ and they gave us all their ammo and we presented you with it, and you responded,” Megyn realled. “That is how people learn, that is how people come to their own conclusion… that’s how journalism used to work and is supposed to still work.”
Kennedy said that all he is looking for is a chance to have a conversation. “What I say to people is, ‘Show me where I’m wrong; just show me the facts,’ because I’m susceptible to change,” he explained. “I’m accused constantly of promoting misinformation, but nobody actually is able to show me a single factual assertion that I’ve made that is wrong.”
He said he has created an advisory board with “350 PhD scientists and physicians” that look at his social media content before it’s posted. “I probably have the most robust in-house fact-checking operation right now in the media,” he noted. “None of them would stay with me if I was promoting misinformation regularly or even occasionally.”
Kennedy’s Experience on The Megyn Kelly Show
The two-part interview between Kennedy and Megyn had some four hours of content that was chock full of hot-button issues like COVID-19 and vaccines, yet no part of the discussion was ever censored on any social media platform. “We wanted it to live on YouTube, and Instagram, and all platforms that had been censoring you, and it did,” Megyn noted. “And it does to this day.”
It proves that it is still possible to have thoughtful and nuanced discussions on controversial topics so long as they are well-researched. “Nobody was allowing me to speak. I was just a pariah in the media… and you were one of the first people to have a conversation with me,” Kennedy recalled. “And you did something very unusual, which is you would interview me and then you’d section the interview and place your fact check.”
At the time, Kennedy said he heard from some people who thought the “after-checking” tactic was “not fair” because it didn’t give him a chance to respond in real time. But he understood why it had to be done that way. “I said, ‘What she is doing is the only way that she could allow me on, and what she is doing is great,’” he shared. “I want people to do that. I want people to fact check me.”
Megyn said that the overwhelming majority of Kennedy’s claims checked out. “The most controversial stuff that you get labeled a kook for saying checked out time after time after time,” she shared. “And this is not a full endorsement of everything you’ve ever said, but my takeaway was, ‘This guy has been unfairly maligned by people who are so pro-vaccine that they just needed to silence him.’”
Ultimately, Kennedy said his goal is to get people thinking for themselves. “People should not believe what I say, and they should not believe what CDC says, and they shouldn’t believe what the WHO says,” he concluded. “In a democracy, you have to do your own research… It’s part of your civic duty.”
You can check out the full interview with Kennedy by tuning in to episode 548 on YouTube, Apple Podcasts, or wherever you like to listen. And don’t forget that you can catch The Megyn Kelly Show live on SiriusXM’s Triumph (channel 111) weekdays from 12pm to 2pm ET.