Presidential candidate and anti-vaccine conspiracy theorist Robert F Kennedy Jr heaped praise on Twitter owner Elon Musk for defending free speech, during a Twitter spaces event with the executive on Monday afternoon.
Mr Kennedy, who has long promoted the discredited theory that vaccines play a role in causing autism, participated in a Twitter Spaces event on Monday and praised Mr Musk for his stewardship of the social media giant for supposedly stopping censorship of voices that dissent from orthodoxy.
“I just want to tell you how much I admire you for that and how grateful I am on behalf of my country,” he said. “You would come here from another country and be a key instrument for rescuing American democracy and freedom of speech.”
The forum is the second such event that Mr Musk has hosted with a presidential hopeful. Last month, Mr Musk hosted a Twitter Sspaces forum with Florida Gov Ron DeSantis as he announced his candidacy for the Republican nomination for president in 2024.
Mr Kennedy announced his candidacy to challenge President Joe Biden for the Democratic nomination for president in 2024 in April. During the event on Monday, he said that his fellow Democrats had misunderstood Mr Musk and had unfairly maligned him.
“I was so surprised and delighted when you did that on your own and clearly you’ve been portrayed as somebody as this sinister agenda but you’re doing step after step that is not in your self-interest and that is clearly designed to protect freedom of speech,” he said.
He also praised Mr Musk for releasing the so-called “Twitter Files” which showed internal communications within Twitter from before Mr Musk took over the company in October 2022 about how they moderated content, such as The New York Post story about Hunter Biden’s laptop as well as the company’s decision to suspend former president Donald Trump’s account.
“I can't imagine that any attorney or Twitter told you that that was a good idea,” he said.
Mr Musk responded by saying that his actions came at a great financial cost.
“I don't care how much it cost or what it takes,” he said. If we lose free speech, we lose.”
In response, Mr Kennedy compared him to the American revolutionaries who declared their independence from the United Kingdom and who risked their own fortunes and reputations.
“They put their property on the line, they put their financial status and their social status on the line,” he said. “I've watched you do the same thing and you've been such an example to other Americans of how we ought to be behaving even if it costs us a lot of money.”
Similarly, Mr Kennedy said that liberals should support the free speech of those with whom they disagree, bringing up the fact that liberals supported the right to march through the largely Jewish suburb of Skokie, Illinois, in the 1970s.
Throughout much of the forum, Mr Musk did not challenge Mr Kennedy, including on some of his more outlandish claims that former Fox News executive Roger Ailes prevented him from discussing people injured by vaccines on the cable news network. He also breezed past Mr Kennedy saying that “Covid was clearly a bioweapons problem.”
The two also meandered and had a longer conversation about artificial intelligence and what it would do to the American workforce as well as Mr Musk’s Neuralink project. At one point, Michael Shellenberger, one of the writers who published the Twitter Files, jumped into the conversation.
The conversation came after former Twitter executive Jack Dorsey tweeted his support of Mr Kennedy, saying “He can and will” defeat Mr Biden, Mr Trump and Mr DeSantis.