Karine Jean-Pierre
Karine Jean-PierrePool/ABACA via Reuters Connect

White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre on Monday denounced a conspiracy theory floated by Robert F. Kennedy Jr., a Democratic presidential candidate, that COVID-19 was engineered to spare Ashkenazi Jews and Chinese people.

“The claims made on that tape are false,” Jean-Pierre said during press briefing when asked about a video published over the weekend. “It is vile, and they put our fellow Americans in danger.”

In the video, which was published by The New York Post, Kennedy suggests that COVID was “targeted to attack Caucasians and Black people.” He later added that “the people who are most immune are Ashkenazi Jews and Chinese.”

Kennedy later responded to The New York Post and claimed that "the story is mistaken".

"I have never, ever suggested that the COVID-19 virus was targeted to spare Jews," he explained, adding, "I accurately pointed out — during an off-the-record conversation — that the US and other governments are developing ethnically targeted bioweapons and that a 2021 study of the COVID-19 virus shows that COVID-19 appears to disproportionately affect certain races since the furin cleave docking site is most compatible with Blacks and Caucasians and least compatible with ethnic Chinese, Finns, and Ashkenazi Jews.”

“In that sense, it serves as a kind of proof of concept for ethnically targeted bioweapons. I do not believe and never implied that the ethnic effect was deliberately engineered," he added.

Jean-Pierre declined to discuss Kennedy directly on Monday, citing the legal constraints on the administration’s ability to address campaign matters, but warned that Kennedy’s remarks amounted to encouraging racist theories around the virus.

“If you think about the racist and antisemitic conspiracy theories that come out of saying those type of things, it’s an attack on our fellow citizens,” Jean-Pierre said. “And so it’s important that we essentially speak out when we hear those claims more broadly.”

Jean-Pierre’s comments come a day after House Democratic Leader Rep. Hakeem Jeffries (D-NY) on Sunday blasted Kennedy.

"The disgusting use of a vile antisemitic trope and unhinged xenophobic conspiracy theory by Robert F. Kennedy Jr. is unacceptable and unconscionable,” Jeffries said in a statement.

“Hate crimes directed at the Jewish and Asian- American communities have skyrocketed in recent years. The dangerous language used by Robert F. Kennedy Jr. risks fanning the flames of violence against our Jewish and Asian-American brothers and sisters. It should be uniformly condemned," he added.