RFK Jr. apologizes for Anne Frank comment during anti-vax speech, following public skewering

Kennedy scion was publicly criticized by several family members including wife for Holocaust-related comparison.

Updated: January 26, 2022 - 8:45am

Robert F. Kennedy Jr. is apologizing for comments he made implying that Holocaust victim Anne Frank had more freedom while in hiding from the Nazis than people in the U.S. under COVID-19 vaccination policies.

"I apologize for my reference to Anne Frank, especially to families that suffered the Holocaust horrors," Kennedy tweeted Tuesday, amid sharp public backlash. "My intention was to use examples of past barbarism to show the perils from new technologies of control. To the extent my remarks caused hurt, I am truly and deeply sorry." 

The son of the late Robert F. Kennedy and nephew of President John F. Kennedy made the comments on Sunday at an anti-vaccine mandate rally in Washington, D.C., during which he compared U.S. vaccination policy to tyrannical leadership.

"Even in Hitler's Germany, you could cross the Alps into Switzerland," he said to a crowd. "You could hide in an attic like Anne Frank did. I visited, in 1962, East Germany with my father and met people who had climbed the wall and escaped, so it was possible. Many died, true, but it was possible."

RFK Jr.'s comments were swiftly condemned by members of his family including his sister Kerry, who wrote that her brother's "lies and fear-mongering yesterday were both sickening and destructive."

Kennedy was also speared by his wife, TV star Cheryl Hines, who wrote, "My husband's reference to Anne Frank at a mandate rally in D.C. was reprehensible and insensitive. The atrocities that millions endured during the Holocaust should never be compared to anyone or anything. His opinions are not a reflection of my own."

Kennedy's comments also were condemned by the U.S. Holocaust Museum and the Auschwitz Memorial, in Germany.

"Making reckless comparisons to the Holocaust, the murder of six million Jews, for a political agenda is outrageous and deeply offensive," said the U.S. museum. 

In a statement given to NBC News, Kennedy denied that he had directly compared the U.S. government with the Nazis or Hitler.

"I referred to Anne Frank's terrible two-year ordeal only by way of showing that modern surveillance capacity would make her courageous feat virtually impossible today," he said. "Characterizing this discussion as 'anti-Semitic' is unfair and cheapens a term that should always retain its terrible power."