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Poppers Cause AIDS, the Environment Makes Boys Trans, Says Robert F. Kennedy Jr.

Poppers Cause AIDS, the Environment Makes Boys Trans, Says Robert F. Kennedy Jr.

Robert F. Kennedy Jr. and poppers

A member of the famous Kennedy dynasty, Robert F. Kennedy Jr., continues to peddle falsehoods and conspiracy theories.


Robert F. Kennedy Jr., the noted conspiracy theorist and anti-vaccine activist, thinks kids (particularly boys) are being made trans from exposure to chemicals in the environment, equating them to frogs in a lab, and he claims AIDS is an environmental condition for which poppers are responsible. Really.

The son of former president John F. Kennedy’s brother, the late Robert F. Kennedy, who served as his attorney general, is challenging President Joe Biden as a Democrat in the 2024 election.

In two recently unearthed videos, the activist made bizarre and false claims about the existence of transgender people and the origins of AIDS.

“I see these huge levels of depression and despair, loneliness in kids, and I don’t think that there’s a single cause to it, and I think blaming it on depression about climate is probably oversimplistic,” Kennedy told Canadian far right-wing political pundit and psychologist Jordan Peterson. “A lot of the problems we see in kids, and particularly boys, it’s probably underappreciated that how much of that is coming from chemical exposures, including a lot of the sexual dysphoria that we’re seeing.”

Kennedy claimed that kids are “swimming through a soup of toxic chemicals,” including atrazine, a common herbicide.


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“If you in a lab put atrazine and a tank full of frogs, it will chemically castrate and force forcibly feminize every frog in there, and 10 percent of the frogs, the male frogs will turn into fully viable females able to produce viable eggs,” Kennedy claimed. “If it’s doing that to frogs, it, there’s a lot of other evidence that it’s doing it to human beings as well.”

Kennedy’s assertion stems from a 2010 study — one that far-right conspiracy theorist Alex Jones amplified, pointing to a perceived (and false) government conspiracy to turn people gay — that found that exposure to atrazine in certain amphibians caused male frogs to suffer infertility and feminization, resulting in some developing viable eggs.

The study was designed to find out what is causing a worldwide decline in amphibian populations. Atrazine was injected into the water for 40 male African clawed frogs, and water without atrazine was fed to the control group of 40 male frogs. A month after exposure to atrazine, 10 percent of the frogs had developed ovaries and female reproductive organs, despite being genetically male. The frogs were also capable of reproducing with male frogs, but their offspring were only male — never female — further distorting the population. According to the study, amphibian populations were adversely affected by atrazine and other hormone-disrupting pollutants.

However, amphibians being different in not only species but also class from humans, scientists did not and could not extrapolate those findings to extend to human beings.

According to the National Pesticide Information Center, no reports of gender changes for people exposed to atrazine exist. The chemical, introduced in 1958, is considered low in toxicity when inhaled or ingested, according to the center.

“Atrazine does not alter or damage genes in humans and animals,” the NPIC states.

Most commonly, rats and rabbits exposed to high chemical concentrations had low birth rates for their litters.

A second video getting a lot of attention shows Kennedy making wild claims about the beginnings of the AIDS crisis, blaming it on gay men and the use of poppers, an inhalant that relaxes muscles and generates a brief head rush and sensation of euphoria.

“There’s a lot of people that said it is not a virus,” Kennedy said. “The virus is a passenger virus, and these people are dying mainly because of poppers. A hundred percent of the people who died in the first thousand [with] AIDS were people who were addicted to poppers, which are known to cause Kaposi sarcoma in rats. And they were people who were part of a gay lifestyle where they were burning the candle at both ends.”

He claimed that many were injecting drugs.

“There were poppers on sale everywhere at the gay bars,” he said. “And there were a number of people in the [National Institutes of Health] who said, this is not a viral disease, but it’s a disease that is environmental and is being caused to people who are getting autoimmunity from doing these toxins.”

Kennedy claimed, “But for Tony Fauci, it was really important to call it a virus because that made it an infectious disease, and it allowed him to take control of it.”

The progression of the human immunodeficiency virus, or HIV, causes AIDS.

White House deputy press secretary Andrew Bates criticized the false assertions around AIDS.

“We will not comment about 2024,” Bates tells The Advocate. “AIDS is a horrible tragedy, and we can never insult the hundreds of thousands of Americans whose lives it has stolen with extreme conspiracy theories that dangerously undermine public health.”

Before these videos surfaced, Kennedy also had some far-fetched ideas about the prevalence of mass school shootings in American society, blaming them on pharmaceuticals.

“Prior to the introduction of Prozac, we had almost none of these events in our country, and we’ve never seen them in human history, where people walk into a schoolroom of children or strangers and start shooting people,” he told the billionaire owner of Twitter, Elon Musk, who has peddled in far-right conspiracy theories recently as well, during an interview this month.

There is no evidence to support that claim.

Editor’s note: This article was updated to include a comment from a White House spokesperson.

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