Fact checking the ALL IN podcast with RFK Jr
I go through the health claims made by RFK jr
I had the chance to listen to the latest All in Podcast, which I very much enjoy, and here I will fact check the recent episode with RFK Jr. I will confine my comments to health and science, and stay out of energy, foreign policy, and the culture wars.
RFK Jr tackles many health and science topics, and generally views the world through the prism that much of public health and science seeks to optimize profits at the expense of the public interest. Furthermore, the media is dependent on the downstream revenue of this largess, and ergo their coverage is often biased. I suspect many will be sympathetic to this general worldview. These were the health and science themes I caught in the discussion and some fact checking.
RFK Jr was and is strongly opposed to lockdowns. He states, “instead of a public health response to a public health crisis, we had a militarized and monetized response which is the inverse response you want to a public health crisis”. [forgive me if the quote is slightly off, I typed as best I could].
RFK Jr. adds that lockdown was almost universally not in pandemic playbooks. That it was unthinkable pre-coronavirus, and that it was universally felt preCOVID to cause more harm than good.
Whether lockdowns help is a complex question, and lockdown means many things, but I think RFK Jr is generally on point here. Very likely lockdowns worked only in tiny and select circumstances. Most of what we did was just plain harmful and stupid. I have outlined these thoughts elsewhere.
RFK Jr could strengthen his argument by asking who prospers from lockdowns— big Tech, Netflix, zoom— and who loses— mom and pop stores— and that further fits his worldview. He can also strengthen his argument by mentioning schools more often, the greatest error of all, and that the power to lockdown is not compatible with free society.
Stupid covid policy
RFK Jr mentions that our covid policy was stupid, “Police were pulling surfers out of the ocean and ticketing them.” RFK Jr is correct here. No doubt about it: closing playgrounds and ticketing surfers was an abuse of power. Public health deserves to be humiliated for this, and should be subject to audit. See this actual headline.
RFK Jr is a proponent of hydroxychloroquine and Ivermectin. Here, he is incorrect. You need to validate drugs like you need to validate masks— with RCTs. RCTs have shown both do not work. That is not surprising because most medical interventions don’t work.
This is a random effects meta-analysis of HCQ.
This is ivermectin
RFK Jr cites evidence that some African countries had better outcomes than the US and they take ivermectin. But he ignores age structure, whether the death toll is accurate, and ultimately this is a low quality ecological comparison. The same low level evidence was used to support masking. RCTs are the only way to judge medical therapies, and HCQ, ivermectin and masks all fail.
RFK Jr is skeptical of remdesivir, and I think that is accurate.
I don’t know about his claim that drugs preclude EUA on vaccines because we did have dexamethasone by summer of 2020. It clearly works and did not preclude EUA.
RFK Jr is worried that institutions have regulatory capture. Here I think he is correct. Most federal agencies are hopelessly captured by the institutions they seek to regulate. The FDA is too close to pharma. Bien and I showed that in BMJ.
RFK Jr argues that since 1989 two things occurred together. There has been a rise in chronic disease, neurologic disease, and autoimmunity, and we give more vaccines. He says only a few things changed in the US around that time, which means vaccines are highly likely to play a role. He didn’t unpack the argument much further than this, and I found it to be entirely lacking. It is low quality causal reasoning, and was unpersuasive.
RFK Jr would do better to focus on the risk benefit balance of COVID vaccines in young men who had COVID. The CDC and this administration forced young men who had COVID to get this vaccine and booster, but because of myocarditis, that was a net harm. His argument would be stronger to focus on the case that is absolutely true.
Pharma direct to consumer advertising
RFK Jr laments Pharma’s direct to consumer advertising. Only the US and New Zealand permit this. Here RFK Jr is on sound footing. A nice paper on the topic.
Media and censorship
RFK Jr aludes to media and social media censorship of COVID and other topics. He was recently on ABC news and they highly edited his interview. RFK jr again is correct that dispassionate rebuttal (as this post is) is far better than censorship. I have been saying this the entire pandemic.
ABC was shameful to edit his video, a topic that the panelists agreed was disgraceful. Instead the 2 hour unedited episode of All In was how media should work
RFK Jr was correct and incorrect on some matters. In several places his argument could be refined and made stronger. All In is a great podcast. The hosts have real courage. I encourage everyone to listen. Video link is at the top.
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