(WASHINGTON) — Democratic presidential candidate Robert F. Kennedy Jr. on Thursday appeared before a House subcommittee to testify at a hearing on censorship — but it was his past comments that drew sharp rebuke from Democrats as Kennedy sought to defend himself.

Testifying in front of the GOP-led House Judiciary Committee’s subcommittee on alleged government “weaponization,” Kennedy denied that he is racist or antisemitic following comments that leaked over the weekend where he appeared to be citing a false conspiracy theory that COVID-19 was “targeted to” certain ethnicities while Chinese people and Ashkenazi Jews were more immune.

Kennedy said that he had “never uttered a phrase that was either racist or anti-semitic” and, despite repeatedly spreading conspiracy theories and misinformation on public health issues in the past, insisted that he was not anti-vaccination.

“I’m subjected to this new form of censorship, which is called targeted propaganda, where people apply pejoratives like ‘anti-vax.’ I’ve never been anti-vaccine,” he argued. “But everybody in this room probably believes that I have been because that’s the prevailing narrative.”

Kennedy’s testimony comes after 102 Democratic representatives signed a letter earlier this week opposing his appearance before the panel, citing his comments that were recorded on video and published by The New York Post on Saturday, during what the paper described as a press dinner in New York City last week.

In the video obtained by the Post, Kennedy can be heard making a series of false and misleading claims, including saying, “We don’t know whether it [COVID-19] was deliberately targeted or not, but there are papers out there that show the racial or ethnic differential and impact.”

“There is an argument that it is ethnically targeted,” specifically against Caucasian and Black people, Kennedy can be heard saying in the video.

Health officials worldwide have determined the virus disproportionally killed some groups of people not because of their race but because of underlying health inequities

U.S. Virgin Islands Del. Stacey Plaskett, the ranking member on the subcommittee, on Thursday blasted Speaker Kevin McCarthy and the subcommittee’s chair, Ohio Republican Rep. Jim Jordan, for allowing Kennedy to testify in the wake of his recent remarks.

“They intentionally chose to elevate this rhetoric to give these harmful, dangerous views a platform in the halls of the United States Congress,” Plaskett said. “That’s endorsing that speech. That’s not just supporting free speech. They have co-signed on idiotic, bigoted messaging.”

“It’s a free country. You absolutely have a right to say what you believe,” Plaskett said. “But you don’t have the right to a platform, public or private. We don’t have to give one of the largest platforms of our democracy — Congress, this hearing. Our right does not mean that we as Americans are not free from accountability.”

Earlier this week, McCarthy said of Kennedy, “I disagree with everything he said. The hearing that we have this week is about censorship. I don’t think censoring somebody is actually the answer here.”

In his testimony, Kennedy claimed that other Democrats were seeking to silence him based on his views.

“‘I’ve spent my life in this party. I’ve devoted my life to the values of this party,” he said. “This — 102 people signed this. This itself is evidence of the problem that this hearing was convened to address. This is an attempt to censor a censorship hearing.”

The letter was initiated by Democratic Reps. Debbie Wasserman-Schultz and Dan Goldman of New York, who are Jewish, and Rep. Judy Chu, who is Chinese American.

“If you think I said something that’s antisemitic, let’s talk about the details,” Kennedy maintained in his testimony. “I’m telling you, all the things that I’m accused of right now, by you and in this letter, are distortions, they’re misrepresentations.”

This story will be updated.

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