RFK Jr says he’ll eat brain worms and ‘still beat’ Biden and Trump in debate

<span>Robert F Kennedy Jr in Brooklyn, New York, on 1 May.</span><span>Photograph: Andrea Renault/Zuma Press Wire/Rex/Shutterstock</span>
Robert F Kennedy Jr in Brooklyn, New York, on 1 May.Photograph: Andrea Renault/Zuma Press Wire/Rex/Shutterstock

In a US presidential campaign season growing more bizarre by the day, the independent candidate Robert F Kennedy Jr offered “to eat five more brain worms and still beat” Donald Trump and Joe Biden in a staged debate.

Kennedy was speaking after the New York Times published a startling story about a 2012 deposition in which he said a previous neurological problem “was caused by a worm that got into my brain and ate a portion of it and then died”.

“I offer to eat five more brain worms and still beat President Trump and President Biden in a debate,” Kennedy posted on X, the platform formerly known as Twitter.

“I feel confident of the result even with a six-worm handicap.”

In answer to an account parodying the billionaire Elon Musk, who said Kennedy should debate Trump and Biden “on X spaces with Tucker Carlson monitoring”, Kennedy said: “I’m in!”

Kennedy and Trump are both due to speak at the Libertarian party convention in Washington later this month. Kennedy has challenged Trump to debate him there.

Kennedy’s health problems were the subject of a lengthy Times report, which quoted from a deposition Kennedy gave during divorce proceedings in 2012.

Some doctors thought Kennedy had a brain tumour but another said a dark spot on scans could be the result of a parasite. Experts said Kennedy could have suffered a pork tapeworm infection. The Times said Kennedy also reported suffering mercury poisoning, from eating too much infected fish.

“I have cognitive problems, clearly,” Kennedy said in the deposition. “I have short-term memory loss, and I have longer-term memory loss that affects me.”

Kennedy, 70, told the Times he had recovered. His campaign said: “The issue was resolved more than 10 years ago and he is in robust physical and mental health. Questioning Mr Kennedy’s health is a hilarious suggestion, given his competition.”

Biden is 81, Trump 77. Public polling shows dissatisfaction with both. Observers from both sides of the divide fear Kennedy acting as a spoiler in the general election, as he continues to seek ballot access in all 50 states.

Kennedy’s family has long sat in the mainstream of US politics. His father was the US attorney general and New York senator Robert F Kennedy, while uncles included John F Kennedy, the 35th president, and Ted Kennedy, the longtime Massachusetts senator.

But Kennedy’s vaccine conspiracy theories and other non-mainstream views have flourished online – where news of his views on brain worms caused predictable hilarity.

“Robert F Kennedy Jr says health issue caused by dead worm in his brain,” wrote Craig Rozniecki, a satirist. “Well, that explains a lot …”

The actor and comedian Patton Oswalt wrote: “‘The worm that ate part of my brain will not affect my ability to serve as president’ is the kind of dynamic campaign slogan that’s gonna seal the deal for ol’ Brainworm Bobby.”

  • This article was amended on 9 May 2024 to clarify that Robert F Kennedy Jr was responding to an account parodying Elon Musk. A previous version incorrectly stated he was responding to Musk.