An anti-Semitic video has claimed the then US president John F. Kennedy used a 1961 speech to warn about the “menace” of the Jewish race.
The claim is false. Kennedy was referring to the threat of communism in the aftermath of the Bay of Pigs invasion.
An audio clip of Kennedy’s speech begins from the 25sec mark with the words: “We are opposed around the world by a monolithic and ruthless conspiracy that relies primarily on covert means”.
It plays over snippets of news footage featuring journalists, politicians and other figures who have taken a prominent role in the response to the COVID pandemic. At the 1min23sec mark, the narrator says: “The images you’ve just seen are the current generation of officeholders installed by the global menace, which Kennedy spoke about.”
She then likens Kennedy’s warnings to those of Adolf Hitler.
Then at the 2min mark, the narrator says: “So who is the enemy of mankind they warned us about? It is the eternal Jewish menace.”
But the Kennedy speech, the full version of which can be read here, neither mentions the Jewish people nor alludes to them in any way. It was delivered to the American Newspaper Publishers Association on April 27, 1961, just days after the Bay of Pigs fiasco, a botched invasion of Cuba by about 1500 Cuban exiles, financed and directed by the US government.
A summary description of the speech by the JFK Presidential Library says: “In his speech President Kennedy addresses his discontent with the press’ news coverage of the Bay of Pigs incident, suggesting that there is a need for ‘far greater public information’ and ‘far greater official secrecy’.”
The failed invasion was staged in response to Fidel Castro‘s overthrow of the Batista dictatorship in January 1959, the growing tensions between Cuba and the US in the context of Castro’s ties to fellow socialist states and his dependence on the Soviet Union in particular.
Kennedy explained the purpose of his address to the newspaper publishers: “I want to talk about our common responsibilities in the face of a common danger. The events of recent weeks may have helped to illuminate that challenge for some; but the dimensions of its threat have loomed large on the horizon for many years.”
The backdrop of his warning was the Cold War with the Soviet Union, which he specifies when he talks about the US’s adversary: “Its preparations are concealed, not published. Its mistakes are buried, not headlined. Its dissenters are silenced, not praised. No expenditure is questioned, no rumour is printed, no secret is revealed. It conducts the Cold War, in short, with a war-time discipline no democracy would ever hope or wish to match.”
Timothy Lynch, a professor of American politics at the University of Melbourne, confirmed the speech was in reference to global communism.
“JFK was one of the least sectarian US presidents,” he said via email. “The first Catholic to hold that role, he was sensitive to sectarianism of all kinds. He wasn’t a saint. But he was not an antisemite either.
“In the 1960 campaign, he applauded Israel as ‘a triumphant reality.’ Absurd for the Facebooker to try and conceal where JFK stood.”
Rebecca Sheehan, a lecturer at Macquarie University’s Department of History and Archaeology, agreed the stated threat was communism.
“The speech was given following the Bay of Pigs invasion.
“To deflect blame for the US’s failings in this matter, JFK gave a speech in which he highlighted the threat of communism and called on the news media to support the US fight against communism by censoring itself.”
The Facebook video also includes a number of other anti-Semitic conspiracy theories which have no basis in truth.
The claim that John F. Kennedy warned about the ‘menace’ of the Jewish people in a 1961 speech is false.
Experts confirmed the speech was referencing the threat of communism in the aftermath of the Bay of Pigs invasion.
False – The claim is inaccurate.