RFK Jr.’s brain worm is not funny

I am not a fan of Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. He seems to be somewhat of a crank and his run for president seems to be a vanity project in order to push some of his outlandish views. But his revelation that he has a dead parasitic worm in his brain has created a media storm.

Independent presidential candidate Robert F. Kennedy Jr. on Wednesday detailed the medical abnormality he experienced in 2010 that he said was caused by a worm that entered his brain and then died, marking his first public explanation of the incident.

Kennedy said he recalls experiencing “brain fog” and “having trouble with word retrieval and short-term memory,” during that period in a podcast interview on “Pushing the Limits with Brian Shapiro.”

He was initially told by doctors that he had a tumor in his brain, and was planning to have it removed before he met with another doctor who looked at images of his brain and said it didn’t look like a tumor, Kennedy said.

While I completely oppose his candidacy, I am disturbed at how some are reacting to the news, treating it as a source of humor. People’s health problems can be a source of concern. Learning that one has a worm in one’s brain, even if it is dead, can be terrifying. While it can raise legitimate questions about whether they are capable of serving in the office, it is not funny and I wish people would stop treating it as such.


  1. DrVanNostrand says

    The thing I can’t understand is why people are so credulous about this claim. No actual evidence has been shared. The information comes from a deposition where he was trying to claim diminished capacity so he could reduce spousal support in his divorce. RFK is both a pathological liar and a medical crank. It’s entirely possible it was completely made up or that he was diagnosed by the same type of crank he works with in his antivax advocacy today. Either way, it has no impact on his fitness to be president because he was 100% unfit to begin with.

  2. sonofrojblake says

    I discovered a new feature on Bluesky this week, purely because of this. Someone specifically posted that they’d muted all posts with the word “brainworms” in them. I immediately did the same, and my feed got a lot nicer and easier to read. It’s like never having to read anything John Morales or Silentbob post on here -- it just instantly improves the average quality of the reading material here, if occasionally resulting in large areas of white space if one or both of them has had one of their spasms.

    I do understand why people believe it. They want to. It IS -- pace Mano -- funny. Comedy is personal and a LOT of people are finding the funny there. But my god people please talk about something else. Yeah, brainworms, haha, move on.

  3. Alan G. Humphrey says

    So, does that preclude discussion of the assembly called by Charles V, Holy Roman Emperor, in 1521?

  4. cates says

    Well, it got me to remember a tv comedy series that I enjoyed and got me wondering about politicians in general. It was titled “Brain Dead”, ran on CBS in2016. Here is the IMDb link

  5. lochaber says

    I suspect the people finding it humorous/amusing, is in part due to the (relatively recent?) popularity of saying someone “has brainworms” when they are spouting off particularly bad ideas/misinformation.

    Which, RFK has done a lot of, so it may seem to some people rather apt that he claimed to have had a “brainworm”

    That, and there have been stories circulating social media of people getting weird parasites (I think one was someone out of China(?) eating raw pork, and getting numerous cysts from juvenile tapeworms in his brain. Also that weird amoeba that people sometimes contract from hot springs, that enters via the nasal cavity, and then makes it’s way to the brain, and eventually kills the person.

    meh, I don’t much care either way, I just want him to go away and/or be quiet…

  6. Tethys says

    It’s utter bullshit from a nepo baby who has earned a reputation for being a complete sack of trash while being an elected official. I think ridiculing his latest performance of abject stupidity is entirely appropriate.

  7. John Morales says

    It’s a thing, but.


    I immediately did the same, and my feed got a lot nicer and easier to read. It’s like never having to read anything John Morales or Silentbob post on here

    This, of course, is a false claim.

    There are times when people quote me, and unless one has also blocked themselves from seeing those comments, one will perforce have to read something John Morales or Silentbob post on here.

    (Still. My legend lives :0 )

  8. Pierce R. Butler says

    DrVanNostrand @ # 1: No actual evidence has been shared. The information comes from a deposition where he was trying to claim diminished capacity so he could reduce spousal support in his divorce.

    RFK Jr also claimed at that time to have had brain problems due to mercury poisoning from too much seafood, particularly tuna fish sandwiches (since cleared up). Which raises at least two questions:

    * How much recovery from acute mercury poisoning in a late-50s man is even possible in a decade or so?

    • Why would a prominent environmental activist subsist for so long on known endangered & polluted oceanic fish anyway?

    We might also consider that the child support debate got so ferocious it was never concluded, with the mother of four of RJK Jr’s children committing suicide as his family ganged up on her.

  9. Rob Grigjanis says

    I don’t find it funny either, but humour, like musical or other tastes, is highly subjective.

    It can get tricky. Monty Python has used stuttering as a source of humour in a couple of their films, most notably A Fish Called Wanda. As a stutterer, I did feel quite awkward when I first saw the film. It could be argued that the stutterer (played by Michael Palin) was not the target of of the jokes, but the question remains; why even use it as a source of humour? Dunno. Ask Palin or Cleese. I still like the movie.

  10. birgerjohansson says

    In theory we should not joke about disease, but when SSAT claims to be a stable genius with excellent health he makes himself a valid target for mockery.

  11. larpar says

    Rebecca Watson thinks it’s funny. Not funny haha, but funny strange (well maybe a little haha).

  12. Matt G says

    Like many here, I have no reason to think this story is true. The condition is rare, and the only source of information has a long history of dishonesty, narcissism, and medical quackery. I would never mock someone for a medical condition beyond their control (and it’s interesting to think about this in the contexts of both Covid, and the mental and physical troubles of SSAT). If someone acquired an illness through their own foolishness, I might criticize them for that, however, but I would also feel sympathy for those around them who might be affected.

  13. Mano Singham says

    I can understand people being skeptical about the truth of the worm claim but it was in a legal deposition and I doubt that Kennedy, a lawyer, would risk perjury charges to make such an outlandish claim.

    Furthermore, it seems like the story has too much detail to be just a casual claim.

    In a 2012 deposition recently reviewed by the New York Times, the politician revealed that in 2010 a worm got into his brain “ate a portion of it and then died.”

    Kennedy had been suffering from cognitive difficulties. Doctors initially suspected that he had a brain tumor, but it turned out to be a parasite infection – specifically, a pork tapeworm larva lodged in his brain.

    This particular parasite (Taenia solium) is mainly found in low-income countries where people live close to livestock, including parts of southern Africa, Latin America and Asia. Cases in the U.S. are reported to be in the hundreds per year. It is also an incredibly rare infection to encounter in Europe.

    The worm is not a generic one but the specific type has been identified. So I think the claim is plausible.

  14. birgerjohansson says

    Tapeworms have only two layers of tissue. They cannot gnaw their way through anything, lacking any organs. As mentioned above, they can only passively absorb nutrients. That is why they are so thin.
    The worms that infect wildebeests are a different matter. They kill their hosts.

  15. says

    Thanks for the details, Mano. Yes, RFKook did make that claim in a legal deposition — as a means of dodging out of child-support payments. Basically he was pleading insanity to dodge responsibility; and even if his claims are 100% verifiably true, it still doesn’t absolve him of any responsibility for his inexcusable dishonest actions.

  16. DrVanNostrand says


    My point is not that his claim is impossible. This pork parasite exists. What I’m saying is that the only actual evidence uncovered by any of these news reports is the deposition, which is his own self-serving testimony. His numerous lies are copiously documented, so I don’t think anything he says can be taken at face value. As for the risks of lying under oath, I don’t think it’s hard for a seasoned grifter like RFK. All he has to do is find an unethical and/or quack doctor to point to a random blur on a brain scan and say it could be a dead parasite. He literally lies for a living and surrounds himself with quack doctors that do the same. Any of his self-serving claims should be taken with great skepticism.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *