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Posts Misrepresent Photo of RFK Jr. With Animal Carcass in Vanity Fair


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Quick Take

A photo of independent presidential candidate Robert F. Kennedy Jr. likely shows him holding the carcass of a goat, lamb or other ruminant animal in Patagonia. Social media posts, citing a Vanity Fair article, make the unsupported claim the photo shows a dog carcass in South Korea. The magazine deleted remarks by a veterinarian who said it was a dog.


Full Story

In a Vanity Fair article published on July 2, special correspondent Joe Hagan raises questions about the character and credibility of independent presidential candidate Robert F. Kennedy Jr. and highlights his controversial past, including allegations that he sexually assaulted his then-23-year-old babysitter in 1999 and texted images of nude women to his friends.

In response, Kennedy told the Breaking Points podcast on July 2, “The article is a lot of garbage.” Kennedy told the host of the podcast that he is “not a church boy” and has “many skeletons in my closet,” but he declined to comment when asked about the assault allegation. “I’m not going to comment on it,” Kennedy said.

Hagan’s article also published an image of Kennedy posing with an animal carcass. In the original article, Hagan described the photo as Kennedy “posing, alongside an unidentified woman, with the barbecued remains of what appears to be a dog” in 2010. Kennedy sent the photo to a friend last year. The friend told Vanity Fair that Kennedy “sent me the picture with a recommendation to visit the best dog restaurant in Seoul.”

In the original version of the article, Hagan supported the assertion that Kennedy posed with a canine by stating, “A veterinarian who examined the photograph says the carcass is a canine, pointing to the 13 pairs of ribs, which include the tell-tale ‘floating rib’ found in dogs.”

Kennedy responded to this allegation with a post on X on July 2, stating, “Hey @VanityFair, you know when your veterinary experts call a goat a dog, and your forensic experts say a photo taken in Patagonia was taken in Korea, that you’ve joined the ranks of supermarket tabloids.” 

In an interview with Fox News on July 3, Kennedy said that the image is “a real photo,” but told the interviewer, “It’s me in a campfire in Patagonia on the Futaleufu River eating a goat, which is what we eat down there.” In a 2013 interview in Patagon Journal, Kennedy said that he has visited the Futaleufu River at least five times. 

On July 7, Kennedy also posted a video on X responding to the magazine’s claim. In the video, which features his three pet dogs, he refers to the allegation that he posed with a dog carcass as “the height of irresponsible journalism” and calls the article “fake news.”

After Kennedy’s initial response, Vanity Fair revised the article on July 3, replacing the phrase “appears to be a dog” with “what he suggested to the friend was a dog.” Vanity Fair also added Kennedy’s initial response and removed the opinion of the veterinarian who claimed the carcass was a canine.

A representative from Vanity Fair’s parent company, Condé Nast, told us in an email on July 5, “The context for reporting this exchange, as we state in the story, was that this apparent attempt at a joke disturbed Kennedy’s friend, and as such, is part of a larger picture of Kennedy’s recent behavior distressing his friends and family.”

The Condé Nast representative told us that “we did not definitively ID the pictured animal as a dog” in the article. “We reported the date from the metadata — 2010 — but not a location, though Kennedy has incorrectly stated otherwise.” Their response also notes, “Kennedy has not disputed what he told his friend,” and that “the friend was disgusted by the picture and felt this episode illustrated poor judgment.”

By the time Vanity Fair made the changes in the article, other news networks had picked up the story. The New York Post, Newsweek and the New York Daily News published articles citing information from the original version of Vanity Fair’s story that said Kennedy posed with what “appears to be” a dog carcass. 

Multiple viral posts on social media continue to circulate the unsupported claim that Kennedy posed with a dog carcass despite Vanity Fair’s subsequent retraction. The text above the photo on a July 2 Threads post said, “Here’s a photo of RFK Jr posing with a barbecued dog. How can anyone even think about voting for this guy?”

Photo Likely Displays a Patagonian Dish

The preparation style of the carcass and roasting spit displayed in the photo of Kennedy all match closely with images of the popular Patagonian dish “asado al palo” or “cordero al palo,” which roughly translates as “lamb to the post.” The culinary guide Pick Up the Fork explains that while lamb is the favored barbecued meat in Patagonia, goat is more popularly used in Mendoza, Argentina.

We found numerous pictures of carcasses of other ruminants — which refers to hoofed, cud-chewing mammals — prepared on an iron cross in Patagonia that appear extremely similar to the photo published by Vanity Fair. 

National Geographic photographer Michael George published a photo of “a lamb that is being smoked” in a 2017 article titled, “11 Breathtaking Photos from Torres del Paine National Park,” which is located in Chile’s Patagonia region. The lamb in the photo is held by an iron cross that appears nearly identical in structure to the one displayed in the photo with Kennedy.

Tourist cruise company Australis published a 2019 blog post with photos describing asado al palo as “Patagonia’s signature dish.” The article explains the dish is prepared by cutting a lamb “vertically down the torso and splayed across an iron cross or rack,” just as it appears in the image with Kennedy.

The travel guide TasteAtlas describes cordero al palo as a “traditional lamb specialty that involves roasting a whole lamb on a spit.” The article displays another image with a close similarity to the carcass held by Kennedy in the photograph published by Vanity Fair.

We found no similar examples of this cooking technique or the iron cross in South Korean cuisine. 

Opinions of Other Veterinarians

As we noted, in the original version of the Vanity Fair article, the writer cited a veterinarian who said the photo shows a canine based on the “13 pairs of ribs, which include the tell-tale ‘floating rib’ found in dogs.”

However, both dogs and ruminants possess 13 total pairs of ribs as well as some “floating ribs,” meaning that they do not attach to the sternum.

Dr. Patty Scharko, professor of animal and veterinary sciences at Clemson University and former president of the American Association of Small Ruminant Practitioners, disagreed with the findings of the veterinarian originally cited by Vanity Fair. She told us in an email that “without a head and feet (hooves), it is difficult to determine what species [the carcass] is.”

In a post on X, veterinarian Dr. Crystal Heath offered a different opinion than the veterinarian cited in the original Vanity Fair article. Heath claimed that “the triangular scapula and flattened ribs all point to goat.”

Update, July 10: After examining the photo that appeared in Vanity Fair, Dr. Ray Wilhite, a professor at the Auburn University College of Veterinary Medicine and former president of the American Association of Veterinary Anatomists, told us in an email that “the scapula looks totally unlike a dog and is consistent with a small ruminant like a goat or sheep.” He also said “the proximal ribs widen out significantly near the costochondral junction,” referring to where the ribs connect to cartilage in the front of the ribcage. It’s an anatomical feature that he said he had “only noticed” in “ruminants and definitely not in dogs.”


Editor’s note: FactCheck.org is one of several organizations working with Facebook to debunk misinformation shared on social media. Our previous stories can be found here. Facebook has no control over our editorial content.

Sources

American Association of Small Ruminant Practitioners. Accessed 9 Jul 2024.

Anatomy and Physiology of the Goat Animal Biosecurity and Welfare.” Primefact. New South Wales Government Department of Primary Industries. Aug 2017.

Assuncao, Muri. “RFK Jr. Accused of Sexual Assault, Posing with Barbecued Dog in Exposé.” New York Daily News. 2 Jul 2024.

Australis. “Cordero al Palo: The Quintessential Patagonia Food.” 25 Jul 2019.

Breaking Points. “EXCLUSIVE RFK JR: Biden UNFIT to SERVE, Wants Dem Nomination.” YouTube. 2 Jul 2024.

Condé Nast. “Condé Nast – Home.” Condenast.com. 2020.

De Greff, Dana. “Patagonian Asado al Palo: The Best Lamb You’ve Never Tasted.” Miami New Times. 30 Dec 2013.

Fox News. “RFK, Jr.: Biden’s Debate Performance Was ‘Alarming.’” YouTube. 3 Jul 2024.

George, Michael. “11 Breathtaking Photos from Torres Del Paine National Park.” National Geographic. 8 May 2017.

Hagan, Joe. “RFK Jr.’s Family Doesn’t Want Him to Run. Even They May Not Know His Darkest Secrets.” Vanity Fair. 2 Jul 2024.

Heath, Crystal. (@drcrystalheath). “This veterinarian believes that is the body of a goat. You cannot tell if there are floating ribs based on that photo and goats do have floating ribs. Also, the triangular scapula and flattened ribs all point to goat.  That said, please support your local, humane, organic dog meat farmer @elwooddogmeat .” X. 2 Jul 2024.

Kennedy Jr., Robert F. (@RobertKennedyJr.) “Hey @VanityFair , you know when your veterinary experts call a goat a dog, and your forensic experts say a photo taken in Patagonia was taken in Korea, that you’ve joined the ranks of supermarket tabloids. Keep telling America that up is down if you want. I’ll keep talking about the fact that working families can’t afford houses or groceries because our last two presidents went on a $14 trillion debt joyride, paid for by hard-working Americans. The DNC media’s garbage pail journalism may distract us from President Biden’s cognitive deficits but it does little to elevate the national debate or reduce the price of groceries.” X. 2 Jul 2024.

Kennedy Jr., Robert F. (@RobertKennedyJr). “Because of some recent irresponsible journalism, I’m in the dog house ” X. 2 Jul 2024.

Land, Olivia, and David Propper. “Photo Appears to Show RFK Jr. With Barbequed Carcass of Dog.” New York Post. 2 Jul 2024.

Langman, Jimmy. “Interview: Robert F. Kennedy, Jr.” Patagon Journal. Accessed 8 Jul 2024.

Martin, Allen and Jennifer Mistrot. “Bay Area Veterinarian’s Spay/Neuter Clinic Helps Thousands Of Shelter Animals.” CBS News Bay Area. 22 Apr 2019.

Micheau, Antoine. “IMAIOS Veterinary Anatomy of Domestic Mammals: Textbook and Colour Atlas, Sixth Edition.” IMAIOS. Accessed 8 Jul 2024.

National Geographic Expeditions. “Michael George.” Accessed 8 Jul 2024.

Norman, Abby, and Jenny Sweigard. “What Is a Floating Rib?” Verywell Health. 12 Jul 2023.

Our Honor. “Our Honor Board.” Accessed 8 Jul 2024.

Patty Scharko. Professor of animal and veterinary sciences, Clemson University. Email to FactCheck.org. 9 Jul 2024.

Pick Up the Fork. “A Guide to the Argentine Asado.” 11 Oct 2016.

Plummer, Kate. “RFK Jr. Ate a Dog, Photo Appears to Suggest.” Newsweek. 2 Jul 2024.

TasteAtlas. “Cordero al Palo | Traditional Lamb Dish from Patagonia.” Accessed 8 Jul 2024.