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Aaron Rodgers on politics: ‘I’m laughing at both sides’


A previous version of this article incorrectly misspelled Pat McAfee’s last name. This article has been corrected.

Independent presidential candidate Robert F. Kennedy Jr., who said he has selected a running mate and will announce his choice in California later this month, had a conversation with NFL player Aaron Rodgers about the role, according to someone familiar with the process. Though Kennedy’s campaign confirmed to the New York Times that Rodgers was high on his list, alongside former independent Minnesota governor Jesse Ventura, it has not said if Rodgers was offered the job.

As voters get to know the conspiratorial politics of Kennedy, less may be known about the political views of the four-time MVP quarterback. In recent years, Rodgers has made a secondary career appearing on podcasts and shows, espousing sometimes controversial views. His comments paint the picture of a man who believes government should not have a large role in people’s lives and that view could shape his outlook — and potential campaign messages — on political issues.

The issue of abortion and protecting access to reproductive care is expected to play an outsize role in the 2024 campaign following a string of Democratic victories in competitive races and ballot initiatives following the Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe v. Wade in 2022.

Rodgers has described himself as someone who may “lean pro-life,” but also said the government should not infringe on what a person chooses to do. “I don’t believe the government should have any control over what we do with our bodies,” Rodgers told political commentator Bill Maher during a September 2022 interview.

“So as much as I might be, more lean pro-life, all right. I don’t want the government telling me I can’t smoke a cigar, I can’t have a drink of alcohol, I can’t choose my own medical decisions. And if I’m a woman, don’t f—ing tell me what to do. … Government should not have a decision that infringes upon my own personal freedoms,” Rodgers said.

He also appeared to take a similar view when his employer — the NFL — enacted a different set of rules for players who had been vaccinated against the coronavirus and those who were not in 2021. After telling reporters in August 2021 that he was “immunized,” the 2011 Super Bowl champion said in a November 2021 appearance on ESPN’s “The Pat McAfee Show,” that he had not received an official coronavirus vaccine and instead “found an immunization protocol that he could go through to best protect myself” that didn’t involve getting one of the three available vaccines.

“I realize I’m in the crosshairs of the woke mob right now,” Rodgers said on McAfee’s show. “So before my final nail gets put in my cancel culture casket, I think I would like to set the record straight on so many of the blatant lies that are out there about somebody who’s a critical thinker.”

Before Kennedy’s presidential run he was perhaps best known for his anti-vaccine views. And while Rodgers said in the November 2021 ESPN appearance he wasn’t an “anti-vax flat-Earther,” his view of bodily autonomy when it comes to vaccines would seem to align with Kennedy’s.

Rodgers said at the time he had been following the NFL’s rules for unvaccinated players and that the Packers knew he was not vaccinated. He said his decision not to take one of the accepted vaccinations “was what’s best for my body. … My medical team advised me that the danger of me having an adverse event was greater than the risk of getting covid and recovering. So I made a decision in the best interest of my body.”

Rodgers told podcaster Joe Rogan in August 2022 that he was allergic to an ingredient used to make MRNA vaccines, polyethylene glycol. He also said, “I did my research. Typically speaking, because I’m healthy and I take care of myself, getting vaccinated was not on the top of my list.”

His skepticism about vaccines also led to a public feud with another NFL player, Travis Kelce. Rodgers called him “Mr. Pfizer,” for starring in an ad urging people to get vaccinated against the coronavirus. Rodgers went as far as challenging Kelce to a debate about vaccine safety in October, a debate that he proposed should include Kennedy and Anthony S. Fauci, the country’s leading infectious-disease expert.

Vaccines aren’t the only thing Rodgers has reportedly claimed fell under the category of doing his own research. According to one former teammate, Rodgers appeared to show skepticism about the terrorist attacks on Sept. 11, 2001.

“The first thing that comes out of Aaron Rodgers’s mouth was ‘Do you believe in 9/11?’” former Green Bay Packers teammate DeShone Kizer said in a 2022 podcast interview, of meeting the quarterback. After Kizer said he did, Rodgers replied, “You should read up on that.”

On Wednesday, CNN reported that Rodgers shared in private conversations baseless claims that the 2012 killing of 20 children and six adults at Sandy Hook Elementary School wasn’t real. CNN reporter Pamela Brown, who spoke to Rodgers at a 2013 party following the Kentucky Derby, said the quarterback told her the killings were a government inside job. A second unnamed person confirmed to CNN that Rodgers also told them that the shooting never happened and that the children were actors — claims similar to the ones at the center of lawsuits brought by the shooting victims’ families against conspiracy theorist and “Infowars” host Alex Jones, including one that resulted in a judgment of nearly $1 billion dollars against Jones. Rodgers, through one of his agents, declined to comment to CNN.

A potential run on an independent ticket would seemingly fit Rodgers’s view of the two major political parties. Rodgers previously criticized liberals and Democrats for not moderating positions he says are extreme. “What happens? Democrats put up Biden again, and expect him to win?” Rodgers asked skeptically in that 2022 interview with Maher. Rodgers said later in the interview, “I’m not on one side or the other. I’m laughing at both sides.”

After Maher said that if Democrats abandon “woke” policies on gender affirmation, crime, race and education they would “win every election,” Rodgers agreed. “You’d win every election,” Rodgers said. “In a landslide.”

Matt Bonesteel contributed to this report.

This post appeared first on The Washington Post

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