Vowing to unite America, speak the truth and disrupt corporate influence in Washington, Robert F. Kennedy Jr. officially jumped into the race for the White House on Wednesday.
What You Need To Know
- Vowing to unite America, speak the truth and disrupt corporate influence in Washington, Robert F. Kennedy Jr. officially jumped into the race for the White House on Wednesday
- Kennedy is the son of former U.S. Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy, who was fatally shot while running for president himself in 1968, and he is the nephew of former President John F. Kennedy, who also was assassinated
- Kennedy Jr. is the second Democrat to enter the race, joining self-help author Marianne Williamson
- He is a renowned environmental lawyer, but in recent years, he’s built a reputation as an anti-vaccine activist, often spreading debunked conspiracy theories
Kennedy, who is running for the Democratic nomination in 2024, brings a major name to the field. He is the son of former U.S. Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy, who was fatally shot while running for president himself in 1968, and he is the nephew of former President John F. Kennedy, who also was assassinated.
"I'm inviting all of you to join me to create an America that we can believe in and be proud of again," Kennedy Jr. told supporters during a speech in Boston.
Kennedy, 69, did not shy away from invoking his family ties.
“My father and my uncle had a vision for America, a vision of racial harmony, of prosperity for all Americans, of peace in the world and of honest government,” Kennedy said in a video leading into his speech. “Their lives were tragically cut short, and America took a different path. Yet the possibility they foresaw is still alive.”
Former U.S. Rep. Dennis Kucinich, a two-time Democratic presidential candidate who introduced Kennedy on Wednesday, discussed what it meant to be a “Kennedy Democrat,” drawing parallels between Kennedy Jr., JFK and RFK.
Kennedy Jr. is the second Democrat to enter the race. Last month, self-help author Marianne Williamson announced she also is seeking the party’s nomination. President Joe Biden has said he plans to run for reelection but has yet to officially announce his candidacy.
Biden’s approval rating, according to Gallup, sits at just 40%, the second lowest mark of his presidency. Meanwhile, a USA Today/Suffolk University poll published Wednesday found that 14% of voters who backed Biden in 2020 said they support Kennedy.
While his last name is synonymous with American politics, Kennedy has no political experience. He is a renowned environmental lawyer, but in recent years, he’s built a reputation as an anti-vaccine activist, often spreading debunked conspiracy theories.
Last year, Facebook and Instagram banned the accounts for Kennedy’s Children’s Health Defense for spreading medical misinformation, and five of his eight living siblings have publicly rebuked him over his anti-vaccine views.
“My mission over the next 18 months of this campaign and throughout my presidency will be to end the corrupt merger of state and corporate power that is threatening now to impose a new kind of corporate feudalism in our country to commoditize our children … to poison our children and our people with chemicals, pharmaceutical drugs to strip mine our assets, to hollow out the middle class and keep us in a constant state of war,” Kennedy said.
As for the rifts in his family, Kennedy noted that some relatives were not at Wednesday’s event. “I know most American families, they never have any differences with each other,” he said sarcastically. “ … When that happens in a family, it’s really huge news, like everywhere.”
Kennedy accused the federal government and news media of lying to Americans. He said “when the corporate-captive media and corporate-captive government sees other sources of truth, they have to brand those misinformation because they threaten their paradigm.”
About 50 minutes into his speech, Kennedy said he was only “about halfway done” with his speech, adding, “This is what happens when you censor somebody for 18 years.”
His speech lasted over an hour and 45 minutes.
Kennedy’s anti-vaccine views predate the COVID-19 pandemic — he alleged vaccines caused a autism, a claim soundly rejected by medical experts. But he grew more vocal during the pandemic.
Kennedy criticized former President Donald Trump for lockdowns that he said hurt the middle class.
“President Trump, in fairness, at this point, will tell people: ‘Well, it wasn't my idea. My bureaucrats rolled me on it. I was saying we shouldn't do it,’” Kennedy said. “But that's not a good enough excuse. He was the president of the United States. As Harry Truman said, ‘The buck stops here.’”
Despite his reputation as a vaccine conspiracy theorist, Kennedy promised to tell Americans the truth as president.
He also said political polarization in the U.S. is “so toxic and so dangerous.”
“When I talk to both Republican friends and Democratic friends, they talk about this division in almost apocalyptical terms,” he said. “Nobody can see a safe way or a good way out of it.
“One of the principal missions of my campaign and of my presidency is going to be to end that division,” he said, adding he would do that by encouraging people to talk about values they have in common.
Kennedy also said he doesn’t believe the U.S.’s involvement in the Ukraine war is in the national interest because it could “push Russia closer to China” and potentially lead to “a nuclear exchange with a country that has more nuclear weapons than us.” But he added that he believes the U.S. in Ukraine “for all the right reasons.”
Kennedy had only mild criticism of Biden, attacking him for calling for a regime change in Russia — the strategy “didn’t work well for us in Iraq,” he said. He also criticized the administration for finding money to help Ukraine while Americans face cuts to food stamps and Medicare.
While some of Kennedy’s views appear more in line with Republicans than Democrats, one area where he has more left-leaning views is the environment. He compared protecting it to investing in infrastructure.
“If we want to meet our obligation as a generation, as a civilization, as a nation, which is to create communities for our children that provide them with the same opportunities for dignity and enrichment and prosperity and good health as the communities that our parents gave us, we've got his start by protecting our environmental infrastructure — the air we breathe, the water we drink, the wildlife, the fisheries, the public lands,” he said.