Family members of 2024 U.S. presidential candidate Robert F. Kennedy—including several of his siblings—said in no uncertain terms on Monday that they oppose his continued bid to lead the country, as the lawyer and anti-vaccine conspiracy theorist announced he would run as an independent instead of as a Democrat.
Four of Kennedy’s siblings—documentary filmmaker Rory Kennedy, human rights advocate Kerry Kennedy, former Congressman Joseph Kennedy II (D-Mass.), and former Democratic Maryland Lt. Gov. Kathleen Kennedy Townsend—released a statement saying their brother’s decision to run as a third party candidate is “dangerous to our country.”
“Bobby might share the same name as our father, but he does not share the same values, vision, or judgment,” they said. “We denounce his candidacy and believe it to be perilous for our country.”
After saying repeatedly in recent weeks that the Democratic National Committee is “rigging” the 2024 election against him, Kennedy—who was previously running for the party’s nomination as a challenger to President Joe Biden—said Monday that he was proposing a “new Declaration of Independence” for the country.
“I’ve come here today to declare our independence from the tyranny of corruption which robs us of affordable lives, our belief in the future, and our respect for each other,” Kennedy said. “But to do that I must first declare my own independence. Independence from the Democratic Party and from all other political parties.”
Though Kennedy is a scion of one of the most prominent Democratic families in the U.S., polling has shown Republican voters think more highly of his candidacy than Democrats.
After building a career as an environmental lawyer, Kennedy has become well-known in recent years for spreading anti-vaccine propaganda, including a claim that “there’s no vaccine that is safe and effective” and the long-debunked belief that childhood vaccines cause autism.
Kerry Kennedy has spoken out about her brother’s presidential aspirations at least twice before, including when he said “Ashkenazi Jews and Chinese” people have the most immunity to Covid-19 and that the pandemic was “targeted to attack Caucasians and Black people.”
Kennedy’s cousin and the grandson of assassinated former President John F. Kennedy, Jack Schlossberg, also expressed disgust earlier this year over Kennedy’s campaign, saying in a video posted to social media that he had “no idea why anyone thinks he should be president.”
“What I do know is his candidacy is an embarrassment,” said Schlossberg. “Let’s not be distracted again by somebody’s vanity project. I am excited to vote for Joe Biden in my state’s primary and again in the general election, and I hope you will too.”
As author and activist Naomi Klein noted earlier this year, Kennedy’s political priorities bear little resemblance to the anti-poverty, civil rights, and pro-labor work of his father, assassinated former U.S. Sen. Robert F. Kennedy (D-N.Y.).
Despite running as a so-called “populist,” she wrote, Kennedy has shown little interest in advocating for policies that would center working and low-income people, such as higher taxes for the rich or Medicare for All.
“Kennedy is not actually proposing any of this,” Klein wrote after a media appearance by Kennedy early in his Democratic campaign. “On Fox, he would not even come out in favor of a wealth tax; he has brushed off universal public healthcare as not ‘politically realistic’; and I have heard nothing about raising the minimum wage.”
Climate experts and advocates have also noted that Kennedy’s background in environmental law does not make him the candidate the U.S. needs to combat the climate emergency.
As University of California, Berkeley environmental law professor Dan Farber and UCLA Emmett Institute on Climate Change and the Environment official Evan George wrote in the San Francisco Chronicle on Monday, Kennedy said in one campaign video that the climate crisis “is being used as a pretext for clamping down totalitarian controls, the same way the Covid crisis was.”
Overall, as a presidential candidate Kennedy has “stayed largely silent on climate change,” said Farber and George, except to call the crisis and the environment “a divisive issue” and to say he would push for policies “that make sense to skeptics and activists alike” in order to build “a broad environmental coalition.”
“Make no mistake: Creating a big tent open to climate skeptics will only achieve one thing—empower business interests opposed to climate action,” wrote Farber and George.
“RFK Jr. is not a Democratic challenger,” said economist Robert Reich. “He is not an independent. He is a right-wing tool being used to help elect [Former Republican President Donald] Trump.”
“RFK Jr. has nothing to do with his father—who stood for racial, economic, and social justice (and for whom I worked in the 1960s),” Reich added. “His candidacy saddens me. He could have done something meaningful with his life and name.”