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Robert F. Kennedy Jr.


Robert F. Kennedy Jr.


Robert Francis Kennedy Jr. (born January 17, 1954), also known by his initials RFK Jr., is an American politician, environmental lawyer, anti-vaccine activist, and conspiracy theorist. He is the chairman and founder of Children's Health Defense, an anti-vaccine advocacy group, and an independent candidate in the 2024 presidential election. A member of the Kennedy family, he is a son of U.S. attorney general and senator Robert F. Kennedy and nephew of U.S. president John F. Kennedy and senator Ted Kennedy.

Kennedy began his career as an assistant district attorney in New York City. In 1984 and 1986, he joined two nonprofits focused on environmental protection, Riverkeeper and the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC). His work at Riverkeeper set long-term environmental legal standards. At both organizations, he won legal battles against large corporate polluters. He became an adjunct professor of environmental law at Pace University School of Law in 1986. In 1987, he founded Pace's Environmental Litigation Clinic, where he held the post of supervising attorney and co-director until 2017. He founded the nonprofit environmental group Waterkeeper Alliance in 1999, serving as the president of its board.

Since 2005, Kennedy has promoted anti-vaccine misinformation and public health conspiracy theories, including the scientifically disproven claim of a causal link between vaccines and autism. Since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, he has emerged as a leading proponent of COVID-19 vaccine misinformation in the United States. Many of his often disproved public health claims have targeted such prominent figures as Anthony Fauci, Bill Gates, and Joe Biden. He has written books including The Real Anthony Fauci (2021) and A Letter to Liberals (2022).

Early life and education

Kennedy was born at Georgetown University Hospital in Washington, D.C., on January 17, 1954. He is the third of eleven children of senator and attorney general Robert F. Kennedy and Ethel Kennedy, née Skakel. He is a nephew of President John F. Kennedy and Senator Ted Kennedy.

Kennedy was raised at the Kennedy Compound in Hyannis Port, Massachusetts, and at Hickory Hill, the family estate in McLean, Virginia. He was nine years old when his uncle, President John F. Kennedy, was assassinated in 1963, and 14 when his father was assassinated while running for president in 1968.

Kennedy learned of his father's shooting while at Georgetown Preparatory School, a Jesuit boarding school in North Bethesda, Maryland. A few hours later, he flew to Los Angeles on Vice President Hubert Humphrey's plane, along with his elder sister Kathleen and elder brother Joe. He was with his father when he died. Kennedy was a pallbearer at his father's funeral, where he spoke and read excerpts from his father's speeches at the Mass commemorating his death at Arlington National Cemetery.

After his father's death, Kennedy was expelled from two boarding schools—Millbrook in upstate New York and Pomfret in Connecticut—for using drugs. In August 1970, Kennedy and his cousin Bobby Shriver were arrested in Barnstable, Massachusetts, for marijuana possession and placed on 13 months' probation. In June 1972, he graduated from the Palfrey Street School, a day school in Watertown, Massachusetts. While attending Palfrey, Kennedy lived with a surrogate family at a farmhouse in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

Kennedy continued his education at Harvard University, graduating in 1976 with a Bachelor of Arts in American history and literature. He then studied at the London School of Economics before earning a Juris Doctor degree from the University of Virginia School of Law in 1982, and a Master of Laws from Pace University in 1987.

Career

Conviction for heroin possession

In 1982, Kennedy was sworn in as an assistant district attorney for Manhattan. After failing his bar exam, he resigned in July 1983. That September, he was charged with heroin possession in Rapid City, South Dakota. He pleaded guilty to a single felony charge of possession of heroin in February 1984, whereupon he was sentenced to two years' probation and community service. He originally faced a potential sentence of two years in prison. After his arrest, he entered a drug treatment center. To satisfy the conditions of his probation, Kennedy worked as a volunteer for the Natural Resources Defense Council and was required to attend regular drug-rehabilitation sessions. His probation ended a year early.

Riverkeeper

In 1984, Kennedy began volunteering at The Hudson River Fisherman's Association, renamed Riverkeeper in 1986 after a patrol boat it had built with settlement money from legal victories preceding Kennedy's arrival. The association's office was in a farmhouse near the Natural Resources Defense Council, where Kennedy was doing the community service mandated by his sentence for heroin possession. After he was admitted to the New York bar in 1985, Riverkeeper hired him as senior attorney. Kennedy litigated and supervised environmental enforcement lawsuits on the east coast estuaries on behalf of Hudson Riverkeeper and the Long Island Soundkeeper, where he was also a board member. Long Island Soundkeeper sued cities and industries along the Connecticut and New York coastlines. On the Hudson, Kennedy sued municipalities and industries, including General Electric, to stop discharging pollution and clean up legacy contamination. His work at Riverkeeper set long-term environmental legal standards.

In 1995, Kennedy advocated for repeal of legislation during the 104th Congress that he considered unfriendly to the environment. In 1997, he worked with John Cronin to write The Riverkeepers, a history of the early Riverkeepers and a primer for the Waterkeeper movement.

In 2000, a majority of Riverkeeper's board sided with Kennedy when he insisted on rehiring William Wegner, a wildlife lecturer and falcon trainer whom the organization's founder and president, Robert H. Boyle, had fired six months earlier after learning that Wegner had been convicted in 1995 for tax fraud, perjury, and conspiracy to violate wildlife protection laws. Wegner had recruited and led a team of at least 10 who smuggled cockatoo eggs, including species considered endangered by Australia, from Australia to the U.S. over a period of eight years. He served 3.5 years of a five-year sentence and was hired by Kennedy a few months after his release from prison. After the board's decision, Boyle, eight of the 22 members of the board, and Riverkeeper's treasurer resigned, saying it was not right for an environmental organization to hire someone convicted of environmental crimes and that it would hurt the organization's fundraising.

Kennedy resigned from Riverkeeper in 2017, writing in his resignation letter that he had co-founded the organization.

Pace Environmental Litigation Clinic

In 1987, Kennedy founded the Environmental Litigation Clinic at Pace University School of Law, where for three decades he was the clinic's supervising attorney and co-director and Clinical Professor of Law. Kennedy obtained a special order from the New York State Court of Appeals that permitted his 10 clinic students—second- and third-year law students—to practice law and try cases against Hudson River polluters in state and federal court, under the supervision of Kennedy and his co-director, Professor Karl Coplan. The clinic's full-time clients are Riverkeeper and Long Island Soundkeeper.

The clinic has sued governments and companies for polluting Long Island Sound and the Hudson River and its tributaries. It argued cases to expand citizen access to the shoreline and won hundreds of settlements for the Hudson Riverkeeper. Kennedy and his students also sued dozens of municipal wastewater treatment plants to force compliance with the Clean Water Act. In 2010, a Pace lawsuit forced ExxonMobil to clean up tens of millions of gallons of oil from legacy refinery spills in Newtown Creek in Brooklyn, New York.

On April 11, 2001, Men's Journal gave Kennedy its "Heroes" Award for creating the Pace Environmental Litigation Clinic. Kennedy and the clinic received other awards for successful legal work cleaning up the environment. The Pace Clinic became a model for similar environmental law clinics throughout the country, including Rutgers, Golden Gate, UCLA, Widener, and Boalt Hall at Berkeley.

Waterkeeper Alliance

In June 1999, as Riverkeeper's success on the Hudson began inspiring the creation of Waterkeepers across North America, Kennedy and a few dozen Riverkeepers gathered in Southampton, Long Island, to found the Waterkeeper Alliance, which is now the umbrella group for the 344 licensed Waterkeeper programs located in 44 countries. As President of the Alliance, Kennedy oversees its legal, membership, policy and fundraising programs. The Alliance states that it is dedicated to promoting "swimmable, fishable, drinkable waterways, worldwide", and is also a clearinghouse, approving new Keeper programs and licensing use of the trademarked "Waterkeeper", "Riverkeeper", "Soundkeeper", "Lakekeeper", "Baykeeper", "Bayoukeeper", "Canalkeeper", "Coastkeeper", etc. names.

Kennedy and his environmental work have been the focus of several films including The Waterkeepers (2000), directed by Les Guthman. In 2008, he appeared in the IMAX documentary film Grand Canyon Adventure: River at Risk, riding the Grand Canyon in a wooden dory with his daughter Kick and anthropologist Wade Davis.

Kennedy resigned from Waterkeeper Alliance presidency in November 2020.

New York City Watershed Agreement

Beginning in 1991, Kennedy represented environmentalists and New York City watershed consumers in a series of lawsuits against New York City and upstate watershed polluters. Kennedy authored a series of articles and reports alleging that New York State was abdicating its responsibility to protect the water repository and supply. In 1996, he helped orchestrate the $1.2 billion New York City Watershed Agreement, which New York magazine recognized in its cover story, "The Kennedy Who Matters". This agreement, which Kennedy negotiated on behalf of environmentalists and New York City watershed consumers, is regarded as an international model in stakeholder consensus negotiations and sustainable development.

Kennedy & Madonna LLP

In 2000, Kennedy and environmental lawyer Kevin Madonna founded the environmental law firm Kennedy & Madonna, LLP, to represent private plaintiffs against polluters. The firm litigates environmental contamination cases on behalf of individuals, non-profit organizations, school districts, public water suppliers, Indian tribes, municipalities and states. In 2001, Kennedy & Madonna organized a team of prestigious plaintiff law firms to challenge pollution from industrial pork and poultry production. In 2004, the firm was part of a legal team that secured a $70 million settlement for property owners in Pensacola, Florida whose properties were contaminated by chemicals from an adjacent Superfund site.

Kennedy & Madonna was profiled in the 2010 HBO documentary Mann v. Ford, which chronicles four years of litigation by the firm on behalf of the Ramapough Mountain Indians against the Ford Motor Company for dumping toxic waste on tribal lands in northern New Jersey. In addition to a monetary settlement for the tribe, the lawsuit contributed to the community's land being re-listed on the federal Superfund list, the first time that a de-listed site was re-listed.

In 2007 Kennedy was one of three finalists nominated as "Trial Lawyer of the Year" by Public Justice for his role in the $396 million jury verdict against DuPont for contamination from its Spelter, West Virginia zinc plant. In 2017, the firm was part of the trial team that secured a $670 million settlement on behalf of over 3,000 residents from Ohio and West Virginia whose drinking water was contaminated by the toxic chemical perfluorooctanoic acid, which DuPont released into the environment in Parkersburg, West Virginia.

Morgan & Morgan

In 2016, Kennedy became counsel to the Morgan & Morgan law firm. The partnership arose from the two firms' successful collaboration on the case against SoCalGas Company following the Aliso Canyon gas leak in California. In 2017, Kennedy and his partners sued Monsanto in federal court in San Francisco, on behalf of plaintiffs seeking to recover damages for non-Hodgkin's lymphoma, that, the plaintiffs allege, were a result of exposure to Monsanto's glyphosate-based herbicide, Roundup. Kennedy and his team also filed a class action lawsuit against Monsanto for failing to warn consumers about the dangers allegedly posed by exposure to Roundup.

In September 2018, Kennedy and his partners filed a class-action lawsuit against Columbia Gas of Massachusetts alleging negligence following gas explosions in three towns north of Boston. Of Columbia Gas, Kennedy said "as they build new miles of pipe, the same company is ignoring its existing infrastructure, which we now know is eroding and is dilapidated".

Renewable energy

In 1998, Kennedy, Chris Bartle and John Hoving created a bottled-water company, Keeper Springs, which donated all of its profits to Waterkeeper Alliance. In 2013, Kennedy and his partner sold the brand to Nestlé in exchange for a donation to local Waterkeepers.

Kennedy was a venture partner and senior advisor at VantagePoint Capital Partners, one of the world's largest cleantech venture capital firms. Among other activities, VantagePoint was the original and largest pre-IPO institutional investor in Tesla. VantagePoint also backed BrightSource Energy and Solazyme, amongst others. Kennedy is a board member and counselor to several of Vantage Point's portfolio companies in the water and energy space, including Ostara, a Vancouver-based company that markets the technology to remove phosphorus and other excessive nutrients from wastewater, transforming otherwise pollution directly into high-grade fertilizer. He is also a senior advisor to Starwood Energy Group and has played a key role in a number of the firm's investments.

He is on the board of Vionx, a Massachusetts-based utility scale vanadium flow battery systems manufacturer. On October 5, 2017, Vionx, National Grid and the U.S. Department of Energy completed the installation of advanced flow batteries at Holy Name High School in the city of Worcester, Massachusetts. The collaboration also includes Siemens and the United Technologies Research Center and constitutes one of the largest energy storage facilities in Massachusetts.

Kennedy is a Partner in ColorZen, which offers a turnkey cotton fiber pre-treatment solution that reduces water usage and toxic discharges in the cotton dyeing process.

Kennedy was a co-owner and Director of the smart grid company Utility Integration Solutions (UISol), which was acquired by Alstom. He is presently a co-owner and Director of GridBright, the market-leading grid management specialist.

In October 2011, Kennedy co-founded EcoWatch, an environmental news site. He resigned from its board of directors in January 2018.

Minority and poor communities

In his first case as an environmental attorney, Kennedy represented the NAACP in a lawsuit against a proposal to build a garbage transfer station in a minority neighborhood in Ossining, New York.

In 1987, he successfully sued Westchester County, New York, to reopen the Croton Point Park, which was heavily used primarily by poor and minority communities from the Bronx. He then forced the reopening of the Pelham Bay Park in the Bronx, which New York City had closed to the public and converted to a police firing range.

Kennedy has argued that poor communities shoulder the disproportionate burden of environmental pollution. Speaking at the 2016 SXSW Eco environment conference in Austin, Texas, he said, "Polluters always choose the soft target of poverty", noting that Chicago's south side has the highest concentration of toxic waste dumps in America. Furthermore, he added that 80 percent of "uncontrolled toxic waste dumps" can be found in black neighborhoods, with the largest site in the United States being in Emelle, Alabama, which is 90 percent black.

International and indigenous rights

Starting in 1985, Kennedy helped develop the Natural Resources Defense Council's international program for environmental, energy, and human rights, traveling to Canada and Latin America to assist indigenous tribes in protecting their homelands and opposing large-scale energy and extractive projects in remote wilderness areas.

In 1990, Kennedy assisted indigenous Pehuenches in Chile in a partially successful campaign to stop the construction of a series of dams on Chile's iconic Biobío River. That campaign derailed all but one of the proposed dams. Beginning in 1992, he assisted the Cree Indians of northern Quebec in their campaign against Hydro-Québec to halt construction of some 600 proposed dams on eleven rivers in James Bay.

In 1993, Kennedy and NRDC, working with the indigenous rights organization Cultural Survival, clashed with other American environmental groups in a dispute about the rights of Indians to govern their own lands in the Oriente region of Ecuador. Kennedy represented the CONFENIAE, a confederation of Indian peoples, in negotiation with the American oil company Conoco to limit oil development in Ecuadorian Amazon and, at the same time, obtain benefits from resource extraction for Amazonian tribes. Kennedy was a vocal critic of Texaco for its previous record for polluting the Ecuadoran Amazon.

From 1993 to 1999, Kennedy worked with five Vancouver Island Indian tribes in their campaign to end industrial logging by MacMillan Bloedel in Clayoquot Sound, British Columbia.

In 1996, Kennedy met with Cuban President Fidel Castro to persuade the leader to halt his plans to construct a nuclear power plant at Juraguá. During a lengthy latenight encounter, Castro reminisced about Kennedy's father and uncle, speculating that U.S. relations with Cuba would have been far better had President Kennedy not been assassinated.

Between 1996 and 2000, Kennedy and NRDC helped Mexican commercial fishermen to halt Mitsubishi's proposal to build a salt facility in the Laguna San Ignacio, a known area in Baja where gray whales bred, and nursed their calves. Kennedy wrote against the project, and took the campaign to Japan, meeting with the Japanese Prime Minister Keizo Obuchi.

In 2000, he assisted local environmental activists to stop proposals by Chaffin Light, a real estate developer, and U.S. engineering giant Bechtel from building a large hotel and resort development that, Kennedy argued, threatened coral reefs and public beaches used by local Bahamians, at Clifton Bay, New Providence Island.

Kennedy was one of the early editors of Indian Country Today, North America's largest Native American newspaper. He helped lead the opposition to the damming of the Futaleufú River in the Patagonia region of Chile. In 2016, citing the pressure precipitated by the Futaleufú Riverkeeper's campaign against the dams, the Spanish power company, Endesa, which owned the right to dam the river, reversed its decision and relinquished all claims to the Futaleufú.

Military and Vieques

Kennedy has been a critic of environmental damage by the U.S. military.

In a 2001 article, Kennedy described how he sued the U.S. Navy on behalf of fishermen and residents of Vieques, an island of Puerto Rico, to stop weapons testing, bombing, and other military exercises. Kennedy argued that the activities were unnecessary, and that the Navy had illegally destroyed several endangered species, polluted the island's waters, harmed the residents' health, and damaged its economy. He was arrested for trespassing at Camp Garcia Vieques, the U.S. Navy training facility, where he and others were protesting the use of a section of the island for training. Kennedy served 30 days in a maximum security prison in Puerto Rico. The trespassing incident forced the suspension of live-fire exercises for almost three hours. The lawsuits and protests by Kennedy, and hundreds of Puerto Ricans who were also imprisoned, eventually forced the termination of naval bombing in Vieques by the Bush administration.

In a 2003 article for the Chicago Tribune, Kennedy said the U.S. federal government was "America's biggest polluter" and the U.S. Department of Defense as the worst offender. Citing the EPA, he said, "unexploded ordnance waste can be found on 16,000 military ranges...and more than half may contain biological or chemical weapons".

Factory farms

For almost twenty years, Kennedy and his Waterkeepers waged a legal and public relations battle against pollution by factory farms. In the 1990s, he rallied opposition to factory farms among small independent farmers, convened a series of "National Summits" on factory meat products, and conducted press conference whistle stop tours across North Carolina, Iowa, Kansas, Missouri, Illinois, Ohio and in Washington DC. Beginning in 2000, Kennedy sued factory farms in North Carolina, Oklahoma, Maryland, and Iowa. He wrote articles on the subject, arguing that factory farms produce lower-quality, less healthy food, and are harmful to independent family farmers by poisoning their air and water, reducing their property values, and using extensive state and federal subsidies to impose unfair competition against smaller farmers.

In 1995, Premier Ralph Klein of Alberta declared Kennedy persona non grata in the province due to Kennedy's activism against Alberta's large-scale hog production facilities. In 2002, Smithfield Foods filed a lawsuit against Kennedy in Poland, under a Polish law that makes criticizing a corporation illegal, after Kennedy denounced the company in a debate with Smithfield's Polish director before the Polish parliament.

Oil, gas, and pipelines

Kennedy has advocated for a global transition from fossil fuels to renewable energy. He has been particularly critical of the oil industry. In one of his first environmental cases, Kennedy filed a lawsuit against Mobil Oil for polluting the Hudson.

Kennedy helped lead the battle against fracking in New York State. He had been an early supporter of natural gas as viable bridge fuel to renewables, and a cleaner alternative to coal. However, he said he turned against this controversial extraction method after investigating its cost to public health, climate and road infrastructure. As a member of Governor Andrew Cuomo's fracking commission, Kennedy helped engineer the Governor's 2013 ban on fracking in New York State.

Kennedy mounted a national effort against the construction of liquefied natural gas facilities. Waterkeepers maintains a national watch that documents numerous crude oil spills annually.

In 2013, Kennedy assisted the Chipewyan First Nation and the Beaver Lake Cree fighting to protect their land from tar sands production. In February 2013, while protesting the Keystone XL Pipeline Kennedy, along with his son, Conor, was arrested for blocking a thoroughfare in front of the White House during a protest. In August 2016, Kennedy and Waterkeeper participated in protests to block the extension of the Dakota Access pipeline across the Sioux Indian Standing Rock Reservation's water supply.

Kennedy has maintained that the oil industry remains competitive against renewables and electric cars only due to massive direct and indirect subsidies and political interventions on behalf of the oil industry. In a June 2017 interview on EnviroNews, Kennedy said about the oil industry, "That's what their strategy is: build as many miles of pipeline as possible. And what the industry is trying to do is to increase that level of infrastructure investment so our country won't be able to walk away from it.

Coal

Under Kennedy's leadership, Waterkeeper launched its "Clean Coal is a Deadly Lie" campaign in 2001, bringing dozens of lawsuits targeting mining practices, which include mountaintop removal, slurry pond construction, and targeting mercury emissions and coal ash piles by coal-burning utilities. Kennedy's Waterkeeper alliance has also been leading the fight against coal export, including from terminals in the Pacific Northwest.

Kennedy has promoted replacing coal energy with renewable energy, which, he argues, would thereby reduce costs and greenhouse gases while improving air and water quality, the health of the citizens, and the number and quality of jobs. In June 2011, film producer Bill Haney televised his award-winning film The Last Mountain, co-written by Haney and Peter Rhodes, depicting Kennedy's fight to stop Appalachian mountaintop removal mining.

Nuclear power

Kennedy has been an opponent of conventional nuclear power, arguing that it is unsafe and not economically competitive. On June 15, 1981, he spoke at an anti-nuclear rally at the Hollywood Bowl, with Stephen Stills, Bonnie Raitt and Jackson Browne.

His 34-year battle to close Indian Point nuclear power plant in New York ended when Entergy, the plant's operator, closed the plant in 2021. Kennedy was featured in a 2004 documentary, Indian Point: Imagining the Unimaginable, directed by his sister, documentary filmmaker Rory Kennedy.

Hydro

In 1991, Kennedy helped lead a campaign to block Hydro-Québec from building the James Bay Hydro-project, a massive dam project in northern Quebec.

His campaigns helped block dams on Chile's Biobío River in 1990 and its Futaleufú River in 2016. In 2002, he mounted what was ultimately an unsuccessful battle against building a dam on Belize's Macal River. Kennedy termed the Chalillo Dam a boondoggle and brought a high-profile legal challenge against Fortis Inc., a Canadian power company and the monopoly owner of Belize's electric utility. In a 3–2 ruling in 2003, the Privy Council of the United Kingdom upheld the Belizean government's decision to permit dam construction.

In 2004, Kennedy met with provincial officials and brought foreign media and political visitors to Canada to protest the building of hydroelectric dams on Quebec's Magpie River. Hydro-Québec dropped plans for the dam in 2017.

In November 2017, the Spanish hydroelectric syndicate Endesa decided to abandon HydroAysen, a massive project to construct dams on dozens of Patagonia's rivers accompanied by thousands of miles of roads, power lines and other infrastructure. Endesa returned its water rights to the Chilean government. The Chilean press credits advocacy by Kennedy and Riverkeeper as critical factors in the company's decision.

Cape Wind

In 2005, Kennedy clashed with national environmental groups over his opposition to the Cape Wind Project, a proposed offshore wind farm off of the coast of Cape Cod, Massachusetts, in Nantucket Sound. Taking the side of Cape Cod's commercial fishing industry, Kennedy argued that the project was a costly boondoggle. This position angered some environmentalists, and brought Kennedy criticism by commentators such as Rush Limbaugh and John Stossel, the latter of whom called him a hypocrite. Kennedy argued in an opinion piece in The Wall Street Journal, "Vermont wants to take its nuclear plant off line and replace it with clean, green power from Hydro-Québec—power available to Massachusetts utilities—at a cost of six cents per kilowatt hour (kwh). Cape Wind electricity, by a conservative estimate and based on figures they filed with the state, comes in at 25 cents per kwh."

Political views

Kennedy's political rhetoric often uses conspiracy theories.

Economic inequality

Kennedy expressed skepticism about the COVID-19 pandemic, contending that it served to benefit billionaires; according to Kennedy, the pandemic resulted in a "$4.4 trillion shift in wealth from the American middle class to this new oligarchy that we created—500 new billionaires with the lockdowns, and the billionaires that we already had increased their wealth by 30%". Kennedy has also said that the American government is dominated by corporate power; he said the Environmental Protection Agency was run by the "oil industry, the coal industry and the pesticide industry", and described the Food and Drug Administration as overly dominated by "Big Pharma".

Kennedy has stated his belief that "systematic" erosion of the middle class is taking place, remarking in a 2023 interview with UnHerd that American politicians have "been systematically hollowing out the American middle class and printing money to make billionaires richer". He said that the financial industry and the military–industrial complex are funded at the expense of the American middle class. Kennedy sees a "vibrant middle class" as the economy's backbone and said that the economy has deteriorated because the middle class has become poorer.

In an interview with Andrew Serwer, Kennedy remarked that the gap between rich and poor in the U.S. had become too great and said, "the very wealthy people should pay more taxes and corporations". He also expressed his support for Massachusetts senator Elizabeth Warren's wealth tax plan, which would impose an annual tax of 2% on every dollar of a household's net worth over $50 million and 6% on every dollar of net worth over $1 billion.

Foreign affairs and military intervention

Kennedy is critical of the United States' alliances with dictatorships like Saudi Arabia. He criticized the Saudi-led intervention in the Yemeni civil war, calling it a "genocide against the Iranian backed Houthi tribe." Kennedy is a supporter of Israel. In December 2023, he had a heated exchange with Breaking Points host Krystal Ball, in what Rabbi Shmuley Boteach called "the single greatest defense of Israel on videos since the start of the" 2023 Israel–Hamas war.

An opponent of the military industry and foreign interventions, Kennedy was critical of the Iraq War as well as American support for Ukraine against Russia's invasion of the country. He condemned the Russian invasion of Ukraine, but called the Russo-Ukrainian War "a U.S. war against Russia" and said the war's goal was to "sacrifice the flower of Ukrainian youth in an abattoir of death and destruction for the geopolitical ambition of the neocons". He called for a peace agreement in Ukraine based on the Minsk Accords; in his view, the Donbas region should remain in Ukraine but also be given territorial autonomy and placed under the jurisdiction of United Nations peacekeeping forces, while Aegis missile systems should be removed from Eastern Europe.

Kennedy said Ukraine should be forbidden from joining NATO, and announced that as president he would consider admitting Russia to NATO and deescalating tensions with the People's Republic of China. He said the 2014 Ukrainian revolution was an attempted coup sponsored by the U.S. against the Ukrainian government, and that the Ukrainian government committed atrocities against the Russian population in Donbas, wrongly claiming that all casualties of the Donbas War between 2014 and 2022 (about 14,000) were Russian civilians. He said that Russians living there "were being systematically killed by the Ukrainian government".

Kennedy attacked the operations of former CIA director Allen Dulles, condemning U.S.-backed coups and interventions such as the 1953 Iranian coup d'état as "bloodthirsty", and blamed U.S. interventions in countries such as Syria and Iran for the rise of terrorist organizations such as ISIS and creating anti-American sentiment in the region. Kennedy said the CIA has no accountability and declared his intention to restructure the agency.

Kennedy's disapproval of U.S. intervention in foreign governments was expressed in a 1974 Atlantic Monthly article titled "Poor Chile", discussing the overthrow of Chilean President Salvador Allende. He also wrote editorials against the execution of Pakistan President Zulfikar Ali Bhutto by General Muhammad Zia-ul-Haq. In 1975, he published an article in The Wall Street Journal criticizing the use of assassination as a foreign policy tool. In 2005, he wrote an article for the Los Angeles Times decrying President Bush's use of torture as anti-American. His uncle Senator Ted Kennedy entered the article into the Congressional Record.

In an article titled "Why the Arabs Don't Want Us in Syria" published in Politico in February 2016, Kennedy referred to the "bloody history that modern interventionists like George W. Bush, Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio miss when they recite their narcissistic trope that Mideast nationalists 'hate us for our freedoms.' For the most part they don't; instead they hate us for the way we betrayed those freedoms—our own ideals—within their borders". Kennedy blames the Syrian war on a pipeline dispute. He cites apparent WikiLeaks disclosures alleging that the CIA led military and intelligence planners to foment a Sunni uprising against Syria's president, Bashar al-Assad, following his rejection of a proposed Qatar-Turkey pipeline through Syria in 2009, well before the Arab Spring.

In a June 2023 interview, Kennedy said that in broad terms he believes that U.S. foreign relations should involve significantly reducing the military presence in other nations. He specifically said the country must "start unraveling the Empire" by closing U.S. bases in different locations worldwide.

Kennedy believes that the administration of President Joe Biden in large part caused the 2022 invasion of Ukraine by Russia due to reckless and militant action; he has specifically cited the issue of NATO expansion into Eastern Europe. At the same time, he has clarified that he refuses to connect this criticism with anything considered support of the government of Russia under Putin, particularly given Kennedy's ethical opposition to the regime's beliefs and politics. He has called Putin a "monster", a "thug", and a "gangster".

Environmental policy

Calling himself "arguably the leading environmentalist in the country", Kennedy promotes populist and anti-establishment environmental policies, claiming that the climate crisis was hijacked by "Bill Gates and the World Economic Forum and the billionaire boys' club in Davos". In a 2015 interview, of politicians skeptical of global warming, Kennedy said he "wished there were a law you could punish them under". He expressed his support for regenerative farming and said that environmentalists' priority should be to tackle the "carbon industry". He called the current society and economy unsustainable and based on a "longtime deadly addiction to coal and oil" and contended that the economic system rewards pollution. In 2020, Kennedy said: "Right now, we have a market that is governed by rules that were written by the carbon incumbents to reward the dirtiest, filthiest, most poisonous, most toxic, most war-mongering fields from hell, rather than the cheap, clean, green, wholesome and patriotic fields from heaven."

Kennedy stated his support for Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez's Green New Deal resolution and announced his plans to implement it. He spoke out against geoengineering, claiming that geoengineering solutions are an attempt by big business to profit from climate change. Despite his reputation as environmentalist, he voiced his support for agrarian movements, saying in 2023: "If we want to have democracy, we need a broad ownership of our land by a wide variety of yeoman farmers, each with a stake in our system." He opposes nuclear energy, considering it too expensive and unsafe. Kennedy believes that nuclear energy is a profit-making venture and that it is promoted by corporate lobbyists rather than environmental activists, saying in a 2023 interview, "it's not hippies in tie-dyed T-shirts who are saying it's dangerous; it's guys on Wall Street with suits and ties".

Throughout the presidency of George W. Bush, Kennedy was critical of Bush's environmental and energy policies, saying Bush was defunding and corrupting federal science projects.

Kennedy was also critical of Bush's 2003 hydrogen car initiative, arguing that it was a gift to the fossil fuel industry disguised as a green automobile.

In 2003, Kennedy wrote an article in Rolling Stone about Bush's environmental record, which he subsequently expanded into a New York Times bestselling book. His opposition to the Bush administration's environmental policies earned him recognition as one of Rolling Stone's "100 Agents of Change" on April 2, 2009.

During an October 2012 interview with Politico, Kennedy called on environmentalists to direct their dissatisfaction towards the U.S. Congress rather than President Barack Obama, reasoning that Obama "didn't deliver" due to having a partisan U.S. Congress "like we haven't seen before in American history". He said politicians who do not act on climate change policy serve special interests and sell out public trust. He said Charles and David Koch—the owners of Koch Industries, Inc., the nation's largest privately owned oil company—subverted democracy and made "themselves billionaires by impoverishing the rest of us". Kennedy has spoken of the Koch Brothers as leading "the apocalyptical forces of Ignorance and Greed".

During the 2014 People's Climate March, Kennedy said: "American politics is driven by two forces. One is intensity, and the other is money. The Koch brothers have all the money. They're putting $300 million this year into their efforts to stop the climate bill. And the only thing we have in our power is people power, and that's why we need to put this demonstration on the street."

Questioning the validity of elections

Kennedy has been critical of the integrity of the voting process. In June 2006, he published an article in Rolling Stone purporting to show that GOP operatives stole the 2004 presidential election for President George W. Bush. Most Democrats and Republicans regarded it as a conspiracy theory. Journalist Farhad Manjoo countered Kennedy's conclusions, writing: "If you do read Kennedy's article, be prepared to machete your way through numerous errors of interpretation and his deliberate omission of key bits of data."

Kennedy has written about the ease of election hacking and the dangers of voter purges and voter ID laws. He wrote the introduction and a chapter in Billionaires and Ballot Bandits, a 2012 book on election hacking by the investigative journalist Greg Palast.

Political endorsements

Kennedy was on his uncle Ted Kennedy's 1970 and 1976 Massachusetts senatorial campaigns, and was on the national staff and a state coordinator for his uncle's 1980 presidential campaign. He was a co-founder and a former board member of the New York League of Conservation Voters.

Kennedy endorsed and campaigned for Vice President Al Gore during his 2000 presidential campaign, and openly opposed Ralph Nader's Green Party presidential campaign. In the 2004 presidential election, Kennedy endorsed John Kerry, noting his strong environmental record.

In late 2007, Kennedy and his sisters Kerry and Kathleen endorsed Hillary Clinton in the 2008 Democratic Party presidential primaries. After the Democratic Convention, Kennedy campaigned for Obama across the country. After the election, the Obama administration was reportedly considering Kennedy for administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency, but felt his controversial statements and arrest for heroin possession in the 1980s made him unlikely to win Senate confirmation.

Political aspirations

Kennedy considered running for political office in 2000, when New York Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan did not seek reelection to the U.S. Senate seat formerly held by Kennedy's father.

In 2005, Kennedy considered running in the 2006 election for New York attorney general, which would have meant a possible run against his then brother-in-law Andrew Cuomo, but in the end he decided against entering the race, even though he had been considered the front-runner.

On December 2, 2008, Kennedy said that he did not want New York Governor David Paterson to appoint him to the U.S. Senate seat expected to be vacated by Hillary Clinton, who had been designated as Obama's choice for United States secretary of state. Some outlets had speculated that Kennedy was a prospective candidate for the appointment. He felt that Senate service would allow him too little time with his family.

2000s consideration for top environmental jobs

As a "well-respected climate lawyer" in the 2000s, Kennedy was "often linked to top environmental jobs in Democratic administrations", including in the 2000, 2004, and 2008 presidential elections. He was considered as a potential White House Council on Environmental Quality chair for Al Gore in 2000 and considered for the role of EPA administrator under John Kerry in 2004 and Barack Obama in 2008.

According to Politico, the Obama transition team decided to not nominate Kennedy due to his past heroin conviction and opposition from Senate Republicans. Then United States Chamber of Commerce lobbyist William Kovacs said that Kennedy's nomination "would speak volumes as to where Obama is going with his appointments... A Kennedy appointment is as liberal as you can possibly get... There is no one [candidate] based firmer in extremes.” Republican Senator Jim Inhofe of Oklahoma also criticized the proposal, saying Kennedy was too radical and would further a left-wing agenda if appointed.

2024 presidential campaign

On March 3, 2023, in a speech in New Hampshire, Kennedy said he was considering a run for president in 2024, saying, "I am thinking about it. I've passed the biggest hurdle which is that my wife has greenlighted it."

On April 5, 2023, Kennedy filed his candidacy for the Democratic presidential nomination in the 2024 presidential election. On October 9, 2023, he announced he was running as an independent. This makes him the fifth member of his family to seek the presidency of the United States.

Anti-vaccine advocacy and conspiracy theories on public health

Overview

Kennedy is a prominent voice in the anti-vaccine movement, spreading anti-vaccine misinformation, disinformation and propaganda.

Infectious disease specialist Michael Osterholm has said that Kennedy's "anti-vaccine disinformation" is effective "because it's portrayed to the public with graphs and figures and what appears to be scientific data. He has perfected the art of illusion of fact." Osterholm added: "this is about people's lives. And the consequences of promoting this kind of disinformation, as credible as it may seem, is simply dangerous."

Kennedy has said that he is not against vaccines but wants them to be more thoroughly tested and investigated. In Thimerosal: Let the Science Speak, Kennedy writes that he does not see himself as anti-vaccine: "People who advocate for safer vaccines should not be marginalized or denounced as anti-vaccine. I am pro-vaccine. I had all six of my children vaccinated. I believe that vaccines have saved the lives of hundreds of millions of humans over the past century and that broad vaccine coverage is critical to public health. But I want our vaccines to be as safe as possible."

Vaccines and autism claims

Kennedy chairs Children's Health Defense (formerly known as the World Mercury Project), an anti-vaccine advocacy group he joined in 2015. In its early years, the group focused on mercury in industry and medicine, especially the ethylmercury used in thimerosal in vaccines. The group alleges that many American children have conditions as diverse as autism, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, food allergies, cancer, and autoimmune diseases due to exposure to certain chemicals and radiation. Children's Health Defense has blamed and campaigned against vaccines, fluoridation of drinking water, paracetamol (acetaminophen), aluminum, and wireless communication, among other things. The group has been identified as one of two major buyers of anti-vaccine Facebook advertising in late 2018 and early 2019. Members of his family have criticized Kennedy and his organization, saying he spreads "dangerous misinformation" and that his work has "heartbreaking" consequences.

Kennedy and Children's Health Defense have falsely claimed that vaccines cause autism. Kennedy focused on the subset of vaccines that contained thimerosal, a mercury-based anti-microbial that has been falsely claimed to cause autism. Thimerosal has never been used in MMR, chickenpox, pneumococcal conjugate and inactivated polio vaccines, and in 2001 was removed from all other childhood (under 6 years old) vaccines except for a few versions of flu and hepatitis vaccines. No childhood vaccine now contains more than traces (1 microgram or less) of thimerosal, except for flu, which is also available without thimerosal in the US. For those 6 years and older, including pregnant women, all vaccines are now available in versions with only trace amounts of thimerosal.

In 2020, the Center for Countering Digital Hate stated that Kennedy uses his status as an environmental activist to bolster the anti-vaccination movement, regularly appearing in online conversations with discredited former British doctor Andrew Wakefield, anti-vaccination activist Del Bigtree, and conspiracy theorist Rashid Buttar. Kennedy is listed as executive producer of Vaxxed II: The People's Truth, the 2019 sequel to Wakefield's and Bigtree's anti-vaccination documentary Vaxxed.

In February 2021, Kennedy's Instagram account was deleted "for repeatedly sharing debunked claims" about COVID-19 vaccines. In March 2021, the Center for Countering Digital Hate identified Kennedy as one of 12 people responsible for up to 65% of anti-vaccine content on Facebook and Twitter.

Kennedy has said that governments and the media are conspiring to deny that vaccines cause autism.

Writings and speeches promoting anti-vaccine theories

In June 2005, Kennedy wrote an article, "Deadly Immunity", that appeared in both Rolling Stone and Salon and alleged a government conspiracy to conceal a connection between thimerosal and childhood neurodevelopmental disorders, including autism. The article contained factual errors, leading Salon to issue five corrections. Joan Walsh, Salon's editor-in-chief at the time and the sole Salon editor of the piece, said she had mistakenly relied on Rolling Stone's fact-checking, a process she later learned was "less than arduous". As soon as the piece was up, she said, "we were besieged by scientists and advocates showing how Kennedy had misunderstood, incorrectly cited, and perhaps even falsified data.... It was the worst mistake of my career. I probably should have been fired."

Six years later Salon retracted the article in its entirety. According to Salon, the retraction was motivated by accumulating evidence of alleged errors and scientific fraud underlying the vaccine-autism claim. A corrected version of the original article was published on Rolling Stone's website. Kennedy said on the Joe Rogan Experience, and was paraphrased in The New York Times as saying, that "Salon caved to pressure from government regulators and the pharmaceutical industry." Walsh responded: "That's just another lie. We caved to pressure from the incontrovertible truth and our journalistic consciences."

In May 2013, Kennedy delivered the keynote address at the anti-vaccination AutismOne / Generation Rescue conference.

In 2014, Kennedy's book Thimerosal: Let the Science Speak: The Evidence Supporting the Immediate Removal of Mercury – a Known Neurotoxin – from Vaccines, was published. While methylmercury is a potent neurotoxin, ethylmercury, as used in vaccine preservatives, is safe. The book's preface is by Mark Hyman, a proponent of the alternative medical treatment called functional medicine. Kennedy has published many articles on the inclusion of thimerosal in vaccines.

Describing vaccinations as a "holocaust"

In April 2015, Kennedy participated in a Speakers' Forum to promote the film Trace Amounts, which promotes the discredited claim of a link between autism and mercury in vaccinations. At a screening, he called the increased cases of autism (which he calls an "autism epidemic") a "holocaust".

Meeting with Donald Trump

On January 10, 2017, incoming White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer confirmed that Kennedy and President-elect Donald Trump met to discuss a position in the Trump administration. Kennedy said afterward that he had accepted an offer from Trump to chair the Vaccine Safety Task Force, but a spokeswoman for Trump's transition said that no final decision had been made. In an August 2017 interview with STAT News reporter Helen Branswell, Kennedy said that he had been meeting with federal public health regulators at the White House's request to discuss defects in vaccine safety science.

Controversy with Robert De Niro

On February 15, 2017, Kennedy and actor Robert De Niro gave a press conference at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C., in which they said the press were working for the vaccination industry and did not allow debates on vaccination science. They offered a $100,000 reward to any journalist or other citizen who could point to a study showing that it is safe to inject mercury into babies and pregnant women at levels currently contained in flu vaccines. Craig Foster, a psychology professor who studies pseudoscience, deemed the challenge "not science", observing that it was a "carefully constructed 'contest' that allows its creators to generate the misleading outcome they presumably want to see". He also stated, "Proving that something is safe is importantly different than proving that something is harmful".

Samoa measles outbreak

On June 4, 2019, during a visit to Samoa coinciding with its 57th annual independence celebration, Kennedy appeared in an Instagram photo with Australian-Samoan anti-vaccine activist Taylor Winterstein. Kennedy's charity and Winterstein have both perpetuated the allegation that the MMR vaccine played a role in the 2018 deaths of two Samoan infants, despite the subsequent revelation that the infants had mistakenly received a muscle relaxant along with the vaccine. Kennedy has drawn criticism for fueling vaccine hesitancy amid a social climate that gave rise to the 2019 Samoa measles outbreak, which killed over 70 people, and the 2019 Tonga measles outbreak.

COVID-19

During the COVID-19 pandemic, Kennedy promoted multiple conspiracy theories related to COVID, including false claims that Anthony Fauci and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation were trying to profit off a vaccine, and suggesting that Bill Gates would cut off access to money of people who do not get vaccinated, allowing them to starve. In August 2020, Kennedy appeared in an hour-long interview with Alec Baldwin on Instagram and touted a number of incorrect and misleading claims about vaccines and public health measures related to the pandemic. Public health officials and scientists criticized Baldwin for letting Kennedy's claims go unchallenged. Kennedy has promoted misinformation about the COVID-19 vaccine, falsely suggesting that it contributed to the death of Hank Aaron and others. In February 2021, his Instagram account was blocked for "repeatedly sharing debunked claims about the coronavirus or vaccines". The Center for Countering Digital Hate identified Kennedy as one of the main propagators of conspiracy theories about Bill Gates and 5G phone technology. His conspiracy theory activities increased his social media impact considerably; between the spring and fall of 2020, his Instagram account grew from 121,000 followers to 454,000.

In November 2021, Kennedy's book The Real Anthony Fauci: Bill Gates, Big Pharma, and the Global War on Democracy and Public Health was published. In it, Kennedy alleges that Fauci sabotaged treatments for AIDS, violated federal laws, and conspired with Bill Gates and social media companies such as Facebook to suppress information about COVID-19 cures, to leave vaccines as the only option to fight the pandemic. In the book, Kennedy calls Fauci "a powerful technocrat who helped orchestrate and execute 2020s historic coup d'etat against Western democracy." He claims without proof that Fauci and Gates had schemed to prolong the pandemic and exaggerate its effects, promoting expensive vaccinations for the benefit of "a powerful vaccine cartel". The book repeats several discredited myths about the COVID-19 pandemic, notably about the effectiveness of ivermectin. The Neue Zürcher Zeitung wrote that in the book "polemics alternate with chapters that pedantically seek to substantiate Kennedy's accusations with numerous quotations and studies." Kennedy also released a video depicting Fauci with a Hitler mustache. In response to the book, Fauci called Kennedy "a very disturbed individual".

Kennedy wrote the foreword to Plague of Corruption, a 2020 book by former research scientist and anti-vaccine conspiracy theorist Judy Mikovits.

On August 29, 2020, Kennedy appeared as a speaker at a partially violent demonstration in Berlin where populist groups called for an end to restrictions caused by COVID-19. His YouTube account was removed in late September 2021 for breaking the company's new policies on vaccine misinformation.

During a January 23, 2022, speech at an anti-vaccination rally on the National Mall in Washington D.C., Kennedy said: "Even in Hitler's Germany, you could cross the Alps into Switzerland, you could hide in the attic like Anne Frank did. Today the mechanisms are being put in place that will make it so none of us can run, none of us can hide." The Auschwitz Memorial responded on Twitter: "Exploiting of the tragedy of people who suffered, were humiliated, tortured & murdered by the totalitarian regime of Nazi Germany—including children like Anne Frank—in a debate about vaccines & limitations during global pandemic is a sad symptom of moral & intellectual decay." Kennedy's wife, the actress Cheryl Hines, also condemned his comments, tweeting that the reference to Frank was "reprehensible and insensitive." Two days later, Kennedy apologized for his comment. In June 2023, Instagram reinstated his account.

At a July 2023 dinner event, Kennedy said, "there is an argument that [COVID-19] is ethnically targeted", adding, "COVID-19 is targeted to attack Caucasians and Black people. The people who are the most immune are Ashkenazi Jews and Chinese ... we don't know whether it's deliberately targeted or not." The American Jewish Committee and the Anti-Defamation League immediately condemned his remarks, with the latter saying that Kennedy's statement "feeds into sinophobic and antisemitic conspiracy theories". Kennedy responded that he "never, ever suggested that the COVID-19 virus was targeted to spare Jews" and that he does not "believe and never implied that the ethnic effect was deliberately engineered". He explained his remarks by citing a 2021 study that he said showed that "COVID-19 appears to disproportionately affect certain races" due to racial differences in the effectiveness of COVID-19's furin cleave docking site, thus serving "as a kind of proof of concept for ethnically targeted bioweapons". Experts roundly criticized these further claims, pointing out that the study said nothing about Chinese people or bioweapons and that Chinese people and Ashkenazi Jews contract COVID at rates similar to other ethnic groups and nationalities. Virologist Angela Rasmussen said, "Jewish or Chinese protease consensus sequences are not a thing in biochemistry, but they are in racism and antisemitism".

Medical racism conspiracy theory

Kennedy targets Black Americans with anti-vaccine propaganda and conspiracy theories, linking vaccination with instances of medical racism such as the Tuskegee Syphilis Study. Echoing others in the anti-vaccination movement, Children's Health Defense claimed that the U.S. government seeks to harm ethnic minorities by prioritizing them for COVID vaccines. In early March 2021, Children's Health Defense released an anti-vaccine propaganda video, "Medical Racism: The New Apartheid", that promotes COVID-19 conspiracy theories and claims that COVID-19 vaccination efforts are medical experiments on Black people. Kennedy appears in the video, inviting viewers to disregard information dispensed by health authorities and doctors. Brandi Collin-Dexter, a Fellow at the Shorenstein Center on Media, Politics and Public Policy said, "the notorious figures and false narratives in the documentary were recognizable" and "the film's incompatible narratives sought to take advantage of the pain felt by Black communities". At the urging of disinformation experts, the film was removed from Facebook, but Kennedy was permitted to keep his account.

HIV/AIDS denialism

In his book The Real Anthony Fauci: Bill Gates, Big Pharma, and the War on Democracy and Public Health, Kennedy writes that he takes "no position on the relationship between HIV and AIDS",: 347  but spends over 100 pages quoting HIV denialists such as Peter Duesberg who question the isolation of HIV and the etiology of AIDS. Kennedy refers to the "orthodoxy that HIV alone causes AIDS": 348  and the "theology that HIV is the sole cause of AIDS",: 351  and repeats the false HIV/AIDS denialist claim that no one has isolated the HIV particle and "No one has been able to point to a study that demonstrates their hypothesis using accepted scientific proofs".: 348  He also repeats the false claim that the early AIDS drug AZT is "absolutely fatal": 332  due to its "horrendous toxicity".: 298  Molecular biologist Dan Wilson points out that Kennedy falsely claims that Luc Montagnier, the discoverer of HIV, was a "convert" to Duesberg's fringe hypothesis. Wilson concludes that Kennedy is a "full blown" HIV/AIDS denialist.

Pushback from the Kennedy family

Several members of Kennedy's close family have distanced themselves from his anti-vaccination activities and conspiracy theories on public health, and condemned his comments equating public health measures with Nazi atrocities. On May 8, 2019, Kathleen Kennedy Townsend, Joseph P. Kennedy, and Maeve Kennedy McKean wrote an open letter saying that while Kennedy has championed many admirable causes, he "has helped to spread dangerous misinformation over social media and is complicit in sowing distrust of the science behind vaccines". On December 30, 2020, Kennedy's niece Kerry Kennedy Meltzer, a physician, wrote a similar open letter, saying that her uncle published misinformation about COVID-19 vaccines' side effects.

Collection James Bond 007

Other opinions

Food allergies

Kennedy was a founding board member of the Food Allergy Initiative. His son has anaphylactic peanut allergies. Kennedy wrote the foreword to The Peanut Allergy Epidemic, in which he and the authors falsely link increasing food allergies in children to certain vaccines that were approved beginning in 1989.

Murder of Martha Moxley

In 2003, Kennedy published an article in The Atlantic Monthly about the 1975 murder of Martha Moxley in Greenwich, Connecticut, in which he insists that his cousin Michael Skakel's indictment "was triggered by an inflamed media, and that an innocent man is now in prison". Kennedy argues that evidence suggests that Kenneth Littleton, the Skakel family's live-in tutor, killed Moxley, and calls Dominick Dunne the "driving force" behind Skakel's prosecution. In 2016, Kennedy released the book Framed: Why Michael Skakel Spent over a Decade in Prison for a Murder He Didn't Commit. In 2017, the rights to the book were optioned by FX Productions to develop a multi-part television series.

In 2018, Skakel's conviction was vacated, and in 2020, prosecutors decided not to seek a new trial.

Assassinations of John F. Kennedy and Robert F. Kennedy

On the evening of January 11, 2013, Charlie Rose interviewed Kennedy and his sister Rory at the Winspear Opera House in Dallas as a part of then Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings's hand-chosen committee's year-long program of celebrating John F. Kennedy's life and presidency. Of JFK's assassination, RFK Jr. said his father was "fairly convinced" Lee Harvey Oswald had not acted alone and believed the Warren Commission report was a "shoddy piece of craftsmanship". According to RFK Jr. in January 2013, "The evidence at this point I think is very, very convincing that it was not a lone gunman". He endorsed the 2013 edition of JFK and the Unspeakable, saying it had moved him to visit Dealey Plaza for the first time.

In November 2023, approaching the 60th anniversary of the assassination, RFK Jr. launched a petition on his presidential campaign website for the Biden administration to release the estimated remaining 1% of documents related to the case. He said that finally releasing full and unredacted documents could help restore trust in the government.

In an interview on Lex Fridman's podcast, Kennedy said that the evidence that the CIA was involved in the assassination was "beyond any reasonable doubt".

Kennedy does not believe that Sirhan Sirhan fired the shot that killed his father, Robert F. Kennedy. Based on the testimony of eyewitnesses, especially Paul Schrade, who was standing next to Kennedy and was shot himself, as well as the autopsy, he believes there was a second gunman. In December 2017, he visited the Richard J. Donovan Correctional Facility in San Diego to meet Sirhan. After meeting Sirhan, he gave his support for a reinvestigation of the assassination.

Gender dysphoria

In a June 2023 podcast interview with Jordan Peterson, Kennedy posited that several issues in children, including gender dysphoria, might be linked to atrazine contamination in the water supply. He cited a 2010 study by Hayes that claims that acute atrazine exposure causes chemical castration and feminization in frogs, leading some to become hermaphrodites. Kennedy suggested that there was other evidence indicating potential effects on humans. YouTube removed the interview under its vaccine misinformation policy, a decision Peterson and Kennedy criticized as censorship. Various publications denounced the theory, such as NBC News, Philadelphia Gay News, The Independent, and Vice.

After media criticism, a spokesperson for Kennedy's 2024 presidential campaign told CNN that he was being mischaracterized and that he was not claiming that endocrine disruptors were the sole cause of gender dysphoria, but rather proposing further research. Andrea Gore, a professor of neuroendocrinology at the University of Texas at Austin, said, "I don't think people should be making statements about the relationship between environmental chemicals and changes in sexuality when there's zero evidence".

Personal life

General interests

Kennedy is a licensed master falconer and has trained hawks since he was 11. He breeds hawks and falcons and is also licensed as a raptor propagator and a wildlife rehabilitator. He holds permits for Federal Game Keeper, Bird Bander, and Scientific Collector. He was president of the New York State Falconry Association from 1988 to 1991. In 1987, while on Governor Mario Cuomo's New York State Falconry Advising Committee, Kennedy authored New York State's examination to qualify apprentice falconers. Later that year, he wrote the New York State Apprentice Falconer's Manual, which was published by the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation and remains in use.

Kennedy is also a whitewater kayaker. His father introduced him and his siblings to whitewater kayaking during early trips down the Green and Yampa Rivers in Utah and Colorado, the Columbia River, the Middle Fork Salmon in Idaho, and the Upper Hudson Gorge. Between 1976 and 1981, Kennedy was a partner and guide at a whitewater company, Utopian, based in West Forks, Maine. He organized and led several "first-descent" whitewater expeditions to Latin America, including three hitherto unexplored rivers: the Apurimac, Peru, in 1975; the Atrato, Colombia, in 1979; and the Caroni, Venezuela, in 1982. In 1993 he made an early descent of the Great Whale River in northern Quebec.

In 2015, Kennedy took two of his sons to the Yukon to visit Mount Kennedy and run the Alsek River, a whitewater river fed by the Alsek Glacier. Mount Kennedy was Canada's highest unclimbed peak when the Canadian government named it for John F. Kennedy in 1964. In 1965, Robert F. Kennedy Sr. was the first person to climb Mount Kennedy.

Marriages and children

On April 3, 1982, Kennedy married Emily Ruth Black, whom he met at the University of Virginia School of Law. They had two children: Robert Francis "Bobby" Kennedy III (born 1984 and married to writer, peace activist, and former CIA officer Amaryllis Fox) and Kathleen Alexandra ('Kick') Kennedy (born 1988). The latter shares the nickname of her great-aunt, the late Kathleen Cavendish, Marchioness of Hartington. Kennedy and Black separated in 1992 and divorced in 1994.

On April 15, 1994, Kennedy married Mary Kathleen Richardson aboard a research vessel on the Hudson River. They had four children. On May 12, 2010, Kennedy filed for divorce from Mary. On May 16, 2012, Mary was found dead in a building on the grounds of her home in Bedford, New York. The Westchester County Medical Examiner ruled the death a suicide due to asphyxiation from hanging. Later it was reported that Mary had seen Kennedy's personal journal from 2001, in which he recorded sexual encounters with 37 different women.

Kennedy married actress-director Cheryl Hines on August 2, 2014, at the Kennedy compound on Cape Cod. They were introduced by Hines's Curb Your Enthusiasm co-star Larry David and began dating in 2012. Kennedy and Hines reside in Los Angeles and Cape Cod, Massachusetts.

Health

In his 40s Kennedy developed spasmodic dysphonia, a disorder that causes his voice to quaver and makes speech difficult. It is a form of an involuntary movement disorder called dystonia that affects only the larynx.

Religion

Kennedy is a Roman Catholic. In 2005, Michael Paulson called him "a deeply devout Catholic who attends daily Mass". Kennedy considers Saint Francis of Assisi his patron saint and a role model. In a 2005 interview with The Boston Globe, he said he was deeply inspired by Francis's devotion to social justice, helping the poor, animal welfare, and environmentalism; Francis is a patron saint of ecology. In 2004, Kennedy published a biography, Saint Francis of Assisi: A Life of Joy. He also said Catholicism was a vehicle of his environmentalism, adding, "environmental work is spiritual work". Despite identifying as pro-life, Kennedy also identifies with liberal Catholicism. He criticized the church's argument that John Kerry should have been denied communion because of his support for abortion rights. In a 2018 interview with Vatican News, Kennedy expressed his admiration for Pope John XXIII and stated his belief that "the Church should be an instrument of justice and kindness around the world".

Selected works

Kennedy has written books on subjects such as the environment, his anti-vaccination stance, biography, and American heroes.

  • Kennedy Jr., Robert F. (1978). Judge Frank M. Johnson Jr.: A biography. Putnam. ISBN 978-0-399-12123-4.
  • Cronin, John; Kennedy Jr., Robert F. (1997). The Riverkeepers: Two Activists Fight to Reclaim Our Environment as a Basic Human Right. New York: Scribner. ISBN 978-0684839080.
  • Kennedy Jr., Robert F. (2005). Crimes Against Nature: How George W. Bush and His Corporate Pals Are Plundering the Country and Highjacking Our Democracy. New York: HarperCollins. ISBN 978-0-06-074687-2.
  • Kennedy Jr., Robert F., ed. (2014). Thimerosal: Let the Science Speak: The Evidence Supporting the Immediate Removal of Mercury – a Known Neurotoxin – from Vaccines. New York: Skyhorse Publishing. ISBN 978-1632206015.
  • Kennedy Jr., Robert F. (2016). Framed: Why Michael Skakel Spent Over a Decade in Prison For a Murder He Didn't Commit. New York: Skyhorse Publishing. ISBN 978-1510701779.
  • Kennedy Jr., Robert F. (2018). American Values: Lessons I Learned from My Family. Harper. ISBN 978-0060848347.
  • Kennedy Jr., Robert F.; Russell, Dick (2020). Climate in Crisis: Who's Causing It, Who's Fighting It, and How We Can Reverse It Before It's Too Late. Hot Books. ISBN 978-1510760561.
  • Kennedy Jr., Robert F. (2021). The Real Anthony Fauci: Bill Gates, Big Pharma, and the Global War on Democracy and Public Health. Skyhorse Publishing. ISBN 978-1510766808.
  • Kennedy Jr., Robert F. (2022). A Letter to Liberals: Censorship and COVID: an Attack on Science and American Ideals. Skyhorse Publishing. ISBN 978-1510775596.
  • Leake, John; McCullough, Peter A.; Kennedy, Robert F. Jr. (2022). The Courage to Face COVID-19: Preventing Hospitalization and Death While Battling the Bio–Pharmaceutical Complex. Skyhorse Publishing. ISBN 978-1510776807.
  • Kennedy Jr., Robert F.; Hooker, Brian (2023). Vax-Unvax: Let the Science Speak. Skyhorse Publishing. ISBN 9781510766969.
  • Kennedy Jr., Robert F. (2023). The Wuhan Cover-Up: And the Terrifying Bioweapons Arms Race. Skyhorse Publishing. ISBN 978-1510773981.

Children's books

  • St. Francis of Assisi: A Life of Joy. Hyperion. 2004. ISBN 978-0-7868-1875-4.
  • Robert F. Kennedy Jr.'s American Heroes: The Story of Joshua Chamberlain and the American Civil War. New York: Hyperion. 2007. ISBN 978-1-4231-0771-2.
  • Robert Smalls: The Boat Thief. New York: Hyperion. 2008. ISBN 978-1423108023.

Select awards and recognition

Kennedy has received awards, as have groups he has been part of:

  • 2018, The National Trial Lawyers, Mass Tort Trial Team of the Year – for "groundbreaking case of Dewayne "Lee" Johnson v. Monsanto Company" Kennedy was co-counsel at one of the two law firms involved in the case.
  • 2017, Earth Justice Mountain Heroes
  • 2017, Foro La Region Award for "La Proteccion de los Recursos Naturales"
  • 2014, Stroud Award of Freshwater Excellence
  • 2009, Rolling Stone "100 Agents of Change"
  • 2008, USC Dornsife Sustainability Champion Award
  • 2008, Theodre Gordon Flyfishers Conservation Award
  • 2007, Vanity Fair "The Green Team"
  • 2005, William O. Douglas Award, on behalf of the Waterkeeper Alliance
  • 2003, Professional Resource Award, NY State Council of Trout Unlimited
  • 2001, Distinguished Service Award presented at Pace Law School's 25th Anniversary
  • 2001, Men's Journal "Heroes" Award
  • 2000, 12th Annual Manhattan Award
  • 2000, Jacques Sartisky Peace Award
  • 2000, New York State Champion of the Environment
  • 1999, Time's "Heroes of the Planet"
  • 1998, William E. Ricker Resource Conservation Award
  • 1997, EPA Environmental Quality Award
  • 1997, The Brave 40 Award from NYC Department of Environmental Conservation
  • 1997, Thomas Berry Environmental Award, presented to Robert F. Kennedy Jr. and the Pace Environmental Litigation Clinic
  • 1995, Green Star Award presented by the Environmental Action Coalition
  • 1991, Eleanor Roosevelt Val-Kill Award

Note

References

Citations

External links

  • Pace Law School Profile Archived February 24, 2019, at the Wayback Machine
  • The Waterkeepers feature doccumentary (2000)
  • Appearances on C-SPAN
  • Robert F. Kennedy Jr. on the Muck Rack journalist listing site
  • Robert F. Kennedy Jr. 2024 presidential exploratory committee: Team Kennedy
  • Robert F. Kennedy Jr. on Politifact

Text submitted to CC-BY-SA license. Source: Robert F. Kennedy Jr. by Wikipedia (Historical)



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