A surprise political ad featuring Robert F. Kennedy Jr. aired during Super Bowl LVIII using elements from his uncle John F. Kennedy’s original 1960s campaign ad. But the new commercial is causing tension with some within the Kennedy family.
RFK Jr. is running as an independent in the 2024 presidential election. The 30-second campaign ad from the presidential hopeful uses cartoon and newsreel effects and black-and-white pictures (first used in JFK's TV commercial) and plays up the connection to his uncle. The commercial also shows RFK Jr.'s face replacing JFK’s face in several moments as he urges viewers to "Vote Independent," FOX News reported.
The new version of the ad also uses the same jingle from JFK’s ad where he encourages voters to choose a man "who’s old enough to know...and young enough to do," Forbes noted.
Kennedy family members Bobby Shriver and former Maryland lawmaker and Shriver’s brother Mark Shriver criticized the new commercial. RFK Jr. later apologized to his family for the Super ad, but posted it on his X, formerly Twitter, page.
Who is Robert Kennedy Jr.?
Robert Kennedy Jr. is the son of late Sen. Robert F. Kennedy and the nephew of former President John F. Kennedy.
He began his career in 1982 as an assistant district attorney in the Manhattan District Attorney's Office. After an arrest for drug possession in 1983, RFK Jr. volunteered for the Natural Resources Defense Council.
According to Ballotpedia, he went on to found the Pace University Environmental Litigation Clinic in 1987. He later founded the Waterkeeper Alliance, a group seeking to "strengthen and grow a global network of grassroots leaders protecting everyone’s right to clean water," in 1999, and served as its chairman and attorney until 2017.
The anti-vaccine activist carved out a career as a top environmental lawyer fighting for public health priorities such as clean water.
RFK Jr. went on to launch an independent bid for president that has drawn criticism from Republicans that he could take votes from former President Donald Trump in the upcoming 2024 election.
Origins of the RFK ad
RFK Jr.'s commercial was a rendition of an original black-and-white political ad from John F. Kennedy’s 1960 presidential campaign, which used basic animation and combined photos and headline messages like "Vote Kennedy," Variety noted.
And it also included snippets of a song from the 1960 ad that repeats "Kennedy" consistently in the chorus with photos of JFK and is shown over lyrics like "Do you want a man for president who’s seasoned through and through? But not so doggone seasoned that he won’t try something new? A man whose old enough to know and young enough to do?"
JFK launched the political ad during a bid to become president when he competed against Richard Nixon. JFK defeated Nixon and was elected as the 35th president.
Robert Kennedy Jr.’s political history
While he doesn’t have much of a political background, for nearly 20 years, RFK Jr. has been a top supporter of the anti-vaccine movement and began spreading his views during COVID-19.
According to the Associated Press, RFK Jr. appeared at events with people who downplayed the U.S. Captiol riot on Jan. 6, 2021 and others claiming that the 2020 presidential election was stolen.
In July 2021, a photo on social media showed RFK Jr. at an event with former President Donald Trump’s ally Roger Stone, former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn and anti-vaccine profiteer Charlene Bollinger. All three have promoted misinformation about the 2020 election.
Robert Kennedy Jr.’s COVID-19 vaccine stance
RFK Jr. has been a key part of the anti-vaccine movement for years alleging that vaccines are not safe. He founded the Children's Health Defense, the nonprofit anti-vaccine organization in 2016, Ballotpedia noted.
The AP reported that the Children’s Health Defense, currently has a lawsuit pending against multiple news organizations alleging that they violated antitrust laws by taking action to identify misinformation, including about COVID-19 and COVID-19 vaccines.
RFK Jr. has invoked Nazis and the Holocaust when talking about measures aimed at limiting the spread of COVID-19, such as mask requirements and vaccine mandates.
In 2021, he appeared at protests in Switzerland and Italy. RFK Jr. complained of conspiracies by government officials and Big Pharma operatives and claimed falsely that the Pfizer COVID-19 shot kills more people than it saves.
Where is Robert Kennedy Jr. on the ballot for 2024?
In April 2023, Robert F. Kennedy Jr. launched his longshot bid to challenge President Joe Biden for the Democratic nomination in 2024. He started his presidential campaign last year and compared it to the American revolution.
RFK Jr. filed paperwork to create new political parties in Jan. 2024 to get on the ballot in six states with fewer signatures than would otherwise be required, Forbes reported. He’s working to establish the "We the People" party in California, Delaware, Hawaii, Mississippi and North Carolina and the "Texas Independent Party" in Texas.
According to the Associated Press, it’s not clear whether he can gain ballot access in enough states to mount a national campaign. Any independent or third-party efforts in battleground states could influence the election's outcome.
Polls show more Republicans than Democrats have a favorable opinion of RFK Jr., who has also gained support from some far-right conservatives for his views on COVID-19 vaccines.
FOX News and the Associated Press contributed to this report. This story was reported from Washington, D.C.