Kennedy family brushes off RFK Jr.’s campaign as they endorse Biden | CNN Politics (2024)

Kennedy family brushes off RFK Jr.’s campaign as they endorse Biden | CNN Politics (1)

Kerry Kennedy and other members of the Kennedy family applaud as US President Joe Biden smiles at a campaign event at the Martin Luther King Recreation Center in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, on April 18.


PresidentJoeBiden received the formal endorsem*nt of more than a dozen members of the extended Kennedy family on Thursday, aiming to harness the legacy of a storied Democratic family while implicitly underscoring their near-universal rejection of athird-party challengemounted by one of their own, Robert F. Kennedy Jr.

The broader Kennedy family has mostly shunned RFK Jr.’s campaign, calling it “dangerous,” even as the candidate himself looks tocapitalize on his last nameand family history.

But Thursday’s event in Philadelphia - the same city where RFK Jr. announced his independent bid for the presidency in October - nonethelesshighlightsthe threat Kennedy poses to Biden as he seeks to win reelection in a race where even a low-performing third-party candidate couldact as a spoiler.

In a speech introducing Biden, Kerry Kennedy — one of RFK Jr.’s sisters who has helped lead her family’s organizing efforts — declared the president “a champion for all the rights and freedoms that my father and uncles stood for” while also warning of threats posed by Donald Trump todemocracy and freedom.

“Donald Trump is running to take us backwards, attacking the most basic rights and freedoms that are core to who we are as Americans,” she said. “He has said he will be a dictator on day one, even saying he wants to try to suspend the Constitution.”

“I can only imagine how Donald Trump’s outrageous lies and behavior would have horrified my father, Robert F. Kennedy, who proudly served as Attorney General of the United States, and honored his pledge to uphold the law and protect the country,”Kennedy added.

Biden’s reelection campaign, she said, should “unite not only Democrats, but all Americans, including Republicans, and independents.”

While most of her remarks focused on Trump, she took the opportunity to take a shot at her brother’s campaign.

“In 2024,” she said, “there are only two candidates with any chance of winning the presidency.”

Speaking after Kerry Kennedy, Biden appeared visibly touched by her remarks, looking up toward the sky as he said: “Mom and Dad, I hope you were listening.”

“Kerry,” the president said, “that was the most meaningful introduction I’ve ever gotten in my life.”

Biden said Robert F. Kennedy Sr.’s legacy served as the lodestar for his own political career. Though Biden took a job at a prestigious Delaware law firm shortly after graduating from law school, he eventually decided to become a public defender.

“I’ve done so in large part because I thought that’s something your dad would have done,” he told the Kennedys.

Ahead of Biden’s speech, Robert Kennedy said in a social media post on Thursday that he hopes his family’s political disagreements can be a model for Americans to “restore civility and respect to public discourse,” adding that he believes his family is “united in our love for each other.”

“I hear some of my family will be endorsing President Biden today. I am pleased they are politically active – it’s a family tradition. We are divided in our opinions but united in our love for each other. I hold this as a possibility for America too. Can we disagree without hating our opponents? Can we restore civility and respect to public discourse? I think we can,” Kennedy wrote.

He also noted that some family members work for his campaign. His campaign manager is Amaryllis Fox Kennedy, his daughter-in-law.

After the speech, the Kennedys will join Biden at a grassroots organizing event with campaign volunteers and local supporters, where he’ll be introduced by Joe Kennedy III. Family members plan to make campaign phone calls and knock on doors afterward.

It’s not the first time Biden has sought to emphasize his ties to the Kennedys. He has cited Robert F. Kennedy Sr. asapersonal inspiration in his political career. A bust of the former attorney general and senator sits in the Oval Office.

Independent Presidential Candidate Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. prepares to speak at a campaign rally at Los Angeles Union Station on Saturday,, March 30, 2024, in Los Angeles, Calif. (AP Photo/Richard Vogel) Richard Vogel/AP Related article RFK Jr. campaign official attended Jan. 6 ‘Stop the Steal’ rally and wanted ‘favorite President’ Trump to run for third term

He has appointed three family members to diplomatic posts in his administration: Caroline Kennedy as ambassador to Australia; Victoria Reggie Kennedy, the widow of the late Sen. Ted Kennedy, as ambassador to Austria; and Joe Kennedy III as special envoy to Northern Ireland.

On St. Patrick’s Day this year, the extended clan was invited for a reception at the White House and posed for photographs with Biden in the Rose Garden. And Biden invited Maria Shriver, a niece of John F. Kennedy and Robert F. Kennedy, to attend his State of the Union address to highlight her work on women’s health.

In public statements, some members of the Kennedy family have already made clear they are backing Biden in November. Many have sought to distance themselves from RFK Jr.’s presidential bid.

In a CNN interview last month, another sister of RFK Jr., Rory Kennedy, said she’s concerned he could undermineBiden’s chances of defeating Trump.

“I feel strongly that this is the most important election of our lifetime and there’s so much at stake. And I do think it’s gonna come down to a handful of votes in a handful of states, and I do worry that Bobby just taking some percentage of votes from Biden could shift the election and lead to Trump’s election,” she said.

RFK Jr. has sought to downplayan apparentfamily rift.

“I have a bigfamily, about 105 cousins on the last time we counted,”hetold CNN’s Erin Burnett earlier this month. “I have a bigfamily. I don’t know anybody in America who’s got afamilywho agrees with him on everything.”

The Kennedy family members who attended Biden’s event Thursday included Rory Kennedy, Kerry Kennedy, Joe Kennedy II,Beth Kennedy, Joe Kennedy III, Christopher Kennedy, Maxwell Taylor Kennedy, Vicki Strauss Kennedy, Kathleen Kennedy Townsend, Kerry Kennedy Meltzer, Max Meltzer, Ted Kennedy Jr., Stephen Kennedy Smith, Peter McKelvy andRebeca McKelvy.

This story has been updated with additional information.

CNN’s Michael Williams, Aaron Pellish and Eva McKend contributed to this report.

Kennedy family brushes off RFK Jr.’s campaign as they endorse Biden | CNN Politics (2024)


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