Trump dismisses RFK Jr as ‘not a serious candidate’ when asked if he would debate him

‘I don’t know anything about him,’ the former president says

Martha McHardy
Friday 03 May 2024 12:50 BST
Trump dismisses RFK Jr as ‘not a serious candidate’ when asked if he would debate him

Donald Trump has dismissed the idea of debating independent presidential candidate Robert F. Kennedy Jr., slamming him as “not serious”.

“I don’t know anything about him,” Mr Trump said. “Look, RFK is polling very low, he is not a serious candidate.”

The former president was responding to a question about whether he would debate Mr Kennedy Jr., who he has frequently sparred with throughout his campaign.

“They say he hurts Biden; I don’t know who he hurts, he might hurt me, I don’t know. But he has very low numbers, certainly not numbers that he can debate with. He’s got to get his numbers a lot higher before he’s credible,” Mr Trump added.

A recent NBC News poll found that the third-party vote - especially RFK Jr - is cutting deeper into Trumps support than President Joe Biden’s.

Mr Trump is currently leading Mr Biden by two percentage points in a head-to-head matchup, the poll found, but when the ballot is expanded to five named candidates, Mr Biden is the one with the two-point lead.

The poll found that a greater number of Trump voters in the head-to-head matchup were backing RFK Jr. in the expanded ballot, with fifteen per cent of respondents who picked Mr Trump the first time picking Mr Kennedy Jr. in the five-way ballot, compared with seven per cent of those who initially picked Mr Biden.

In addition, the poll found that Republican voters view Mr Kennedy Jr much more favorably than Democratic voters do.

RFK Jr, who is the son of the late US senator Robert F Kennedy, initially filed candidacy papers for the Democratic nomination in April but later switched to running as an independent candidate.

Following his announcement that he was running for president, his family members released a statement denouncing him as “dangerous” and “perilous for our country”.

Robert F. Kennedy Jr
Robert F. Kennedy Jr (AP)

“Bobby might share the same name as our father, but he does not share the same values, vision or judgment,” Kerry Kennedy wrote on behalf of four members of the illustrious political dynasty.

RFK Jr has previously been accused of amplifying conspiracy theories — most notably about the Covid vaccine, which he baselessly claimed was linked to brain disorders. He also claimed that the virus which causes Covid-19 was “ethnically targeted”.

Since his announcement, Mr Kennedy Jr. has frequently sparred with Mr Trump, who he last week called “unhinged” after a social media tirade from the former Republican president accused the independent White House hopeful of being a “Democrat plant” and “wasted protest vote”.

“RFK Jr is a Democrat ‘Plant,’” Mr Trump wrote on Truth Social. “A Vote for Junior’ would essentially be a WASTED PROTEST VOTE, that could swing either way, but would only swing against Democrats if Republicans knew the true story about him.”

Mr Kennedy Jr. responded: “When frightened men take to social media they risk descending into vitriol, which makes them sound unhinged. President Trump’s rant against me is a barely coherent barrage of wild and inaccurate claims that should best be resolved in the American tradition of presidential debate.”

Meanwhile, in April, Mr Kennedy Jr claimed Mr Trump asked him to be his running mate. “President Trump calls me an ultra-left radical. I’m soooo liberal that his emissaries asked me to be his VP. I respectfully declined the offer,” he wrote on X.

A top aide of Mr Trump disputed Mr Kennedy’s claim and denied approaching him to join his ticket as vice president.

Chris LaCivita, Trump’s co-campaign manager, said: “Re-upping this from January… was true then and it’s true now, calling Mr Kennedy ‘a leftie loonie that would never be approached to be on the ticket..sorry!’”

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