Kennedy family officially endorses Biden at campaign event in latest snub to RFK Jr

JFK’s niece Kerry Kennedy said there are ‘only two candidates with any chance of winning the presidency’ in a major snub to her brother RFK Jr

Gustaf Kilander
Washington DC
,Andrew Feinberg
Thursday 18 April 2024 22:01 BST
Related video: Kennedy, Shanahan target voters weary of Biden, Trump rematch

At least 15 members of the storied Kennedy political family, which has produced a president, two senators, and multiple House members since the 1950s, officially endorsed President Joe Biden for re-election at a campaign event on Thursday – in what marks perhaps their biggest snub to Robert F Kennedy Jr to date.

Introducing the president to the stage at the Martin Luther King Jr Recreation Centre in Philadelphia, Kerry Kennedy – the niece of late president John F Kennedy and sister of RFK Jr – made it clear that the family sees “only two candidates with any chance of winning the presidency”: Mr Biden and former president Donald Trump.

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

“We want to make crystal clear our feeling that the best way forward for America is to reelect Joe Biden and Kamala Harris to four more years,” saying that a vote for the 46th president would be “a vote for our democracy and our decency”.

To hammer the message home, she added: “Nearly every single grandchild of Joe and Rose Kennedy supports Joe Biden. That’s right, the Kennedy family endorses Joe Biden for president.”

In what was a tacit rejection of her own brother, Ms Kennedy made no mention whatsoever of her brother’s name.

She also described Mr Biden as the rightful heir to the political legacy of her and RFK Jr’s father, Robert F Kennedy Jr – the late senator who was killed while running for president in 1968.

President Joe Biden speaks alongside members of the storied Kennedy family as he accepts their endorsement during a campaign event in Philadelphia on Thursday (AP)

“I can only imagine how Donald Trump’s outrageous lies and behaviour would have horrified my father, senator Robert F Kennedy who proudly served as the Attorney General of the United States and honoured his pledge to uphold the law and protect the country. Daddy stood for equal justice, for human rights and freedom from want and fear, just as President Biden does today,” she said.

She denounced Mr Trump as “the most anti-democratic president in American history” and someone who is “running to use his power to punish his enemies, silence his opponents,” and unleash “more chaos, division and political violence with his extreme agenda”.

“Donald Trump is running to take us backwards attacking the most basic rights and freedoms that are at the core of who we are as Americans. He’s saying he will be a dictator on day one, even saying he wants to suspend the constitution so he can go after his enemies, after his critics after the press,” she said.

A group 30 of Kennedy family members visited Mr Biden at the White House last month for St Patrick’s Day (@KerryKennedyRFK/Twitter)

Ms Kennedy, quoting her father’s 1968 campaign announcement in which he said he felt “obliged to do all that [he] can” to keep the country from falling under the wrong leadership, echoed his vow that they would not “stand aside”.

“We are here because we feel obliged to do all that we can. We cannot stand aside in this election. No American can stand aside. We must vote,” she said.

The Kennedy family has flatly rejected the insurgent campaign by their environmental lawyer and vaccine skeptic relation in favour of Mr Biden, who is only the second Catholic president toJFK’s first.

A large number of the Irish-American political clan previously appeared with Mr Biden at the White House for a St Patrick’s Day celebration in March.

In addition, multiple Kennedy family members are already serving in Mr Biden’s administration, including Caroline Kennedy — who also served as US Ambassador to Japan during the Obama administration — and former Massachusetts Representative Joseph Kennedy III, who now serves as Mr Biden’s Special Envoy for Northern Ireland.

The family’s formal endorsement of the 46th president comes as polling between Mr Biden and Mr Trump tightens, with RFK Jr’s presence in the race serving as a growing source of agitation among Democrats.

Former Representative Joseph Kennedy III, pictured on Thursday, serves as Mr Biden’s Special Envoy to Northern Ireland (AP)

According to some polls, a third-party candidate with high name recognition such as RFK Jr could become a spoiler for Mr Biden by pulling away votes and, as a result, helping Mr Trump in battleground states.

For his part, the president used Thursday’s campaign stop to hit out at Mr Trump’s use of violent political rhetoric and his dark vision for the US.

He warned the crowd that this year’s presidential election will be a choice between “two fundamentally different visions,” with Mr Trump’s being one of “anger hate revenge and retribution” that embraces “the insurrectionists of January 6”.

Referring to the twin assassinations that took the lives of JFK and RFK Jr, Mr Biden said Mr Trump’s “whitewashing” of the Jan 6 Capitol riot and his call for a “bloodbath” if he loses in November were both “outrageous”.

“I have a very different view of America: One of hope and optimism ... optimism of the Bobby Kennedy variety,” he said.

“I see America when we defend democracy, not diminish it. I see America we protect our freedoms, not take them away. And I see in America where the economy grows and the middle out and the bottom up. And that way the middle class does well and the poor have a shot, and where healthcare is a right, not a privilege”.

Both Republicans and Democrats are concerned that with an electorate less-than-enthused about the current candidates, third party candidates such as RFK Jr may be able to grab a small but significant number of votes from them which could be decisive in November.

Biden jokes he 'looks 40' as Kennedy family endorse 2024 campaign

In an effort to avoid such an outcome, members of the Kennedy family are planning on making calls and knocking on doors in support of Mr Biden.

While a small number of Kennedy family members are not choosing to endorse Mr Biden — including Caroline Kennedy, the US ambassador, and former NBC News Today show anchor and ex-California First Lady-turned-nonprofit leader Maria Shriver, the Biden campaign has attributed their stance to the nonpolitical nature of their engagements, not to support for his opponent.

During a Thursday appearance on MSNBC ahead of the Philadelphia event, Ms Kennedy said Mr Biden’s re-election campaign was “about democracy ... about freedom,” and “about the people of America, not only our country but all around the world”.

“ And that's why it's so, so important for every single person to come out and vote ... If everybody votes, Biden wins. But right now, this is going to be a very, very close election,” she said.

“We can't have people voting for third parties no matter who they are,” she added. “In every family ... Americans have diverse views. You have to love your family members. You don't have to like them. I love Bobby, and I like Bobby. But this campaign is not about Bobby, this campaign is about Trump versus Biden. And what we need to do today is focus on Biden winning.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report

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