2024 presidential hopeful Robert F. Kennedy Jr. apologized just hours after a vintage ad promoting his campaign aired during Sunday’s Super Bowl LVIII, prompting an angry response from at least one other member of the clan.
The Super PAC responsible for the spot—a near-exact copy of the famous ad aired by Kennedy’s uncle, John F. Kennedy, during his own presidential campaign more than six decades ago—was accused of illegally helping to get RFK Jr. on election ballots in several states.
The ad used the classic John F. Kennedy jingle to urge voters to cast their ballots for the independent candidate: “A man who’s old enough to know / and young enough to do / Well, it’s up to you / it’s up to you / It’s strictly up to you!” (Notably, while his uncle was one of the youngest presidents ever elected at 43, Robert turned 70 earlier this year.)
Bobby Shriver, the son of Eunice Kennedy Shriver, took to X to blast the reboot shortly after it aired. “My cousin’s Super Bowl ad used our uncle’s faces—and my Mother’s,” he wrote.
“She would be appalled by his deadly health care views. Respect for science, vaccines, & health care equity were in her DNA.”
I'm so sorry if the Super Bowl advertisement caused anyone in my family pain. The ad was created and aired by the American Values Super PAC without any involvement or approval from my campaign. FEC rules prohibit Super PACs from consulting with me or my staff. I love you all. God…
— Robert F. Kennedy Jr (@RobertKennedyJr) February 12, 2024
Kennedy Jr., for his part, said that he was not responsible for the contents of the commercial—and that it was against FEC rules for him to be involved with the Super PAC that aired the ad.
“I’m so sorry if the Super Bowl advertisement caused anyone in my family pain,” he wrote on X, formerly Twitter.
“The ad was created and aired by the American Values Super PAC without any involvement or approval from my campaign. FEC rules prohibit Super PACs from consulting with me or my staff. I love you all. God bless you.”
Despite his statement, reposts of fans praising the “old school” and “brilliant” ad remained on Kennedy’s X account at the time of publishing, despite previous tweets hours before the release of the video that promoted family values. “The Super Bowl always reminds me of playing football with my parents and siblings growing up,” Kennedy wrote in a post Sunday afternoon.
“I hope you’re spending the day with the ones you love.”
As his star has risen in recent years, Kennedy’s vaccine skepticism and propensity to parrot debunked COVID-19 conspiracies has attracted fierce criticism, including from his own family. In May 2019, his siblings Kathleen Kennedy Townsend and Joseph P. Kennedy II, and niece Maeve Kennedy McKean penned an op-ed for Politico Magazine opposing his views.
“He has helped to spread dangerous misinformation over social media and is complicit in sowing distrust of the science behind vaccines,” they wrote.
The 30-second spot was run by American Values 2024, with co-chair Tony Lyons confirming to The Hill that broadcasting it just before Usher’s half-time show had set the group back a cool $7 million.
“The panicked DC power brokers are working overtime to keep Kennedy off the ballot because they know he can and will end their culture of greed and corruption. They offer us soaring inflation, forever wars, and chronic disease,” Lyons said in a statement.
The co-chair went on to draw a direct line from Kennedy to the dynasty from which he sprang, saying that like “his uncle and his father, Kennedy is a corruption-fighter, and it’s no wonder the [Democratic National Committee] is trying every old trick and inventing new tricks to stop him.”
“The public sees through it all and won’t stand for it,” Lyons said.
In December, American Values 2024 said it planned to spend up to $15 million to get Kennedy on the ballot in 10 key states. More recently, the PAC has come under scrutiny for allegedly coordinating with Kennedy’s campaign on a $15 million petition drive in violation of federal campaign finance laws.
A complaint filed by the Democratic National Committee last week described the outside group’s efforts to gather signatures as an “unlawful in-kind contribution,” amounting to a shortcut by the campaign taken to outsource “what is otherwise a core campaign function to a super PAC.”
Both the Kennedy campaign and American Values 2024 denied the allegations, with Lyons telling The New York Times earlier this week that the Biden administration and the D.N.C. “clearly find democracy inconvenient, want to stifle any dissenting opinions and don’t believe that their candidate can win a free, open and fair election.”