I was just a 12-year-old White House junior host who spilled a sterling silver bowl of spaghetti sauce on the rug in the Red Room on my first day in 1962, so I cannot say that I knew President John F. Kennedy.
But along with everybody else who knows anything about JFK, I can say that Robert F. Kennedy Jr. is definitely not him.
I say this as the son of Charles U. Daly, the last surviving member of JFK’s West Wing. I learned early on from my own father that JFK truly was about asking what you can do for your country and helping those who needed it.
Meanwhile, as JFK’s grandson, Jack Schlossberg, noted in a video post in July, RFK Jr. is about “trading in on Camelot, celebrity conspiracy theories and conflict for personal gain and fame.”
The $7 million Super Bowl ad produced by the PAC supporting RFK Jr.’s independent bid for president is not offensive just because it superimposed his face on a 1960 JFK campaign ad. It is an absolute disgrace because RFK Jr. stands for so many things his uncle would renounce.
And while RFK Jr. has no chance of winning, it is not for nothing that he is backed by a $50 million PAC bankrolled by the likes of MAGA megadonor Timothy Mellon. RFK Jr.’s senseless candidacy could increase the chances that Donald Trump will again disgrace the office to which JFK briefly brought actual American greatness.
I last saw JFK on Nov. 13, 1963, when I joined my younger brother Douglas and our fellow junior White House hosts in greeting 1,700 youngsters from child-care agencies who had been invited to hear the pipes and drums of the Black Watch Royal Highland Regiment of Scotland.
Our primary duty was to direct them to mounds of 10,000 cookies, which they devoured in record time as the Black Watch filed out onto the South Lawn. A Marine band struck up “Hail to the Chief” and a president worthy of the honor strode out with the first lady at his side. The young guests stood in hushed awe, and they would have been right to sense that the country’s neediest kids were among his top priorities.
Nothing is less like JFK’s legacy than Children’s Health Defense, the obscenely named anti-vaccine organization that RFK Jr. runs and through which he endangers all youngsters, along with people of every age.
“There’s no vaccine that is safe and effective,” he falsely declared on a podcast in July.
That same month, RFK Jr. reaffirmed his belief that the JFK assassination was not just the work of a 23-year-old loser using a rifle to elevate himself from the obscurity of laboring in a textbook warehouse.
“There is overwhelming evidence that the CIA was involved in his murder,” Kennedy said on a radio talk show.
There is no evidence that the assassination involved anybody but Lee Harvey Oswald, just as there is no evidence to back RFK Jr.’s other conspiracy theories.
I heard early stirrings of the JFK conspiracy theory two days after the assassination. Douglas and I were among those who stood on the steps of the North Portico at 1 p.m. and watched JFK’s flag-draped coffin being borne to a horse-drawn gun carriage.
The sound of the horse hooves starting toward the Capitol was joined by people muttering around us that the man who had murdered the president had himself been shot dead in Dallas just a half hour before. That killer was Jack Ruby and despite all the speculation that followed, there is no evidence that he was anything but another loser with a gun.
In more recent years, RFK Jr. has also insisted that somebody other than Sirhan Sirhan—yet another loser with a gun—murdered his father.
RFK Jr. is not endangering anybody by perpetuating conspiracy theories about the assassinations of his father and uncle, and it is understandable that the enormity of those losses could make anyone think there must be more to it. But his anti-vax nonsense threatens all of us in the aftermath of a pandemic that claimed the lives of more than a million Americans and is still killing hundreds every day.
Back in December 2021, word got out that RFK Jr.’s wife, the actor Cheryl Hines, had asked guests coming to their holiday party to be vaxxed. RFK Jr. sought to explain away the hypocrisy by saying he was “not the boss of my house.”
He tried a similar wiggle on Sunday after his cousin Bobby Shriver went on X to say, “My cousin’s Super Bowl ad used our uncle’s faces—and my Mother’s. She would be appalled by his deadly health care views. Respect for science, vaccines, & health care equity were in her DNA.”
RFK Jr. replied: “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. F.E.C. rules prohibit Super PACs from consulting with me or my staff. I love you all. God bless you.”
But the ad was only seeking to further RFK Jr.’s continuing attempt to capitalize on his surname. Nobody should compare him to an assassin, but his views are a heedless threat to innocent life and it should be said that he is essentially a loser seeking to elevate himself with a name.