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RFK Jr. apologizes to his family for Super Bowl ad invoking JFK

Robert F. Kennedy Jr. speaks during a rally in Grand Rapids, Michigan.
Emily Elconin
Getty Images
Robert F. Kennedy Jr. speaks during a rally in Grand Rapids, Michigan.

Independent presidential candidate Robert F. Kennedy Jr. is apologizing to his family for a Super Bowl ad that harkened back to the 1960 presidential campaign of his uncle, former President John F. Kennedy.

"I'm so sorry if the Super Bowl advertisement caused anyone in my family pain," Kennedy said in a post on X, the website formally known as 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."

Kennedy had developed a controversial political reputation as a longtime leader of the anti-vaccine movement, promoting baseless conspiracy theories. He first announced his candidacy last spring, vowing to challenge President Biden for the Democratic nomination, but ultimately pivoted to running as an Independent.

The ad, which remains pinned to the top of Kennedy's X page, uses his uncle's campaign song, "Kennedy for Me," colorizing the original black and white video and adding images of the independent candidate.

The video, which was paid for by Kennedy's PAC, American Values 2024, cost $7 million to air during the Super Bowl on Sunday night.

"RFK Jr offers us real change along with freedom, trust and hope," super PAC co-founder Tony Lyons said in a statement to NPR. "Like his uncle and his father, Kennedy is a corruption-fighter, and it's no wonder the DNC is trying every old trick and inventing new tricks to stop him. The public sees through it all and won't stand for it," he added.

The ad release comes just days after the Democratic National Committee filed a complaint with the Federal Election Commission, arguing Kennedy's super PAC violated campaign finance laws.

Kennedy remains a longshot candidate, though some political experts warn that a third-party candidate option could take votes away from the eventual Democratic and Republican candidates. In recent NPR/PBS NewsHour/Marist polling, Kennedy pulls more votes from Trump-aligned voters, potentially benefiting Biden.

The Kennedy family – who have long been associated with the Democratic party – have largely come out publicly against Kennedy's independent presidential bid and instead have said they will support Biden.

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Elena Moore is a production assistant for the NPR Politics Podcast. She also fills in as a reporter for the NewsDesk. Moore previously worked as a production assistant for Morning Edition. During the 2020 presidential campaign, she worked for the Washington Desk as an editorial assistant, doing both research and reporting. Before coming to NPR, Moore worked at NBC News. She is a graduate of The George Washington University in Washington, D.C., and is originally and proudly from Brooklyn, N.Y.