Democrat presidential candidate Robert F. Kennedy Jr. has been nothing but generous to his family on the campaign trail. A member of one of America’s most prominent political dynasties, Kennedy is following in his father’s footsteps to run a primary challenge to an incumbent president — only this time, Kennedy isn’t just running without the support of his family. His family is actively campaigning against him.
On Monday, Kennedy’s sister released a statement slamming her brother over comments he made floating the idea that the novel Wuhan coronavirus could have been “ethnically targeted” to spare “Ashkenazi Jews and Chinese people.”
“Covid-19 is targeted to attack Caucasians and black people,” Kennedy said at a press event in New York City. “We don’t know whether it was deliberately targeted or not, but there are papers out there that show the racial or ethnic differential impact.”
Kennedy’s sister, Kerry, released a statement through the Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights Foundation where she is president.
“I strongly condemn my brother’s deplorable and untruthful remarks last week about Covid being engineered for ethnic targeting,” she said. “His statements do not represent what I believe or what Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights stand for, with our 50+ year track record of protecting rights and standing against racism and all forms of discrimination.”
Since launching his primary bid in April, the White House hopeful has offered nothing but praise for his family despite a majority of the Kennedy clan opposing his campaign.
“My whole family, including myself, have long personal relationships with President Biden,” Kennedy said at his announcement speech. “Many of my family members work in the administration. Many of them also just plain disagree with me on the issues, like censorship or public health, and they are entitled to their opinions, and I respect their opinions.”
Kerry Kennedy distanced herself from her brother’s presidential bid at the outset.
“I love my brother Bobby, but I do not share or endorse his opinions on many issues, including the COVID pandemic, vaccinations, and the role of social media platforms in policing false information,” she said at the time. “It is also important to note Bobby’s views are not reflected in or influence the mission or work of our organization.”
If she really loved her brother, however, she would’ve kept her mouth shut instead of piling onto the media onslaught and branding him a “deplorable” racist. Hopefully, the attention Kerry received by trending on Twitter for a day was worth the hit on her own family.
People willing to trash their family in public can’t be trusted. That’s not to say family members can’t publicly disagree. But those eager to capitalize on the publicity generated by grandstanding reveal themselves to be shamelessly disloyal to the relationships that matter most. If their family can’t count on them, no one can.
Saying nothing in the midst of controversy takes absolutely zero effort. Family members aren’t always entitled to unwavering support, but they are entitled to silence at the bare minimum. Differences ought to be settled privately, away from the public square. Kennedy himself hasn’t gone out on a crusade to vilify the many womanizers in his family or to condemn his late Uncle Ted for his role in the death of Mary Jo Kopechne.
Familial treason isn’t unique to the Kennedy family. In fact, it’s been a tradition in politics since humans conceived of government. That’s not to excuse it; corruption has always been a characteristic too. But myriad prominent political figures have suffered similar blowback from family members seeking media attention by slandering their relatives in the press.
In the 2018 midterms, a campaign ad against Rep. Paul Gosar, R-Ariz., featured six of the congressman’s siblings who “wholeheartedly” endorsed his Democrat opponent.
Last fall, 14 members of Nevada Republican Senate candidate Adam Laxalt’s extended family actively campaigned against him and sent a letter endorsing the Democrat incumbent to The Nevada Independent. In 2018, 12 members of his family published an op-ed in the Reno Gazzette-Journal to oppose his run for governor.
New York Magazine took a victory lap in October over the second letter. “Adam Laxalt’s Extended Family Can’t Stop Dunking On Him,” read the headline.
Twitter may buzz and the press may laugh, but throwing your family under the bus is no joke — and the people who actually look bad when all is said and done are the ones who can’t keep their mouths shut.