Super Bowl ad for RFK Jr. stirs Democratic and family tension

Super Bowl ad for RFK Jr. stirs Democratic and family tension

Super Bowl ad for RFK Jr. stirs Democratic and family tension

Robert Kennedy Jr.’s presidential ambitions resulted in public family drama after a political action committee aired a Super Bowl ad invoking the Democratic family’s legacy to implicitly compare the independent candidate to his assassinated uncle, President John F. Kennedy.

The 30-second spot, financed by the American Values 2024 Super PAC that is backing Kennedy, featured a shortened version of a campaign song that the 35th president used in his 1960 campaign. The spot also mimicked cartoon and newsreel effects using black-and-white pictures of Robert Kennedy Jr. similar to JFK. But in a notable departure from the Kennedy's bygone Democratic Party dynasty, the ad urged Americans to “Vote Independent.”

After the game, Kennedy responded to online criticism, including from one of his cousins, emphasizing that his campaign did not produce the spot, which cost an estimated $7 million.

“I’m so sorry if the Super Bowl advertisement caused anyone in my family pain,” Kennedy wrote late Sunday night on X, formerly Twitter. “The ad was created and aired by the American Values Super PAC without any involvement or approval from my campaign. ... I love you all. God.”

Still, as of Monday morning, Kennedy had the ad pinned to the top of his X profile. “Our momentum is growing,” he wrote. “It’s time for an Independent President to heal the divide in our country.”

Bobby Shriver, whose mother, Eunice Kennedy Shriver, founded the Special Olympics, hammered his cousin over the spot and his opposition to vaccines for COVID-19 and other diseases.

Kennedy is running for president as an independent despite his family’s status as Democratic Party nobility. It’s not yet clear whether he can gain ballot access in enough states to mount a true national campaign. But his effort comes in a year when many voters are not enthusiastic about the likelihood of a rematch between President Joe Biden, a Democrat, and former President Donald Trump, a Republican. Any independent or third-party efforts in battleground states could shape the outcome in unpredictable ways.

“It is fitting that the first national ad promoting Robert F. Kennedy Jr.'s candidacy was bought and paid for by Donald Trump's largest donor this cycle,” said Democratic National Committee spokesman Alex Floyd. He was referring to Tim Mellon, a major donor to Trump who also gave American Values $15 million last year, according to federal filings.

The DNC already had  filed a federal complaint alleging that Kennedy's campaign is illegally coordinating with American Values to siphon support from Biden, an accusation the PAC denies.