RFK Jr.’s apology over controversial $7M Super Bowl ad doesn’t pass sincerity test

In 1960, John F. Kennedy became the first Democratic candidate to effectively use TV ads in a presidential race—a strategy that helped him win a close race against two-term Vice President Richard Nixon. At a time of rising Cold War tensions, Kennedy faced two major obstacles. At age 43, he was bidding to be the youngest person ever to be elected president. And he was also seeking to become the first Irish-Catholic president.

His media team came up with a catchy campaign song, which was then edited to create shorter TV spots. The lyrics dealt with his youth and creed, and asked, “Do you want a man for president who’s seasoned through and through, but not so doggone seasoned that he won’t try something new?” And later, the lyrics posed this question: “And do you deny to any man the right he’s guaranteed to be elected president, no matter what his creed? It’s promised in the Bill of Rights to which we must be true, so it must be true, so it’s up to you.”

The ad urged people to “Vote Democratic” and featured photos of former presidents Franklin D. Roosevelt and Harry S. Truman as well as Eleanor Roosevelt. It seems this ad may have inspired someone else.

RELATED STORY: RFK Jr.’s campaign of conspiracy theories is PolitiFact’s 2023 Lie of the Year

This is the JFK song and ad:

And now we get to the latest sacrilege to the Kennedy family legacy committed on behalf of independent presidential candidate Robert F. Kennedy Jr., the anti-vaccine conspiracy theorist. He has also come under fire for comments viewed as antisemitic and racist. And he’s been a critic of the Biden administration’s involvement in supporting Ukraine in the face of Russia’s invasion.

During the first half of the Kansas City Chiefs-San Francisco 49ers Super Bowl, the American Values 2024 super PAC supporting RFK Jr.’s campaign paid $7 million to run this 30-second ad using an edited version of the campaign song and imagery from the 1960 campaign ad.

It almost makes for a good example of one of those “Can you spot the differences?” puzzles. Here’s the ad:

The lyrics seem to conveniently take a swipe at President Joe Biden’s age: “Do you want a man for president who’s seasoned through and through. A man who’s old enough to know and young enough to do. Well it’s up to you.” And there is a photo of the 70-year-old Kennedy on skis to underline the message. 

There are photos of Kennedy family members, but no images of other Democrats. And the message reads: “Vote Independent.”

Last October, when RFK Jr. decided to run as an independent presidential candidate rather than continue a futile bid for the Democratic nomination, four of his siblings—former Maryland Lt. Gov. Kathleen Kennedy Townsend, former Rep. Joseph Kennedy II, Rory Kennedy, and Kerry Kennedy—signed a statement denouncing his plans.

“The decision of our brother Bobby to run as a third-party candidate against Joe Biden is dangerous to our country,” their statement read. “Bobby might share the same name as our father, but he does not share the same values, vision or judgment. Today’s announcement is deeply saddening for us. We denounce his candidacy and believe it to be perilous for our country.”

And on Sunday evening, right after the Super Bowl ad ran, it was another Kennedy family member, his cousin Bobby Shriver, who called him out in a post on X, formerly known as Twitter:


RFK Jr. responded later Sunday night with a post on X that read:

“Bobby, I’m so sorry if that advertisement caused you pain. The ad was created and aired by the American Values Superpac without any involvement or approvals from my campaign. Federal rules prohibit Superpacs from consulting with me or my staff. I send you and your family my sincerest apologies. God bless you.”

But how sincere was that apology?

Despite his apology and claim that his campaign was not involved, the ad remained pinned at the top of his X profile at midday Monday with this message:

And It just so happens that on Friday, the Democratic National Committee filed a complaint with the Federal Election Commission against RFK Jr.’s campaign and American Values 2024, alleging that the campaign is receiving an improper benefit from the super PAC’s efforts to qualify him for ballots in state races. Independent candidates need to gather signatures on petitions in order to get on the ballot in many states.

NBC News reported that Kennedy responded by writing on Friday that the “DNC is in no position to assert morality over anyone—they refused to have a primary and have worked against the will of the people in the past few elections. It’s sad to see the party my family built crash and burn.”

American Values 2024’s website declares that it is supporting Kennedy to “help restore the soul of democracy to America by taking back our political system from corporate interests.”

But that also doesn’t ring true because American Values is drawing donations from Trump backers. RFK Jr. is seen as a potential spoiler who might draw some Democrats away from Biden simply by playing on his family name, as was the case with the super PAC ad that ran during the Super Bowl.

NBC News reported:

American Values 2024’s biggest donors include Tim Mellon, a large Trump donor who gave $15 million to the pro-Kennedy group in 2023, according to campaign finance records. FEC filings show Mellon also donated $10 million to MAGA Inc., the main pro-Trump super PAC, last year.

The DNC’s Rapid Response Director Alex Floyd released this statement after the Super Bowl ad ran:

“It’s 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. RFK Jr. is nothing more than a Trump stalking horse in this race.”

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