Presidential candidate Robert F. Kennedy Jr. apologized to members of his family after a political action committee aired a commercial during the Super Bowl on Sunday that invoked his family’s legacy and closely resembled a 1960 campaign ad for his uncle, former President John F. Kennedy.
“I’m so sorry if the Super Bowl advertisement caused anyone in my family pain,” Kennedy wrote on social media. “The ad was created and aired by the American Values Super PAC without any involvement or approval from my campaign... I love you all.”
The 30-second spot, which cost $7 million, featured the same campaign song that his uncle used in a commercial ahead of his victory over Richard Nixon in 1960. It also used the exact same ad template, with cheerful cartoons and candid black-and-white pictures. At the end, the younger Kennedy’s face was superimposed over his uncle’s.
The Super Bowl ad received a mixed reception online, with some of his supporters appreciating the nostalgia and campaign push during the most-watched television broadcast. Others were appalled by the implicit comparison to his uncle, a socially progressive Democrat who was assassinated in 1963.
“This RFK Jr. Super Bowl ad is a straight out plagiarism of JFK ad from 1960,” Robert Shrum, a longtime Democratic political consultant and speechwriter for former U.S. Senator Ted Kennedy, wrote on social media. “What a fraud — and to quote Lloyd Bentsen with a slight amendment: ‘Bobby, you’re no John Kennedy.’ Instead you are a Trump ally.”
The ad remained pinned to the top of Kennedy’s X profile as of Monday morning.
Bobby Shriver, the son of the former president’s sister Eunice Kennedy Shriver, criticized his cousin over the commercial and his opposition to vaccines. “My cousin’s Super Bowl ad used our uncle’s faces — and my Mother’s,” Shriver wrote on X. “She would be appalled by his deadly health care views. Respect for science, vaccines, & health care equity were in her DNA.”
While Kennedy has often invoked his storied political family throughout his candidacy, many of his relatives have denounced his presidential bid. “Bobby might share the same name as our father, but he does not share the same values, vision or judgment,” four of his siblings wrote in a statement after he launched his independent campaign last October. “We denounce his candidacy and believe it to be perilous for our country.” In July, the former president’s grandson, Jack Schlossberg, called his uncle’s campaign “an embarrassment” and said he’s “trading in on Camelot, celebrity conspiracy theories and conflict for personal gain and fame.”
Most polls show Kennedy tracking in single digits, with his longshot independent bid attracting some voters disaffected by the two major parties. Political analysts warn that his candidacy could cause some headaches for Democrats and Republicans by taking votes away in critical states.
Write to Nik Popli at firstname.lastname@example.org.