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RFK Jr. siblings endorse Biden as their brother pursues independent bid against president

Biden campaigns with Kennedy family
Biden campaigns with Kennedy family amid fears RFK Jr. could threaten campaign 02:25

Over a dozen members of Robert F. Kennedy Jr.'s family, including six of his siblings, endorsed President Biden in Philadelphia Thursday, even as he pursues an independent bid for Mr. Biden's job.

"The Kennedy family endorses Joe Biden for president," said Kerry Kennedy, a sister of independent presidential candidate Robert F. Kennedy Jr., as she stood alongside the president. 

"We want to make crystal clear our feelings that the best way forward for America is to reelect Joe Biden and Kamala Harris to four more years," she added. 

Kerry Kennedy praised Mr. Biden as a "hero," and she referred to him as a leader in the mold of her father, Robert F. Kennedy, who "stood for equal justice, human rights and freedom from want and fear — just as President Biden does today." 

Her father served as attorney general in John F. Kennedy's administration and was running for president himself when he was assassinated in 1968.

Speaking for the family members who are endorsing Mr. Biden, Kerry Kennedy had harsh words for presumptive Republican nominee and former President Donald Trump.

"I can only imagine how Donald Trump's outrageous lies and behavior would have horrified my father," she said, and she accused Trump of "running to take us backwards, attacking the most basic rights and freedoms that are at the core of who we are as Americans." She accused Trump of planning to "use his power to punish his enemies, silence his opponents and incite more chaos."

She did not mention her brother's presidential run. On Thursday, RFK Jr. qualified for the ballot in Michigan, as the nominee of the Natural Law Party, the office of the secretary of state confirmed. He is now on the ballot in two states, having qualified in Utah, too.

Joseph P. Kennedy II, a former congressman and a brother of RFK Jr., replied, "Of course," when asked by reporters if he would encourage his brother to drop out of the race. 

"We cannot do anything that in any way, strips even one vote from President Biden. You put the name Kennedy on the ballot and Democrats are going to feel torn. We are trying to make them understand that this is an issue that they do not have to feel torn about," he told reporters while attending a post-rally meet-and-greet with Philadelphia voters. 

During the rally, Mr. Biden called the endorsement by the Kennedy family members "an incredible honor" and throughout his speech, he spoke of about how Robert F. Kennedy had been a hero to him. He cited a speech Robert F. Kennedy delivered in Indianapolis the night that Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated.

Mr. Biden also mentioned that in the Oval Office, he has busts of both King and Robert F. Kennedy. "I keep looking to remind myself of what they would do in tough calls," he said.

He also said he spoke recently with Ethel Kennedy, the widow of Robert F. Kennedy, to wish her a happy 96th birthday. 

"Your dad, I never got to meet him," Mr. Biden told the Kennedys, but recalled a visit by Robert F. Kennedy to Syracuse while he was in law school. "But he inspired me. And his passion and clarity inspired a generation." 

Several of RFK Jr.'s family members have already expressed their opposition to their brother's independent candidacy. When he announced in October that he would drop his campaign for the presidency as a Democrat and run instead as an independent, four of his siblings — documentary filmmaker Rory Kennedy, Kerry Kennedy, former Rep. Joe Kennedy II and former Maryland Lt. Gov. Kathleen Kennedy Townsend — called his decision to oppose Mr. Biden "dangerous to our country." In a statement at the time, they said, "Bobby might share the same name as our father, but he does not share the same values, vision or judgment." The four said of his decision to run as an independent that, "We denounce his candidacy and believe it to be perilous for our country."

In addition to Kerry Kennedy, RFK Jr.'s siblings, Rory Kennedy, Joe Kennedy II, Christopher Kennedy, Maxwell Kennedy and Kathleen Kennedy Townsend, as well as several other relatives, endorsed Mr. Biden Thursday.

Kennedy said in a social media post Thursday morning that he's "pleased" his family is being politically active, calling it a family tradition. He added that they are "divided in our opinions but united in our love for each other," adding that the sentiment could also be shared by Americans to "restore civility and respect to public discourse."

"My campaign, which many of my family members are working on and supportive of, is about healing America — healing our economy, our chronic disease crisis, our middle class, our environment, and our standing in the world as a peaceful nation," he said. 

A bust of Robert F. Kennedy is visible behind President Biden in the Oval Office as he speaks during a virtual meeting with Ireland's Prime Minister Micheal Martin on St. Patrick's Day, March 17, 2021. Andrew Harnik / AP

Last month, on St. Patrick's Day, Mr. Biden gave members of the extended Kennedy family a private tour of the Oval Office and West Wing and celebrated with them and hundreds of guests at a holiday reception. Kennedy family members posted photos with the president, signaling that they stand with him rather than with the Kennedy running against him.

Several of the Kennedys joined Mr. Biden for a grassroots organizing event and helped with voter outreach, according to the campaign.

Gabrielle Ake, Kristin Brown, Allison Novelo and the Associated Press contributed to this report.

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