Biden to appear with Kennedy family for endorsements, as battle heats up with RFK Jr. over family legacy

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U.S. President Joe Biden during a campaign event at the Scranton Cultural Center at the Masonic Temple in Scranton, Pennsylvania, Tuesday, April 16, 2024.


President Joe Biden will receive formal support from more than a dozen members of the extended Kennedy family on Thursday, according to the Biden campaign, aiming to exploit the legacy of a historic Democratic family while implicitly emphasizing their near-universal rejection of ‘a third. party challenge organized by one of their own, Robert F. Kennedy Jr.

The broader Kennedy family has largely shunned RFK Jr.’s campaign, calling it “dangerous,” even as the candidate himself seeks to capitalize on his last name and family history.

But Thursday’s event in Philadelphia nevertheless highlights the threat Kennedy poses to Biden as he seeks re-election in a race where even an underperforming third-party candidate could play the role of spoiler.

In a Biden introductory speech, Kerry Kennedy — one of RFK Jr.’s sisters who helped lead his family’s organizing efforts — will declare the president “a champion of all the rights and freedoms my father stood for and my uncles”, while warning of the threats that Donald Trump poses to democracy and freedom.

“Donald Trump wants to take us backwards, attacking the most fundamental rights and freedoms that are at the heart of who we are as Americans,” she will say, according to excerpts of her speech shared by the Biden campaign . “He said he would be a dictator from day one, even saying he wanted to try to suspend the Constitution. »

“I can only imagine how Donald Trump’s lies and outrageous behavior would have horrified my father, Robert F. Kennedy, who proudly served as Attorney General of the United States and honored his promise to uphold the law and protect the country.” Kennedy plans to say it.

Biden’s reelection campaign, she will say, should “unite not just Democrats, but all Americans, including Republicans and independents.”

She and Biden will be joined by John White Jr., a civil rights leader in Philadelphia, who will discuss how the Kennedy family affected her work in public service.

After the speech, the Kennedys will join Biden at a grassroots organizing event with campaign volunteers and local supporters, where he will be introduced by Joe Kennedy III. Family members plan to make campaign phone calls and knock on doors afterward.

This is not the first time Biden has sought to highlight his ties to the Kennedys. He has cited Robert F. Kennedy Sr. as a personal inspiration in his political career. A bust of the former attorney general and senator sits in the Oval Office.

He appointed three members of his family to diplomatic posts within his administration: Caroline Kennedy as ambassador to Australia; Victoria Reggie Kennedy, the widow of the late Senator Ted Kennedy, as ambassador to Austria; and Joe Kennedy III as special envoy to Northern Ireland.

This year, on St. Patrick’s Day, the extended clan was invited to a reception at the White House and posed for photos with Biden in the Rose Garden. And Biden invited Maria Shriver, niece of John F. Kennedy and Robert F. Kennedy, to attend his State of the Union address to highlight his work on women’s health.

In public statements, some members of the Kennedy family have already made clear they support Biden in November. Many have sought to distance themselves from RFK Jr.’s presidential bid.

In an interview with CNN last month, another of RFK Jr.’s sisters, Rory Kennedy, said she feared he could hurt Biden’s chances of defeating Trump.

“I am convinced that this is the most important election of our lifetime and that the stakes are enormous. And I think it will come down to a handful of votes in a handful of states, and I worry that Bobby taking only a certain percentage of the votes from Biden could shift the election and lead to Trump being elected,” she declared.

RFK Jr. sought to downplay an apparent family rift.

“I have a big family, about 105 cousins ​​last time we counted,” he told CNN’s Erin Burnett earlier this month. “I have a big family. I don’t know anyone in America whose family agrees with him on everything.”

Kennedy family members attending Biden’s event Thursday include Rory Kennedy, Kerry Kennedy, Joe Kennedy II, Beth Kennedy, Joe Kennedy III, Christopher Kennedy, Maxwell Taylor Kennedy, Vicki Strauss Kennedy, Kathleen Kennedy Townsend, Kerry Kennedy Meltzer, Max Meltzer, Ted Kennedy Jr., Stephen Kennedy Smith, Peter McKelvy and Rebeca McKelvy.

This story has been updated with additional information.

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