Jack Schlossberg had sufficient. The one grandson of President John F. Kennedy, Mr. Schlossberg had been watching the presidential marketing campaign of his cousin Robert F. Kennedy Jr. with rising dismay.
To Mr. Schlossberg, the quixotic problem to President Biden for the Democratic nomination was only a “vainness mission” that was tarnishing the legacy of his grandfather and their storied household. Simply days earlier final month, his conspiracy-minded cousin had steered that the Covid-19 virus had been engineered to guard Ashkenazi Jews and Chinese language folks.
Sitting in a van in Australia, the place he was on trip, Mr. Schlossberg sketched out a couple of bullet factors, took out his cell phone and recorded a harsh condemnation of his cousin on Instagram. “He’s buying and selling in on Camelot, celeb, conspiracy theories and battle for private acquire and fame,” Mr. Schlossberg mentioned. “I’ve listened to him. I do know him. I don’t know why anybody thinks he ought to be president. What I do know is his candidacy is a humiliation.” Then he hit the put up button.
Mr. Schlossberg’s denunciation underscored the turmoil inside what stays of Camelot. Bobby, because the 69-year-old candidate known as, has grow to be a supply of deep anguish amongst his many siblings, cousins, nieces and nephews, one that’s testing the bonds of what was as soon as generally known as the royal household of American politics. His relations by and enormous don’t want him to run, don’t assist his marketing campaign, disdain his conspiratorial musings and nearly universally admire Mr. Biden, a longtime pal of the household who retains a bust of Robert F. Kennedy Sr. within the Oval Workplace.
But whilst some members of the candidate’s household really feel compelled to talk out towards his marketing campaign, others discover themselves profoundly pained by the airing of home discord. They don’t share Bobby’s views on many points, significantly his strident anti-vaccine stances, these Kennedys say, however they look after him, don’t wish to see him damage and don’t suppose it helps to publicly criticize him.
“I like my brother deeply, and whereas I don’t agree with him on numerous points, theories, I don’t wish to knock him,” mentioned Courtney Kennedy Hill, one of many candidate’s sisters. “He has performed a number of good for a lot of, many individuals,” she added, citing his work as an environmental lawyer who helped clear up the Hudson River and his advocacy for these combating drug habit. “I simply don’t need all that to get misplaced within the maelstrom round his extra controversial statements and views.”
By no means earlier than has the household confronted a conundrum fairly like this. Via all of the tragedies and scandals and campaigns through the years, the standard Kennedy rule has at all times been to drag collectively, to face by each other it doesn’t matter what. Household was the rock. Solidarity was the code. However as he polls at round 15 % towards Mr. Biden, Bobby has roiled a household that desires nothing to do along with his marketing campaign and phone strains between Kennedy properties burn with what-to-do agonizing.
“It should be painful for them,” mentioned Bob Shrum, who for years was one of many main advisers to Edward M. Kennedy, the senator and patriarch generally known as Ted. “He’s been via some struggles himself,” Mr. Shrum added of Bobby, “and I feel they wish to love him. However on the identical time, they will’t abide this. It’s very unhappy at each degree.”
Robert Kennedy Jr. opted towards discussing his relations along with his household. “It’s fairly clear that the Occasions shouldn’t be going to deal with me pretty actually so I’m going to say no,” he mentioned in a textual content message. In a press release to CNN in April shortly earlier than kicking off his marketing campaign, he acknowledged that some relations don’t assist him. “I bear them no in poor health will,” he mentioned. “Households can disagree and nonetheless love one another.”
Nonetheless, privately he has reached out to a few of his relations to complain about their public feedback and engaged in tense discussions about his marketing campaign and platform. Some relations recall urgent him on why he was operating and warning him that he was placing his life up for scrutiny in a means that is likely to be personally devastating.
Mr. Kennedy, who was 9 when his uncle was assassinated and 14 when his father was killed, struggled with habit as a younger man and was kicked out of personal colleges and arrested on marijuana and heroin expenses greater than as soon as. After checking right into a remedy facility in 1983, he says he has been clear ever since and has been an antidrug crusader. Amid studies of infidelity, he separated from his second spouse, Mary Richardson Kennedy, who additionally battled habit and died by suicide in 2012. He’s now married to his third spouse, the actress Cheryl Hines.
In interviews in current days, a number of members of the Kennedy household, a few of whom didn’t wish to be named, sounded tortured concerning the state of affairs. They talked of a brother, cousin, uncle who flashed among the uncooked political expertise of his famed father, however who has undergone trauma and is headed down a path they don’t totally perceive.
For years, Mr. Kennedy has made himself right into a champion of the vaccine resistance motion, selling spurious assertions concerning the risks of inoculations and as soon as calling the Covid-19 vaccine the “deadliest vaccine ever made.” He has mentioned Anne Frank had extra freedom in the course of the Holocaust than People pressured to take the vaccine, a comparability for which he later apologized, and wrote a guide attacking Dr. Anthony S. Fauci.
He has steered that mass shootings at colleges have elevated due to heightened use of antidepressants. And in a very delicate space for his household, he has maintained that the C.I.A. was concerned within the assassination of his uncle, John F. Kennedy, and presumably within the assassination of his father.
Final month, he declared that the coronavirus was “focused to assault Caucasians and Black folks” and that “the people who find themselves most immune are Ashkenazi Jews and Chinese language.” He later mentioned he was misinterpreted, writing on Twitter that the disparate impact of the virus “serves as a sort of proof of idea for ethnically focused bioweapons” however “I don’t imagine and by no means implied that the ethnic impact was intentionally engineered.”
That proved an excessive amount of for a number of relations. Kerry Kennedy, his sister and president of Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights, issued a press release calling his remarks “deplorable and untruthful.” Joseph P. Kennedy II, his brother and a former congressman, known as them “morally and factually incorrect.” Joseph P. Kennedy III, his nephew and one other former congressman now serving as Mr. Biden’s particular envoy to Northern Eire, posted his own response on Twitter: “I unequivocally condemn what he mentioned.”
Mr. Schlossberg filmed his video 4 days later. “I didn’t have a plan,” he mentioned in an interview from Australia, the place he traveled after passing the bar examination to go to his mom, Caroline Kennedy, the U.S. ambassador, and to tour the nation earlier than returning residence to start a authorized profession. “I simply wished to talk out and felt it was the fitting time.”
Mr. Schlossberg, 30, mentioned he didn’t seek the advice of relations first and added that posting the video was “not a straightforward factor to do.” However he harassed how a lot he admires Mr. Biden, who he mentioned “sees America now a lot the identical means as my grandfather did” and in his view is “in all probability the best president of my lifetime.”
Whereas the statements weren’t coordinated, in line with relations, the show of disagreement struck shut observers of the Kennedys as a pivotal second. “The Kennedy household has at all times tried to maintain issues throughout the household,” mentioned Jim Manley, a longtime aide to Edward Kennedy. “The truth that among the members, a few of his cousins, are starting to talk up publicly, it to me signifies how upset they’re with what he’s saying and what he’s doing.”
Vaccines should not the one supply of dispute. The candidate has additionally spoken out towards help for Ukraine, accused the Biden administration of mendacity to the general public concerning the warfare and steered that American leaders pushed Ukraine into conflict with Russia “as a part of their strategic grand plan to destroy any nation equivalent to Russia that resists American imperial growth.”
“I don’t agree with Bobby on Ukraine, and I’ve had many conversations with him about it and I’m dissatisfied that he’s no more supportive,” Douglas Kennedy, one other brother and a Fox Information correspondent, mentioned in an interview.
Nonetheless, he expressed understanding for his brother’s propensity to query standard knowledge. “Bobby has views that I might say many of the members of my household disagree with,” he mentioned. “However I additionally imagine that significantly our household, our siblings, we had been introduced as much as be skeptical of authority usually.”
Patrick J. Kennedy, one other former congressman and son of Edward Kennedy, mentioned he regrets that the marketing campaign has distracted from priorities the household has lengthy promoted. “It might be good for most of the people who’s associating the legacy of my household with my cousin (esp bc he invokes them a lot) to know that my household’s historic legacy of preventing for social justice was on show in the present day,” he mentioned by textual content on the day the Biden administration superior new guidelines geared toward rising entry to psychological well being and substance abuse companies.
It has not been misplaced on the household that Robert Kennedy Jr. has drawn assist from Republicans affiliated with former President Donald J. Trump. Roughly half of the $10.5 million raised by two tremendous PACs supporting Mr. Kennedy got here from a single donor who beforehand backed Mr. Trump and has contributed $53 million in inventory to construct a wall on the border with Mexico.
Neither is Mr. Kennedy’s goal immaterial. Mr. Biden has been near the Kennedys for half a century, because the days when Edward Kennedy confirmed up on the Delaware hospital the place his sons had been recovering from the automotive accident that killed the longer term president’s first spouse and child daughter.
To today, Mr. Biden calls the candidate’s mom, Ethel Kennedy, yearly on her birthday and for many years, in line with Douglas Kennedy, has proven up for household occasions two or thrice a 12 months. The president has distributed appointments to a number of family members, together with Victoria Reggie Kennedy, the ambassador to Austria; Kathleen Kennedy Townsend, a senior Labor Division official; Caroline Kennedy and Joseph Kennedy III.
“All people in our household loves Joe Biden, and Joe Biden has been excellent to my mom and I feel genuinely cherished my father in all probability as a lot as anyone who has held that workplace prior to now 50 years,” Douglas Kennedy mentioned. “That’s actually a consider all people’s particular person feeling about Bobby operating.”
Courtney Kennedy Hill recalled how “exceptionally type, considerate and invaluable” Mr. Biden was when her daughter, Saoirse Kennedy Hill, died of an overdose in 2019. However so too was Bobby, she famous. He had an in depth relationship along with his niece. “He was particular to and for her and I’ll love him eternally for that,” she mentioned.
Someway, she predicted, the household would get via this. “In the event you got here to the Cape on Thanksgiving, you’ll see a household filled with enjoyable, vitality, laughter and, after all, wholesome competitors,” she mentioned. “Quite a lot of it anyway.”