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Robert F. Kennedy, Jr

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Robert F. Kennedy, Jr

Robert F. Kennedy, Jr.
Born Robert Francis Kennedy, Jr.
(1954-01-17) January 17, 1954 (age 60)
Washington, D.C.
Nationality American
Education BA in American History and Literature (Harvard University)
JD (University of Virginia School of Law)
LLM (Pace University School of Law)
Occupation Radio Host, Attorney, Environmental Activist
Political party Democratic
Religion Roman Catholic
Spouse(s) Emily Ruth Black
(m. 1982–1994; divorced)
Mary Kathleen Richardson
(m. 1994–2012; her death)
Children Robert Francis Kennedy III
Kathleen Alexandra Kennedy
Conor Richardson Kennedy
Kyra LeMoyne Kennedy
William Finbar Kennedy
Aiden Caohman Vieques Kennedy
Parents Robert Francis Kennedy, Sr.
Ethel Skakel

Robert Francis Kennedy, Jr., (born January 17, 1954) is an American radio host, activist, and attorney specializing in environmental law. He is the son of Robert Francis "Bobby" Kennedy, Sr., the former United States Senator for New York and the 64th U.S. Attorney General, and the nephew of former President John Fitzgerald "Jack" Kennedy. He currently co-hosts Ring of Fire, a nationally syndicated American radio program.

Early life

Kennedy is the third of eleven children born to Senator Robert Francis "Bobby" Kennedy, Sr. and socialite Ethel Skakel as well as a paternal nephew of World War II casualty Joseph Patrick "Joe" Kennedy, Jr., President John Fitzgerald "Jack" Kennedy, and longtime Senator Edward Moore "Ted" Kennedy. Kennedy was close to 10 years old when his uncle Jack was shot while in the White House as President and he was 14 years old when his father was assassinated while running for President in the 1968 election. He spoke and read excerpts from his father's speeches at the mass commemorating his death at Arlington National Cemetery.[1][2] Following his father's death, Kennedy had difficulty coping and got in trouble at home and with the law, getting arrested for loitering and marijuana possession.[3]

After obtaining his high school diploma from Pomfret School, Kennedy continued his studies at Harvard University and the London School of Economics, graduating from Harvard College in 1976 with a Bachelor of Arts in American History and Literature. He then obtained a J.D. from the University of Virginia and a Master of Laws degree from Pace University.[4]

Personal life

In 1983, Kennedy was arrested in a Rapid City, South Dakota Airport for heroin possession. A search of his carry-on bag uncovered 182 milligrams of the drug.[5] Upon entering a plea of guilty, Kennedy, then 29 years old, was sentenced to two years probation, periodic tests for drug use, treatment by joining Narcotics Anonymous, and 1,500 hours of community service by Presiding Judge Marshall P. Young.[5] In 1984, Kennedy's brother David, who had himself struggled with a dependence to heroin for years, died of an overdose of cocaine and prescription medication.[6]

Kennedy married Emily Ruth Black (b. October 15, 1957)[7] on April 3, 1982, daughter of Thomas Black and Helen Armstrong.[8] Robert Jr. and Emily had two children:

  • Robert Francis Kennedy III (born September 2, 1984)
  • Kathleen Alexandra Kennedy (born April 13, 1988)

The couple divorced on March 25, 1994.[9]

Three weeks after divorcing Emily, Robert Jr. wed Mary Kathleen Richardson (October 4, 1959 – May 16, 2012) [10] on April 15, 1994, aboard a research vessel along the Hudson River.[11][12]

They had four children:

  • Conor Richardson Kennedy (b. July 24, 1994)
  • Kyra LeMoyne Kennedy (b. 1995)
  • William Finbar "Finn" Kennedy (b. 1997)
  • Aiden Caohman Vieques Kennedy (b. 2001)

On May 12, 2010, Robert Jr. filed for divorce from Mary; three days later she was charged with drunken driving.[13] On May 16, 2012, Mary was found dead in a building on the grounds of her Mount Kisco, New York home; the death was ruled by the Westchester County medical examiner to be due to asphyxiation from hanging.[14][15][16]

In September 2013 The New York Post released excerpts from Kennedy's diary from 2001 in which Kennedy detailed multiple affairs,[17] and penned his opinions about public figures, notably writing that the Revs. Jackson and Sharpton “give me the creeps,” in a July 5 entry.[18]

Kennedy is a licensed master falconer and former president of the New York State Falconer's Association.[19] He is also an avid whitewater rafter and has led several rafting trips in Canada and Central America.[20][21] He appeared in the IMAX documentary film Grand Canyon Adventure: River at Risk, riding the length of the Grand Canyon with his daughter and with anthropologist Wade Davis.

Legal career

In 1983, Kennedy was hired by New York County District Attorney and longtime family friend Robert M. Morgenthau to be an office assistant.[22]

In 1984, Kennedy joined the Riverkeeper organization to satisfy the 1,500 hours community service to which he was sentenced. He worked with the group to sue alleged polluters of the Hudson River. After his 1,500 hours were complete, the group hired Kennedy as its chief attorney.[23] While at Riverkeeper, Kennedy hired William Wegner, a falconry friend who had pleaded guilty to federal criminal charges of smuggling bird eggs from Australia in contravention of the laws of Australia and the United States. Robert Boyle, NY Riverkeeper's founder and former president, fired Wegner but Kennedy re-hired him. Eight members of the Riverkeeper board walked out of the board meeting in protest and resigned from the board.[24] Riverkeeper was founded in 1966 by a group of fishermen and residents from New York.[25]

Kennedy also founded and is the current chairman of the umbrella organization Waterkeeper Alliance,[26] which connects and supports local waterkeeper groups. Today there are 191 waterkeeper programs worldwide operating under the trademarked "Riverkeeper", "Lakekeeper", "Baykeeper", or "Coastkeeper" names.[27]

Since 1987 Kennedy has served as a Clinical Professor of Environmental Law and co-director of the Pace Environmental Litigation Clinic[28] at Pace University School of Law. The clinic allows second and third year law students to try cases against alleged Hudson River polluters. Kennedy also serves as a senior attorney for the Natural Resources Defense Council,[20] a non-profit organization based in New York which works to expand environmental laws and restrict land use.


Environmental activism

In 1998, Kennedy, Chris Bartle and John Hoving created a bottled water company that donates all of its profits to Waterkeeper Alliance.[29] They named their Manhattan-based company Tear of the Clouds LLC., after the lake of the same name, the source of the Hudson River in the Adirondack Mountains.[30] Their product is bottled under the name Keeper Springs.[31]

In April 2001, Kennedy was arrested for trespassing at Camp Garcia, the United States Navy training facility on the island of Vieques, Puerto Rico. Kennedy and others were protesting the use of a small section of the island for training. The trespassing incident forced the suspension of live-fire exercises for almost 3 hours. Despite the best efforts of his counsel, former Governor of New York Mario Cuomo, on July 18, 2001 Kennedy was sentenced to 30 days in jail by Judge Hector Laffitte.[32][33] In February 2013, while protesting the Keystone Pipeline, Kennedy was arrested for blocking a thoroughfare in front of the White House during a protest. Kennedy's son, Conor, was also arrested.[34]

In a December 16, 2005, editorial for the New York Times, Kennedy argued, "As an environmentalist, I support wind power, including wind power on the high seas. I am also involved in siting wind farms in appropriate landscapes, of which there are many. But I do believe that some places should be off limits to any sort of industrial development. I wouldn't build a wind farm in Yosemite National Park. Nor would I build one on Nantucket Sound, which is exactly what the company Energy Management is trying to do with its Cape Wind project."[35] This position angered some environmentalists.[36]

In 2005 Kennedy was criticized for hypocrisy, because he receives royalty payments for participation in two family-owned oil drilling companies, and also for using private jets while lecturing about the perils of global warming.[37]

On July 7, 2007, Kennedy appeared in New Jersey at the Live Earth event. His speech challenged the public to question the implied position of the energy industry that economic and environmental policies are mutually exclusive. He referred to several media personalities (Glenn Beck, John Stossel, Sean Hannity and Rush Limbaugh among them) as "flat-Earthers", and "traitors".[38] Kennedy's speech concludes with the statement "And I will see all of you on the barricades." He is a self-described pro-life supporter.[39] Kennedy also sits on the board of directors of the Food Allergy Initiative.[40]

In 2009 Kennedy collaborated on an article titled, "The Energy of Bobby Kennedy, Jr."[41] for the debut summer issue of Above magazine, an ecological magazine based in London.

In May 2010 Kennedy was named one of's "Heroes for the Planet" for his success in helping Riverkeeper to restore the Hudson River.[42]

In June 2011, Kennedy appeared at select screenings of The Last Mountain produced by Bill Haney, and co-written by Haney and Peter Rhodes. The film depicts a battle in Appalachia between a local community and a large fossil fuel company over coal exploration.

Kennedy's early environmental work is featured in two films by director Les Guthman, The Hudson Riverkeepers[43] and The Waterkeepers.[44]

Views on autism and vaccines

An outspoken opponent of vaccination, in June 2005 Kennedy authored an article in Rolling Stone and alleging a government conspiracy to cover up connections between the vaccine preservative thimerosal and childhood autism.[45] The article contained a number of factual errors, leading to issue five corrections and ultimately to retract the article completely on January 16, 2011. The retraction was motivated by accumulating evidence of errors and scientific fraud underlying the vaccine-autism claim.[46] Previous to this retraction, sometime in 2010, Rolling Stone had also deleted Kennedy's article from their archives without explanation.[47][48] As of January 2011, the original, uncorrected, version of the article was still posted on Kennedy’s website, including his factual errors which Salon had corrected.[48]

Views on 2004 and 2008 Presidential elections

Kennedy endorsed John Kerry in the 2004 American presidential election, noting his strong environmental record, while also criticizing George W. Bush.[49] In an article in the June 5, 2006, issue of Rolling Stone titled "Was the 2004 Election Stolen?",[50] Kennedy comes to the conclusion that the Republican Party stole the 2004 American presidential election. Farhad Manjoo, Technology staff writer for, has criticized Kennedy's interpretation and methodology.[51] Kennedy responded to Manjoo's criticisms in detail.[52]

In late 2007, Robert Jr.[53] and his sisters Kerry and Kathleen[54] announced that they would be endorsing Hillary Clinton.

In response to subsequent endorsements by Caroline Kennedy, Ted Kennedy, and Patrick J. Kennedy for Barack Obama, Robert Jr., Kerry, and Kathleen wrote in a January 29, 2008, editorial:

"By now you may have read or heard that our cousin, Caroline Kennedy, and our uncle, Sen. Edward M. Kennedy, have come out in favor of Sen. Barack Obama. We, however, are supporting Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton because we believe that she is the strongest candidate for our party and our country."[55]

Kennedy was also featured in an ad campaign for Clinton alongside the grandson of Cesar Chavez.[56] In October 2008, on the Etown radio program where he received their E-chievement Award and was interviewed, he cited the need to elect Barack Obama.[57]

Political aspirations

Kennedy first considered running for political office in 2000 when he considered running for United States Senator in New York.[58] After deciding not to run in that election, he again considered running in 2005 for Attorney General. With the possibility of a matchup against his then brother-in-law Andrew Cuomo generating media interest, Kennedy again decided not to run, despite being considered the frontrunner if he ran.[59]

In a January 2007 interview in O: The Oprah Magazine, Kennedy said he would consider running for the potentially open seat of then-United States Senator Hillary Clinton of New York if she were to win the 2008 Presidential election.[60] RFK Jr.'s father was elected to that seat in 1964 and held it for more than three years. Clinton did not win the election and Kennedy announced on December 2, 2008 that he would not run, feeling it would take too much time away from his family[61]

Media work

Kennedy co-hosts Ring of Fire which was previously on Air America Radio with Mike Papantonio,[62] even though he suffers from spasmodic dysphonia,[63] a disorder that makes speech difficult and causes the voice to sound quavery. Ring of Fire is now independently syndicated.

Kennedy has written two books and several articles on environmental issues. His articles have appeared in works such as The New York Times, The Washington Post, the Los Angeles Times, the Wall Street Journal, Newsweek, Rolling Stone, Atlantic Monthly, Esquire, The Nation, Outside magazine, and The Village Voice.


Political books

Children's books


External links

  • Pace Law School Profile
  • Lecture at DePauw University, October 5, 2007
  • Presenter at Cusp Conference 2008
  • Collection of Robert Kennedy Jr. Quotes and Videos
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