By Jeff Louderback
Featuring a catchy jingle and nostalgic images that mirrored John F. Kennedy’s 1960 presidential campaign ad, a surprise 30-second spot funded by a super PAC aligned with Robert F. Kennedy Jr. aired during the Super Bowl on Feb. 11.
American Values 2024 paid $7 million for the ad that ran nationally just before halftime of the game eventually won by the Kansas City Chiefs in overtime, according to the super PAC’s co-chairman Anthony Lyons.
Mr. Kennedy—who is also known by his initials, RFK—announced last October that he would leave the Democrat primary and run for president as an independent. He is the nephew of John F. Kennedy, who was shot and killed on Nov. 22, 1963, during a campaign stop in Dallas.
The original black-and-white spot from 1960 included a song that repeats “Kennedy” over and over in the chorus, along with lyrics that are accompanied by photographs of Mr. Kennedy and U.S. citizens.
The Super Bowl ad funded by American Values 2024 showcased the same song and a vintage appearance that features RFK Jr.’s photo in vintage form and the same “Kennedy for President” phrase.
Google Trends showed that internet searches for “RFK” soared after the spot was broadcast, with terms related to Mr. Kennedy receiving about 100 times more searches than average.
The spot generated criticism from political strategist Robert Shrum, who was a speechwriter and consultant for Sen. Edward M. Kennedy, RFK Jr.’s uncle.
“This RFK Jr. Super Bowl ad is a straight out plagiarism of JFK ad from 1960. What a fraud- and to quote Lloyd Bentsen with a slight amendment, ‘Bobby, you’re no John Kennedy.’ Instead you are a Trump ally,” Mr. Shrum wrote on social media platform X.
One Kennedy family member expressed displeasure with the spot.
“My cousin’s Super Bowl ad used our uncle’s faces- and my Mother’s. She would be appalled by his deadly health care views. Respect for science, vaccines, & health care equity were in her DNA. She strongly supported my health care work at @ONECampaign & @RED which he opposes,” Bobby Shriver, son of Eunice Kennedy Shriver, wrote on X.
Mr. Kennedy posted the ad on his X page and wrote: “Our momentum is growing. It’s time for an Independent President to heal the divide in our country.”
He followed that with a statement on X three hours later.
“I’m so sorry if the Super Bowl advertisement caused anyone in my family pain. The ad was created and aired by the American Values Super PAC without any involvement or approval from my campaign. FEC rules prohibit Super PACs from consulting with me or my staff. I love you all. God bless you.”
Stefanie Spear, who is Mr. Kennedy’s press secretary, told ABC News after the ad was broadcast, “We are pleasantly surprised and grateful to the American Values PAC for running an ad during the Super Bowl where more than 100 million Americans got to see that Robert F. Kennedy Jr. is running as an independent candidate for president of the United States.”
Mr. Lyons told The Epoch Times that Mr. Kennedy faces hurdles because of censorship and misinformation from the mainstream media.
Mr. Kennedy travels the country speaking at events and has appeared on many podcasts to reach voters in ways outside of the mainstream media.
American Values 2024 is working to get Mr. Kennedy on the ballot in all 50 states and the District of Columbia and on reaching voters through advertising and marketing, Mr. Lyons said.
“Mr. Kennedy thinks this election will be won by reaching voters through podcasts and alternative media outlets that have more readers and viewers than legacy media,” Mr. Lyons said.
“The panicked DC power brokers are working overtime to keep Kennedy off the ballot because they know he can and will end their culture of greed and corruption. They offer us soaring inflation, forever wars, and chronic disease.
“RFK Jr. offers us real change along with freedom, trust, and hope. Like his uncle and his father, Kennedy is a corruption fighter, and it’s no wonder the Democratic National Committee (DNC) is trying every old trick and inventing new tricks to stop him. The public sees through it all and won’t stand for it.”
Mr. Kennedy has received widespread support from conservatives, moderate Democrats and Republicans, independents, and Libertarians since announcing in April 2023 that he would challenge President Joe Biden for the 2024 Democratic nomination.
After encountering what he deemed multiple roadblocks from the DNC, which he accused of “rigging” the party’s primary, Mr. Kennedy declared that he would instead run for president as an independent on Oct. 9, 2023, in Philadelphia.
In that speech, he said he was “declaring his independence” from the Democrat party, the Republican party, and all parties. He said that it was a difficult decision to leave the party he said his family built.
Separate polls in recent months show that Mr. Kennedy leads all presidential candidates among voters 45 and under in six battleground states, and voters 18 to 34 nationally. A survey also indicated that he is the leading candidate among independent voters.
Mr. Kennedy has also noted that he leads all presidential candidates in favorability ratings.
American Values 2024 said late last year that it planned to spend about $15 million to help Mr. Kennedy get on the ballot in multiple states.
Last week, Mr. Kennedy’s campaign was accused of receiving an illegal contribution from American Values 2024, according to a Federal Election Commission complaint filed by the DNC.
Mr. Kennedy’s campaign is “in the process of accepting a $15 million unlawful in-kind contribution by coordinating their efforts to get him on the ballot,” DNC legal counsel Bob Lenhard said in a Feb. 9 call detailing the FEC complaint.
Mr. Kennedy’s campaign “has acknowledged that it is time-consuming and expensive for a first-time candidate to get on the presidential ballot in all 50 states.”
“Rather than doing that hard work itself, using money raised in compliance with the candidate contribution limits, the campaign is taking a shortcut outsourcing what is otherwise a core campaign function to a super PAC,” Mr. Lenhard said.
American Values 2024 is ignoring federal law, according to the complaint, Mr. Lenhard noted.
DNC spokesperson Ramsey Reid said that billionaire Tim Mellon, one of former President Donald Trump’s largest donors, gave American Values 2024 “the exact $15 million paycheck they said that they would need for ballot access.”
Mr. Reid called the move “an effort to subvert our election laws” and “prop up” Mr. Kennedy.
Campaign finance records indicate that Mr. Mellon gave American Values 2024 $15 million in 2023. Mr. Mellon also contributed $10 million to pro-Trump super PAC MAGA Inc. last year, according to FEC filings.
Mr. Lyons said in a statement that the super PAC “has been working independently from the campaign in accordance with FEC precedent to get Bobby Kennedy on the ballot in 12 states.”
“This FEC complaint is just another desperate DNC tactic to defame Kennedy, vilify him, and drain his campaign funds,“ he said. ”The American people are too smart to be fooled by these political games.”
Minutes after the DNC held its press conference announcing its FEC complaint, Mr. Kennedy wrote on X, “After the day they had yesterday, it’s understandable they’d want to put the focus on someone else.”
“The DNC is in no position to assert morality over anyone—they refused to have a primary and have worked against the will of the people in the past few elections,“ he wrote. ”It’s sad to see the party my family built crash and burn.”
After a voter rally in Grand Rapids, Michigan, on Feb. 10, Mr. Kennedy told reporters that the DNC’s complaint reflects its continued campaign to prevent candidates who oppose President Biden from getting on the ballot.