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Kennedy cousin blasts Super Bowl ad for Robert F. Kennedy Jr. invoking JFK’s 1960 campaign

Robert F. Kennedy Jr. speaks at press conference after addressing the New Hampshire Senate at the State House in Concord in June.Craig F. Walker/Globe Staff

A super PAC supporting Robert F. Kennedy Jr.’s independent bid for the White House aired a commercial during the Super Bowl that invoked a famous old TV spot from John F. Kennedy’s 1960 campaign, prompting pushback from a member of the storied Massachusetts political family.

The 30-second ad by American Values 2024 ran before halftime as many Americans were watching the Kansas City Chiefs and the San Francisco 49ers face off in Super Bowl LVIII.

The ad for Kennedy, the son of former US senator and attorney general Robert F. Kennedy and nephew of president John F. Kennedy, both Democrats, mirrored the one that supported his uncle’s campaign more than 60 years ago. The commercial features the same familiar jingle and vintage production, as a slideshow with pictures of Robert F. Kennedy Jr. moves across the screen. At one point, a photo of Kennedy skiing appears below a message imploring viewers to “vote independent.”

The ad sparked a surge in searches for Kennedy’s name, according to Google Trends. It also drew a swift rebuke from at least one member of the Kennedy family. Bobby Shriver, Kennedy’s cousin and the oldest son of Eunice Kennedy, condemned the ad in a post on social media.

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“My cousin’s Super Bowl ad used our uncle’s faces- and my Mother’s,” Shriver wrote. “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 [an antipoverty organization] & @RED [a public health nonprofit] which he opposes.”

A spokesperson for American Values 2024 said the ad cost about $7 million.

“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,” American Values 2024 co-founder Tony Lyons said in a statement.

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“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 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.”

Just before midnight Sunday, Robert F. Kennedy Jr. posted on X, formerly Twitter, that he was “so sorry if the Super Bowl advertisement caused anyone in my family pain,” adding that the ad was created by the American Values Super PAC without any involvement from his campaign. People were quick to point out that the ad was pinned to the top of his profile.

On Friday, the Democratic National Committee filed a complaint with the Federal Elections Commission alleging that American Values 24 was working too closely with Kennedy’s campaign and has engaged in a “ballot access scheme” to ensure Kennedy is on the ballot in key states in November.

Kennedy, an environmental lawyer now known for decades of anti-vaccine activism and conspiratory remarks that have been widely viewed as racist and offensive, initially ran as a Democrat challenging President Biden’s re-election bid but left the party in October.

Four of Kennedy’s siblings criticized his decision to run as an independent when it was announced, saying “he does not share the same values, vision or judgment” as their father.

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Material from the Associated Press and previous Globe stories was used in this report.


Nick Stoico can be reached at nick.stoico@globe.com.