Thimerosal controversy

Robert F. Kennedy, Jr.

Robert Francis Kennedy, Jr. (born January 17, 1954 in Washington, D.C.) is the third of 11 children born to Ethel Skakel Kennedy and Robert F. Kennedy and is the nephew of John F. Kennedy. He is an environmental lawyer and co-host of Ring of Fire on the Air America Radio network.

Personal life


Kennedy graduated from Harvard College in 1976 with a B.A. in American history and literature (interrupting his stay at Harvard for a year of study at the London School of Economics) and obtained a Juris Doctor degree from the University of Virginia School of Law, following a tradition started by his father and his uncle Edward M. Kennedy. He also obtained an LL.M. from the Pace University School of Law.

Marriages and children

Kennedy married Emily Ruth Black (b. October 15, 1957) on April 3, 1982 in Bloomington, Indiana, daughter of Thomas Black and Helen Armstrong. They have two children:

They divorced on March 25, 1994 in the Dominican Republic. He married Mary Richardson (b. 1960) on April 15, 1994 on board a research vessel along the Hudson River. They have four children:

  • John Conor Richardson Kennedy (b. July 24, 1994 in Mt. Kisco, New York);
  • Kyra LeMoyne Kennedy (b. August 22, 1995 in Mt. Kisco, New York);
  • William Finbar Kennedy (b. November 8, 1997 in Mt. Kisco, New York);
  • Aidan Caohman Vieques Kennedy (b. July 13, 2001).

Criminal record


In 1983, he was arrested in a Rapid City South Dakota Airport for heroin possession. A search of his carry-on bag uncovered 183 milligrams of the drug. Upon entering a plea of guilty, Kennedy, then 30 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.


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 NY Governor Mario Cuomo, on 18 July 2001 Kennedy was sentenced to 30 days in jail by Judge Hector Laffitte.

Sporting life

Kennedy is a licensed master falconer and former president of the New York State Falconer's Association. He is also an avid white-water rafter and has led several rafting trips in Canada and Central America.

Legal career

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 prosecuting attorney. Riverkeeper was founded in 1966 by a group of fishermen and residents from New York.

Kennedy also founded, and is the current chairman of, the umbrella organization, Waterkeeper Alliance, which connects and supports local waterkeeper groups. Today there are 177 waterkeeper programs worldwide operating under the trademarked "Riverkeeper", "Lakekeeper", "Baykeeper", or "Coastkeeper" names.

Since 1987 Kennedy has served as a Clinical Professor of Environmental Law and co-director of the Pace Environmental Litigation Clinic 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, a non-profit organization based in New York which works to expand environmental laws and restrict land use.

Earlier in his career, Kennedy served as assistant district attorney in New York City.

Media work and public activism

In 1998, Kennedy, Chris Bartle and John Hoving created a bottled water company that donates all of its profits to Waterkeeper Alliance. They named their Manhattan based company Tear of the Clouds LLC., after the lake of the same name in nearby Essex County. The Kennedy's have long been vocal stewards of the Hudson River. Their product is bottled under the name Keeper Springs.

On May 16, 2008 Kennedy appeared on the Late Show with David Letterman, largely to promote a Vanity Fair article regarding the environment.

Kennedy currently co-hosts Ring of Fire on Air America Radio with Mike Papantonio, despite suffering from spasmodic dysphonia, a disorder that makes speech difficult and causes the voice to sound quavery.

He has written two books and several articles on environmental issues. His articles have appeared in 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, The Village Voice and many more. Since May 2005 he's been a contributing blogger at The Huffington Post, a blog run by Arianna Huffington.

Kennedy was named one of's "Heroes for the Planet" for his success in helping Riverkeeper to restore the Hudson River. In 2005, he argued for a link between global warming and Hurricane Katrina in an editorial for the Huffington Post.

In a 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. This position angered some environmentalists.

Kennedy authored a June 2005 article in Rolling Stone alleging connections between the mercury-containing preservative thimerosal in inoculations and childhood autism. Mainstream medical opinion is that there is no convincing scientific evidence to support this allegation.

In an article in the June 5, 2006, issue of Rolling Stone entitled Was the 2004 Election Stolen?, Kennedy comes to the conclusion that the Republican Party stole the 2004 American presidential election. Farhad Manjoo, Technology and Business staff writer for, has criticized Kennedy's interpretation and methodology. Kennedy responded to Manjoo's criticisms in detail.

Kennedy has been criticized for receiving royalty payments for participation in two family-owned oil drilling companies, and also for using private jets while preaching about the perils of global warming.

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. Kennedy's speech concludes with the statement "And I will see all of you on the barricades".

Kennedy refused to give a commencement speech for the Class of 2008 at the University of California, San Diego, because of the University's policy of giving non-livable wages for its workers.

He's also a self-described pro-life supporter.

2008 Presidential election

In late 2007, Robert and his sisters Kathleen Kennedy Townsend and Kerry Kennedy 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, Kathleen, and Kerry 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. Robert F. Kennedy, Jr., was also featured in an ad campaign for Clinton alongside the grandson of Cesar Chavez.

Political aspirations

In a January 2007 interview in O, The Oprah Magazine, Kennedy hinted that he would run for the position of United States Senator from New York, if Hillary were to win the 2008 Presidential election. His statement "If Hillary left the Senate, I might run for that seat" was seen by Democratic observers as "a blunt warning to possible rivals.

Books by Kennedy


See also

External links

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