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.
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.
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 Time.com'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 Salon.com, 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.
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.