“I’m here to declare myself an independent candidate for President of the United States,” the anti-vaxxer scion of America’s most famous political family said on Monday.
“But that’s not all, I’m here to join you and make a new Declaration of Independence for our entire nation,” Mr Kennedy added. “We declare independence from the corporations that have hijacked our government.”
Mr Kennedy originally positioned himself to run against Joe Biden, but the Democratic National Committee is not holding debates and is fully supporting the president’s run for a second term in the Oval Office.
Mr Kennedy made the official announcement at Philadelphia’s Independence Mall, with campaign signs reading “Declare your Independence”.
Following his announcement, Mr Kenedy’s sister, Kerry Kennedy, issued a statement condemning his presidential run as “dangerous” and “perilous for our country.”
In recent months – via campaign emails and videos – he has criticised the DNC and its decision not to host debates between Mr Biden and other candidates, among other things.
“If they jam me, I’m going to look at every option,” he said in September at a New Hampshire barbecue held by Republican former Senator Scott Brown.
Mr Kennedy, who is the son of the late US Senator Robert F Kennedy, previously filed candidacy papers for the Democratic nomination with the FEC in April, though allies of president Joe Biden had dismissed his campaign as “unserious”.
While frequently invoking his father and uncle – president John F Kennedy – on the campaign trail, the 69-year-old has ties to the former president and 2024 Republican hopeful Donald Trump, and some of his biggest supporters are on the right.
Polls show far more Republicans than Democrats have a favourable opinion of Kennedy, according to AP. It is unclear how his shift to an independent would affect the campaigns of both Mr Trump and Mr Biden going into the general election.
Despite his strong Democratic forbears, Mr Kennedy has built close relationships with several far-right figures in recent years, having appeared on a channel run by the Sandy Hook conspiracy theorist Alex Jones.
He also headlined a stop on the ReAwaken America Tour, the Christian nationalist road show put together by Trump’s former national security adviser Michael Flynn.
In 2017, Mr Kennedy was tapped by then-president-elect Trump to oversee a presidential panel to review vaccine safety and science - despite having repeatedly expressed scepticism about vaccines. He continued pushing those beliefs through the coronavirus pandemic.
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