The legacy of Kennedy’s greatness “thins out” over generations

Months after the assassination of presidential candidate Robert Kennedy in 1968, his family took to the lawn of their McLean, Virginia, compound to announce the creation of a foundation that would recognize the former Attorney General’s commitment “to a more just and peaceful world.”

But those lofty goals were recently called into question by Kennedy’s daughter Kerry Kennedy’s controversial decision to present Meghan Markle and Prince Harry with one of the foundation’s annual Ripple of Hope Awards at a gala on December 6. According to the foundation, the couple receive the award for exposing “structural racism” within the British royal family after they famously left for North America in 2019 and took part in a explosive sex education interview with Oprah Winfrey last year.

Kerry Kennedy, 63, is the current President of Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights, a nonprofit based in Washington, DC with a net worth of nearly $64 million.

A picture of Kerry Kennedy.
Kerry Kennedy, a daughter of Robert F. Kennedy, “wants to play a big part and do publicity. But she never gets it right,” said Kennedy family biographer Laurence Leamer.
Monica Schipper/Getty Images for Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights

“Shame on you,” said an observer on Kerry Kennedy’s Instagram page this week. “Associating these people with the wonderful accomplishments of your father and this award… You belittled this award for… others who deserved it.”

Another reviewer wrote: “You turned the award and organization into a sham and a laugh by awarding Prince Harry and Meghan Markle. Your father will turn in his grave with this abuse of his name.”

Kennedy family biographer Laurence Leamer agrees, telling The Post that the children of Robert Kennedy and his brother, former President John F. Kennedy, who was assassinated in 1963, have a hard time living up to their father’s legacy to become.

An image of Waterkeeper Alliance President Robert F. Kennedy Jr. at the 2018 Globe Forum.
In 2013, The Post revealed that Robert F. Kennedy Jr. kept a “sex diary.”

“It’s a curse to be an heir, whether you’re the Kennedys or Joe Smith,” said Leamer, author of The Kennedy Women: Saga of An American Family and The Kennedy Men: 1901-1963, alongside other books. “Blood thins as an heir.”

During his tenure as Attorney General in his brother’s administration, Robert F. Kennedy campaigned successfully against organized crime, civil rights and ending segregation. He was a close adviser to the President and a key strategist during the Cuban Missile Crisis that almost brought the world to the brink of nuclear war in October 1962.

In the case of Kerry, a lawyer and Robert and Ethel Kennedy’s seventh child, “she wants to play a big role and do some publicity” by presenting an award to Harry and Meghan, Leamer said. “But she never gets it right.”

A human rights foundation named after Robert F. Kennedy, seen here with seven of his 11 children, has drawn criticism for next week's tribute to Prince Harry and Meghan Markle.
A human rights foundation named after Robert F. Kennedy, seen here with seven of his 11 children, has drawn criticism for next week’s tribute to Prince Harry and Meghan Markle.
Bettmann Archive

Kerry has served as president of the foundation named after her father since 2011 and is the only member of the Kennedy family to receive a salary from the group, according to federal tax returns. Her uncle Ted Kennedy, who died in 2009, was a longtime member of the charity, and her mother, now 94, continues to serve on the board as a volunteer. Kerry’s compensation increased from just over $250,000 in 2011 to over $540,000 in 2019, the most recent year for which the group has public IRS filings. Much of this increase was due to bonuses she received from the board. In 2018, according to public records, she received a $225,000 bonus that increased her net salary to $555,388. The following year, 2019, her compensation was $500,468, including a $150,000 bonus, records show.

“RFKHR staff positions, including our president, are paid, and board and leadership council positions are unpaid volunteer roles,” an RFKHR spokesman said in an email on Wednesday. The group didn’t respond to the Post’s question about the criticism it has received of the decision to give Markle and Prince Harry an award. In addition to the Sussexes, RFKHR will present the Ripple of Hope awards to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, among others.

A picture of Caroline Kennedy, JFK's daughter.
Caroline Kennedy, JFK’s daughter, announced a Senate nomination in 2008 — and withdrew two months later.
CQ-Roll Call, Inc via Getty Images

Kerry, who has three daughters with her ex-husband, former New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, was arrested in Westchester County in 2012 for driving under the influence of Ambien, a sleeping drug. She was acquitted two years later in a trial in which her attorney cited the family’s famous lineage in her defense.

“She is a daughter of Ethel and Robert Kennedy and a niece of our former President John Fitzgerald Kennedy,” attorney Gerald Lefcourt told jurors in the crowded White Plains courtroom, where two of Kerry’s brothers Robert F. Kennedy Jr. and Douglas Kennedy sat sat with her elderly mother, who appeared in a wheelchair.

Like his younger sister, Robert Jr., 68, ran a non-profit Crusade organization. In his case, the environmental advocate was President of the Waterkeeper Alliance for 20 years until he resigned in 2020. Last year he campaigned against vaccines and published his best-selling book, The Real Anthony Fauci: Bill Gates, Big Pharma and the Global War on Democracy and Public Health.

Caroline is the only one left in her immediate family, having married mother Jackie, father JFK and brother John Jr.
Caroline is the only one left in her immediate family, having married her mother, Jackie, father, JFK, and brother, John Jr.
Getty Images

“It’s awful to say that, but Bobby Jr.’s father would be ashamed of his son,” Leamer said. “It’s appalling that he’s using the Kennedy name to prevent vaccination.”

In 2013, The Post revealed that Robert Kennedy Jr. kept a “sex diary” in which he chronicled his affairs with numerous women while married to his second wife, Mary Richardson Kennedy, who died of suicide in 2012.

An image of Joseph Kennedy II exiting a press conference.
Joseph Kennedy II was criticized for forging a relationship with Venezuela’s Hugo Chavez.
MediaNews Group via Getty Images

His older brother, Joseph Kennedy II, 70, also sought the role of Crusader but was criticized for developing a controversial relationship with Venezuelan strongman Hugo Chavez to buy cheap heating oil for Citizens Energy Corp., the nonprofit he founded , to be made available in 1979.

The Boston-based group also raised eyebrows for the salaries it paid Joseph Kennedy and his wife Elizabeth, the group’s head of marketing. The nonprofit, which bought Venezuela crude oil at a discount and sold it at market prices to use the proceeds to ship fuel oil to Massachusetts and other states, reported payments of $5.7 million to Joseph in 2019; For Elizabeth Kennedy, the number was more than $2 million that year, according to tax returns verified by The Post. According to public records, much of this compensation was set aside for pension payments.

A picture of Meghan Markle and Prince Harry at a gala on December 6th.
The non-profit organization Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights will present a Ripple of Hope Award to Meghan Markle and Prince Harry at a gala on December 6.
AFP via Getty Images

When Chavez died in 2013, Joseph, a former congressman, defended the dictator, saying he cares about the poor when “some of the richest people on our planet have more money than they can ever reasonably expect to spend.” Citizens Energy Corp had long said that when they asked oil companies around the world for oil donations, Venezuela’s national oil producer was the only one willing to contribute to the charitable venture. Under Chávez, Venezuelans suffered from hyperinflation, food shortages and political repression.

“Joe started this company from scratch and over the years we’ve helped millions of people,” said a spokesman for Citizens Energy Corp. to The Post, adding that the nonprofit has helped residents in 26 states by providing more than $1 billion in cheap heating oil, gas subsidies and discounts on prescription drugs. The group is now relying on renewable energies, the spokesman said.

Joe Kennedy II thanks his supporters after winning the 8th congressional district seat.
Joe Kennedy II courted Hugo Chavez to provide cheap heating oil for Citizens Energy Corp., the non-profit organization he founded in 1979.
Bettmann Archive

He also said that while Joseph was on good terms with Chavez, he was critical of his successor, Nicolas Maduro, accusing him of “stealing democracy” from the people of Venezuela by refusing to resign after Juan Guiado won the 2018 election would have.

Meanwhile, 65-year-old Caroline Kennedy — the daughter of JFK and Jackie Kennedy — has also been attempting to steal the political spotlight. Now Ambassador to Australia, Caroline entered the political ring when she announced her candidacy for Hillary Rodham Clinton’s Senate seat in New York in December 2008 after Clinton was named secretary of state. But Caroline gave up the race two months later.

“When she found out what democratic politics actually meant, she said goodbye,” Leamer said. “She didn’t want to answer any questions or reveal her taxes. She acted like a princess.”

A picture of President Biden and US Ambassador to Australia Caroline Kennedy.
In the Biden administration, Caroline is Ambassador to Australia.
AFP via Getty Images

Caroline continued to support Barack Obama’s presidential campaigns and compared the former president to her father in a 2008 New York Times opinion piece.

“I’ve never had a president inspire me the way people tell me my father inspired them,” she wrote. “But for the first time, I believe I’ve found the man who could be that president, not just for me, but for a new generation of Americans.”

Caroline was appointed to Obama’s vice presidential search committee and was one of the 35 national chairs of his 2012 re-election committee. A year later, Obama elected her ambassador to Japan, a position she held until 2017.

For Leamer, the inability of Robert and John F. Kennedy’s children to live up to their parents’ accomplishments unravels the Kennedy myth.

“I don’t want to belittle the great things they have [John and Robert] did, but it’s not like people are going to the polling booths anymore to support a Kennedy.” The legacy of Kennedy’s greatness “thins out” over generations


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