“You are assassinating my legacy.”

Steve Villano
6 min readJun 6, 2024


(Robert F. Kennedy, Jr., age 14, the in the foreground, stands by his father’s casket in St. Patrick’s Cathedral in early June, 1968. TV Talk Show Host Jack Paar stands behind the coffin.)

Dear Bobby:

I know life has been hard for you since I was murdered 56 years ago, after I just won the California Democratic Presidential Primary. I’m sure it’s been difficult for the entire family.

But, I’m writing to you now, because I believe you’ve taken your grief over my being taken from you at such an early age, in some incomprehensible and unconscionable directions. It’s time for you to reflect on the enormous damage you are doing.

I was glad you weren’t there to witness me being shot in the head. It was bad enough your mother had to see it. The fact that you were asleep in your dorm some 3,000 miles away at Georgetown Preparatory School in Bethesda, Md., and had to be awakened in the middle of the night by a priest to hear the news, has always been of some comfort to me. For a 14-year old to have watched such gun violence in person, being perpetrated against his father, would have been traumatizing.

I can only imagine how terrible it was to be rousted from a sound sleep to learn the news. I will be forever grateful to Vice-President Hubert Humphrey for flying you, Kathleen, and Joe out to LA on Air Force Two, so you could all be at my bedside in Good Samaritan Hospital. Hubert personified what being a “good samaritan” means.

Even though Last Rights had already been administered to me, I felt you grab my hand tightly and pray for me to survive and for my soul. I shall also never forget how brave you were to stand by my casket, day-after-day, in St. Patrick’s Cathedral in NYC, while millions of Americans were able to come by and pay their respects. I felt you trembling, but still, you stood there, strong and erect like a soldier of Jesus Christ. For that courage, I shall always be grateful.

However, in pursuing the path of public service, to which many in our family have devoted themselves, you seem to have gotten lost along the way. So, as a deep believer that eternal change for the better is possible, I am offering you the kind of guidance I wish I was able to give you in person:

First, you’ve harmed millions of children with special needs — the same children whose lives our family championed in the Special Olympics, and to whom you Aunt Eunice, your cousin Maria, and I dedicated our lives to serving — with your decades long laundry list of lies about the link between Vaccines and Autism.

Those bold-face lies — disproved by dozens of medical studies — resulted in the loss of the medical license by Andrew Wakefield, the British researcher who originated and propagated the destructive anti-vaxxer propaganda. You knew that at the time you started peddling that pernicious propaganda, and you certainly know it now. To continue to spread those lies, and grotesquely try to repeat them concerning COVID-19 — a disease which killed 1.2 million Americans — is unconscionable. Stop it.

I am ashamed that you knowingly disseminated and profited from peddling such widely disproven, and damaging, lies about a non-existent link between standard, childhood MMR vaccines and autism, blocking legitimate research and treatment for autism for many years. By intentionally spreading such ignorance, you personally caused direct harm to many of the same marginalized communities — communities of color, the poor, and the disabled — that I spent my lifetime championing. Didn’t you learn anything from our dining room table conversations about the special responsibilities we had?

Secondly, your candidacy for President is of grave concern to me, as it it to every other member of our family, who have all solidly backed Joe Biden. Biden, a good, fair and compassionate man, has governed in a conciliatory, pragmatic progressive tradition to benefit working families — much as I would have done — and, right now, he is a necessary bulwark against the anti-democratic, nationalistic, nihilistic, racist, xenophobic, anti-women, anti-gay, and reactionary forces in this country and around the world. He may well be the last best hope for Democracy, and for decency. How could you undermine that, and play into the hands of Donald Trump, Steve Bannon, Roger Stone, Michael Flynn — all convicted felons, by the way — and of Vladimir Putin?

Your mother and I taught you respect for the Rule of Law, for Democracy and for the dignity of every human life. How could you not see that by taking even one-vote away from Joe Biden, you are pushing this country into the abyss of darkness, and turning it over to the forces of Fascism your Uncle John and I gave up our lives fighting? Why are you trashing all the good work we tried to do during our brief time in public office?

And, while I have your attention, that choice you made for your running mate is completely looney-tunes. She met a billionaire at a Yoga Retreat, had his baby, took some of his money and then dumped him when she had sex with another billionaire? And she used her multi-millions to spread more lies about vaccines, and to purchase a place on your national ticket? Really, Bobby? What are you doing? I can understand your wanting to act out a bit of a subconscious Oedipal plot aimed at me for abruptly leaving you at such a tender age, but do you really want to send your 96-year old mother to her grave? Snap out of it!

Third, that cringe-worthy book for which you wrote the forward, entitled, “The Real Anthony Fauci”, has been adopted as gospel by the John Birch Society, Q-Anon, and every other anti-government wacko on the extreme Right Wing, including the Republicans running the present House of Representatives. Do you really believe that the life-saving work of Dr. Fauci and Bill Gates was meant to “ put humanity under totalitarian rule,” and “must be stopped? Who ARE you?

The Craig Newmark Center’s Poynter Institute — which has done some outstanding work in public health and public policy I would have strongly supported — reported that you are “one of the biggest sources of anti-vaccine rhetoric today.”

Worse, McGill University’s Office of Science & Society — at one of Canada’s leading Medical Universities — has called you “one of the princes of the anti-vaccine movement, if not its king.” What have you become?

As if all of this deeply damaging behavior on your part wasn’t enough, Bobby, you gutted me when you testified before the Louisiana House Oversight Committee during the height of the COVID pandemic, and opposed a proposal requiring public school students to be vaccinated. Your reckless actions took by breath away: my son, my namesake, crusading against a proven public-health measure that has historically protected people of color.

You had to know that more than 50% of the public school students in Louisiana are students of color — precisely the demographic that had the highest rates of COVID infections, and death. Were you consciously undermining everything your mother and I taught you to fight for? Everything shred of public service and the public good that the Kennedy family has stood for?

Didn’t it matter to you, Bobby, that the rabid Right Wing groups you are now working with are the very same pernicious people who have always opposed more funding for health care for the poor, for working families, for mental health services, and for the disabled? Doesn’t it matter to you that those actions are costing the lives of the most vulnerable among us?

I know you have questions about whether Sirhan Sirhan acted alone in murdering me, Bobby, but whether he did or not, your unhinged actions and life-threatening lies against the people for whom I fought, are doing a far more thorough job of assassinating my legacy than Sirhan ever could.

I will always love you, my son, and will always believe in the power of redemption, and in your ability to turn toward the light, instead of pulling the country down into a wormhole of darkness and despair.


Your father.