Last October, White House hopeful Robert F. Kennedy Jr. announced a decision to switch parties in his presidential bid by exiting the Democratic party and running as a third-party Independent. The move was quickly denounced by members of his own family, including Oscar-nominated documentarian Rory Kennedy, who joined her siblings in posting a family statement.
“The decision of our brother Bobby to run as a third party candidate against Joe Biden is dangerous to our country. Bobby might share the same name as our father, but he does not share the same values, vision or judgment. Today’s announcement is deeply saddening for us. We denounce his candidacy and believe it to be perilous for our country,” read the Instagram post signed by Rory Kennedy, Kerry Kennedy, Joseph P. Kennedy II and Kathleen Kennedy Townsend, a group that totals four of the 11 children shared by Ethel and Robert Kennedy.
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Rory happened to be in Sundance on Thursday night, where The Hollywood Reporter caught up with her on the red carpet ahead of the festival’s opening night gala fundraiser for the Sundance Institute. Asked about the statement, a rare move for the Kennedy siblings, Rory reiterated the bond she shares with her brother and explained why she felt “compelled” to speak out “which I didn’t really want to do.”
“I love Bobby, but I do think that his campaign and his run for presidency will draw more [Joe Biden] voters, and I worry that it’ll lead to [Donald Trump’s] election,” explained Rory, joined at the event by husband Mark Bailey. “I think it was important to put this statement out honestly, to just let folks know that his views don’t necessarily represent everybody in our family’s, and there’s some of them that are pretty far out there. I wanted to be on record as not being in agreement with both many of [the views] and the campaign.”
Asked whether her feelings have changed since Trump emerged victorious in the Iowa caucuses, Rory said, “I’m deeply concerned about where this country is going and that we might elect Trump again. I think it’s going to come down to probably less than 100,000 votes and could be even smaller numbers in a handful of states. Every vote matters, which is why I felt compelled to speak out, which I didn’t really want to do.”
“I love Bobby but I do think that his campaign and his run for the presidency will draw more Biden voters and I worry that it’ll lead to Trump’s election,” Rory Kennedy told me last night of decision to denounce RFK Jr.’s campaign last October. pic.twitter.com/U9SyfsxUUy
— Chris Gardner (@chrissgardner) January 19, 2024
Her showing coincidentally came hours after The Hollywood Reporter published a cover story by senior writer Seth Abramovitch that featured Cheryl Hines, wife of Robert F. Kennedy Jr. Both are interviewed in the piece, which also details their responses to the siblings’ statement.
Abramovitch asked Hines whether the infighting has ended family get-togethers. “No, no,” she said. “It all continues.” Though it doesn’t seem that regular. “I think organically, because of what’s going on in our lives, it doesn’t always fit in with what’s always been going on in their lives. Right now, we are in a different orbit.”
She continued of her husband: “He has no hard feelings, which is admirable. Because he knows that at the end of the day, this is hard for them — for lots of reasons. They didn’t ask for it. But just by being related to him, they are involved. I think that’s challenging for people.”
As for Robert Kennedy Jr., he said that he sees his family all the time. “I just came back from 10 days of skiing with the whole family, with Cheryl there. I mean, listen, I grew up in a milieu where we were raised to argue passionately with each other and still love each other. I feel my family loves me. There’s 105 members of my family, and a lot of them are supporting my campaign strongly. And there’s a small number that has criticized me — and that’s OK.”
Back to Rory. She was happy to discuss the reason she’s at Sundance again this year, for the world premiere of her four-part HBO series The Synanon Fix. “It’s about the first drug treatment program in the United States. It started in Santa Monica in 1958. It was a residential program that helped hard-core drug users, heroin, and it turned into what some consider a cult. And so, it’s really looking at how it evolved over a couple of decades,” Rory explained of the plot.
As for getting into the festival once again, the filmmaker admitted that she jumped up and down with excitement. “I love Sundance, and I just was so thrilled to get the call. I was jumping up and down when I got the call just like I did the first time. It’s such a thrilling moment, and it’s thrilling because you’re going to come here, you’re going to be with engaged audiences, with a group of people who really care about film.”
Her history with the festival stretches back several decades. “My very first film that I brought here was called American Hollow, and I was 28 years old. It really helped launch my career,” she said when asked to name her favorite festival memory. “Then I would say my film Ethel about my mother. Coming here with that film, and we probably had 70 family members who attended, many of whom were seeing it for the first time. Also my mother was here. It was a moment I’ll always remember.”
Sundance runs Jan. 18-28. The Synanon Fix premieres Jan. 21 at Prospector Square Theatre in Park City.
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