Allegations of sexual assault, animal cruelty emerge in new RFK Jr. report

Allegations of sexual assault, animal cruelty emerge in new RFK Jr. report

FILE - Independent presidential candidate Robert F. Kennedy Jr. speaks during the Libertarian National Convention at the Washington Hilton in Washington, May 24, 2024. An Associated Press analysis of Gallup data going back to 1980 shows that it's pretty common for third-party candidates to look like they have polling momentum in the months before an election, only to come up far short at the ballot box. (AP Photo/Jose Luis Magana, File)

By Sophie Boudreau

July 2, 2024

New reporting from Vanity Fair reveals troubling details about Robert F. Kennedy Jr.’s past, including allegations of sexual misconduct and further insight into his history of anti-vaccine rhetoric. 

Robert F. Kennedy Jr. is no stranger to controversy. 

The former environmental lawyer and son of Robert F. “Bobby” Kennedy, who was assassinated while campaigning for the Democratic presidential nomination in 1968, has made headlines for claiming that wi-fi causes cancer, antidepressants cause school shootings, and vaccines cause autism, just to name a few. 

Now, as RFK Jr. and running mate Nicole Shanahan continue to promote conspiracy theories along the presidential campaign trail—most recently suggesting that the US government might be “satanically possessed”—a new report from Vanity Fair unveils troubling details about Kennedy’s past.

Reporter Joe Hagan’s piece couples reports of bizarre, offensive behavior—including a disturbing image of Kennedy posing “playfully” with a cooked dog carcass that he reportedly texted to a friend earlier this year—with more damning insight into his personal relationships, anti-science stances, and mental health. 

RFK Jr. posing alongside an unidentified woman with the barbecued remains of what appears to be a dog.

As Vanity Fair reported, Kennedy sent this photo to a friend recently, suggesting the friend try dog on a trip to Korea.


Allegations of sexual misconduct from former Kennedy nanny

The Vanity Fair report extensively explores Kennedy’s past as a 14-year heroin user, among other “reckless” drug use—a topic that Kennedy has not shied away from discussing along the campaign trail. 

Allegations of sexual assault are among the more bombshell claims outlined in the article. 

In the late 1990s, former live-in nanny Eliza Cooney told the magazine, RFK Jr. made unwanted sexual advances against her on multiple occasions. She recalls one instance when he rubbed his hand up and down her thigh under a table and another moment when he groped her hips, rib cage, and breasts in a kitchen pantry. 

“I was frozen. Shocked,” Cooney said. 

The allegations don’t end there. Cooney said that on another occasion, she found Kennedy shirtless in her bedroom alongside her open diary—presumably a sign that he’d been reading her private entries. He asked the then-23-year-old to rub lotion on his bare back, which she did “reluctantly and quickly.”

“In the back of my mind, I was hoping it wasn’t what it actually was,” Cooney told Vanity Fair. 

Kennedy’s romantic history is also detailed in the Vanity Fair report, which outlines his three marriages and speaks directly to the challenges experienced by his second wife, Mary Richardson.

Richardson was deeply distraught when she learned of her husband’s alleged multiple infidelities during their marriage. When Kennedy started an extramarital relationship with actress Cheryl Hines in 2010, Richardson was devastated, eventually finding herself wrapped up in depression and alcoholism. 

Circumstances quickly turned even more dire, Hagan said. 

“After Kennedy left her, Richardson proposed she live in the guest house while Kennedy and Hines lived in the main house—and that she keep the Kennedy name. He declined and then tried to avoid paying her child support, using his ‘brain fog’ as a medical excuse for alleged financial straits,” he wrote. 

“Richardson, her behavior increasingly erratic, eventually lost custody of the children to Kennedy. The Kennedy family, including Kerry, who had once been like a sister to Richardson, began to distance themselves from her.”

Richardson died by suicide in 2012. 

False beliefs about mercury, pandemic bolstered anti-vaccine rhetoric

Beyond his personal transgressions, the Vanity Fair article explains, Kennedy’s public stances on science and vaccine use have sparked concern among family members and colleagues alike, particularly because Kennedy made a name for himself as an environmental lawyer.

When Kennedy’s son, Conor, began experiencing soy and peanut allergies, Kennedy embarked on a personal quest to unearth a cause. At the time, he was employed at nonprofit Waterkeeper, which dedicated much of its time to examining the impact of mercury levels found in migratory fish on drinking water and waterways. 

“By his own telling, Kennedy met mothers around this time who insisted he read research alleging that autism is caused by mercury in the MMR vaccine,” Hagan wrote.

Kennedy had his explanation for Conor’s symptoms: mercury. 

What ensued was a deep dive into the world of anti-vaccine rhetoric, which directly conflicted with Kennedy’s work in the environmentalism field and ultimately contributed to the end of his alliance with multiple environmental advocacy groups.

“On Monday morning he’s giving a speech saying, ‘Do not believe any scientists [on vaccines],’” a source close to one of those groups told Vanity Fair. “And on Tuesday, ‘You’ve gotta believe the scientists when it comes to climate change or what we’re doing to the river.’” 

The Covid-19 pandemic—coupled with the rise of conspiratorial thinking espoused by former president Donald Trump and others in the right-wing media sphere—provided an ideal opportunity for Kennedy to double down on his false anti-vaccine rhetoric and spread misinformation to vulnerable audiences.

From 2020 through 2023, “Kennedy would publish a half dozen books on the dangers of vaccines, costar in a documentary with Andrew Wakefield (Vaxxed II: The People’s Truth), and launch a full-scale assault on Anthony Fauci, disseminating misinformation to an anti-vaccine movement that politicized health measures meant to protect the public from COVID, which led to untold numbers of unvaccinated people dying unnecessarily,” Hagan wrote in Vanity Fair. 

Presidential campaign has amplified fringe beliefs

Since Kennedy announced his campaign for president in 2023, the bizarre claims and troubling conspiracy theories have only continued, much to the chagrin of most other Kennedy family members. 

From announcing that doctors discovered a dead parasitic worm in his brain to making false statements about the Covid pandemic being “ethnically targeted” to spare Chinese and Jewish people, Kennedy’s behavior has left his siblings and extended family concerned about how he might impact the Kennedy legacy. 

But Hagan’s report in Vanity Fair seems to imply that the Kennedy family will ultimately opt for loyalty over frank public discussions about their concerns regarding RFK Jr.’s state of mind. 

“Because you pull the Bobby thread, the whole tapestry unravels. It’s not just Bobby, it’s all of them,” a source close to the family told Vanity Fair. “You pull the Bobby thread, the Kennedy myth all comes apart.”

  • Sophie Boudreau

    Sophie Boudreau is a writer and editor with nearly a decade of experience covering lifestyle, culture, and political topics. She previously served as senior editor at eHow and produced Michigan and Detroit content for Only In Your State.

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