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Robert F. Kennedy Jr. plans to file complaint with FEC over potential debate exclusion

President Joe Biden and Donald Trump have already agreed to a debate, hosted by CNN, that will take place on June 27.
Scripps News' Chance Seales and Robert F. Kennedy Jr.
Posted at 3:59 PM, May 23, 2024

ATLANTA — Independent presidential candidate Robert F. Kennedy told Scripps News he plans to file a complaint with the Federal Elections Commission over his potential exclusion from next month's presidential debate.

"There's strong evidence that's been reported in the mainstream media of collusion between the Trump campaign, the Biden campaign, particularly the Biden campaign, and CNN," Kennedy said.

The Kennedy campaign said the complaint will be filed Tuesday — less than one month before the debate.

Last week, the Trump and Biden campaigns agreed to a June 27 debate hosted by CNN. To qualify, candidates must have at least 15% support in four separate polls recognized by CNN, and be on enough state ballots to reach 270 electoral votes.

A day after the two campaigns agreed to the debates, former President Trump told Scripps News he would have "no problem" sharing the debate stage with Kennedy if he met the polling threshold.

"But he's very low and seems to be heading in the other direction, in the wrong direction," Trump told Scripps News political correspondent Charles Benson last week.

But in a wide-ranging interview with Scripps News' Chance Seales on "The Race" Thursday, Kennedy asserted he's met the criteria to join the presumptive nominees on stage.

"We will have enough signatures for 343 electoral votes, so we'll qualify," he said.

Election 2024 Kennedy

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Kennedy began his run for president as a Democratic candidate but dropped the bid for a run as an independent in October.

A member of one of the most famous Democratic families in politics, he said then that the move was to declare his independence from all political parties while declaring America's independence from "the tyranny of corruption which robs us of affordable lives, our belief in the future, and our respect for each other."

"I wasn't planning on running for president; that was not something that I wanted to do," Kennedy told Scripps News Thursday. "And I didn't decide to do it until I saw what I think is my country gone off the rails: the destruction of the middle class, the endless wars, the corrupt mergers of corporate power."

Despite his family ties, the third-party candidate said he came into politics as an "outsider." It's a particularly poignant point now that more than a dozen of his relatives have formally endorsed President Biden in the upcoming race.

Last month, at least 15 members of the Kennedy family joined the president at his campaign event in Philadelphia to express their "crystal clear" belief that "the best way forward for America" is a Biden-Harris reelection — an apparent dig at their relative, though none mentioned him by name.

Kerry Kennedy, right, introduces President Joe Biden.


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Kennedy told Scripps News Thursday that his family is entitled to their opinions and that many of them "just differ with me on issues" like the war in Ukraine, "censorship" and "the assessment of President Biden."

And when the campaign trail comes to an end, he said there wouldn't be any bad blood despite the harsh words thrown. He said he hopes the same can be said for the country.

"I don't carry around resentments. Resentments are like swallowing poison and hoping someone else will die. I think they're corrosive, and I don't do that," Kennedy told Scripps News. "I love my family. We come from a milieu where we were encouraged to debate each other, to differ with each other, to debate with passion, with good information, but also at the end of the day love each other. And I wish that my country could do the same thing. I wish that we could, all the Republicans and Democrats, could argue vigorously."

Current polling puts Kennedy at under 9%, while Democratic and Republican front-runners President Biden and former President Trump have been neck-and-neck at around 41%.

The third-party candidate was initially seen as more of a spoiler opponent to the incumbent rather than Trump, who has said he'd vote for "RFK Jr. every single time over Biden" if he were a Democrat. But in recent weeks, it hasn't been so clear-cut.

A New York Times poll released last week shows Kennedy is disproportionately drawing voters who backed Joe Biden in the 2020 election, but he's also gaining more Trump 2024 voters than Biden's campaign is gaining this year.

The confusing trends may be why Trump has recently launched personal attacks against Kennedy in addition to his usual attacks against President Biden. In early May, Trump called the independent a "Democrat Plant" and told his Truth Social followers,"He is not a Republican so don't think you're going to vote for him and feel good."

In response, Kennedy wrote in a post on X that Trump's "unhinged" words were because he was "frightened."

"President Trump's rant against me is a barely coherent barrage of wild and inaccurate claims that should best be resolved in the American tradition of presidential debate."

But even amid all the vitriol, Kennedy has expressed a certain openness to pardoning the former president for the current federal cases launched against him, such as the one related to the Jan. 6 U.S. Capitol insurrection.

The third-party candidate said he believes many people involved in the Jan. 6 attack "need to be punished for their crimes," but when asked about President Trump's association with the matter, Kennedy said he'd have to wait until the cases are finished in court.

"I'll look at pardons for anybody, but I'm not going to start announcing pardons for people," he said. "It would be improper for me to do that unless there was really clear and convincing evidence that they were not guilty."

Robert F. Kennedy Jr. discusses views on gender-affirming care with Scripps News

Kennedy also spoke about his controversial stances on other current political issues, such as gender-affirming care. The candidate posted on X earlier this month that he is "troubled" about giving puberty blockers to youth. He likened minors not being able to drive, vote, get a tattoo and more because of their inability to "understand the consequences of decisions with life-long ramifications" to children not being able to "genuinely consent" to gender-affirming care at a young age.

"People with gender dysphoria or who want to change their gender deserve compassion and respect, but these terribly consequential procedures should be deferred till adulthood. We must protect our children," his post read.

Kennedy told Scripps News if he were elected president, he would make a federal standard to ensure no one under 18 could take puberty blockers or hormones, or undergo gender reassignment surgery.

"Like I said, we don't allow kids to drink. We don't allow them to drive, and to make these kind of consequential decisions before you're 18 ... I would say people who make those decisions afterwards, people who have these kind of gender confusions, should be supported. They should be respected. They should never be bullied. We should make every effort to treat them with compassion and understanding. But I don't think these are a good idea," Kennedy told Scripps News.