A 30-Second Kennedy Ad Collides With a Decades-Long Family Legacy

A Super Bowl advertisement promoting the presidential campaign of Robert F. Kennedy Jr. — a remake of a 1960 spot that helped put his uncle John F. Kennedy in the White House — has struck a nerve with Kennedy family members and friends, who worry that it exploits and potentially tarnishes the legacy of a storied political family.

The 30-second advertisement is built on the foundation of one of the most famous political ads in American history, still memorable to many in politics 63 years after it was first shown. That historic ad presents John F. Kennedy — than a senator from Massachusetts — as a young, vibrant and experienced challenger to Richard M. Nixon, the Republican vice president under Dwight D. Eisenhower.

The slightly altered version of the original ad superimposes pictures of Robert Kennedy Jr. over John F. Kennedy’s image and keeps the jaunty jingle — Kennedy, Kennedy, Kennedy — that remains burned in some people’s memories to this day. In the process, it repurposes an advertisement created for John F. Kennedy into one for his 70-year-old nephew, an appropriation of a legacy that many Democrats have long argued Robert Kennedy should not be able to claim.

Raymond Buckley, who has been chairman of the New Hampshire Democratic Party since 2007, said he had viewed the vintage advertisement numerous times while visiting the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum in Boston, so his head shot up in surprise when he heard it during the Super Bowl.

“It was jarring,” Mr. Buckley said. “I was like, what? Eccch. And to see Bobby Jr.’s photo imposed over J.F.K.’s was gross. Whoever would have thought to do such a thing? It was disrespectful.”

The Super Bowl advertisement is the latest chapter in what has been years of growing estrangement between Mr. Kennedy and much of his family. It began in earnest as he emerged as one of the nation’s leading skeptics of the Covid vaccine and intensified when he went on to challenge President Biden, who has the support of some of the best-known members of the Kennedy family, for the Democratic presidential nomination.

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