Woman Who Bankrolled RFK Jr.’s Super Bowl Ad Picked for VP

Photo Illustration by Elizabeth Brockway/The Daily Beast/Getty
Photo Illustration by Elizabeth Brockway/The Daily Beast/Getty

Robert F. Kennedy Jr. sought to breathe new life into his longshot presidential campaign on Tuesday with the announcement of his running mate: lawyer and entrepreneur Nicole Shanahan.

He made the reveal more than an hour into a rally that featured an unusual line-up, including retired NBA player Metta World Peace, an America’s Got Talent semi-finalist, speeches by Native American presenters, and an introduction from his celebrity wife, Curb Your Enthusiasm star Cheryl Hines.

The event also featured speakers who cast doubt on members of the scientific community—such as former White House Coronavirus Task Force member Anthony Fauci—or who questioned whether America’s agriculture system is responsible for rising incidents of autism and illness.

The news ends weeks of speculation about who would join Kennedy—whose famous family is largely backing President Joe Biden—on the independent ticket. Earlier this month, Kennedy said he was strongly considering NFL quarterback Aaron Rodgers and pro wrestler-turned Minnesota governor Jesse Ventura.

Subsequently, Mediate reported that Kennedy was close to selecting Shanahan, who was previously married to Google founder Sergey Brin. (Their marriage fell apart amid allegations that Shanahan had an extramarital relationship with Elon Musk, which both she and Musk denied.)

Shanahan and Kennedy were recently photographed together looking at art in Malibu, California. Critics have argued that Kennedy might select her because of her wealth; she helped fund his Super Bowl advertisement and could provide crucial resources as he seeks to get on the ballot in more states.

Kennedy flatly denied that was a factor. “Yeah, I mean, I would never choose a vice presidential candidate based on how much money that they have,” he said in an interview with NewsNation this month.

He said he and Shanahan share political common ground: “Nicole, like Aaron, like Aaron Rodgers, has been interested in regenerative agriculture and press freedom in ending the chronic disease epidemic in addressing the, you know, the terrible national debt $34 trillion dollars again, that’s hitting these young people. So, you know, I like both of them.”

During Tuesday’s event, Kennedy said he was also drawn to Shanahan because she’s an athlete and because, at 38 years old, she might help him attract a younger audience. “I was most importantly looking for a partner who was a young person,” he said.

He also acknowledged claims that his candidacy will act as a spoiler for Joe Biden and help Donald Trump win the November election. “Our campaign is a spoiler. I agree with that. It’s a spoiler for President Biden and for President Trump. It’s a spoiler for the war machine. It’s a spoiler for Wall Street, and big ag, and big tech, and big telecom, and big pharma. And the corporate-owned media.”

Kennedy, who is polling in double-digits, according to some forecasts, is projected to draw more votes away from Biden than Trump, New York magazine reported this week.

Both the Trump campaign and the Democratic National Committee quickly blasted Shanahan’s selection.

“RFK Jr. is a radical leftist—an environmental whack job who loves EV mandates, wants to end gasoline powered engines. He’s no Independent. RFK Jr. is an AOC lover and opposes really any human advancement, preferring that we all live in caves by candlelight, except of course supports charging stations for your $150,000 electric car that can only drive a few miles before dying just like his presidential campaign,” Trump’s communications director said.

A spokesperson for the DNC added, “RFK Jr hasn’t been looking for someone who can step up to lead in a time of crisis, he’s been looking for someone who can infuse his campaign with cash as he tries to buy his way onto the ballot to be a spoiler for Donald Trump.”

Shanahan, who was introduced on Tuesday by Metta World Peace, said she wants to use her platform to study and address chronic diseases.

Kennedy said in an interview on Monday that he had also spoken with rapper Killer Mike and Dirty Jobs host Mike Rowe about possibly taking the running-mate job.

Kennedy’s consideration of Rodgers as his running mate rankled some donors, who didn’t view the quarterback as a serious pick. Rodgers has caused controversy in recent years for his disavowal of COVID-19 vaccines and for amplifying other conspiracy theories—which Kennedy has also done.

In January, the quarterback said that late-night host Jimmy Kimmel had reason to be worried about the release of new court documents related to Jeffrey Epstein. Kimmel—who had mocked Rodgers’ coronavirus skepticism and his misleading statements about whether he had been vaccinated—quickly threatened to file a lawsuit. Rodgers later said his comments had been misconstrued.

A former environmental lawyer, Kennedy has sparked criticism for his conspiratorial thinking. Over the summer, he suggested that COVID-19 may have been “ethnically targeted,” and during the pandemic he likened lockdowns to life in Nazi Germany. (The candidate apologized for his remarks, though he said some of his words about the virus were taken out of context.)

In October, after Kennedy ditched the Democratic Party and launched his third-party bid, some members of his family rebuked him.

“Bobby might share the same name as our father, but he does not share the same values, vision or judgment,” they wrote. “Today’s announcement is deeply saddening for us. We denounce his candidacy and believe it to be perilous for our country.”

Kennedy has said that, politics aside, the family nonetheless remains close.

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