Robert F Kennedy Jr announces attorney and investor Nicole Shanahan as running mate

Robert F Kennedy Jr announces attorney and investor Nicole Shanahan as running mate

Independent presidential candidate Robert F Kennedy Jr has announced that Silicon Valley investor and attorney Nicole Shanahan will be his running mate.

Mr Kennedy, an environmental lawyer and anti-vaccine conspiracy theorist, made the announcement at an event in Oakland, California on Tuesday. In the last few weeks, the Kennedy campaign has spoken to more than half a dozen possible candidates, with the early favourites including New York Jets quarterback Aaron Rodgers and former wrestler and Minnesota Governor Jesse Ventura.

Ms Shanahan, 38, became the favourite late in the process even as she was connected to his campaign and helped pay for a Super Bowl ad backing Mr Kennedy, The New York Times noted.

The candidate told the paper that he had also been in touch with Scott Brown, a former Republican Massachusetts Senator, as well as anti-vaccine mandate attorney Tricia Lindsay, and former Democratic Hawaii Representative Tulsi Gabbard who has left the party to become an independent. She recently spoke at the Conservative Political Action Conference. The campaign also spoke to the host of the TV show Dirty Jobs, Mike Rowe.

Mediaite reported that Ms Shanahan was the expected running mate on 16 March.

The pick is being derided by Democrats as a way to bring in money for the campaign.

“I wanted a vice president who shared my passion for wholesome healthy foods, chemical-free, for regenerative agriculture, for good soils,” Mr Kennedy said on Tuesday.

“I found exactly the right person ... she has used over the past several years cutting edge technology including AI to calculate the catastrophic health consequences of toxins in our soil, our air, our water and our food,” he added.

Nicole Shanahan waves as she becomes the vice presidential candidate of independent presidential candidate Robert F Kennedy, Jr, in Oakland, California (REUTERS)
Nicole Shanahan waves as she becomes the vice presidential candidate of independent presidential candidate Robert F Kennedy, Jr, in Oakland, California (REUTERS)

Mr Kennedy was facing deadlines in several states requiring the running mate to appear on the ballot. Ms Shanahan was previously married to Google co-founder Sergey Brin and she has in the past donated to Democrats, including to President Joe Biden’s 2020 campaign.

She also donated to the Kennedy campaign in May last year, when Mr Kennedy was still running in the Democratic primary. He announced in October that he was leaving that race to run as an independent in the general election.

Ms Shanahan announced on Tuesday that she was leaving the Democratic Party.

Democratic strategist Lis Smith wrote on X that “Nicole Shanahan’s primary qualification seems to be her ability to give $$ to @RobertKennedyJr‘s broke campaign. After everyone else- Aaron Rodgers, Tony Robbins, Tulsi Gabbard, etc.- said no, RFK Jr. sold the VP slot to the highest bidder”.

In an introductory video, Ms Shanahan said she was born in Roseville, California to a mom who “immigrated to the United States in 1983 from Guangzhou, China. My father, in particular, struggled with substance abuse and various mental health challenges”.

“We relied on government assistance for a good portion of my childhood every time my dad lost a job, there wasn't a lot of money to cover basic expenses like food, and we would get food stamps and go to the local grocery store with our mom,” she said, adding that her mother “would ask my brother and I to go stand by the magazines when it was time to pay”.

During a DNC call with reporters on Tuesday, Democratic California Rep Robert Garcia called the event “incredibly bizarre” and said it “goes along with who Robert Kennedy actually is,” calling Mr Kennedy a “tinfoil hat conspiracy theorist”.

“He is anti-science, he’s anti-truth,” he added, arguing that “his vice presidential pick essentially just doubles down on these anti-vaccine conspiracies ... that is quite frankly, dangerous”.

“I think it’s really important to also be very clear who this vice presidential pick is. I mean, we’re talking about someone that has been a mega-donor already to his own super PAC. He is out of money. He is not raising the funding,” Mr Garcia argued. “So of course he’s going to turn to donors. He’s turning to Trump mega-donors to really support this spoiler campaign ... he’s likely interested in trying to get Donald Trump elected.”

In her speech on Tuesday, Ms Shanahan noted that she became wealthy in later life, adding that the purpose of privilege is to help the less fortunate, and also noting that she became an anti-war activist during the Iraq War.

“These are two of my political convictions I hold today to serve peace, and to help those in poverty,” she said. “So you can understand why I gravitated to the Democratic Party because that was supposed to be the party of peace, the party of compassion.”

“Many Democrats still believe in those ideals, but unfortunately as an institution, it has lost its way,” she added. “There is only one anti-war candidate today, and you won’t find him in the Democratic Party or the Republican Party. He is an independent – Robert F Kennedy Jr.”

Ms Shanahan told The Times in February that she had been disappointed when Mr Kennedy left the primary but that she found new energy behind his campaign at the start of this year when she discovered “pockets of silent support all over the place”.

“It was very, very interesting to me to hear how people have been kind of stirred by his message and his willingness to be out there,” she added.

During the DNC call, Pennsylvania Democratic Lieutenant Governor Austin Davis said that Mr Kennedy “was drafted into this race by Donald Trump’s top supporters and is being financed in this race by Trump’s largest donor. Is it merely a coincidence?”

“He has no realistic path to victory in Pennsylvania. All we can do is take away votes from President Biden and make it easier for Donald Trump to win and we simply can’t afford to let that happen,” he added.

During the pandemic, “RFK Jr. was one of the biggest vectors for misinformation on social media. As he had done in the past, he deliberately targeted Black Americans with dangerous lies and conspiracy theories, contributing to confusion and mistrust about vaccine safety,” Mr Davis added. “He won’t be a leader for Black Americans. He’s only out there for himself and to spread his dangerous lies.”

The 70-year-old Mr Kennedy has been pushing anti-vaccine and other conspiracy theories as part of his message bashing the establishment, with the Democratic Party taking legal measures attempting to block Mr Kennedy from getting on the ballot in some states. Democrats are concerned that even as polling shows Mr Kennedy pulling about the same number of supporters from Mr Biden as from former President Donald Trump, the party thinks more choices are more likely to harm Mr Biden than his predecessor.

“Today's Democratic Party ... is working to disenfranchise any Americans who they don't think will vote for their agenda,” Mr Kennedy said on Tuesday. “The principal technique is to call me a spoiler and instil fear in Americans that voting for me – We'll get some other terrifying candidate elected. 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.”

Ms Shanahan previously told The Times that she’s not an “anti-vaxxer”, noting that vaccines have been “very helpful” in furthering public health.

But she added, “I do think that the increase of vaccine-related injuries is very alarming, and I do think we need to understand the screening mechanisms,” possibly in reference to baseless theories linking vaccines to autism and other issues.

She said in the introductory video on Tuesday that in 2020, her child displayed symptoms “associated with autism spectrum disorder”.

“Nicole Shanahan talks about what sent her down a path of ‘children’s health.’ Stories like hers—autism moms going down rabbit holes of alternative treatments and beliefs is so so common,” Brandy Zadrozny of NBC News noted on Tuesday on X.

The campaign told Mediaite earlier this month that Ms Shanahan and Mr Kennedy “align on numerous issues”.

“The campaign is also looking for a candidate who can help finance the ballot access initiative,” the campaign source told the outlet at the time, adding “She might be infusing millions of dollars into the campaign to help fund the ballot initiative, which makes her attractive financially; however, she lacks the qualifications to actually do the job”.

Mr Kennedy said on Tuesday, “We don't think that either President Trump or President Biden understands the promise or the peril of technology sufficiently to direct its trajectory toward freedom and healing and prosperity”.

He went on to bash both Mr Trump and Mr Biden for their handling of the pandemic.

“Those two men ... both worked to close our main street businesses for a year – 3.3 million businesses – with no due process. No scientific citation, no public hearings,” he said.

“As vice president, she's gonna stand with me against the military-industrial complex,” he added to cheers, also bashing “big [argiculture], Big Pharma, the chemical industry, the processed food industry, the government regulators who are colluding to poison our kids for profit”.

“Our independent run for the presidency is finally going to bring down the Democratic and Republican duopoly,” Mr Kennedy claimed.