Robert F. Kennedy Jr. Makes His White House Run Official

More than half a century after his father sought the White House to end a calamitous war in Vietnam and to salve the country’s racial strife, Robert F. Kennedy Jr. announced a presidential campaign on Wednesday built on re-litigating Covid-19 shutdowns and shaking Americans’ faith in science.

Mr. Kennedy, a California resident, traveled to Boston, once the citadel of his family’s power, to declare that he would challenge President Biden for the Democratic nomination in a long-shot bid for the White House.

Appearing at the Park Plaza Hotel — a favorite fund-raising venue of his uncle Ted Kennedy’s — he sought to wrap himself in the Kennedy political luster at an event saturated, in words and images, with reminiscences of his father as well as another uncle, President John F. Kennedy.

In a rambling speech lasting nearly two hours, Mr. Kennedy, 69, evoked his father’s 1968 campaign and death, and spoke at length about his career as an environmental lawyer. He also aimed criticisms at the pharmaceutical industry, big social media companies that he accused of censorship, Mr. Biden’s commitment to the war in Ukraine and former President Donald J. Trump’s “lockdown” of the country early in the pandemic.

Late in Mr. Kennedy’s speech, an alarm sounded and an announcement was heard asking people to evacuate. Nobody moved. “Nice try,” Mr. Kennedy said, and continued to speak to a full room inside the hotel.

Who’s Running for President in 2024?

The race begins. Four years after a historically large number of candidates ran for president, the field for the 2024 campaign is starting out small and is likely to be headlined by the same two men who ran last time: President Biden and Donald Trump. Here’s who has entered the race so far, and who else might run:

Donald Trump. The former president is running to retake the office he lost in 2020. Though somewhat diminished in influence within the Republican Party — and facing several legal investigations — he retains a large and committed base of supporters, and he could be aided in the primary by multiple challengers splitting a limited anti-Trump vote.

Nikki Haley. The former governor of South Carolina and U.N. ambassador under Trump has presented herself as a member of “a new generation of leadership” and emphasized her life experience as a daughter of Indian immigrants. She was long seen as a rising G.O.P. star but her allure in the party has declined amid her on-again, off-again embrace of Trump.

Vivek Ramaswamy. The multimillionaire entrepreneur and author describes himself as “anti-woke” and is known in right-wing circles for opposing corporate efforts to advance political, social and environmental causes. He has never held elected office and does not have the name recognition of most other G.O.P. contenders.

Asa Hutchinson. The former governor of Arkansas is one of a relatively small number of Republicans who have been openly critical of Trump. Hutchinson has denounced the former president’s efforts to overturn the 2020 election and said Trump should drop out of the presidential race.

President Biden. While Biden has not formally declared his candidacy for a second term, he is widely expected to run. But there has been much hand-wringing among Democrats over whether he should seek re-election given his age. If he does run, Biden’s strategy is to frame the race as a contest between a seasoned leader and a conspiracy-minded opposition.

Marianne Williamson. The self-help author and former spiritual adviser to Oprah Winfrey is running for a second time. In her 2020 campaign, the Democrat called for a federal Department of Peace, supported reparations for slavery and called Trumpism a symptom of an illness in the American psyche that could not be cured with political policies.

Robert Kennedy. The Democrat, a longtime vaccine skeptic and a member of the Kennedy political dynasty declared that he would challenge President Biden for the Democratic nomination in a long-shot bid for the White House.

Others who might run. Gov. Ron DeSantis of Florida, former Vice President Mike Pence, Senator Tim Scott of South Carolina and Gov. Chris Sununu of New Hampshire are seen as weighing Republican bids for the White House.

He told the crowd that the most important thing he would do in his campaign was tell “the truth to the American people,” a line that drew sharp applause from the audience of hundreds. Numerous attendees, who had come from Boston, neighboring New England states and Florida, recounted in interviews their skepticism about vaccines and the pharmaceutical industry.

While polls show that up to half of Democrats want someone besides Mr. Biden as their 2024 nominee, no party leader has stepped up with a challenge, and past opponents have rallied to the president’s side. Mr. Kennedy is the latest in a history of fringe presidential aspirants from both parties who run to bring attention to a cause, or to themselves.

For Mr. Kennedy, that cause is vaccine skepticism, a crusade that in the past led him to falsely link childhood vaccines to autism. At the height of the Covid-19 pandemic, he sought to undermine public trust in vaccines, comparing government efforts to impose mandates in some places to “Hitler’s Germany.” Both Facebook and Instagram took down accounts of a group he runs for spreading medical misinformation.

Family members have accused Mr. Kennedy of sowing distrust in the science behind vaccines. His campaign has appalled members of his famous Democratic clan.

“I love my brother Bobby, but I do not share or endorse his opinions on many issues, including the Covid pandemic, vaccinations and the role of social media platforms in policing false information,” Kerry Kennedy, a sister of Mr. Kennedy’s, said in a statement.

Bob Shrum, a former aide to Ted Kennedy, said Mr. Kennedy’s attacks on Dr. Anthony S. Fauci and the federal government’s top medical and scientific agencies would have infuriated his uncle. “It’s contrary to everything his uncle Ted Kennedy ever did,” he said. “He called health care the cause of his life.”

In a statement of his own, Mr. Kennedy said he had made a “difficult choice to put my principles ahead of my personal affections” for Mr. Biden. “Some members of my family agree with me and others do not,” he added. “I bear them no ill will.”

On Wednesday in Boston, Mr. Kennedy was introduced by his wife, Cheryl Ruth Hines, an actress, and he pointed out his children and grandchildren seated in a balcony of the hotel ballroom. But there was a notable absence of members of his family who have likewise made careers in politics. A number of them affirmed their support for Mr. Biden’s re-election in recent days, part of a decades-long alliance between the Biden and Kennedy families.

Ted Kennedy’s widow, Victoria Reggie Kennedy, is Mr. Biden’s ambassador to Austria. Caroline Kennedy, the daughter of President Kennedy, is ambassador to Australia. And Joe Kennedy III, a grandson of Robert F. Kennedy, is Mr. Biden’s special envoy to Northern Ireland, who flew with him this month to Belfast.

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