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Independent presidential candidate Robert F. Kennedy Jr. speaks to supporters during a campaign event, April 13, 2024, in West Des Moines, Iowa. Independent presidential candidate Robert F. Kennedy Jr. speaks to supporters during a campaign event, April 13, 2024, in West Des Moines, Iowa.

Independent presidential candidate Robert F. Kennedy Jr. speaks to supporters during a campaign event, April 13, 2024, in West Des Moines, Iowa.

Amy Sherman
By Amy Sherman May 14, 2024

Fact-check: RFK Jr.’s positions on voter ID, the NRA and affirmative action

If Your Time is short

  • In 2008, Robert F. Kennedy Jr. co-authored a comic book that called voter identification  "racially rancid." In a 2008 interview, he said a lot of Americans don’t have a driver’s license, including Black people. But the independent presidential candidate has talked about voter ID differently during his current campaign.

  • After the 2018 mass shooting in Parkland, Florida, Kennedy called the National Rifle Association a "terror group." However in 2023, he said on Fox News "I don’t consider the NRA a terror group."

  • Kennedy made statements supporting affirmative action after a 2023 Supreme Court ruling striking down affirmative action in college admissions.

Amid independent presidential candidate Robert F. Kennedy Jr.’s frequent appearances on conservative news, former President Donald Trump has taken notice. Trump, a Republican, said that a vote for Kennedy is a "wasted protest vote" and that the third-party candidate is "far more LIBERAL than anyone running as a Democrat."

Trump was echoing the sentiment of, a website of the MAGA Inc. political action committee. The Trump campaign made similar statements about Kennedy’s past positions in a May 2 post on X

"RFK Jr. is a Radical Left Democrat," the Trump campaign account said.

The campaign then said that Kennedy:

  • Called Voter ID "Racist"

  • Calls NRA a "Terror Organization"

  • Supports Affirmative Action.

The Trump campaign also pointed out Kennedy’s past support of Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama and "praised" Sen. Bernie Sanders, the independent Vermont senator who ran for president as a Democrat. In July 2016, Kennedy endorsed Clinton’s presidential candidacy and called himself a "huge admirer" of Sanders, Clinton’s primary rival. Kennedy said in 2023 that he had no regrets about voting for former President Obama

Kennedy launched his presidential campaign in 2023 as a Democrat, but months later said he would run as an independent. He has taken some policy positions on the right and frequently gives interviews to conservative media.

With Kennedy’s past embrace of Democratic leaders well documented. we wanted to explore the Trump campaign’s claims about his past positions. The statements about Kennedy’s positions on voter ID, the National Rifle Association and affirmative action missed some context.

In 2008, Kennedy called voter ID racist

Nearly two decades ago, Kennedy was critical of  laws requiring voters to present ID.

In an October 2008 interview with NBC host Rachel Maddow, Kennedy said voter ID was discriminatory.

Kennedy said many Americans lack driver’s licenses, including older people, young people and Black people.

"In other words, Democratic voters," Kennedy said. "One in 5 Democratic — 1 in 5 Black voters does not have a driver‘s license. That means if you require a driver‘s license, you‘re getting rid of 20% of the Black voters in this country."

Kennedy also joined journalist Greg Palast to co-author "Steal Back Your Vote," a 2008 comic book that said nuns in Indiana were turned away from voting because their driver’s licenses were expired. The comic book referred to voter ID as a "racially rancid rule."

The book mentioned research about the disproportionate impact on Black voters who were less likely to have a driver’s license than white people. In a 2021 article, PolitiFact highlighted similar research conclusions, including by academics and the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

States set their own laws for voter ID, including how strictly they are applied and what forms of ID, photo or others, are accepted. Today, the majority of states require some type of voter ID.  The trend over the past two decades has been toward tighter voter ID requirements. 

But in his current presidential campaign, Kennedy has not called voter ID laws racist.

Fox News’ Jesse Watters asked Kennedy on Aug. 29, 2023, about voter ID and how his plan would address concerns about fraud and "illegal voting." 

Kennedy replied that "a lot of poor people, particularly people in cities who don't drive, don't have access to identification, and if we had voter ID laws, it would keep them from voting. So, it would keep a huge demographic of people from voting." Kennedy said providing a free ID could solve this problem and did not describe voter ID laws as racist.

In a May 1 interview with Watters, Kennedy walked back his earlier comments more completely.

Watters: "You said voter ID was racist. Is that true?"

Kennedy: "Maybe. You know, look, I had a lot of positions. I went through an evolution like many people in this country. And you know, I said things years ago, I had positions years ago that I look back on and say that was not -— there was nothing good about that. I think we — you know, listen, what I've said on the voter ID issue is that I'm going to issue voter passports — passport IDs to every American who can't afford them, that will end that issue."

"If free ID is made available, Mr. Kennedy is in favor of voter ID requirements to assure the public of election integrity," Stefanie Spear, a Robert F. Kennedy Jr. spokesperson, told PolitiFact.

Kennedy called the NRA a "terror group" in 2018

In the aftermath of the Feb. 14, 2018, mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, Kennedy described the NRA as terrorists.

Kennedy tweeted Feb. 17, 2018: "Parkland students are right; the NRA is a terror group."

Two days earlier, Kennedy tweeted about Marjory Stoneman Douglas, using the abbreviation MSD: "Let’s be honest. The NRA is as responsible for the MSD child murders as if they pulled the trigger. NRA has turned 2d Amendment into a suicide pact for our children. When do we deal with NRA?"

Kennedy deleted the post around May 2023, according to the Decensored News account. The Kennedy campaign did not answer our question about why.

Kennedy walked back calling the NRA a "terror group" in an October 2023 interview with Fox News’ Sean Hannity.

Hannity: "Do you still believe the NRA is a terror group?"

Kennedy Jr.: "I support the Second Amendment, like I do all the amendments of the Constitution, and I'm not going to take people's — "

Hannity: "I didn’t ask you if you support the Second Amendment. You called in 2018, you said, 'Parkland students are right, the NRA is a terror group.' Do you believe that?"

Kennedy Jr. "I don’t consider the NRA a terror group."

Hannity: "Do you regret tweeting that in 2018?"

Kennedy Jr.: "Well, I don’t recall tweeting it in 2018. But if I did, as I said, Sean, I don’t consider them a terror group and I support the Second Amendment."

Spear, Kennedy’s campaign spokesperson, said Kennedy "has come to understand that the gun owners represented by the NRA have a legitimate viewpoint."

Kennedy spoke positively of affirmative action in 2023

In June 2023, the U.S. Supreme Court ended affirmative action for colleges.

Kennedy tweeted on the day of the ruling: "Regarding the Supreme Court banning affirmative action in higher ed(ucation) — I know many Americans feel that purely race-based decisions are unfair. However, this feeling misses important context. The effects of racist policies going back centuries are now self-perpetuating. Affirmative action understands this and uses race-based policies to undo the effects of racist policies. ‘Color-blind’ admissions tend to favor those who are already in the circle of privilege. It favors those who grew up in affluent, educated households. Wouldn’t you like to invite in those who have been left out in the cold?"

Asked about Kennedy’s position about affirmative action, Spear said, "That tweet does not advocate affirmative action per se. It was intended to highlight the need to recognize the situation that affirmative action seeks to address. He believes we must find constitutionally sound and fair ways to address the legacy of centuries of racist practices that still affect the Black community."

When we asked Kennedy’s campaign for his current position on issues including affirmative action, Kennedy’s campaign sent us to the candidate’s policy portion of his website. The page about the Black community does not address affirmative action.

That page of Kennedy’s website calls for "increased trade school and college prep opportunities for our youth" and said "working on organic, healing farms will unlock significant assets to pay your way through college or learn a trade, start a small business or put a down payment on a home."

Our ruling

A Trump campaign X post said Kennedy Jr. called voter ID "racist," calls NRA a "terrorist organization" and supports affirmative action. 

The Trump campaign was careful and used the past tense "called" — a reference to Kennedy’s statements in 2008 in which he spoke about voter ID as racially discriminatory. But during his presidential campaign, Kennedy has talked about voter ID differently by stating that wants the government to provide free ID.

In 2018, Kennedy called the NRA a "terror group" but in 2023 he said "I don’t consider the NRA a terror group."

In 2023, he made statements in support of affirmative action.

Overall, the Trump statement is partially accurate but is missing context, including about more recent statements that he made about voter ID and the NRA.

We rate this statement Half True.

RELATED: All of our fact-checks about Robert F. Kennedy Jr.

Our Sources

Trump campaign, X post, May 2, 2024

Former President Donald Trump, Truth Social post, April 26, 2024

Former President Donald Trump, Truth social post, April 28, 2024

MAGA Inc., Radical f—ing Kennedy website, Accessed May 6, 2024

Robert F. Kennedy Jr., Tweet, Feb. 17, 2018

Uncensored News, X post, July 31, 2023 

Robert F. Kennedy Jr, X post June 29, 2023

Robert F. Kennedy Jr. and Greg Palast, Steal Back Your Vote, 2008

Greg Palast, Bad Habits: Nuns Nixed Over No Voter-ID, Sept. 26, 2012

Yahoo, Robert Kennedy, Jr. endorses Hillary Clinton and video, July 13, 2016

Fox News Jesse Watters, Interview with Robert F Kennedy Jr, Aug 29, 2023

Fox News Jesse Watters, Transcript, May 1, 2024

Fox News, RFK Jr railing against 'racially rancid' voter ID laws in unearthed writings, April 22, 2024

Fox News, Sean Hannity transcript  and video clip, Oct. 10, 2023

Matt Barreto, University of Washington The Disproportionate Impact of Voter-ID Requirements on the Electorate—New Evidence from Indiana, January 2009

The Bulwark, MAGA Takes Aim at RFK Jr.: ‘Radical F—ing Kennedy’ April 9, 2024

Politico, RFK Jr. is all over conservative media. Trump’s camp is concerned, May 1, 2024

NBC News, 'The Rachel Maddow Show,' Oct. 21, 2008

PolitiFact, As extremes shape voter ID debate, the rules keep getting stricter, Aug. 9, 2021

PolitiFact, The Supreme Court ended affirmative action for colleges. Are legacy admissions next to go? July 7, 2023

Email interview,  Stefanie Spear, Robert F. Kennedy spokesperson, May 6-7, 2024

Email interview, Alex Pfeiffer, MAGA Inc. spokesperson, May 7, 2024

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Fact-check: RFK Jr.’s positions on voter ID, the NRA and affirmative action

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