Essay: Ladies and gentlemen, the next President of the United States?

Photograph by Jose Matute

By Michael Lacey

Robert F. Kennedy Jr., Democratic candidate for president (and polling at 20 percent against Biden according to CNN), is a man whose entitled shadow crossed my desert footprints in deepest Baja Mexico in 2001.

We were both ensnared by whales.

At the time I was the founding editor of what would become Village Voice Media, which consisted then of some 17 papers whose editors and writers won over 3,800 writing awards including a Pulitzer.

More to the point of this article, I was on track to log 30 consecutive years of journeys throughout Baja with family and friends. And this led to research and interviews with advocates, scientists, politicians, environmentalists and ordinary Mexicans steeped in the fabled leviathan, all of which culminated in an award-winning series.

What I witnessed of RFK Jr. in Baja in the struggle over the fate of Mexico’s charming gray whales was alarming.

He was an imposing Trojan horse, a legacy politician whose innards were teeming with Natural Resource Defense Council (NRDC) lawyers, paralegals, factotums and environmentalists, not to mention the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW).

“NRDC —it’s not well known or the greatest name in the world, because it was chosen by a bunch of lawyers,” Linda Lopez, membership VP of NRDC told our reporter Jill Stewart. “But we had a huge name in Bobby Kennedy who is an attorney for our board. When we put his cover letter into our package…it made people feel totally confident in us.”

And now that he has tossed his hat into the presidential ring, methinks it is worthwhile to explore his myth — and not just his anti-vax postings — but certainly that, as well as his record at the environmental nonprofit Riverkeeper, his activity in Cape Cod and yes, his family.

I have junior’s receipts.

He willingly sacrificed hundreds of jobs for Mexicans — in a notoriously impoverished desert — to wage a phony worldwide campaign on behalf of the charismatic gray whale.

All Kennedy had to do was: lie about the facts, ignore the science, screw the Mexicans out of employment, sweet talk Hollywood celebrities into hanging out with a Kennedy, and cynically attack a business — harvesting salt from shallow evaporative ocean ponds — while posing as a great White hope helicoptering in to sort it out for the befuddled Browns.

To put a cherry on it, Kennedy and his posse promised green jobs to an entire village…and then abandoned the residents in the aftermath of the public relations triumph by the whale-charmed environmentalists.

Gray whales make one of the longest migrations of any mammal when they depart arctic waters for three calving lagoons in Baja Mexico.

Stunningly, the mothers and their calves approach small Mexican fishing skiffs (pangas) and allow humans to ogle them and, what’s more, allow themselves to be stroked and petted.

It is a National Geographic moment of contact between whales and those humans whose predecessors nearly hunted the grays to extinction. Of the three, Laguna San Ignacio offers the most significant and gratifying interaction.

In 2001 our West Coast papers in New Times Inc. ran a series on the gray whales, and it was in these articles that we documented RFK Jr.’s perverse propaganda campaign.

A Japanese company proposed to install a salt harvesting operation inland from the waters of Laguna San Ignacio. It is a simple matter of letting the ocean evaporate in onshore holding pens, then raking off the salt left behind.

There is virtually no ecological footprint. We know this because an identical salt harvest, run by the same company, occurs 92 miles north of Laguna San Ignacio in Guerrero Negro.

Guerrero Negro has had no impact upon the whales.

In fact, the brine that accumulates in the salt ponds provides feeding grounds for migrating birds. Serious birders know this.

But RFK Jr. was not interested in the facts.

He was in the forefront of a global crusade to stop salt harvesting in Laguna San Ignacio.

Critically dismissed was the fact that the salt plant would have created 200 jobs for Mexicans with middle class incomes in one of the poorest parts of Baja.

The salt workers in Guerrero Negro have new trucks, respectable housing. They can pay for their children to go beyond high school. They have health insurance, vacation time, profit sharing and discounted groceries from a company store.

RFK Jr. portrayed Mitsubishi, the company that owned the salt operation in Guerrero Negro and had proposed a similar effort in Laguna San Ignacio, as whale killers.

A rather silent partner, the Mexican government would have the final say on whether or not the salt venture went forward.

Conveniently for Kennedy’s agitprop, dead whales were washing up on the shores of Baja beaches.

Between 1999 and 2000, hundreds of deceased whales washed up on the Pacific Coast shoreline of America and Mexico

Despite Kennedy’s propaganda, the whale die-off had nothing whatsoever to do with Mitsubishi’s salt works.

As recounted by New Times’ Patti Epler, scientists discovered that the whale’s food supply in Alaska, amphipods, had declined at the same time that the gray whale numbers had reached the species’ carrying capacity. There wasn’t enough food.

Emaciated whales began their migration south undernourished. Starved whales died in record numbers.

These inconvenient facts were ignored by Robert Kennedy Jr. and his environmental cohorts.

The Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), sent out 30.4 million mailers and collected $7 million. Membership increased from 175,000 to 450,000 based upon the false allegation that the Japanese salt plant was the villain in whale mortality.

A boycott of Mitsubishi began.

The International Fund for Animal Welfare spent millions and placed full-page ads in The New York Times and the Wall Street Journal.

Between them, the NRDC and IFAW spent a combined $15.5 million and mobilized 2 million people globally.

American school children protested, “Stop killing Namu.”

Kennedy flew dignitaries, politicians, do-gooders and movie stars like Pierce Brosnan and Glenn Close into Baja.

In fact, this appeared to be the crux of the issue: Kennedy and the NRDC sought not to protect the whales but rather to protect the pristine landing strip where celebrities were flown in for glamping, whales and donations.

When the President of Mexico stopped the salt project, the media erupted.

“A decision Mexico never expected to make,” said The New York Times. “Changed the shape of environmental policies in Mexico,” declared the Boston Globe. “Handing a stunning victory to environmentalists,” wrote the Washington Post. “The most significant victory of their generation,” summed up Cox News Service.

It was all based on lies. The whales were in no danger from salt.

The endangered ones actually resided in the threadbare village of Punta Abreojos.

As recounted by our journalist Susan Goldsmith, this is the village: At the end of a 37-mile dirt road, there is one phone in the tiny community. When it rings, the person who answers leans out of the door and yells there is a call for so and so.

Robert Kennedy Jr. and the NRDC vigorously courted the villagers’ support. Kennedy reportedly dove with the locals for abalone.

And the villagers were promised “green” jobs to replace the salt plant jobs they were about to lose.

Kennedy and NRDC hatched a scheme to vastly expand the villages’ modest harvesting of an oyster hatchery.

But neither Kennedy nor the honchos at NRDC are watermen…unless you count yachting.

Someone thought the new oyster operation should have solar/wind-generated power. And probably there would be excess power for the community of Punta Abreojos.

It was all so…organic…alternative…progressive.

And then reality bitch-slapped the gringos.

Here is how Kennedy and the NRDC blew it.

“They promised jobs that wouldn’t affect the environment—alternatives to the salt plant,” said Angela Garcia, village resident and daughter of a fisherman.

The NRDC publicized the killing of the salt plant in their magazine and promised more good deeds.

“Now that the plant has been cancelled, the environmentalists have assigned experts to spend some months in Punta Abreojos and other nearby settlements to help raise local living standards,” said NRDC’s Jacob Scherr.

“We not only saved a lagoon, we saved a town.”

The big idea was a vastly expanded oyster-farming business.

“Because the shellfish harvest from the Pacific is declining and natural resources are being strained, NRDC and IFAW believe creating a sustainable fishery such as oyster farming is a promising alternative that has the potential to employ 85 to 100 adults —a significant portion of the working population of Punta Abreojos…” claimed NRDC.

As Goldsmith reported:

“Those familiar with the shellfish business in Mexico aren’t optimistic about Punta Abreojos’ chances for shucking the oyster market open and sucking out profits. Because of overfishing problems throughout Mexico, lots of others in Baja California Sur have had the exact same idea; currently there are 10 new oyster hatcheries in the state, and the federal government has approved environmental impact studies for another 14 in the same area. So much competition is certain to hinder the economic viability of Punta Abreojos’ oyster farm as well as the project’s employment prospects.”

Critically, Kennedy and his green allies only invested $100,000 in the oyster dream and it went nowhere.


Kennedy’s pitch was a simplistic narrative about a corporation that was evil because it was a corporation. As if people didn’t buy food at Safeway, cars from General Motors, clothes from Target, homes from Del Webb.

And he is repeating the same theme in his bid for the White House, running against corporate-state alliances.

But this isn’t actually why he’s running.

RFK Jr. is running for president because his name is not Smith or Jones, but Kennedy.

He is a conniving, cheese-eating rat despite being draped in the purple vestments of epic privilege.

RFK Jr. fits right into the whooparee that is a presidential campaign with equal parts Mark Twain farce and Donner party tragedy.

This year the spotlight is on Donald Trump, the earworm that no embarrassment can hush, and Joe Biden, the proud father of Hunter and the terrible, horrible, no good, very bad, laptop.

Biden’s eldest, Beau, before succumbing to cancer, served as Delaware’s Attorney General. This entitled the Bidens to be considered for inclusion into that most American corruption: Familial Political Dynasties.

Can you get your arms around how much twaddle it takes to diddle voters into believing that everyone in a particular family, including cousins and red-headed step children, can not pick up a shovel or a wrench but rather must be given a gavel instead?

But consider the evidence.

I give you: The Adams; The Harrisons; The Tafts; The Rockefellers; The Roosevelts; The Romneys; The Bushes; The Clintons; The Udalls; The Cuomos; and Louisiana’s very own Longs.

This is not to say these weren’t interesting hombres.

For the record, no one was more charming to read about — not live under — than Huey Long.

Huey, Earl, Rose, Russel, Julius,George, Gillis William, Speedy O, Jimmy D, Gerald, Blanche, John S., Catherine Small and William  “Bill” Jackson. Each and every one of these Longs was capable of election oratory with a chaw full of red beans and rice.

And let’s not deny that the Kennedys leave quite a wake in this regatta of familial coupling.

As a clan, they have more christenings than a rabbi has brises. The sheer numbers in every family photo repudiate the very thought of contraception.

Joe and Rose Kennedy, John and Jackie Kennedy, Robert and Ethel Kennedy, Kathleen Kennedy Townsend, Caroline Bouvier Kennedy, John F. Kennedy, Jr., Joseph P. Kennedy ll,

Robert Kennedy, Jr., Patrick J. Kennedy, Robert Sergeant ‘Bobby’ Shriver lll, Mark Kennedy Shriver, Robert Sergeant Shriver, Jr., Arnold Schwarzenegger (by marriage), Joseph P. “Joe” Kennedy lll.

Every single one of these potato heads ventured into public service.

Four Kennedys believed they should be president. FOUR!!!

John F. Kennedy, Robert Kennedy, Edward Kennedy, and now Robert Kennedy Jr.

This is kaleidoscopic pageantry on a galactic scale. RFK Jr. is one more entitled chappie born not to work, but rather to lead.

Even William Faulkner never described such a family.

As if his own history was not problematic enough, Kennedy has announced that his vice-presidential running mate will be Ohio’s Dennis Kucinich.

When you google search Kucinich here are the first four references: Washington Post “Dennis Kucinich was mocked in his presidential bid”; The New Yorker “Why Dennis Kucinich won’t be missed”; The Ringer “The kooky career of Dennis Kucinich”; The New Republic “Is Dennis Kucinich Serious?”

This is like going to the state fair and seeing a sign pointing to a dark alley: “Right this way for the Bearded Lady and the Hairless Boy.”


The most outstanding part of RFK Jr.’s resume is that he is a former heroin junkie.

Elders had warned us of a great White family offspring who speaks with forked tongue and subsists on Hasty Pudding and appears at microphones clad in Vineyard Vines.

In 2015 Jerry Oppenheimer published a book, RFK Jr.: Robert Kennedy Jr.  and the Dark Side of the Dream, which claimed that Junior “was a serial cheater who proposed to second wife Mary Richardson while still married to first wife Emily Black.”

This adultery ‘lifestyle’ was recounted by People magazine’s Tierney McAfee.

This candidate appears amongst us as a child of preppy in-breeding, a dark spirit of button-down collars and unbuttoned zippers, a false god who traffics in the pieties of the supreme virgin called Mary. He venerates her by sleeping with anyone named Mary…or Anne…or Buffy.

He manages this despite the sleight mien of a chipmunk.

The folklore surrounding this horn-dog is so severe that the collateral damage includes an ex-wife who killed herself in the family compound after a procession of sexual conquests by her ex-husband.

Coverage by The New York Post was a tabloid triumph.

“Robert F. Kennedy Jr.’s estranged wife, who battled her husband’s rumored philandering by turning to alcohol and prescription drugs, hanged herself in a barn on their Westchester estate yesterday.” (May 16, 2012).

A friend of the ex-wife recounted:

“I remember being seated at dinner next to Bobby around 10 years ago that she was also at — it was the first time I had met either of them—and he put his hand on my thigh under the table.  We hadn’t even spoken to say hello. He was such a dog that way.”

Bobby’s latest merit badges have been earned from virulent anti-vaxxer campaigns questioning Covid prevention. He stakes out conspiracies, questioning scientific verities with his theories about contaminated trading blankets.

I grew up when little kids caught polio and ended up in iron lungs, unable to breathe on their own, with a tiny mirror above their heads so they could see who they were talking to.

The Salk vaccine put an end to this ghoulish crippling.

I believe in vaccines.

I know Robert Kennedy Jr.

He’s no Jack Kennedy.


While I know Kennedy from the gray whales wars in the desolate reaches of Baja Mexico back in 2001, Laguna San Ignacio is a relatively low-key chapter of his life in terms of public awareness.

But his trail since then, like a snail’s, is no less slimy.

After Baja, RFK, Jr. made a name for himself in upstate New York involving the cleanup of the Hudson River.

He became a high-profile member of the wildly successful Riverkeeper organization, an outfit committed to cleaning up the significant pollution in the Hudson River.

You might say that he backed into the job.

In 1983 he was employed in the U.S. Attorney’s Office and was busted for heroin possession.

But, Kennedys do not go to jail (see Edward Kennedy and Mary Jo Kopechne, Chappaquiddick, July 1969).

Instead, RFK Jr. was offered community service with the Riverkeepers in 1984.

The Riverkeepers originated as the Hudson River Fisherman’s Association when they confronted a vast array of industries polluting the water.

These activists were led by founder Robert H. Boyle, who wrote the book, The Hudson River, A Natural and Unnatural History.

Boyle was also a senior staffer at Sports Illustrated.

There is no question that Riverkeeper made a substantial impact upon the epic waterway and the fishery.

But there are plenty of questions about RFK Jr. Perhaps the largest issue revolved around a felon.

William Wegner, like RFK Jr., is a falconer. He studied ornithology at the State University of New York at New Paltz.

But he’d also been sentenced to five years in prison for running a smuggling ring. He brought exotic bird eggs from Australia and sold them for thousands of dollars. He pled guilty to wildlife protection laws and tax fraud. He caught five years.

Kennedy’s position on behalf of his fellow falconer was that everyone deserves a second chance. He suggested that he, Kennedy, had gotten a second chance.

Riverkeeper’s founder, Robert Boyle, told The New York Times the difference was Kennedy had not committed an environmental crime while Wegner’s bird smuggling was clearly an egregious crime against nature.

Kennedy retained Wegner on his personal staff, and numerous senior members of Riverkeepers resigned.

In 2017 Kennedy himself resigned from Riverkeepers claiming his responsibilities with the group kept him away from his children.

In his resignation letter, he described himself as the co-founder of the Riverkeepers. He took credit for shuttering Indian Point nuclear power plant.

The founder of the Riverkeepers, Robert Boyle, reacted with his own nuclear meltdown in the Daily Mail.

“Kennedy built up his reputation (as an environmentalist) based on my actions and my thoughts,” Boyle told the press.

“He’s a very deceitful, dishonest man…It’s very difficult to rewrite history when the man who made it is still alive…I started the battle about Indian Point back in 1964. I wrote an article about it in Sports Illustrated. I was invited to speak before a congressional committee, which I did…I intervened in the licensing procedures for Indian Point Two and Point Three. That goes back at least 50 years, so what Kennedy said is a lie. It’s one falsehood after another.

“The idea that he co-founded Riverkeeper, which is somewhere in his letter, is nonsensical. He co-founded nothing. He founded nothing…

“He lives in a fantasy world. And it’s a good thing for the environment that he’s out of it because he’s done a great deal of damage to the environment with his various postures.”

If this feels harsh, Kennedy himself managed to underscore Boyle’s evaluation in 2005.

Writing in The New York Times, Robert Kennedy Jr. told readers: “As an environmentalist, I support wind power, including wind power on the high seas. I am also involved in siting wind farms in appropriate landscapes, of which there are many.”

And then Kennedy pivoted.

The company Cape Wind Associates undertook a proposal to build an offshore wind farm in Nantucket Sound.

Robert Kennedy Jr., professed environmentalist, strongly opposed Cape Wind because the turbines “…would be seen from Cape Cod, Martha’s Vineyard and Nantucket.”

In other words, the windmills would be visible from the Kennedy compound, though he failed to mention this in his attack on green energy.

Perhaps RFK Jr. would have supported Cape Wind if the turbines were located closer to Newark.

Cape Wind had to abandon the project due to “…an opposition group funded largely by wealthy waterfront homeowners…”

In 2014 Kennedy married Curb Your Enthusiasm’s Cheryl Hines. When the couple threw a party in 2021, guests were instructed to be vaccinated against Covid.

Kennedy blamed his wife.

“I guess I’m not always the boss in my own house,” he told Politico.

Trust funder, heroin junkie, lawyer, false prophet of Covid, home wrecker, serial adulterer, chipmunk caricature, whale alarmist, Janusian-faced windmill denier, Democratic candidate for President of the United States.

Is that the organ from The Phantom of the Opera I hear?

Michael Lacey is the former executive editor of Village Voice Media. He lives in Paradise Valley, Arizona, and is currently engaged in an epic First Amendment battle with the federal government over the former classified listings giant, You can read more about his fight at

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3 Comments on "Essay: Ladies and gentlemen, the next President of the United States?"

  1. Can I make a one time donation through Venmo?

  2. I take issue with this diatribe and polemic which is devoid of both comprehension and compassion,the qualities of rfk jr, plus his brilliant and incisive mind, the very same qualities that have impelled United Nations Santa Fe to endorse rfk jr for two terms. I write as the Founder of UN Santa Fe, with hopes that he and Dr Rand Paul Kentucky US senator could be rfk’s VP, because this would enable USA to recover its health. John Adams and Thomas Jefferson in 1796 were opponents for the top jobs and that bipartisan cooperation led to among things Jefferson’s Louisiana Purchase from France in 1803

  3. Marc Bonagura | June 27, 2023 at 7:23 pm | Reply

    When one reads a hit piece like this, the only conclusion one can arrive at is that some people are scared to death that Bobby might actually get elected. That level of fear in people and organizations, who generally have no fear or consequence of any kind, and simply ignore into oblivion any candidates who actually offer a progressive alternative, as rare as it is, is certainly cause for optimism.

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