“I’m not a church boy”: RFK denies eating dog but admits he has “so many skeletons in my closet”

Kennedy denied an allegation in a new Vanity Fair report but sidestepped sexual assault claims from ex-babysitter

Published July 3, 2024 8:11AM (EDT)

Independent presidential candidate Robert F. Kennedy Jr. speaks at the Libertarian National Convention on May 24, 2024 in Washington, DC. (Kevin Dietsch/Getty Images)
Independent presidential candidate Robert F. Kennedy Jr. speaks at the Libertarian National Convention on May 24, 2024 in Washington, DC. (Kevin Dietsch/Getty Images)

Independent presidential candidate Robert F. Kennedy Jr. on Tuesday denied allegations in a new Vanity Fair report that he ate a dog but sidestepped sexual assault claims from a former babysitter.

Last year, RFK Jr. sent his friend a photograph from 2010 where he posed beside an unidentified woman and the remains of what appears to be a barbecued dog, according to the report. In a culturally insensitive text, Kennedy told his friend, who was traveling to Asia, that he might enjoy a restaurant in Korea that includes dog on the menu — suggesting that the environmental lawyer tried some himself. 

The report also alleged that when he married his second wife and his sister’s close friend, Mary Richardson, in 1994, people in the know were aware that he was texting damning and sexually explicit photos of other women. What was unclear was whether he had their consent.

Richardson and Kennedy hired Eliza Cooney, a 23-year-old recent college graduate with an interest in working on environmental causes, as their part-time babysitter.

According to Cooney, Kennedy nonconsensually rubbed her legs under the table, stood shirtless in her bedroom waiting for her to rub lotion on his back and a few months later groped her in the pantry — sliding his hands over her ribs and breasts. The Vanity Fair piece is the first time Cooney, now 48, said she was able to speak out about the matter.  

“My back was to the door of the pantry, and he came up behind me,” she told Hagan, describing the alleged sexual assault. “I was frozen. Shocked.”

Kennedy on Tuesday denied that he had ever eaten a dog.

“The article is a lot of garbage. The picture that they said is of me eating a dog, it’s actually me eating a goat in Patagonia on a whitewater trip many years ago on the Futaleufu River. They say … they have an expert that has identified that as a dog carcass. It’s just not true,” Kennedy said on the "Breaking Points" podcast. 

Kennedy did not deny Cooney's allegation, saying that “the other allegations” are part of a “very, very rambunctious youth.”

“I’ve said this from the beginning. I am not a church boy. I am not running like that. I said … I had a very, very rambunctious youth. I said in my announcement speech that I have … so many skeletons in my closet, that if they could all vote, I could run for king of the world,” Kennedy said, adding, “Vanity Fair is recycling 30-year-old stories, and I, you know, am not gonna comment on the details of any of them.”

In 2010, Kennedy left his wife for “Curb Your Enthusiasm” star Cheryl Hines and stripped her of his last name and custody of their four children. Richardson's family blamed his infidelity for her 2012 suicide after she fell into alcoholism and a deep depression.

Inspired by Nora Ephron’s famous quote about her own cheating husband Carl Bernstein, who she said was “capable of having sex with a Venetian blind,” Kennedy’s friends allegedly joked that “it’s safe to say he would sleep with an Ottoman,” Hagan reported.

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Recent news surfaced a court testimony wherein Kennedy said he had a tapeworm, which he apparently acquired from food he ate during his visit to South Asia, that consumed a portion of his brain. Kennedy cited the worm incident to explain his "brain fog" but according to the report, the more likely reason his family points to is 14 years of heroin abuse that he started using when he was 15.

It is commonly known that Kennedy's drug use was quite wild during his Harvard days and well into his days in the Manhattan district attorney's office, according to Hagan. One time while at school, he is said to have leapt between the gap of two six-story buildings. He was known to have a pet owl in his house and walked around with a live snake on campus. 

In 2018, Kennedy was the key figure involved in a vaccine controversy in the American Samoan islands where he created public pressure against the MMR vaccine after it killed two children. Although the nurses later confessed to administering the vaccines incorrectly, the Samoan prime minister was forced to halt the vaccine. Eventually, the island was hit with the largest measles outbreak in its history, infecting 5,707 citizens and killing 83. 

“Robert F. Kennedy Jr. had everything to do with that. And that shows you how disinformation can kill,” according to a pediatrician and member of the FDA’s advisory committee on vaccines, Paul Offit.

By Nandika Chatterjee

Nandika Chatterjee is a News Fellow at Salon. In 2022 she moved to New York after graduating from the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign where she pursued a B.A. in Communication and a B.S. in Psychology. She is currently an M.A. in Journalism candidate at NYU, pursuing the Magazine and Digital Storytelling program, and was previously an Editorial Fellow at Adweek.

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