Fact Check: JFK Jr. Was NOT Preparing To Announce Run For US Senate Against Hillary Clinton Before His Death

Fact Check

  • by: Christiana Dillard
Fact Check: JFK Jr. Was NOT Preparing To Announce Run For US Senate Against Hillary Clinton Before His Death Sat Out Senate

Was John F. Kennedy Jr., preparing to make an announcement about his candidacy for U.S. senator of New York right before his death? No, that's not true: Although reports have suggested that Kennedy was considering running for the Senate seat, there was no indication that, before his death in July 1999, he was about to announce his candidacy. Consequently, the insinuation that his death was related to such an announcement is also baseless and untrue.

The claim, which has been made in various iterations (see here and here), reappeared in a Facebook post published on May 17, 2022. The post features a graphic with a picture of Kennedy and his wife Carolyn Bessette-Kennedy and has text that reads:

Robert Horan @Robby12692
John F. Kennedy Jr.
Carolyn Bessette-Kennedy
Lauren Bessette

While flying, John crashed his plane, killing himself, his wife, and his sister in law.

This was before his announcement to challenge Hillary Clinton for New York.

A massive cover-up operation occurred immediately.

This is what the post looked like on Facebook at the time of writing:

jfk jr clinton FB post.png

Facebook screenshot

(Source: Facebook screenshot taken on Wed Jun 15 16:15:18 2022 UTC)

There is no evidence that Kennedy was about to announce his bid for the U.S. Senate seat, which then-first lady Hillary Clinton won in 2000. Many reports published shortly after Kennedy's death from a plane crash on July 16, 1999, describe Kennedy's initial openness to the idea, then his reluctance. A July 20, 1999, article from the New York Daily News stated that Kennedy considered a candidacy but backed off after Clinton announced her run:

Earlier this year, in one of the best-kept secrets in state politics, Kennedy considered seeking the seat of retiring Sen. Daniel Moynihan (D-N.Y.) in 2000, friends confirmed yesterday. The idea became moot once First Lady Hillary Rodham Clinton signaled her interest in running, but the two friends said they expected the son of the slain President eventually would have jumped into politics as a candidate. 'He was dedicated to public service, and he was going to run for public office in the foreseeable future,' said one friend who recently broached the subject with Kennedy. The friend spoke on the condition of anonymity. 'I would have been surprised had he not run for office in the next five years.'

The article went on:

Although Kennedy never publicly ruled out the possibility, it was thought that he privately ruled out elective office for himself. The two friends, however, told a different story. The friend who expected Kennedy to seek office in the 'foreseeable future' also told of speaking with Kennedy earlier this year about the Moynihan seat. 'I asked him was he casually thinking about it, or was he serious. He sort of said, "I'm not sure. Let me think about it." But the second friend called Kennedy's interest 'pretty serious,' adding: 'I think he was intrigued by the idea. . . . Would he have decided in the end to go for it? I don't know. But he was clearly thinking about it. He talked to a few people about it. Then the Hillary thing ended it pretty quickly.'

A July 20, 1999, article from The New York Times cited former Sen. Robert G. Torricelli as a source. Torricelli went even further by claiming that Kennedy was not interested in the race even before Clinton announced her candidacy:

Senator Robert G. Torricelli, the New Jersey Democrat who is chairman of the Democratic Senate Campaign Committee, said he called Mr. Kennedy after Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan announced last November that he would not seek re-election in 2000.

Senator Torricelli said Mr. Kennedy told him he might be interested later but the timing was not right and he would not seek the seat. This was more than a month before Mrs. Clinton's name emerged as a possibility.

'The speculation that John Kennedy was not a candidate for the U.S. Senate because of Hillary Clinton is not accurate,'' Senator Torricelli said in an interview today.

The article closed:

Senator Torricelli said he called Mr. Kennedy twice about the matter, but then dropped it because he was clearly not interested. But the Senator also said that Mr. Kennedy appeared to be using his magazine, George, as a vehicle to become more familiar with public policy issues and that this was perhaps a way to lay the groundwork for a future run for office.

Other accounts of Kennedy's life have also suggested that he was not preparing for a Senate run. Steven Gillon, a historian who wrote a biography of Kennedy and was Kennedy's friend, told Town & Country that Kennedy was not pursuing the Senate seat because he was more concerned with George, the publication he founded and edited, and his personal life:

'He had this exploratory meeting in March 1999 about whether to run for the Senate so he was definitely thinking about it but George was in a bad state, his marriage was in a bad state. He wasn't ready. He's fighting with his sister. His best friend is dying. He had a lot on his plate,' Gillon told T&C.

'He didn't want to be a legislator--he always saw himself as an executive. Maybe he would run for governor of New York.'

Other Lead Stories fact checks about Kennedy that similarly involve conspiracies regarding his death and his politics can be found here, here, here, here and here.

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  Christiana Dillard

Christiana Dillard is a former news writer for Temple University’s Lew Klein College of Media and Communication. She received her undergraduate degree in English Writing from the University of Pittsburgh. She has been a freelance writer for several organizations including the Pittsburgh Black Media Federation, Pitt Magazine, and The Heinz Endowments. When she’s not producing or studying media she’s binging it, watching YouTube videos or any interesting series she can find on streaming services.

Read more about or contact Christiana Dillard

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