Kennedy Calls for Secret Service Detail on Anniversary of Father’s Killing

Kennedy Calls for Secret Service Detail on Anniversary of Father’s Killing

On the 56th anniversary of the his father’s assassination, Robert F. Kennedy Jr., the independent presidential candidate, again pleaded on Wednesday to be granted Secret Service protection, arguing in an interview on Fox News that he was at an elevated risk of being targeted because of his family history.

“I was with my dad when he died in Los Angeles in 1968,” said Mr. Kennedy, who was 14 at the time of the shooting. He then asserted that the White House “is involved in this decision” to deny his requests for Secret Service protection and argued that his campaign was significant enough to deserve that protection.

A spokesman for the White House declined to comment.

Mr. Kennedy has made requests for Secret Service protection for more than a year, predating his independent candidacy. Last July, when he was still running against President Biden in the Democratic primaries, he said a request for a Secret Service detail had been denied by Alejandro Mayorkas, the homeland security secretary, who has the authority to approve those requests.

Mr. Kennedy has since repeatedly made the request, circulating an online petition in support of it, and has been denied each time. In his interview on Wednesday, Mr. Kennedy pointed to several incidents that demonstrated his need for additional security, including break-ins at his home in California and an episode in September in which an armed man was arrested at a campaign event and charged with gun crimes after he tried to meet Mr. Kennedy.

Mr. Mayorkas has previously said that he has declined Mr. Kennedy’s requests at the recommendation of a panel of top congressional leaders.

“It is ultimately my decision, but I have followed their recommendation each time,” he said in May.

Mr. Mayorkas can consider several factors in determining who should receive protection, and those criteria give preferential treatment to major-party candidates. Before Nikki Haley ended her Republican presidential campaign, the congressional panel recommended that she receive Secret Service protection, in part for her strength in national polling. The Secret Service also notes that “some candidates have received protection earlier in the campaign pursuant to presidential memoranda.”

For a candidate in the Democratic or Republican primaries, the polling threshold is 15 percent or more for 30 consecutive days. For an independent or third-party candidate, the threshold is 20 percent. According to Real Clear Politics, which the guidelines list as one of the polling benchmarks, Mr. Kennedy is polling at an average of 10 percent nationally.

That threshold has prevented most third-party or independent candidates from receiving Secret Service protection, with a few exceptions. George Wallace, the segregationist governor of Alabama, ran as a third-party presidential candidate in 1968 and was granted a Secret Service detail by President Lyndon B. Johnson after Senator Robert F. Kennedy, Mr. Kennedy’s father, was killed during the Democratic primaries that year.

The rules have changed significantly over time. Secret Service protection was significantly expanded for presidential candidates after Senator Kennedy’s death, but the rules have historically been restrictive for third-party candidates. Ross Perot, the most prominent third-party candidate since Wallace, did not ask for Secret Service protection during his presidential campaigns, so it is unclear if he would have been eligible.

Mr. Kennedy said on Wednesday that Secret Service protection had been given to candidates “with much less poll numbers, much less high-risk profiles than I have.” In other interviews, Mr. Kennedy has pointed to Jesse Jackson as one example of someone with “a tiny fraction of my polling” who received a Secret Service detail. But Mr. Jackson ran as a Democrat, not an independent, and at one point in his 1984 campaign polled at 20 percent.

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