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RFK Jr. Announces VP Pick Is a Tech Entrepreneur Who Has Given His Campaign a Lot of Money

After weeks of speculation, anti-vaccine activist and independent presidential candidate Robert F. Kennedy Jr. announced today that he had chosen Nicole Shanahan as his vice presidential running mate. Shanahan, 38, an attorney and tech entrepreneur, has donated millions to a super PAC supporting Kennedy’s campaign.

“I’m so proud to introduce to you the next vice president of the United States,” Kennedy said, praising her as a “fellow lawyer” as well as a “fierce warrior mom.”

During the announcement, which took place at the Kaiser Center in Shanahan’s hometown of Oakland, California, Kennedy called her “a technologist at the forefront of AI” and that “she understands that the health of every American is a national security issue and a national security risk.”

“I wanted someone who is battle-tested,” Kennedy added, and able to withstand the “defamations” he said are part of running for office.

Shanahan has been in the news plenty and is known for her previous marriage to Google cofounder Sergey Brin, which ended in a divorce finalized in 2023. The Wall Street Journal reported that the breakup followed an alleged affair between Shanahan and Elon Musk, a former friend of Brin’s. Musk denied the affair on Twitter. Shanahan is also a prominent figure in Silicon Valley; she’s the founder of the Bia-Echo Foundation, which invests in projects targeting “reproductive longevity and equality, criminal justice reform, and a healthy and livable planet.” She was also a CodeX fellow at the Stanford Center of Legal Informatics, a collaboration between their legal and computer science department. And she’s the founder of ClearAccess IP, an analytics company.

In his announcement, Kennedy added that Shanahan was going to stand up to Silicon Valley and Wall Street.

Shanahan has never held political office but has previously donated money to the campaigns of Pete Buttigieg and Marianne Williamson. She also supported President Biden’s 2020 campaign. Earlier this year, she switched it up and donated $4 million to American Values 2024, the PAC that aired a Super Bowl ad supporting Kennedy’s campaign. Donor records also show that she has given to many Democratic candidates in past election cycles, as well as to the Democratic National Committee. During her speech, Shanahan announced that she was leaving the Democratic party.

Kennedy also stressed Shanahan’s youth and lack of political insider status, saying he was “most importantly looking for a partner who was a young person, and Nicole is only 38 years old.” He noted that Biden and Trump are the “two oldest presidential candidates in US history.” (Kennedy, 70, is just seven years younger than Trump.)

In a video introducing herself, Shanahan said that her daughter began showing signs of autism spectrum disorder in her infancy, and claimed that “environmental exposure,” including wireless technology and “medication” could be the cause of chronic illnesses. These are unfounded statements that are frequently repeated by the anti-vaccine movement and Kennedy himself. (Shanahan did not overtly say whether she's anti-vaccine, but the fact that she's serving as RFK's running mate could be an indicator.)

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Shanahan also pledged to assemble the best minds in technology to comb nonspecific federal databases in order to solve chronic disease. “We will find the answers to our most pressing health concerns within weeks,” she said, “not decades.”

During the announcement event, a parade of speakers leaned into similar conspiratorial themes that Kennedy has promoted, decrying a rigged system they claimed is determined to keep Americans sick and in thrall to Big Pharma and the mainstream media. The lengthy event was moderated by Angela Stanton-King, who previously served two years in prison and was pardoned by former president Donald Trump; she tried unsuccessfully to unseat former congressman and civil rights icon John Lewis and was part of a well-filmed coalition of Black advocates for Trump.

The event, which was studded with interstitial videos promoting Kennedy’s work, began with a land acknowledgement from Charlene C. Nijmeh, the chairwoman of the Muwekma Ohlone Tribe; surrounded by other tribal members, Nijmeh added that the tribal council had passed a unanimous resolution endorsing him.

“Mr. Kennedy, my people are praying for you,” Nijmeh said.

A number of speakers followed: Del Bigtree, a well-known anti-vaccine activist now serving as the Kennedy campaign’s communications director; Kelly Ryerson, a natural health influencer who calls herself Glyphosate Girl; Jay Battacharya, a prominent anti-lockdown figure; former Border Patrol agent Chris Clem, who often appears in the press to promote border walls at the US-Mexico border and other border control measures; and Calley Means, a health care entrepreneur whose company says it helps consumers use HSA and FSA funds to access things like healthy food and supplements.

Bigtree, whose Informed Consent Action Network is funded by right-wing billionaire donors, assailed both the Trump and Biden administrations for failing “the middle class” and the media for not covering Kennedy more. Bigtree also praised Kennedy for speaking in “long-form podcasts,” a nod to the extremely online nature of the campaign.

“We in America are so tired of the duality, the fighting of the two parties, when we know we’ve got so many important issues,” Bigtree said before launching into a long segue inveighing against Covid lockdowns, Anthony Fauci, social media content moderation, “regulatory capture” of regulatory agencies, and corporate corruption—his usual topics outside overt anti-vaccine misinformation.

“Robert F. Kennedy Jr. will be on the ballot in all 50 states,” Bigtree added, to cheers.

(In fact, Kennedy faces several uphill challenges to his independent candidacy, including the fact that he’s not on the ballot in several states; to get there will require gathering thousands of signatures from registered voters in those states. Kennedy could face a particular hurdle in Nevada, where he may have to start the signature effort from scratch after not naming a vice presidential candidate in his petition, a state requirement there.)

When she spoke, Ryerson maintained that the illnesses her family has experienced are the fault of glyphosate, a widely used herbicide that is often singled out as a particular risk by the anti-vaccine, anti-GMO, and medical conspiracy movement. Ryerson strongly implied that glyphosate is to blame for the rise of various illnesses and chronic conditions nationwide and that only Kennedy could bring an end to its use on the nation’s farms, which is something that would not actually be in the president’s purview.

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“Kennedy’s promise to unravel this corporate capture will help bring an end to this chronic disease epidemic,” Ryerson said.

Bhattacharya declared that he was “delighted” that Kennedy has “lent his considerable voice” to the cause of free speech. Bhattacharya is one of the authors of the “Great Barrington Declaration,” an open letter that argued there should be no Covid lockdowns but instead “focused protection” for older and immune-compromised people; these views were not widely shared by the scientific community.

Chris Clem spoke about his shared desire with Kennedy to secure the border.

Then, Calley Means claimed that both “the media” and many politicians are funded by pharmaceutical companies. “Less SSRIs,” he declared in one representative soundbite. “More sunlight and healthy food.”

“We need a president who questions the science,” he added.

Finally, after several more speakers, videos, and performances—including a dirgelike rendition of Woody Guthrie’s “This Land Is Your Land” by singer Tim Hockenberry and a florid “America the Beautiful” by singer Mika Hale—Kennedy’s wife, the actor Cheryl Hines, took the stage to introduce her husband.

Hines has occupied an awkward space for years with regards to her husband’s anti-vaccine activism, which she was eventually forced to comment upon and disavow when Kennedy, at an anti-Covid mandates rally, intimated that vaccine mandates had been worse than the Holocaust.

Onstage, Hines struck a more conventional tone of a political spouse, telling the crowd that Kennedy would bring the country together. “America listening,” she said, adding that the nation “is inspired.”

In his speech announcing Shanahan, as he’s done throughout his campaign, Kennedy again leaned heavily on his family legacy, recounting how his father, Robert Kennedy, had a “rancorous” meeting with local NAACP and Black Panther leaders in Oakland, which eventually led to their political support and the Black Panthers providing security for his father’s campaign. (Robert Kennedy was assassinated in 1968, during his own run for president, by shooter Sirhan Sirhan.)

Over the past few weeks, the Kennedy campaign teased several other VP choices, most notably NFL player Aaron Rodgers and former Minnesota governor turned media figure Jesse Ventura. These picks seemed engineered to appeal to a young male voter base and, like Kennedy, are people who have promoted and spread conspiracy theories. But on March 16, Mediaite reported that Shanahan was Kennedy’s pick, citing sources close to the campaign. That source also told the outlet that Shanahan could help fund Kennedy’s efforts to get on more state’s ballots but added, “She lacks the qualifications to actually do the job.”

In recent months, the DNC has also mounted its pushback against Kennedy as a spoiler candidate and a boon to Trump. In a call with reporters, according to CNN, a DNC adviser called RFK “a stalking horse” being “propped up” by Trump and his donors.

"Our campaign is a spoiler," Kennedy said on Tuesday, to cheers. “I agree with that. It’s a spoiler for President Biden and for President Trump. It's a spoiler for the war machine” as well as other targets including “Big Ag and Big Pharma.” Millions of people, he said, might elect not to vote at all rather than choose between the “two tired heads of the uniparty.”

“Nicole and I,” he added, “are going to give those millions another choice.”

This is a developing story. Please check back for updates.

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