ICYMI: TheGrio: RFK Jr. blasted for continuing to accuse Black and brown men of murder

As RFK Jr. attempts to lean on his family’s civil rights legacy and pitch himself as the continuation of that record, he is finding it hard to hide from his past. 

Reporting today from TheGrio examines how RFK Jr. falsely accused two innocent men of color of the murder of a white woman to exonerate his white cousin who was convicted of the crime. Just like Donald Trump and the Central Park Five, RFK Jr. tried to ruin these men’s lives. In the process, RFK Jr. raked in money from book and TV deals while peddling racist stereotypes.  

The Grio: RFK Jr. blasted for continuing to accuse Black and brown men of murder

By: Gerren Keith Gaynor 

  • As presidential hopeful Robert F. Kennedy Jr. runs on a platform championing criminal justice reform in his efforts to court Black voters, critics point out that for years, the independent candidate accused two Black and brown men of committing a murder his white cousin was convicted of despite the claims being dismissed in court. 
  • “He’s much like many of the other racist white people who have decided that it is more convenient to choose vulnerable people to be the scapegoat for their crimes,” said activist Tamika Mallory, the founder of the social justice nonprofit Until Freedom. “Black and brown men are the easiest targets because the system, in most cases, will automatically deem those individuals guilty until proven innocent.”
  • “This is not a difference in ideology. This is falsely accusing a Black man and a mixed-race gentleman of a very serious crime that they did not commit,” she said. “I don’t know what is worse than someone who is running for president who tries to appeal to the frustration of our community, and he’s actually directly harmed Black people in this instance. It’s very dangerous.”
  • Mallory of Until Freedom said Kennedy’s continued accusations should “disqualify” him from having the support of the Black community.
  • In 2016, Kennedy published a book titled “Framed” in which he makes the case for why he believes his cousin Michael Skakel was innocent after being convicted of the Oct. 30, 1975, murder of 15-year-old Martha Moxley in Greenwich, Connecticut. 
  • In his book, Kennedy echoes the accusations of Skakel’s friend Gitano “Tony” Bryant, the cousin of NBA star Kobe Bryant, who claimed two of his friends from the Bronx, Adolph Hasbrouck and Burton Tinsley, were responsible for Moxley’s murder. Hasbrouck is Black, and Tinsley is described in news reports as being of mixed race and of Asian descent.
  • Lawrence Schoenbach, an attorney who represented Hasbrouck at the time of the public accusations Kennedy and Bryant made, told theGrio that Kennedy’s “ridiculous belief” that his former client was involved in Moxley’s murder is a “farce.”
  • In a court document obtained by theGrio of Kennedy’s testimony in a retrial proceeding based on Bryant’s claims about Hasbrouck and Tinsley, Kennedy admitted that he was unable to identify an eyewitness who could corroborate Bryant’s claim or saw the two men of color in the exclusively white neighborhood of Belle Haven on the night of the murder. During his testimony, Kennedy recalled one neighbor telling him, “No black person could have ever visited their house because … he would have stuck out like a sore thumb, and everybody in Belle Haven would have known about it.
  • According to the 2007 court document of his testimony, Kennedy said Hasbrouck and Tinsley would “probably live short lives” and end up in prison. 
  • Schoenbach said Hasbrouck was “anything but the typical South Bronx kid that Kennedy assumed he was,” highlighting that he obtained his bachelor’s degree, joined the Army, was honorably discharged, and worked for ABC for 30 years.
  • While promoting his book “Framed,” Kennedy, who obtained his law degree from the University of Virginia Law School, dismissed concerns about Hasbrouck or Tinsley suing him for defamation. He dared them to, telling a radio station, “I hope they file a lawsuit … if they are innocent, they will file a lawsuit against me.”
  • Schoenbach said Kennedy was “desperate” to have Hasbrouck, who is known as Al, “say something so that Al will be forced to testify.”
  • Schoenbach similarly told theGrio, “How dare this guy hold himself out to be the savior of criminal justice for Black people, I assume particularly Black men. Are you kidding?”
  • U.S. Rep. Nikema Williams, D-Ga., a Biden-Harris campaign surrogate, told theGrio, “It just goes back to why RFK Jr. is in this race in the first place, and that is to help get this convicted felon Donald Trump elected president again.”
  • Williams said Trump similarly falsely accused five Black and brown teen boys, known as the Central Park Five, of a violent crime against a white woman. 
  • She added, “They were innocent Black men, and they’re now the Exonerated Five. But yet he said they should be executed, and people act as if they’ve forgotten.”