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Michigan State University Student Radio

Impact 89FM | WDBM-FM

Michigan State University Student Radio

Impact 89FM | WDBM-FM

Michigan State University Student Radio

Impact 89FM | WDBM-FM

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Eagle Spirit dancer Migizii Kwe dances with the audience at this years East Lansing Art Festival. Photo credit: Samantha Ku/WDBM
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Goodbye, MSU | Adam Steinhauer
Goodbye, MSU | Adam Steinhauer
Adam Steinhauer, Marketing Director • May 10, 2024
View All
Eagle Spirit dancer Migizii Kwe dances with the audience at this years East Lansing Art Festival. Photo credit: Samantha Ku/WDBM
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RFK Jr. returns to Michigan to connect with voters: An interview with Kennedy’s Director of Communications, Del Bigtree

Audience+members+enjoying+the+Detroit+comedy+show+%E2%80%9CA+Night+of+Laughter+with+Robert+F.+Kennedy+Jr.+and+Friends.%E2%80%9D+Photo+Credit%3A+Merrett+Fay
Audience members enjoying the Detroit comedy show “A Night of Laughter with Robert F. Kennedy Jr. and Friends.” Photo Credit: Merrett Fay

Last Sunday, presidential candidate Robert F. Kennedy Jr. hosted a voter engagement event at the Royal Oak Theatre in Michigan to celebrate gaining ballot access in the state. Since dropping his Democratic primary bid last October, RFK Jr. has been traveling the country to gain ballot access in all 50 states. So far, he’s on the ballot in nine: Nevada, Idaho, Utah, Nebraska, Iowa, North Carolina, New Hampshire, Hawaii and most recently, Michigan.

 

The Kennedy campaign reached out to Impact 89FM to speak about his presidential platform and give MSU students insight into what his campaign may mean for them. We spoke with Kennedy’s Director of Communications Del Bigtree for more insight on the matter. 

 

Hired by Kennedy earlier this year, Bigtree is known for being an American television and film producer, as well as the founder and CEO of the Informed Consent Action Network (ICAN)–an anti-vaccination group whose mission is “Investigating the safety of medical procedures, pharmaceutical drugs, and vaccines while educating the public of their right to “informed consent,” (ICAN.org). 

 

“Well, I think first of all, comedy is great when we live in such a serious world where we spent years locked down from COVID,” Bigtree said when asked what the goal of a comedy engagement event was. “In many ways, America lost its sense of humor, so I think something that’s very important to the health of Americans [is the] ability to laugh and, you know, not take ourselves so seriously. I think the community of comedy… in many ways it represents what our campaign is really about, which is healing the divide, this vitriol between people that associate with different parties. When you go to an event like a comedy show you don’t recognize whether it’s a Republican or Democrat or an independent sitting next to you, you’re all human beings experiencing the same plight and laughing about it together—and I think that that’s really what that event is for.”

 

The Kennedy campaign says that they have faced many setbacks such as legal battles after pursuing an independent campaign, yet they emphasize the reasoning behind stepping away from the Democratic and Republican parties respectively.

 

“I think in many ways the system in the United States of America is really rigged against an independent voice. We really allowed the DNC and the RNC to control the narrative around voting, and so when you run as an independent many things get more difficult for you,” Bigtree said. “The DNC candidate, the RNC candidate, they don’t have to go out and get signatures to get on the ballot in every single state. The independent party does. Right now, the DNC’s declaring that it’s gonna spend around $100 million trying to use court system[s] or lawsuit[s] to stop signature[s] from going through. That’s really not democratic process. Then you have states that demand that you have a vice presidential candidate nominated—I think it’s about 26 states have that rule—so being a part of that process as the director of communications and interviewing many of the VP candidates, you can’t help but think that at the moment Donald Trump doesn’t have to name his candidate… why does an independent candidate have to rush into those types of decisions just to be on the ballot?”

 

Kennedy has made a point to focus on younger voters during this election, making pitches regarding housing prices and the minimum wage. He’s also recently announced his running mate Nicole Shanahan, 38, with the intention of her being a “Champion for millennial and Gen-Z Americans,” (BBC). 

 

“The demoralized younger voters are looking for something different [than] a system that they don’t believe is working for them, and I think that is what Robert Kennedy Jr. represents,” Bigtree explained Kennedy’s possible appeal to young voters. “I mean, he is number one amongst voters under the age of 35 right now nationwide; I think that’s for several reasons. I think that people coming out of college do not believe that this is a country that is designed for their success, I think they’re doubting that the American dream is going to apply to their generation. Many young people don’t believe they’re ever going to own a home, and it seems like the job market has been whittled down to just working from your home and sort of middle management positions that don’t seem to lead anywhere.”

 

Recently, we asked MSU students about their perceptions of President Joe Biden and what issues he needed to address in his 2024 campaign. One of the top issues was the Israel-Palestine conflict, and on a broader level, foreign affairs.

 

“I’ve never met someone more committed to peace in the world. I think that diplomacy is lacking around the world. I grew up a Democrat and I’m so disheartened to see that this party has become the party of war, pushing war in Ukraine and Russia instead of diplomacy,” Bigtree said. “[There is] war now in Israel and now Iran and Palestine, and we have tensions growing with China. To me, that’s a sign that you have failed your number one duty as president of the United States. As Bobby so often says, JFK, his uncle, would say the most important job of the United States is to keep the peace. We have to start really seeing that we are all brothers and sisters on this planet. Putin is not a good person, but there are innocent people in these countries. There’s innocent people in Ukraine, there’s innocent people in Palestine, innocent people [in] Israel, and all we see is vitriol. We have to change that narrative and I think that’s what Robert Kennedy Jr. represents, which is a new vision where peace is the goal, and ending the wars is the goal, and bringing our troops home is the goal, and bringing all the trillions of dollars wasted on wars that never seemed to benefit America or the world—bring that money home and invest in the young people of America.”

 

Bigtree then walked us through the many reasons for Michigan voters specifically to be looking at Kennedy during the 2024 election. 

 

“I mean one of the things I think about is the beautiful waterways that you have right in Michigan, the Great Lakes that as I understand hold 20% of the freshwater in the world, and you have someone that literally was the founder of Riverkeepers, the founder of Waterkeepers, that is dedicated to making sure that our waterways don’t just look beautiful but actually are pristine and clean all the way through,” Bigtree said. 

 

“I can tell you personally, I’ve visited him once in Hyannis Port and we went out on his boat. It’s just a funny story,” Bigtree said, recounting a personal experience about Kennedy’s environmental awareness. “He said, ‘You wanted to take a ride on the boat?’ I said great, I was expecting, you know, one of these sort of wooden beautiful yachts or something that I imagine that the Kennedys sail around in, and he showed up in this big rusted-out [boat]. Called it the ‘chum bucket’, which is just totally his style, and we went for a ride. As we’re coming back, suddenly [he] just swerved the boat around, couple people almost fell out, and he came back around and said: ‘There’s a plastic lid in the water, can you grab that?’ I mean that’s really who he is, everything down to just pulling a piece of plastic out of the ocean to fighting in courtrooms for rivers and oceans and lakes and trees and forests.”

 

Despite having no experience working on political campaigns, Bigtree is very dedicated to and confident in Kennedy’s.

 

“I’ve known Robert Kennedy Jr. for many years now, and the reason all of us have sort of dropped our lives… for so many of us we’re here because we know Bobby and we know what a brilliant and beautiful man he is. We know he’s a man of incredible integrity and whether or not you agree with every position Bobby has ever held, one thing you can see is that he can really believe something,” Bigtree commented on Kennedy’s ethics. “Once he tells you something, he does not move just because he gets bad headlines, or people attacking [him], or family members say they don’t agree with him. This is what you want in a president: someone that stands in their truth not because it’s going to get them elected, not because it sounds good, because it’s just simply what they believe.”

 

“I just would say to all the students out there, go to his YouTube channel and watch the Joe Rogan interviews,” Bigtree said. “Watch these long-form podcasts where he speaks freely and gives really deep answers with historical references, and ask yourself: have you ever seen a candidate do that with that level of intelligence?”

 

“I think that if you look at the polls, it really doesn’t look like Joe Biden can win, and so I think this really is going to be an election between two people even though three are standing out there. It’s between Robert Kennedy Jr. and Donald Trump. You can look at those candidates and look at what they represent; do you want a man with integrity that can answer in-depth with historical references, that will tell you the truth no matter what even if it gets them in trouble, then Robert Kennedy Jr.’s your guy.”



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About the Contributor
Maco Jeleniewski
Maco Jeleniewski, News Editorial Assistant
Maco (he/she) is a freshman pursuing dual degrees in Journalism and Vocal Performance. She was told by her mom to apply for a job on campus, and it just so happened that Impact 89FM was hiring! Before college, he was the Secretary General of his high school Model UN Team, which led him to start doing journalism full-time. When not writing, Maco sings opera, reads horror novels, does drag art, and releases a mix of covers and original music. You can find her music on all streaming platforms under the name coopiric! Maco also is a huge fan of Will Wood, The Cog is Dead, and Tenacious D. One day, he hopes to get over his fear of bushes. “Ah-rah, dee / Soo-guh-goo-gee-goo-gee, Goo-guh fli-goo gee goo / Guh fli-goo, gah-goo-buh-dee / Ooh, guh-goo-bee, Ooh guh-guh-bee guh-guh-bee / Fli-goo gee goo, A-fli-guh woo-ma mama Lucifer” -Tribute, Tenacious D

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