Ethel Kennedy Condemns Release of Sirhan Sirhan After Other Family Indicates Support

Ethel Kennedy, the widow of the late Robert F. Kennedy, has condemned the release of assassin Sirhan Sirhan from prison, further splitting a divide in the family over whether he should be freed on parole.

Sirhan was convicted of killing RFK in California in 1968, and members of the Kennedy family have voiced opinions both in support and against his release. In a brief statement released via her daughter, lawyer and activist Kerry Kennedy on Twitter, Ethel Kennedy said Tuesday: "He should not be paroled."

Her sentiment is shared by former U.S. Representative Joseph P. Kennedy II, RFK's oldest son, who released a statement via email on August 29 saying he was against Sirhan's possibility of parole.

"I understand that there are differing views about ending the sentence of this killer, including within my own family. But emotions and opinions do not change facts or history," Kennedy wrote in the statement.

Five of his siblings, including Kerry Kennedy, have also condemned Sirhan's release. Two of RFK's other children, Robert F. Kennedy Jr. and Douglas Kennedy, have said they are in favor.

For more reporting from the Associated Press, see below.

Kennedy Family
Ethel Kennedy released a statement saying she was against the release of RFK's assassin, Sirhan Sirhan, though other family members have been in favor. Ethel Kennedy, human rights campaigner and widow of Robert F. Kennedy, and her children Rory and Christopher Kennedy place flowers on the marble tombstone marking the grave of Robert F. Kennedy at Arlington National Cemetery on June 6, 2018 in Arlington, Virginia. Leigh Vogel/Getty Images for RFK Human Rights

"Bobby believed we should work to 'tame the savageness of man and make gentle the life of the world,'" Ethel Kennedy, 93, wrote.

"He wanted to end the war in Vietnam and bring people together to build a better, stronger country. More than anything, he wanted to be a good father and loving husband," she wrote, adding: "Our family and our country suffered an unspeakable loss due to the inhumanity of one man. We believe in the gentleness that spared his life, but in taming his act of violence, he should not have the opportunity to terrorize again."

The California Parole Board found last month that Sirhan no longer poses a threat to society, noting that he had enrolled in more than 20 programs including anger management classes, tai chi and Alcoholics Anonymous meetings. Sirhan has served 53 years of a life sentence.

The ruling will be reviewed over the next four months by the board's staff. Then it will be sent to Governor Gavin Newsom, who will have 30 days to decide whether to grant it, reverse it or modify it.

Robert F. Kennedy was a U.S. senator from New York and the brother of President John F. Kennedy, who was assassinated in 1963. RFK was seeking the Democratic presidential nomination when he was gunned down at the Ambassador Hotel in Los Angeles moments after delivering a victory speech in the pivotal California primary. Five others were wounded.

Ethel Kennedy
In a brief statement released on Twitter by her daughter, lawyer and activist Kerry Kennedy, Ethel Kennedy said bluntly Tuesday September 7, 2021 that her husband's assassin, Sirhan Sirhan, "should not be paroled." In this June 5, 2018 file photograph, Ethel Kennedy, widow of Senator Robert F. Kennedy who was assassinated during his 1968 presidential campaign, watches a video about her late husband during the Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights awards ceremony on Capitol Hill in Washington. J. Scott Applewhite, File/AP Photo