Robert F. Kennedy Jr. has been making headlines for his outspoken criticism of President Joe Biden.
RFK Jr. is following in his father’s footsteps in running for the Democratic Party presidential nomination.
It’s an uphill battle given the incumbent’s strong support within the party despite concerns over his age, with the President leading by more than 50 percentage points in the polls.
Running on a conservative campaign by Democratic standards has naturally garnered him attention.
However, some have expressed questions over the raspy nature of his voice – a key tool in a presidential campaign where personality is as important as policy.
Robert F. Kennedy Jr.’s Voice, Explained
RFK Jr. has publicly acknowledged his unique voice, which is due to a condition called spasmodic dysphonia.
According to dysphonia.org, the condition is a “chronic neurological voice disorder and a focal laryngeal dystonia.”
This means muscles in Kennedy Jr.’s vocal folds can involuntary spasm, causing a voice that “presents with breaks and strained/strangled quality or breathy quality,” depending on the nature of the condition.
While scientists know spasmodic dysphonia is a hereditary condition, they do not know what causes it. Researchers believe it may be due to functions of the brain, while genetic components in genes have not been ruled out.
There are a range of treatments, including surgery, voice therapy and Botox injections.
Studies report that those with spasmodic dysphonia can suffer from a lower quality of life. Individuals say their voices do not accurately portray emotions, personality, and competence – three characteristics important when running for the presidency.
This can have a knock-on effect to relationships and careers for those diagnosed from the condition.
Kennedy Jr.’s Own Thoughts
Concerns over his voice have come from many hearing him speak for the first time. It’s a question he receives a lot, he told Piers Morgan on his “Uncensored” program.
“I had a very, very strong voice until I was 42 years old,” RFK Jr. said. “In 1996 I had an injury that caused a neurological disorder called spasmodic dysphonia. And it makes my voice like this – I cannot listen to my voice. When I go home, I will not listen to this program.”
“I can’t do it,” he added. “And I feel sorry for the people in your audience who have to listen to me. But this is the best I’ve got right now.”
Nevertheless, Kennedy Jr. remains undeterred, and told Morgan that therapy and surgery had helped his voice become “stronger.”
Emphasizing that it was not a tissue injury, he added: “My vocal chords are very, very strong. It’s just that the neurological signals that are being sent are telling them to tighten up all the time, and it makes my voice gravelly but – I can talk 20 hours a day and my voice won’t wear out. So I’m not worried about that. But I don’t like the way it sounds, and I apologize to everybody.”
Shay Bottomley is a British journalist based in Canada. He has written for the Western Standard, Maidenhead Advertiser, Slough Express, Windsor Express, Berkshire Live and Southend Echo, and has covered notable events including the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee.
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