Independent presidential candidate Robert F. Kennedy Jr. claimed Monday that Donald Trump’s “emissaries” asked him to be the former president’s running mate.

Those conversations may have occurred as recently as last week and involved Rabbi Shmuley Boteach, who attempted to broker a call between the two candidates, sources told the Deseret News.

The Trump campaign denies this. Karoline Leavitt, the Trump campaign’s national press secretary, responded to a request for comment by forwarding a tweet from Trump adviser Chris LaCivita. “NO ONE from the Trump Campaign ever approached RFK jr (or ever will),” LaCivita wrote in January, after Kennedy’s first comments. On Monday, LaCivita tweeted a follow-up: “Re-upping this from January …was true then and it’s true now @RobertfKennedJr….your (sic) a leftie loonie that would never be approached to be on the ticket..sorry!”

In a post on X Monday, Kennedy distanced himself from Trump, saying he is “against” the former president. “President Trump calls me an ultra-left radical,” Kennedy wrote. “I’m soooo liberal that his emissaries asked me to be his VP. I respectfully declined the offer.”

But as recently as last week, Kennedy agreed to participate in a call with Trump in which the two would presumably discuss the possibility of a joint ticket. The call, organized by Boteach, was quickly canceled after the Kennedy campaign fired a staffer for claiming that defeating President Joe Biden was the “No. 1 priority.”

Kennedy, who originally ran as a Democratic presidential candidate, transitioned to an independent campaign last fall. The Democratic National Committee launched an initiative last month to sway voters away from Kennedy, fearing that Kennedy could prevent President Joe Biden from winning the election. To date, Kennedy has only secured ballot access in Utah.

In recent weeks, as Trump weighs a long list of potential running mates, he has repeatedly asked advisers and associates about selecting Kennedy, according to The New York Times. “I like Trump-Kennedy,” the former president reportedly told one person. “I like the way that sounds.”

Publicly, however, Trump has been hostile toward Kennedy, claiming he is “the most radical left candidate in the race” in a video posted to Truth Social on April 11.

Kennedy claimed in late January that the Trump team contacted him about joining Trump’s ticket, but he told NewsNation that he “would not take that job.”

“I’m flattered that President Trump would offer it to me, but it’s not something that I’m interested in,” Kennedy said.

Conversations began months earlier, multiple sources told Deseret, and they involved Boteach, a celebrity rabbi who has drawn publicity in recent weeks for his spat with conservative pundit Candace Owens. Boteach and Kennedy are friends and have appeared publicly together on several occasions since Kennedy launched his campaign. Boteach was the opening speaker when Kennedy launched his independent campaign in Philadelphia in October, and Kennedy headlined an event for Boteach’s nonprofit, the World Values Network, in New York City in January.

Trump campaign officials approached Boteach in the fall of 2023 to gauge Kennedy’s interest, arranging a meeting at a Kosher restaurant in Manhattan with the celebrity rabbi.

The conversations intensified earlier this month, when the Kennedy and Trump campaigns — through Boteach — attempted to schedule a call between the two candidates, according to sources.

The Deseret News asked Boteach for comment. He declined to speak by phone, instead sending a lengthy statement:

“Donald Trump was the greatest supporter of Israel in the Oval Office ever. In 1,000 years, they will still be talking about his recognition of Jerusalem as the Jewish people’s eternal capital, his defense of Israel at the UN, and above all else, his attempt to bankrupt through sanctions the murderous mullahs of Tehran. Likewise, Bobby Kennedy is arguably the most pro-Israel candidate in American presidential history, because of his insistence that the Jews are as indigenous to Israel as Native Americans are to the North American continent. I have always believed, given some of the symmetry on their mutual policies, particularly in regard to stopping terrorists and cartels coming in from the southern border and especially in identifying Iran as the principal malevolent actor in the Middle East, they would make a great team. Beyond that, I have no further comment.”

The Kennedy campaign did not respond to a request for comment.

Kennedy, a prominent anti-vaccine activist, has relationships with both Trump and Biden. Kennedy told the Deseret News in November that his family “has been Biden for his entire career,” noting that the president has a bust of Kennedy’s father, the late Sen. Robert F. Kennedy, in the Oval Office. Kennedy met with Trump shortly after the 2016 election, and he says he was invited by Trump to chair a “commission on vaccine safety and scientific integrity” during Trump’s administration.

When asked by the Deseret News in November whether he views a second Biden term or a second Trump term as more destructive for America, he refused to answer. “I think President Biden is probably more likely to get us in a war,” he said, and Trump “comes with his own retinue of issues as well.”

If he had to choose between one? “I wouldn’t answer that question,” he said.