SALT LAKE CITY — The family of John F. Kennedy gave Utah Sen. Mitt Romney an award Friday for being the only Republican to vote to convict President Donald Trump in his first impeachment trial in 2020.
Romney received the Profile in Courage award created by the Kennedy family and bestowed upon public figures in both parties who risk their careers by embracing unpopular positions for the greater good.
Romney was the first senator in U.S. history to convict a member of his own party.
"I'm humbled by the Kennedy family's recognition today. But I see courage every week from my colleagues in the Senate, many of whom make tough decisions to do what they believe is right even though it may be politically unpopular," Romney said on Twitter.
I'm humbled by the Kennedy family's recognition today. But I see courage every week from my colleagues in the Senate, many of whom make tough decisions to do what they believe is right even though it may be politically unpopular.— Mitt Romney (@MittRomney) March 26, 2021
NBC's "Today" first reported the award Friday. In an interview with NBC's Peter Alexander, Romney said there are still people who are not happy about his vote.
"I understand that that's the nature of the job that I've got," he said.
Asked whether his vote was worth it, Romney said, "Absolutely. I mean, I sleep well because I know that I did what my conscience told me was the right thing to do."
Kennedy's daughter, former ambassador Caroline Kennedy, told Alexander that Romney was chosen because he is like the senators in her father's book, "Profiles in Courage."
"He was willing to risk his career and his popularity within his own party to do what's right for our country, to follow his conscience, and I think his courage is an example for all of us," she said.
Her son Jack Schlossberg said Romney showed that courage and faith and integrity aren't outdated and that politics can still be a noble profession. He said the family honors and celebrates profiles in courage because they inspire everyone to be better.
Romney said he ultimately decided to vote to convict Trump because of the oath he and his Senate colleagues took at the start of the impeachment trial, which ended in acquittal.
"We swore, under God, that we would apply impartial justice. I took that very, very seriously," he told Alexander. "I listened to the various testimonies that were provided and I felt that that was a severe enough violation of his oath of office to require a guilty verdict."
Caroline Kennedy said not everyone has the courage to accept the award, but we're grateful to the senator.
"We feel that as a committee we have to be courageous and call it like we see it, and certainly Sen. Romney's example stood out," she said.
Romney received backlash from some conservative Republicans in Utah over his 2020 impeachment vote, as well his vote last month in Trump's second trial. One GOP state lawmaker filed legislation to give Utah voters the ability to recall their U.S. senators and another proposed a resolution to censure Romney. Neither bill came up for a vote.
The first-term senator said he has learned to follow his conscience.
"What I've found throughout life is doing those things that you know are right which respond to the promptings of your conscience allows you to have a greater degree of happiness and satisfaction than if you just do things to try and get ahead," he said.
Romney there is "some irony" in his receiving the award because he once ran against Ted Kennedy for the U.S. Senate. Romney said he received a "much tougher barrage" from him than anybody in the airport, referring to being accosted at the Salt Lake City International Airport for not supporting Trump during his second impeachment trial.
"We became very good friends as time went on and actually collaborated together on a piece of legislation to provide health care to all the citizens of our state," Romney, a former Massachusetts governor, said of Ted Kennedy.