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Fallen Idol?

March 2024
1min read

In your November 1988 “Correspondence,” William G. Ferris’s letter completely lacked any sort of scholarship or pretense to accurate research, historical or otherwise.

His assertions that John F. Kennedy participated in the “theft” of the 1960 election (along with “Democratic party machines”) and approved of “goon squads intimidating voters” are ludicrous and unprovable. His charge that Kennedy won a Pulitzer Prize “for a book he didn’t write” betrays his ignorance of history. Responding to similar charges after Profiles in Courage won the prize, Mr. Kennedy publicly produced the notes he gathered while researching the book and his handwritten manuscript, effectively silencing his critics. (And what about his previous best-selling book, Why England Slept , published from his Harvard thesis of 1940?)

Kennedy’s so-called relationship with Judith Campbell (and the Mafia) was revealed twenty-five years after the “fact” by a gossip magazine ( People Weekly ) and was “verified” by a writer famous for her juicy, gossip-ridden exposés of other celebrities. Such sources are hardly scholarly or unimpeachable.

Finally, Mr. Ferris’s assertion that Mr. Kennedy turned the White House into a “wayside brothel” simply does not line up with reality. Whatever else Mr. Kennedy may have been, he certainly wasn’t stupid. And “cheating” on his wife and children in the very building they all lived in, while holding the highest office in the land (a job he worked long and hard for) and opening himself up for possible ridicule, disgrace, and even impeachment, just doesn’t line up with the level of intelligence and simple common sense Kennedy was known to have (and demonstrated many times, both privately and publicly). Ben Bradlee, a seasoned reporter and editor who spent as much time around Kennedy while he was in the White House as anyone, says he knew nothing about these so-called other women. Neither did Jacques Lowe, a Kennedy photographer, who was there during much of Kennedy’s private time and personal life. Many other colleagues in the Kennedy administration echo these sentiments. How was Kennedy able to hide these numerous “trysts” from the very people who kept him in a public fishbowl twenty-four hours a day? (When Kennedy visited Ireland in 1963, hundreds of Irish women later claimed to have “spent a night with him” while he was there! Kennedy was very attractive to women; thus many women fantasized about him. These things weren’t taken seriously while he was alive. People only started to accept them some ten years after his death, when it became impossible to definitely prove or disprove them.)

Mr. Kennedy’s niche in American history is legitimate and deserved. In his short administration he founded the Peace Corps, skillfully avoided an almost inevitable nuclear confrontation over Cuba, took a morally courageous stand against racial prejudice unheard of since the Lincoln administration, and successfully negotiated a nuclear test ban treaty with Russia, which was unprecedented at that time.

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