Kennedy shouldn’t be lionized

by Jim Longworth

Kennedy shouldn’t be lionized


Those of us brought up in polite society are taught from an early age never to speak ill of the dead. Besides, people who live in glass houses shouldn’t throw stones at other folks, living or dead. But after watching endless hours of tribute to the late Ted Kennedy, I was offended by the lionization of an overgrown frat boy who should have served his time not in the Senate, but in prison.

Kennedy’s offenses are numerous, beginning with his expulsion from Harvard for cheating. Teddy, who was accepted to the university only because he was a Kennedy, paid a friend to take an exam for him. But the expulsion didn’t last long because daddy Joe had his baby son back in Cambridge two years later. It would establish a lifelong pattern of how Ted used family connections to fix his mistakes and keep him out of trouble. The most famous of those incidents occurred in 1969. After attending a party on Chappaquiddick island with women other than his wife, Kennedy mysteriously left without his driver, and got behind the wheel himself for the sole purpose of taking Mary Jo Kopechne (a staffer to brother Bobby) back to her hotel. Not long afterwards, Kennedy drove off of a bridge and the couple found themselves trapped in their car, which was submerged in the pond below.

Teddy swam to safety after he claimed to have attempted unsuccessfully to rescue Kopechne. But instead of calling for help, Kennedy returned to his hotel to begin crafting his story. He did so with the help of a brain trust of close friends whom he called from the hotel. According to Sarah Gallick (AKA Nellie Bly) in her book The Kennedy Men, by 9 a.m. the senator had placed 17 long-distance calls to various individuals before calling the police. By then, more than eight hours had passed since he left his companion to die. And here’s the real tragedy. Kopechne didn’t drown, she suffocated. According to testimony from John Farrar, the diver who recovered Kopechne’s body, she had managed to survive by way of a small air bubble, but her oxygen ran out after two hours. An inquest later revealed that had Kennedy gone for help immediately, local rescue workers would have had Kopechne out of the car within 25 minutes from the time of the call. Teddy escaped with a suspended sentence for leaving the scene of an accident when he should have been charged with murder and sentenced to life in prison. But he was a Kennedy brother, and Kennedy brothers don’t go to prison.

Kopechne’s parents could have pursued a civil action against theSenator, but Teddy paid them $90,000 and arranged for his insurancecompany to chip in another $50,000. Case closed. Teddy’s otheroffenses pale in comparison to the 1969 tragedy, but they do provideinsight on the continued and continual arrogance of the man. Next weekin Part 2, a look at Kennedy’s most infamous indiscretions, and howthey relate to my one and only (indirect) brush with the Lion of theSenate.