Caroline Kennedy deserves sympathy in light of JFK intern affair | Style | -- Your State. Your News.

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Caroline Kennedy deserves sympathy in light of JFK intern affair

kennedyJohnF020712_optBY SUSIE WILSON

I heard many “s” words this past week that characterize what I’m calling the “Alford Affair,” the bombshell revelation of President John F. Kennedy’s 18-month-long sexual liaison, some 50 years ago, with a 19-year-old White House intern, Mimi Alford (born Marion Beardsley). According to Alford, Kennedy took dips with her in the White House swimming pool, then first seduced her in Jackie Kennedy’s bedroom.

Sex; secret; sensational; self-absorbed; self-esteem; superficial; seamy; sad; sordid; shocking; selfish…the list goes on.

These words combined reveal the sexual immaturity of our society and shine a bright light on many of our deep sexual fault lines, which never seem to go away: politicians behaving badly, teenagers being swept away, age imbalance in relationships, failure to understand the elements of healthy relationships, breaking marriage vows, unwillingness to use protection, the inability to talk sensibly about sexuality, the celebrity/sex connection, using sex to sell everything, and the media’s insatiable appetite for stories about sex (the steamier, the better).

Yet I didn’t hear the word “sympathy” much at all during the media’s hurricane-strength coverage of the affair, which included a giant photo in Times Square of Mimi as she looked 50 years ago. I admit it is hard to apply sympathy to the Alford Affair, because when compared with the real, pressing issues of the day, it seems trivial and pointless.

I have little sympathy for historian Robert Dallek—the original public source of this miserable, tell-all drama—because he revealed Kennedy’s relationship with Alford. In An Unfinished Life: John F. Kennedy, 1917-1963, he wrote about Kennedy’s affair with a beautiful teenage “intern”—a revelation that was based on an oral memoir by Barbara Gamarekian, released in 2003 by the JFK Library and Museum.

Why, I wonder, did he need to reveal the affair? Did he feel that history would suffer if he did not, or did he hope the sensational tidbit of gossip would help sell books?

I have little sympathy for both Kennedy and Ms. Alford, and I wonder what drove him to take the huge risk of having an affair in the White House, beginning it in his wife’s bedroom. It is unimaginable to me that the president of the United States would possibly compromise his marriage and his status in the world with such a dalliance. But according to Ms. Alford in her new memoir, Once Upon a Secret: My Affair with President John F. Kennedy and Its Aftermath, that is exactly what he did.

Comments (6)
6 Monday, 20 February 2012 21:51
First, John F. Kennedy is not here to defend himself. So we won't know his side of things. But we do know that people love writing (and getting 5 minutes of fame and a little fortune) about having been a sexual conquest of a Kennedy (some guy wrote a book about an affair with JFK, Jr.'s wife Carolyn not long ago).

Also, we do know that Maria Shriver said that her own mother (JFK's sister) put up with her father's adultery and so did her aunts. Clearly, this behavior was not just a "JFK" issue - but something learned and expected by that generation of Kennedy's. Heck, JFK may not have understood that he was doing anything wrong since he was taught from the cradle that sex outside of marriage was acceptable (by the example of his parent's marriage).

From what I've heard from Mimi's interviews, some of her claims are self serving. She speaks of herself as victim in one breath...then of a grand adventure in the next. She says she has remorse, but then says she would do it all over again because it was "fun."

Caroline and her children are the victims in all this. These claims are really of no historical value because we already know that President Kennedy had issues of infidelity and sexual addiction.

We blame JFK easily but not the person who willingly indulged him knowing he had a wife and family. Well, I say that if someone steals money they are a thief. That's on them. If I take money from them KNOWING it's stolen...I am also a thief. Mimi was an adulteress knowingly. We all know what adultery means - even at 19. In addition, Mimi is non apologetic about this adultery even at age 69 and says she would DO IT AGAIN because it was "fun!"

Mimi says that JFK was trying to be closer to Jackie after she became pregnant with Patrick. But, clearly JFK's issues ran closer to addictive behavior than merely enjoying a little variety on the side. Even if Jackie had understood his actions as addiction, it's tough to take the bottle or the pill, (just as the Houston's about Whitney or the Jackson's about Michael) or the gambling sheet, or make some one eat (ask the Carpenters' about Karen), or the sex away from someone lost in addiction.

JFK had a fatalistic view of life because of his lifelong illnesses and his many encounters close to death. He cared deeply about issues, fairness and the rights of people in the abstract, but had not figured out how to truly care for those people closest to him. Sadly, mix that with addiction and his dark fate was sealed even if he had lived.

The man is dead. Jackie is dead. Caroline and her three children are very much alive and could be hurt by this Mimi - a woman with no shame even today. Her story has no historical value but rather only shows the sadness of this man's addiction along with Mimi's own pathetic need to be remembered - some 50 years later
5 Thursday, 16 February 2012 10:58
Cormac Flynn
I almost completely agree with your column, but I think you make a mis-step in this:

"...what drove him to take the huge risk of having an affair in the White House, beginning it in his wife’s bedroom. It is unimaginable to me that the president of the United States would possibly compromise his marriage and his status in the world with such a dalliance. "

What was unimaginable in the early 1960s was that such an affair could be consider a risk or ever compromise his position as President. Remember that this was before the victory of feminism, before the digital rebirth of yellow journalism, before advertising became relentlessly psychologically manipulative. The press would never have published the details of the affair had they known it. His wife would not have left him when she found out (especially not his particular wife). The Soviets may well have known it but it would have availed them no more than our knowledge of their affairs did.

The truth is that an extramarital affair for almost any man in that era ran much less risk of exposure than it does today. For powerful men it was actually less than average, effectively the reverse of the higher scrutiny public figures face today.

So censor JFK all you like for his personal morals, but let's not gild the lily. He wasn't running very much risk at all, no matter what the breathless booksellers of today would have you believe.
4 Wednesday, 15 February 2012 22:42
Ladies check your morals!
If you do not feel bad about committing adultery you lack self respect and morals. Yes married men who do this is bad. This is hurting all
involved, Ms. Alford should be ashamed but you said your not.
Shame on you.
3 Wednesday, 15 February 2012 01:30
George Barto
I made a comment here two days ago and it never made it on here. I was going to say simply that Caroline Kennedy was a lucky person who has had a good life because she was born a Kennedy. I am a democrat and a lover of President Kennedy and the Kennedy family, however, Caroline had two parents who loved her and she has money and a great family and was fortunate for all of this. So I do not feel sorry for her at all. She is an adult who has benefitted from her father being President, but with those benefits comes the truth sometimes about years ago, so it is a give and take.
Her father President Kennedy was the one responsible for his affairs becoming public. If he did not want his children to find out about his affairs years later, maybe he should not have had an affair with the intern. I admire President Kennedy, but I also have to be fair. This lady owes nothing to Caroline Kennedy and the Kennedy family. President Kennedy did. He was a great President and a great man, but it was his responsibility.
2 Tuesday, 14 February 2012 10:11
belonged being told in a counselor's office and to her intimate family members, not being sold in bookstores.

Some stories are better left untold, and she would have exhibited more of a Jackie personna than a whispery voice had she done just that.
1 Monday, 13 February 2012 23:00
My sympathy is for Mimi as a 19 year old and the aftermath.

Caroline Kennedy is probably very aware of her father's long history with multiple trysts and affairs. She would have had to live in a closed room to not know about them.

Her mother was extremely hurt by JFK's ways and no doubt shared some of that with her adult children to prepare them for what they would find out over time.

Secrets never stay secret.

In addition to sympathy for Mimi, I have sympathy for Jackie. She was married to a man who would leave her alone at a party to slip away to have sex with someone else. The humiliation must have been awful.

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