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It's Sunday morning, July 20th, 1969, and Joan Kennedy is sitting perfectly still in front of an old school rotary telephone. She's about to make a call and she is not looking forward to it.
She's only just arrived at Hyannis Port, but the Kennedy family spin doctors are already putting her to work out of the corner of her eye. She sees one of them lurking around and she says, there's a dead girl and all you care about is how it looks. But she already knows the answer is yes. And now they need her help with something that her husband messed up yesterday when Ted called Gwen and Jo Kopechne Mary Jo's parents. It was a disaster.
He didn't even bother to tell them he was with their daughter when the car crashed into the water or that he was the one driving. This could totally come back and bite him in the ass. So the spin doctors have nominated Joan to get ahead of it, try to smooth things over, you know, basically another example of women cleaning up the messes of men. As she starts to dial, Ted comes up beside her, she wants to know what she should say if they ask questions or want details.
Ted tries to reassure her, well, you don't have any details.
That's not what this call is about, Jonesy. Just be nice, be sympathetic and get the hell off the line. Do you understand? So much for reassuring.
He also throws in an offer to take her to Mildred's house of chowder if it goes well. Wow. I hope he springs for the bread bowl. Yeah.
Joan listens as the phone rings, then a woman answers, it's Gwen, Mary Jo's mom. Hello, Mrs. Kopechne. Joan says this is John Kennedy, Ted's wife. One sound surprised to hear from her, but also a little bit grateful, which loosens Joan up. She tells Gwen that the whole Kennedy family is terribly sorry about what happened and Gwen tells her how nice that is to hear. And Joan lowers her voice and speaks from the heart. We've had tragedy in our own family and we empathize with you.
We are so, so sorry. Gwen doesn't say anything, but through the phone, Joan can hear her crying softly and they sat together in silence. When the moment passes, they start chatting like old friends Joan Felstead patting her arm and when she looks up, he's smiling. It's like he's saying, Atta girl. Oh, she's aren't in that Red Bull. Yeah, Joan smiles back, but as soon as Ted turns away, she stops smiling.
She's done what she can to fulfill her duties as a Kennedy wife. What she's about to learn that helping maintain the perfect Kennedy image will require much more than a phone call. We get support from better help, whatever you've got going on, better help assess your needs and match you with your own licensed professional therapist and you can start communicating with that therapist in under 48 hours. So better help is not a crisis line. It's not self-help. It is professional counseling done securely online.
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In our last episode, the police allowed Ted Kennedy to leave Chappaquiddick and return to the safe confines of Hyannis Port. Now, an all star lineup of advisers and powerbrokers are trying to keep him out of jail and preserve Ted's political career. This is episode three. The Reckoning should.
Thirty five. We're go, we're go.
It's Sunday, July 20th, 1969, two days since Ted drove his car into a pond on Chappaquiddick and left Mary Jo Kopechne inside. Now, half a billion people around the globe are glued to their TVs, watching a spectacle that the Kennedys helped engineer. Eight years ago, John F. Kennedy promised to put a man on the moon.
And now that dream is coming true in Hyannis Port. Members of the Kennedy family, as well as their loyal spin doctors, are gathered in the living room watching the grainy footage. The moon landing couldn't come at a better time for Ted. It's the only story in the world that could knock Chappaquiddick off the front page. But Ted can't concentrate. He's up and pacing, peeking out the curtains of the giant windows, fixated on what's going on outside the compound.
A crowd of reporters are milling about. The world may have forgotten about Ted scandal for a moment, but those reporters have it. For the record, I haven't either got Ted squeezes in between two of his young nephews and tries to focus on the TV set.
I want to play you this clip. It's a pretty amazing moment in history.
Very funny to you on the stand by a going year. Have it Rajendran quality. We can't be on the ground. You got to be forgotten about. We're breathing again. Thanks a lot. Wow. I got goosebumps.
I know in the Kennedy home, the living room erupts with cheers. Someone squeezes Ted's shoulder. Someone else probably murmurs. Jack should have been here to see this. Ted goes around shaking hands and giving his best smile. But the whole thing must sting a little. I mean, seeing his brother's dream come true has to remind him of a time when the Kennedy family had the potential to change the world. Now, Ted's got to be wondering if he screwed up that legacy forever.
He needs to find a way to get back into the public's good graces.
I know what he has to do, what he has to offer everyone in America, a bowl of clam chowder. I worked for Joan. Yeah. Yeah. With the bread bowl. Right? Yeah, exactly.
But there's still more ways to screw up. The next morning, Ted's mom, Rose, is sitting at the breakfast table with her son, asking him about the plan for Mary Jo's funeral. Rose is pushing eighty years old and she still has a giant mound of black hair on her head and hardly a wrinkle on her face. Getting old hasn't slowed her down one bit. The woman has always been tough. Remember when she gashed her head open and pretended everything was fine when she talked to her husband?
Yeah. No matter what's happening behind the scenes, it's important to realize that on the surface, everything looks just fine. But now she's got a problem. What's this I hear about Joan not wanting to attend the funeral? She asks. Ted shrugs. This isn't the answer Rose wants. If Joan doesn't attend Mary Jo's funeral, it can look very bad for the Kennedys and will certainly lead to questions no one wants to answer. OK, like, well, they probably want to know why is there a rift between Joan and Ted?
Did Ted have something going on with Mary Jo? Rose puts down her foot. She says why she must. She has no choice. She's your wife. That's according to the book. Jackie, Ethel, Joan. But Ted is useless here. He just shrugs again. To be fair, this is his mother. He doesn't want to upset her. He's already messed up bad enough, but he also doesn't want to upset Joan, especially after her playing her part and calling the companies and all.
But Rose is not backing down. She needs to come, she says, and then waits for Ted's reply. He finally mumbles If Joan doesn't want to go, she doesn't want to go. So he takes Joan side or maybe he knows he can't force Joan to come. She is pregnant after all. Oh, my God. That's right. I totally forgot about that. Yeah. Anyway, Rose throws up her hands. Time for Plan B.. She'll have to figure out a way to convince Joan herself.
And that's when Ethel walks in. Ethel is Bobby's widow and Rose's favorite daughter in law. The two of them see eye to eye. Ethel understands how important it is to protect the Kennedy family name at all costs. Rowe says, Come, we must talk to Joan. They go upstairs and find Joan resting in bed. They walk in and close the door behind them. Now, we don't know exactly what they say to Joan behind closed doors.
What we do know is that Joan doesn't want to go because she's afraid she'll break down and make a scene, like, completely lose it. And as we know, public displays of emotion are frowned upon in the Kennedy family. When Ethel and Rose opened the door, Joan still isn't going, but Rose isn't giving up. Joan crying at a funeral is better than no Joan at all. But if that's going to happen, she needs some help. And she has just the person in mind.
Jackie. Oh, yeah.
OK, I'm pumped that Jackie is making an appearance. Yeah, I'm excited too.
It's late afternoon and Jackie. Oh, and Joan are walking on the beach. Just two girls taken in the sun. It's a humid day in Hyannis Port, but it's cooled down by the water where breeze is blowing off the Nantucket Sound. Joan always like Jackie, even though she can be cool to the press, she's always been warm with Joan. As for Jackie, well, JFK has been dead for almost six years. She's remarried to an ultra rich Greek tycoon.
But once a Kennedy, always a Kennedy. And Jackie knows that it's like a lifetime membership. When the Kennedys call, she comes. It's like they have a bad signal.
No matter where Jackie is in the world, when she sees a big K shining in the night sky, she knows to rush back to Hyannisport and play the role of Jack's wife again. So when Rose called on Jackie to talk some sense into Joan, she obliged.
As the ladies wait in the waves and chat about the news, Jackie broaches the subject lightly and honestly. At least that's how I imagined it going down because no one was there. But then Jackie says, Joan, just go to the funeral. It'll go a long way with Rose and you want to be on her good side. She can be helpful. Joan's like what people are talking. A girl is dead. Someone who worked for Bobby and Ted is somehow involved.
Jackie reminds Joan that being a Kennedy wife means weathering scandals. And Jackie should know she spent years playing The Good Wife, ignoring all the rumors that JFK was cheating on her. Actually, they weren't just rumors. Yeah, I was going to say. But Jackie always handled it with pure class. I read this one story that said Jackie once found a pair of panties in her bed at the White House and she gave them to her husband and said, here, find out who owns these.
They're not my size. Bless her. I would have run those babies right up the flagpole out front.
Seriously, she knows how hard it is to put on a brave face in public when people's tongues are wagging and the last thing you want to do is stand by your man.
But she shrugs. It's part of being a Kennedy or richer for poorer, in sickness and in scandal.
I imagine her saying it's not easy, but it's what you sign up for when you marry a Kennedy man. Take a sedative and you'll sail through it. Fine. I didn't know that was part of the menu. So what is Joan? So she says, OK, I'll go or something like that.
Wow. Being a Kennedy wife is a bitch. Yeah, tell me about it. Meanwhile, at the Kennedy spin, doctors are spinning out of control. The plan to stay silent is starting to backfire. Reporters want answers. And if the Kennedys and the cops aren't going to talk, they'll do their own investigating. Now, their findings are starting to come out in the press. Some of them have tracked down new witnesses. And the story they're telling is different from Ted's.
I remember Ted story goes like this at eleven fifteen, he and Mary Joe left the cottage and headed to the ferry landing to catch the boat back to the vineyard. Along the way, Ted took a wrong turn and ended up in the pond. He tried to save Mary Jo, but the current pulled him away. So he got out of the water and walked back to the cottage, dazed and confused. The next morning, he reported it to the police as soon as he could.
So what are the other witnesses say?
Well, one reporter finds a sheriff's deputy who says on the night of the accident, he saw Ted's car at twelve thirty at least an hour after Ted said the accident occurred. He said the car was stopped on a debted road. And when he approached to see if the people inside needed help, the car took off. So he's basically implying that Ted didn't go straight to the ferry landing after the party. Yeah, but still, if it was Ted and Mary Jo, what were they doing?
And then the scuba diver comes forward, the guy who pulled Mary Jo's body out of the car, he says that when he found her body, it looked like she'd been holding herself in an air bubble to breathe. And that means she could have been alive in the water for hours and Ted waited 10 hours to report the accident. He basically says if someone had called him right away, he might have been able to save her. Oh, my God.
Then a couple of locals come forward and say that Ted walked past their house, is on his way to the cottage after the accident. They all had their lights on. Why didn't he knock and ask to use a phone? Oh, this isn't looking good. Yeah, and that's what the spin doctors are thinking.
And now 300 reporters are outside the courthouse on Martha's Vineyard waiting to hear what the chief of police has to say. Chief Jim Marena emerges from the Edgartown district court. For the past two days, he's been holding the press at bay as he rushes around the island trying to make sense of the accident. Now he's finally ready to share his findings and give them some answers. The reporters rush forward and scramble for position, shoving microphones into his face. He can hardly move.
He clears his throat and says, actually, I'm not sure exactly what he says. And I searched everywhere for a clip. But the gist of what he tells the presses he's recommending the prosecutors charged Ted for, quote, leaving the scene of an accident without negligence involved.
OK, what does that mean? It sounds made up. OK, basically, without negligence means Ted did nothing wrong except walking away from the accident.
No speeding, no drinking, no foul play. It's the minimum charge he can give him.
None of this is what the press was expecting to hear. I mean, they've only done the most perfunctory digging and they found witnesses all on their own.
Now they want answers. One of the reporters yells, was Ted drinking the night of the accident.
Arena tells them that there was no physical evidence at the scene that he was drinking.
So he's not pursuing that line at all. You mean they didn't take a sample of pond water and test for rum and coke?
Apparently not. Another reporter asks Arena what the other party goers said. Arina tells them he didn't bother to interview them. He figured they all would have told him the same story as Ted, so he didn't see the point.
Finally, Arena puts an end to the questions by saying, quote, I'm firmly convinced the senator told me the correct story.
He impresses me as a senator and as a man who would tell the truth. Ted will still have to appear in court on July 28th, which is a week away. But first, he has another appearance. He has to get ready for tomorrow. Ted and Joan are going to marry Joe's funeral. We're home more than usual these days, but it's still hard to keep a close eye on things. More deliveries means more boxes left unattended and more opportunities for packages to go missing.
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It's July 22nd, 1969, one of those gray, muggy summer days, Ted and Joan Kennedy are driving through a small Pennsylvania town on their way to Mary Jo's funeral. The streets are lined with hundreds of supporters eager to catch a glimpse of American royalty as the car rolls by. They cheer and snap photos. Some waved signs that say Kennedy for president 1972, Ted and Joan Park in front of a red brick church.
When they climb out of their white sedan, they're greeted with a deafening cheer as they make their way up the church. That's a crowd of reporters rushes forward. Can I just say I've seen pictures and they look like legit movie stars. Jones wearing white gloves and a white coat that she's buttoned up to her neck and she's got a big black bow in her hair. Ted looks good to she's wearing a dark suit and tie and his hair is combed in that famous Kennedy part.
The only thing missing with his look is a chunky brace wrapped around his neck. Wait, what? Yeah, his doctors gave it to him before the funeral, which comes as quite a surprise to the reporters. None of them knew Ted hurt himself in the accident and they're not sure they believe it now, but it doesn't stop them from taking pictures. As Ted and Joan step inside the church, some of Ted's aides wait outside answering reporters questions. They tell them that the brace is a medical necessity.
They're also quick to point out that Ted was hell bent on coming to the funeral, even though his doctor told him not to painting a picture that Ted was a victim, too.
So it would seem a Priestley's Ted and Joan to the rectory next to the church to meet with Gwen and Jo Kopechne before the service begins. The room is quiet. The Kopechne. Thank Ted and Joan for coming. Ted tries to say something in response, but he can't get any words out. He's too overwhelmed. He's completely broken up. Finally, Ted finds the words, he looks at Mary Jo's parents and asks for their forgiveness. He says, I wish it had been me who died.
The companies are touched. Joe will later say, I think he really sacrificed a lot coming to the funeral. The way he was feeling this moment is a big one for Ted. The spin doctors told him that the best way out of this mess was not to say anything to anyone, but it feels good to speak from the heart for once. 700 people show up for the funeral, which is a lot for this Pennsylvania town, when the service ends, Ted and Joan follow the casket out the front door as cameras snap away.
Ted ducks his head like, no pictures, please, but Joan looks up and flashes a big smile. She pulled through. Yep. She's stoically stood by her man. Looking at the photo. It looks like a smile of relief to me. She managed to hold it together. She fulfilled her role as a Kennedy wife, maybe even helped. Except nothing's that easy or cut and dry when it comes to rich people, especially rich royal people like the Kennedys.
When Ted and Joan returned to Hyannis Airport. There's another pack of reporters lying in wait, and they're not as nice as the ones in Pennsylvania as Ted walks to a waiting car. One reporter runs over and shoves a microphone in his face. When will you be making a statement? He wants to know. I wasn't sure what to say. His adviser said he shouldn't talk to the press or say anything, but he has to say something. So he says, I will make a statement at an appropriate time, which isn't right now.
So essentially, no comment yet, but the reporters aren't about to let him off that easy. Another one tries to get a rise out of him by saying there's been some question as to what effect this will have on your political career. Now, Ted is pissed. He gives her this withering look and says, I've just come from the funeral of a very lovely young lady and this is not the appropriate time for such questions. I am not going to make any other comments.
There it is. Yeah, TED figures.
That's that. So do the spin doctors. I mean, they know the press isn't going to go away completely, but they're at least hoping it will die down after Ted's appearance at the funeral. But it doesn't. It gets worse. And now they're out for blood.
It starts with a small conservative newspaper in New Hampshire that runs an editorial that's literally just a long list of questions. Seriously, look at these questions. Wow.
How is it that you, a married man driving a young former secretary of your brother, Robert, around the countryside between midnight and one o'clock Saturday morning, whether it was Mrs. John Kennedy, had you been drinking? And was that the reason why you drove off the road into the pond? Isn't it odd, Senator, that in your days you didn't think to call the police or the fire department to see if the girl's life but still be saved in this concern you?
Senator, do you really think you are really fit to sit in the United States Senate? Don't you think you ought to resign immediately? Oh, that's a low blow.
But I mean, it's not like most people read tiny papers from New Hampshire. Yeah, except then national publications join the ambush on July. Twenty third, one day after Mary Jo's funeral, Newsweek runs an article that says hi writing. Teddy Kennedy faced criminal charges in the accidental death of a pretty blonde party companion.
OK, so Bobby Kennedy's right hand aide is reduced to pretty blonde party companion. I know it goes on to say these charges could, quote, quite possibly signal the end of a political career that could have taken him to the White House. Oh, they also want to know who was at the party and what exactly happened, which makes Ted's team of advisers even more worried. If Newsweek is asking questions, they figure it won't be long before every newspaper, magazine and coupon circular in the country starts demanding answers.
Do OK coupons circular to the advisor needs someone to go out there, talk to the press and give them just enough info about the party that they stop asking questions, preferably someone female, someone they can trust, like one of the boiler room girls, like one of the boiler room girls. They were all loyal to Bobby Kennedy when they worked on his campaign. Maybe that loyalty will extend to his brother Ted. They zero in on Esther Newberg. She's smart and articulate.
She has a hi, Bob and a big smile. She adored Bobby and she admires Ted, too. Plus, she and Mary Jo were good friends. Esther tells the spin doctor she's more than happy to help anything for the cause. So they set up a series of interviews with Esther at home in the suburbs.
At first, she's articulate and poised. When she's asked about the party, she tells reporters, you could barely call it that. She says it was more of a, quote, quiet, reflective gathering of people when she's asked if there was any drinking.
She says at most one or two drinks a piece of paper, our maybe I'm not buying it.
Yeah, well, neither was someone who lived near the cottage who said the party was and loud and said by one a.m. he was so annoyed by the racket he thought about calling the cops.
OK, that attitude is exactly why he wasn't invited. But Esther said no one was watching the clock. I mean, who does at a party, right? Yeah. When a reporter asked what she thinks Mary Jo and Ted were up to when they left, she says they assumed Mary Jo had made the last ferry and that the senator was exhausted and had gone back to his hotel. She's put through a barrage of questions as exacting as a prosecuting attorney.
At what point did she realized that something was wrong? What time did Joey and lawyer Paul leave the party? Did she find it odd? Why not? Why did everyone leave so quickly the next morning? She's just trying to help and it's not going well, finally. She says nobody's trying to hide anything. Mary Jo is dead and there isn't anything we can do about it. I know inside Senator Kennedy tried to save her.
The press aren't satisfied with her answers. And why would they be? This is the story of the century. They wanted to say something, anything. They want to know why the hell he's being so quiet. What does he have to hide? On Thursday, July 24th, The New York Times runs a long story under the headline, Democrats urge Kennedy to speak. If he doesn't quote, he will raise ineradicable doubts about his qualifications for the presidency. The same day The Boston Globe calls on Ted to make, quote, a prompt and complete public statement.
But Ted's advisers are still holding him back. They're convinced that if he stays quiet long enough, it'll die down.
OK, so the way they're controlling the narrative is by giving no narrative.
Yeah. And that's why it's not working so well. And then on the same day, another bombshell drops. The associate medical examiner releases Mary Jo's toxicology report, which shows she had a blood alcohol content of zero point zero nine percent at the time of her death.
OK, for our listeners, can you convert that into appletini? Yeah, for a woman her size, it means she's had as many as five drinks in the hour before she left the party, which means Esther's claim that there wasn't much drinking at the party isn't looking all that good, which I imagine throws everything she said into question pretty much. And now we're right back where we started. The press is demanding to know the truth about the party all over again.
This is the final straw for the spin doctors. They realize they're defeated. Someone on their side has to say something.
If there's any hope of controlling the story, that's when they come up with a plan. Maybe the only way to make this story go away is to let Ted speak in front of a judge.
It's Friday morning, July 25th, Ted and John Kennedy are sailing from Hyannis Port to Martha's Vineyard on the Kennedy family's yacht. The family has had a lot of yachts over the years. Six, I think this one is called the marlin. It's mahogany. Not too big with these cute little seats in the back. That's where I picture Ted and Joan sitting. Oh, it's nice to see them doing something fun together. Well, this isn't a pleasure cruise, OK, but it might be for me if you tell the story in an exciting way, OK?
Yes, that's what you're here for.
Ted docks the boat in Edgartown. That's like the vineyards big city, even though it only has a few thousand residents. And then they make their way to a small brick building in the center of town. Etched into the facade are the words county courthouse. Oh, I see where this is going. Yep. The spin doctors were able to move up Ted's court hearing. He's heading inside to enter a plea to the charges filed against him, leaving the scene of an accident, right, right.
Without negligence. Ted wears a blue suit and a dark colored tie when he walks into the courtroom. It's already packed with reporters. They scribble notes as he approaches the defendants table. His lawyers are already there. When he sits down, he puts his hands together, rests his chin on his fingers and stares at the floor. One reporter will later describe Ted as looking like a ruined man. Another will say he looks whipped. Joan comes in and takes a seat behind him.
She looks stylish in a black and white plaid coat dress like Ted. She also looks like she'd rather be anywhere else in the world.
But here at nine a.m. on the dot, a bailiff bangs the gavel for quiet.
That's the cue for Judge James Boyle. He comes into the chamber and takes his place behind a raised oak desk. He's tall with fitting red hair and a white mustache. He looks serious. A clerk reads the complaint against Ted. This complaint charges that Edward M. Kennedy of Boston, Massachusetts, on the 19th of July 1969 at Edgartown did operate a certain motor vehicle upon a public way and said Edgartown and did go away after knowingly causing injury to Mary Jo Kopechne without stopping and making known his name residents and the number of his motor vehicle.
Wow. Which is basically a long and scary way of saying leaving the scene of an accident. Judge Boyle asks, how do you plead guilty or not guilty? At first, Ted can't even speak like his mouth opens, but nothing comes out. Then in a voice that's barely louder than a whisper, Ted says, guilty. The clerk asks him to repeat it. Guilty, Ted says louder. Judge Boyle asked to hear a summary of the evidence.
And Police Chief Arena takes the stand and describes his investigation. Still love that guy anyway. When Arena is finished, the judge turns to Ted's lawyer and asked him what he thinks the judge should do. Actually, he says, I should be glad to hear you gentlemen on disposition. So polite. I think everyone is impressed by the Kennedys. Even the judge, Ted's lawyer, snapped to attention. Here's his chance. He says that if Ted is going to be charged, then the sentence should be immediately suspended.
So basically, like he's guilty, but don't punish him. Yeah. And the crazy thing is the judge agrees. He says Ted's been through enough between the public humiliation and getting dragged through the press. He says that's worse than anything the court could impose. Then the judge motions for Ted to rise and he sentences him to two months in the house of correction at Barnstable. It's just a technicality. Since the sentence was suspended, he'll never have to go anywhere near prison.
The entire hearing has taken all of seven minutes.
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Visit Madisen Dash read dotcom now to find your perfect shade. The eyes of the country are on the Senate, as Kamala Harris deftly questions a witness at their confirmation hearing, millions of voters lean in closer to their TVs as they watch the prosecutor turn. Senator, make her case over and over again. The scene is broadcast around the world, and Kamala Harris is at the center of one of the most controversial, dramatic moments in our democracy. But behind the questions and quotes, who is Kamala Harris?
What motivates her? What sort of leader is she? I'm Joy Reid, host of COMILLA. Next in line, a new podcast from one Dary and MSNBC, from her upbringing in California to making her mark in Washington, D.C.. You'll hear Kamala Harris story, as it's never been told before. Subscribe to Kamala next in line on Apple podcast or Spotify. Or you can listen ad free by joining one, two, three plus in the one to wrap.
When Ted and Joan leave the courthouse, there's a huge crowd waiting. Some locals have even climbed up trees just to get a better look at the action below. Once again, Ted faces a mob of shouting reporters, but this time he doesn't duck for cover. Instead, he puts his hand up to silence everyone. Then he says, I have made my plea and I plan to go on TV tonight to speak to the people of Massachusetts. And the nation is finally going to break the silence.
Yep, but that's all he has to say for now. Within minutes, he and Joan are ducking into a car and headed to the airport where a chartered plane will take them home to Hyannis Port. Wait, they're leaving the yacht there? Well, they have five more, so they probably don't even think about it. Planes faster. Someone else will drive it home when Joan and Ted get back to Hyannis Port.
It's a different kind of madhouse. TV crews are setting up cameras in the library preparing for Ted's appearance on sets across the country. The spin doctors are in the living room managing logistics and juggling calls from the press. And then someone gets an idea to drive home the family man image by releasing the news that Joan Kennedy is pregnant. Ted and Joan hadn't yet told the press, I assume because of Joan's history of miscarriages. How does Joan feel about that?
We don't know. I mean, on the one hand, it's all part of being a Kennedy wife. People are interested when you're pregnant. But I wonder about the timing. You know, like if they're really trying to score some favorability points for Ted, I can't imagine she'd be thrilled. Yeah, that's tough. I know. But the press is much more interested in Senator Kennedy's statement and looking for Ted. He's got the best speechwriter in the business, Ted Sorensen.
We met him in episode one. He was JFK speechwriter who helped him write, ask not what your country can do for you. Ask what you can do for your country.
Bring it in the big guns. Oh, yeah. And he's got his work cut out for him. The speech will need to do a lot. People already know Ted pled guilty to leaving the scene. He'll have to show he's truly sorry without admitting fault for anything else or giving away too many details. And then he'll need to convince the people of Massachusetts that he should still be there.
Senator, it's going to be a long speech.
Around seven thirty, the Kennedy family gathers in a room next to the library where Ted plans to give his address. Everyone's there except for Joe. He's asleep upstairs. Ted didn't want him to watch. He's put the old man through enough these last few days. Film crew guys are making final adjustments when Ted comes in and takes a seat behind an oak desk with rows of gold and red leather bound books in the background, he wears a dark suit, white shirt and blue tie and his face looks freshly scrubbed.
One of the cameramen does a three to one countdown with his hands. Ted shuffles his notes and then looks straight into the camera.
My fellow citizen, I have requested this opportunity to talk to the people of Massachusetts about the tragedy which happened last Friday evening. This morning, I entered a plea of guilty to the charge of leaving the scene of an accident. Tonight, I am free to tell you what happened and to say what it means to me. Wow, I forgot that voice. It's so Kennedy sounding. I know, right? The whole clip is about 11 minutes. In the beginning, he basically talks about all the stuff we already know.
He was on the island for a sailing regatta. The Kennedys have been taking part in four years, blah, blah, blah. Joan wasn't with him because she's not well. When he talks about the party, he calls it a cookout and then he talks about who was there, including Mary Jo. He talks about what a devoted campaign worker she was, how idealistic, and then he answers the questions everyone's been asking.
There is no true, no truth, whatever the widely circulated suspicions of immoral conduct that have been leveled at my behavior and hers regarding that evening, there has never been a private relationship between us of any kind. I know of nothing in Mary Jo's conduct on that or any other occasion. The same is true of the other girls at that party. It would lend any substance to such ugly speculation about their character. Nor was I driving under the influence of liquor.
OK, I was sort of buying it up until then. What else?
He gives more details about the crash, the cold water, and how he tried to save Mary Jo again and again. What a days he was in. Then finally, what people have been waiting for, he goes into apology mode.
Well, my doctor's informed me that I suffered a concussion as well as shock, I do not think, to escape responsibility for my actions by placing the blame either on the physical emotional trauma brought on by the accident or on anyone else I regard as indefensible.
The fact that I did not report the accident to police immediately, no words on my part can possibly express the terrible pain and suffering I feel over this tragic incident. He does sound sincere.
He does right and exhausted in the video. He's got these dark circles under his eyes and like, he just looks so young, like a kid who's completely. And over his head, when he's done, he lays his notes down on the table, says hands together and speaks directly to the people of Massachusetts, my admission of guilt this morning raises the question in my mind whether my standing among the people of my state has been so impaired that I should resign my body in the United States and not imagine any senator doing this today, like even on Twitter.
Yeah, keep listening.
I pray that I can have the courage to make the right decision.
Whatever is decided, whatever the future holds for me, I hope that I shall be able to put this most recent tragedy behind me and make some other contribution to our state, mankind, whether it be public or private life. Thank you and good night.
He does sound sincere, but it's hard not to be mad about what Mary Jo could have done, you know what I mean? Yeah, I agree. But now it's up to the public. Even the spin doctors know there's nothing more they can do for now. I imagine even they're surprised at the outpouring of support over the coming days and weeks. Thousands of voters write letters and send telegrams and call Ted's office, begging him not to give up his seat.
And then there's a few not so nice letters, death threats against Ted and Joan and their kids.
The Kennedys hire cops to sit outside the house 24 hours a day. The Secret Service follows the family everywhere. Ted's not sure what to do.
And then about a month after his press conference, Joan has a miscarriage. Oh, no. She recovers in a Cape Cod hospital in a private room overlooking the bay, is camping at the time, and he races back to be with her.
No one knows what they talk about, but once she gets out, no firm decision has been made about Ted's career.
Seeing what his job is putting his family through, Ted starts to wonder if he really wants to stay in the Senate. He daydreams about buying a newspaper or moving to France.
Those were the things he and Joan wanted to do when they first got married before his dad forced him into politics.
Why do I feel like that probably won't happen?
Then in November 1969, four months after the accident, Ted gets a call from his mom, Rose, asking him to come to Hyannis Port right away.
His dad, Joe, has stopped eating. As soon as Ted arrives, he goes straight to his dad's room and refuses to leave. He even brings a sleeping bag into his dad's room so he can be with him at night. And he's biocide when he finally slips away. Ted always felt like a disappointment to Joe, like he never measured up to who Joe wanted him to be. Now he's the only son left. He knows his dad would be crushed if he knew Ted was thinking about getting out of politics.
So after the funeral, Ted makes an announcement he's going to run for Senate again and he intends to run harder than he's ever run before. And he wins.
He sees it as his second chance, a chance to be different than before and show the voters they were right to have faith in him. His first year back in the Senate, he writes a bill that plows billions into fighting cancer. He'll go on to be one of the most prolific legislators in history, helping to write more than 300 bills that became laws covering everything from health care to civil rights. 11 years after Chappaquiddick, he runs for president in 1980.
He challenges a member of his own party, Jimmy Carter, who's up for reelection. Ted thought Chappaquiddick was far enough in the past, but it turns out it's still on voters minds. Even though a lot of people have forgiven him. Not everyone is sure they want him holding the highest office in the land. So Ted fails to win the nomination and goes back to the Senate. But Ted's campaign is good for one person, his wife Joan.
While he was running, she found herself back in the spotlight. Only this time, reporters aren't just interested in Ted. They're interested in her. They write sympathetic stories about her battle with alcoholism and the pressures of being part of the Kennedy family. For the first time since she got married, Joan begins to realize that she doesn't just have to be Ted's wife. She's her own person. She goes back to school and she gets a master's in education. She starts playing piano again and she finally tells Ted that she wants a divorce.
Oh, I'm getting major Princess Diana vibes. Mhm. Yeah, they split in 1982. Joan never remarries, I imagine after the Kennedy Strait-Jacket, she's probably just happy to be free. She writes a book, she starts performing with the Boston Pops and though it takes a while, she finally manages to get sober and she and Ted eventually make peace. In 1992 when Ted announces that he's getting remarried to a brilliant and much younger woman, Joan's cool with it.
So it sounds like happy endings all around, except for Mary Jo and Ted never fully forgives himself for what happened. His mama came out shortly after he died, and in it he wrote, Atonement is a process that never ends. I believe that maybe it's a New England thing or an Irish thing or Catholic thing, maybe all of those things.
But it's as it should be. This is the final episode in our three part series, Chappaquiddick. Next week, I'm taking the reins to tell you the story of another Kennedy, a rollerblading magazine owning sexiest man alive, JFK, Jr.. If you like our show, please give us a five star rating and a review and be sure to tell your friends. Subscribe on Apple podcast Spotify, The Wonder Rap or wherever you're listening right now. Join E-Plus in the Wonder Area Felicidad Free.
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Another way to support us is to answer a short survey at one Drinka survey. We use many sources when researching our stories, including Vanity Fair and Town and country, but we especially recommend the books. Ted Kennedy by Edward Klein, Chappaquiddick by Leo Demmer and Jackie Ethel Joan, Women of Camelot by J. Randy Taraborrelli. I'm Trisha Skidmore Williams.
And I'm Brooke Zafrin. Grand Flattener wrote this episode. LaDonna Pallotta is our editor. Our producer is Kayla Messager, Sound Design by James Morgan, Production Assistance by Sergio Henriquez.
Our executive producers are Stephanie Gen's, Marsha Lui and Hernan Lopez were wondering what. October is here, and that means it's time to turn down the lights and turn up the volume on your favorite true crime podcast like Billionaire Boys Club for a group of young rich boys in Beverly Hills, being told no was never an option from the moment they were born. Their privilege entitle them to every luxury life had to offer. The world was theirs for the taking, and there was nothing they wouldn't do to get what was owed to them.
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