Happy Scribe Logo

Transcript

Proofread by 0 readers
Proofread
[00:00:03]

Hi, guys, I'm Ashley Flowers, and if you've heard my podcast, Crime Junkie or Supernatural, you might know me as a true crime lover, but there's another interest of mine that I'm excited to share with you guys. And depending on who we're talking about, there's even a little true crime esque in there, too. If you grew up in the U.S., you probably grew up with this image of the former presidents as these serious, dignified, insanely boring old men who never had any fun in their lives.

[00:00:35]

And there's a reason this is all the history books tell us, because the truth is, well, it's embarrassing for the country and almost too wild to believe. The White House has been full of scandals, secrets, drama and even a little bit of true crime from the very beginning. And the more you learn about what was really going on in the Oval Office, the more you'll have to wonder, how did we make it this far?

[00:01:13]

Welcome to very presidential APAs Cast Original in this podcast, I'm going to be looking at 15 presidents who'd be on the Mount Rushmore of bad behavior. And today I'm starting off with one of the most beloved presidents in American history, John Fitzgerald Kennedy. In less than three years, JFK was involved in more scandals than most people could hope for in a lifetime. He basically turned the White House into the Playboy mansion, accidentally slept with not one but two spies, met with foreign leaders in a drug addled haze and nearly started a nuclear war because he wanted to look good in the press.

[00:01:53]

For decades, the public didn't have a clue about any of this.

[00:01:57]

But the facts we have now call into question everything we thought we knew about the Kennedys.

[00:02:05]

All of that is coming up. Stay with us. John F. Kennedy was a rock star at 43 years old, he was the youngest president ever elected and arguably the hottest.

[00:02:22]

Every woman in America was swooning over his boyish good looks, tousled hair and casual self-confidence. And even though the Kennedys were one of the richest families in America, he was seen as sort of an underdog. He was the first Catholic president ever elected, which was a big deal for the Irish Catholic community. More than anything, Jack, as his friends called him, was a breath of fresh air. He was young, energetic, a family man. His wife, Jackie, was already becoming a fashion icon.

[00:02:51]

His brother Bobby was appointed as the new attorney general, which let's just say was a bit of a controversial choice. But love them or hate them.

[00:02:58]

The Kennedys were America's new royalty. Of course, though that image was carefully crafted. Even after his death, the Kennedy family went to extreme lengths to hide anything that might compromise Jack's reputation. And there was a lot let's start with that youthful vigor that was one of his main selling points just 15 years before. In 1945, FDR had died in office after a long period of illness. So everyone was worried that the same thing might happen again, which is why throughout the 1960 campaign, Jack insisted that he was in perfect health.

[00:03:37]

But this was a complete lie. JFK's health problems are no longer a big secret today, but most historians still kind of tend to skim over how serious they actually were and what he did to cope with them. It's literally a miracle that Jack was still alive to be president at age 43. I mean, he'd been extremely deathly ill his entire life. He'd actually been so close to dying that he had his last rites administered. On four separate occasions, he was eventually diagnosed with colitis, which is this chronic disease of the large intestine.

[00:04:11]

And he also had Addison's disease, which causes hormone deficiencies. And as a side effect of the steroids that he had to take, he had back problems that caused him to be in constant pain. Now, none of this sounds too serious in terms of how it affects someone's decision making. I mean, sure, it's distracting to be in pain all the time, but he was still mentally sound, right? Well, he would have been. But to deal with his pain, Jack was taking basically every drug known to pharmacology.

[00:04:42]

I mean, we're talking morphine, sedatives, barbiturates, narcotics. He was even on four kinds of steroids daily, including anabolic steroids. And that's the same kind athletes use for muscle building. And they're known to cause paranoia, mania and aggression after long term use. Essentially, if Jack had to take a drug test, he would have been fired from any government job and probably referred to a rehab center.

[00:05:09]

And yet here he was with his finger on the nuclear button, making decisions that would affect the entire globe. Now, a lot of biographers insist that Jack's health problems and medications didn't have any effect on his leadership.

[00:05:25]

But psychiatrist Nassir Ghaemi, who reviewed Jack's medical files, said that claim was hard to accept biologically, especially when you look at his actual behavior in office, which was an endless parade of disasters.

[00:05:44]

On day three in the White House before he even had time to settle in, Jack got a visit from the CIA director. There was one little thing that needed the president's attention. The CIA had been training a guerrilla army to invade Cuba and overthrow the government. The U.S. wasn't a fan of Cuba's prime minister, Fidel Castro, because he was a socialist and this was the Cold War. But Jack wasn't totally convinced that staging a coup was the best answer, mostly because if anyone tied it back to the U.S., it'd be a whole international crisis.

[00:06:17]

But the CIA says, listen, don't worry about it, we're going to invade.

[00:06:21]

Yes, but it's not going to look like an invasion. We've recruited over a thousand Cuban rebel fighters for the job. So we play our cards right. No one will have any idea that the U.S. was ever involved. So Jack says, OK, fine, let's let's do it. But just to be extra sure that it doesn't fall back on us, U.S. forces are not allowed to participate in the invasion at all in any way, shape or form, ever the end.

[00:06:45]

But the 1500 Cuban guerrillas send them on their own with no backup. And let's just see what happens. And, of course, what happens is a complete disaster. When the invasion takes place on April 17th, the guerrilla fighters barely make it onto shore. One hundred and eighteen of them are killed, over 300 are wounded, and the rest are all captured. And not only does the Bay of Pigs invasion fail miserably, but it's obvious that the U.S. was behind it.

[00:07:16]

The biggest consequence for Jack is that he kind of looks like a bumbling idiot, both at home and abroad. Everyone's worst fears were confirmed. Maybe JFK is just a pretty face and he's too young and too inexperienced to actually lead.

[00:07:35]

The next night, Jack is meeting with a couple advisers in the Oval Office when he suddenly breaks off midsentence and walks out into the Rose Garden. He spends an hour just walking around silently by himself. The next morning, his press secretary finds him crying in his bedroom. And then over the next few days, he keeps just muttering to himself, how could I have been so stupid? Of course, it might have had something to do with the FBI storage lockers worth of drugs that he was taking.

[00:08:06]

And despite all the meds, his underlying conditions were only getting worse. In fact, just a month later, in May of 1961, he threw out his back during a tree planting ceremony. I mean, so bad that he couldn't even walk. This was a problem because in a couple of weeks, he was supposed to fly to Europe to meet the Soviet premier, Nikita Khrushchev. In the Cold War, perception was everything. He couldn't show up, hobbling around on crutches.

[00:08:34]

He'd look like a weakling in front of the whole world press. So he decided to call this guy Dr. Max Jacobson. Dr. Jacobson was sort of a mad scientist, doctor to the stars. He treated everyone who's anyone, and he had this miracle shot that gave his patients so much energy and euphoria that they actually called him Dr. Feelgood, which just as an aside, maybe never go to someone called Dr. Feelgood. So with this summit coming up, Jack invites Dr.

[00:09:09]

Feelgood to the White House without consulting any of his regular doctors. After one injection, Jack is practically leaping across the room without his crutches. He feels on top of the world clear-headed no pain. So he even asked Dr. Jacobson to come with him to Europe in case he needs another fix. So you're probably asking what was actually in these magic injections, mostly amphetamines. So if you're keeping score, the president is now shooting up speed, he's on Royds Downer's narcotics and whatever else was in Dr.

[00:09:48]

Jacobsen's shots, because even today, no one is totally sure what the full recipe was. But Jack said, I don't care if it's horse piss, it works. The thing about amphetamines, though, is when they stop working, you're in a world of trouble, especially if you're trying to negotiate a peace treaty with the Soviet premier. When Jack arrived in Vienna for the summit, Dr Jacobson gave him a quick injection and then he was off to the races.

[00:10:19]

I mean, he was even described as bounding down the steps of the embassy. He looked like he could run laps around the 67 year old Khrushchev. But as soon as they got to talking, Jack was clearly not functioning at 100 percent. He bumbled his way through the whole afternoon without accomplishing really anything by dinnertime. Even reporters who saw Jack leaving the building could tell that his energy was crashing. And by the end of the second day, well, it's generous to assume that he was going through withdrawals because the only other explanation is that he just straight up lost his mind.

[00:10:53]

During their very last meeting, Khrushchev threatened it is up to the U.S. to decide whether there will be war or peace. And Jack replied, Then, Mr. Chairman, there will be war. It will be a cold winter. Now, this was the exact opposite of what the U.S. was hoping to get out of this event, Jack said it best himself in an interview immediately after the meeting.

[00:11:21]

Worst thing in my life, he savaged me for a minute. It looked like Khrushchev might have rhetorically beaten him to death. A week or two after he gets back to the White House on June 16th, Jack comes down with a fever. I mean, he can't even get out of bed.

[00:11:37]

He has to cancel all of his appointments. His doctors are on red alert because when you have Addison's disease, any small infection can potentially be life threatening. So they decide to pump him full of antibiotics and steroids and narcotics even more than usual. But his condition just keeps getting worse for a whole week. By June 22nd, he nearly dies. All the while, the press is being told that he has a mild viral infection. The public has no idea that the commander in chief is basically on his deathbed.

[00:12:10]

Miraculously, Jack's health finally starts to turn around. He makes a slow but steady recovery. And when the tests come back, they all finally find out what caused this near fatal infection.

[00:12:24]

Aaron Schachter Clacy, a bacteria that outside of a hospital setting is usually sexually transmitted.

[00:12:35]

So the president just almost died of an STD and the burning question, pun intended, is who gave it to him? Well, it's a little hard to narrow down because in his downtime between creating international crises and shooting up enough drugs to kill a racehorse, JFK was sleeping with just about every woman in the Beltway. Coming up, we'll look at some of the most notorious rumors about JFK's romances and now back to the story. During the 1960 election, one of the biggest obstacles JFK faced was the fact that he was Catholic.

[00:13:23]

It was believed by the Protestant majority that a Catholic president would be loyal to the pope over their own country and they'd impose all kinds of religious laws. Now, those fears turned out to be completely unfounded because despite being a Catholic, Jack loved bucking traditions and breaking rules, especially when it came to sex. Jack had always been a womanizer, and the fact that he was married did not slow him down at all, nor did his responsibilities as president.

[00:13:54]

Most afternoons when he wasn't causing international crises, he'd go to the White House pool for a swim.

[00:14:00]

The Secret Service kept everyone out except his female companions, which could include a pair of White House secretaries who were nicknamed Fiddle and Fadal, or the first lady's press secretary, who looked remarkably like a younger version of the first lady herself or even the new summer intern, 19 year old Mimi Alford.

[00:14:22]

Mimi started working in the press office in June 1962. On her fourth day right before lunchtime, the phone on her desk rings, and it's the president's special assistant, Dave Powers, and he asks her, do you want to have a swim?

[00:14:37]

Now, she doesn't really get much of a choice because just a few minutes later, Dave is there to escort her over to the pool. As soon as she gets in, the president shows up. And it's kind of weird and awkward, to say the least. But Fiddle and Fattal are there, too. So she lets herself believe that maybe this is just normal in the White House and then nothing else happens that afternoon, just a friendly swim. But that evening when Mimi's workday is over, Dave tells her to come upstairs to the second floor, the residence.

[00:15:08]

When she gets there, a few other staffers are there and so is Dave, who gives me me a daiquiri and then another daiquiri, and then all of a sudden Jack is there and he offers to give me a tour. Mimi is more than a little uncomfortable, and by this point, the drinks are starting to go to her head. But she follows him right to the bedroom. It's Mrs. Kennedy's bedroom as Jack introduces it. Then, before she knows it, he's starting to take off her clothes.

[00:15:35]

As Mimi describes it, she doesn't consider it an assault or nonconsensual, but it was definitely an abuse of power at the very least. I mean, she's a 19 year old intern and he's the president of the United States. She couldn't just say no thanks and walk out of there without risking her entire career. And along with his position of power, Jack had this legendary combo of charisma and good looks. He could charm anyone into doing just about anything he wanted.

[00:16:08]

I mean, this is how Mimi describes that night in her memoir, quote, I was the direct object of his skills at Persuasion. In the midst of my shock and confusion, I felt for the first time the thrill of being desired and the fact that I was being desired by the most famous and powerful man in America only amplified my feelings to the point where resistance was out of the question, unquote.

[00:16:35]

Clearly, that sounds kind of sinister, but in the end, that thrill of being desired kept winning out for many. The next day, she went back to work as if nothing happened and their affair continued for the entirety of Jack's presidency. Mimi was hardly the only one, either. Jack had a whole rotation of girls joining his afternoon swims or tagging along on his business trips. And the commander in chief didn't limit himself to staffers. He was more of a Hollywood man.

[00:17:04]

He had at least one brief fling with Marilyn Monroe. And the details are sketchy. But according to a few of Marilyn's friends, they hooked up at a party at Bing Crosby's ranch back in 1962. And the rumor mill tends to agree that after that first encounter, Marilyn's tryst with Jack was pretty much over. But she did allegedly have a more serious fling with his brother, Bobby. That's not even the only family affair, though. There was another woman named Marlene Dietrich.

[00:17:33]

She was 60 years old and a former lover of Jack's father, Joseph Kennedy. But that didn't stop him from inviting her to the White House for drinks. Apparently, after a 20 minute rendezvous, Jack fell asleep and Marlene had to wake him up because she didn't know how to get back to the elevator.

[00:17:51]

But honestly, most of the time, Jack went the simple route. He just had his trusty advisers higher call girls. One Secret Service agent recalled his first day on the job when the president was giving a speech in Seattle. After they got back to the hotel, he heard something going on over at the elevators. He goes to check it out and he sees the local sheriff of all people bringing two young women over to the president's suite as the agent soon found out, this happened all the time.

[00:18:23]

And it was kind of a nightmare for the Secret Service because they didn't have any idea who these women were. I mean, for all we know, they could have been spies. They could have been assassins, but there was nothing these agents could do except stand outside and hope that the president would still be alive the next morning. Obviously, all of this didn't go unnoticed, Jack's womanizing was pretty much an open secret in Washington, all the reporters knew, but back then it was considered taboo to talk about a politician's sex life.

[00:18:56]

So no one wrote about it. Now, you might be wondering, like, where's Jackie during all of this?

[00:19:03]

Usually she was out of town when these flings happened, but not because Jack was trying to hide it from her. She knew what was going on. She just didn't want to see it happening. So she made it a point to tell Jack staff exactly when she was leaving and when she would be coming back so they'd have time to get these girls out of her bedroom. I mean, it's not like there was anything Jackie could really do about her husband's philandering.

[00:19:27]

Divorce was super taboo for Catholics in this era.

[00:19:30]

And if the public found out that their wholesome family man president was cheating on his beautiful wife, his career would have been over. So Jackie just pretended to ignore it.

[00:19:42]

Usually one time she was giving a tour of the White House to a journalist from Paris, and they walk past the desk of one of Jack's secretaries.

[00:19:51]

And Jackie kindly told the reporter, This is the girl who supposedly is sleeping with my husband.

[00:19:58]

And on another occasion, Marilyn Monroe allegedly called Jackie and confessed that she was sleeping with her husband.

[00:20:05]

And Jackie just replied sarcastically, Marilyn, you'll marry Jack and you'll move into the White House and you'll assume all the responsibilities of the first lady. And I'll move out and you'll have all the problems.

[00:20:20]

Considering the job a president is supposed to perform, like keeping the entire country running, it's fair to ask why no one was more concerned about JFK's behavior. Even in recent years, most biographers say that his health issues, drug use and constant womanizing didn't affect his job performance. But to be honest, all of the facts tell a different story, according to a former Secret Service agent. There were a lot of days when Jack didn't do a minute of real work.

[00:20:50]

He'd wake up late, maybe have a few meetings, go down to the pool for a little recreation, take a nap.

[00:20:56]

And that was it for the day. And while he slept, the world was falling into chaos. There was Germany where the Berlin Wall had gone up right after Jack's failed summit with Khrushchev. There was Vietnam where the U.S. already had troops on the ground and a full scale war was looming on the horizon.

[00:21:15]

Back at home, there was the civil rights movement. And today, JFK is often remembered as this champion of civil rights. But in the first half of his term, he was more or less ignoring the entire thing.

[00:21:27]

The only issue Jack did seem to care about was killing Fidel Castro. After the Bay of Pigs invasion, Jack was obsessed with saving face on the Cuba problem, the main difficulty was that at this point, Fidel Castro was really popular in Cuba. There was no resistance or rebel group to speak of. So it was going to be near impossible to overthrow him. So Jack and Bobby Kennedy start pushing for a simpler solution. Why don't we just straight up kill Castro?

[00:22:03]

Now, the CIA had been working on their own assassination plots before Jack even took office. So this wasn't a completely new idea. But at this point, the agency didn't really see it as a priority. A lot of top advisers weren't even sure why they were doing this, other than because the Kennedys said so. But he was the commander in chief. So the CIA was on the job and what a job they did. According to Cuban intelligence, there were six hundred and thirty eight separate plots to kill Castro over the years, although only 42 of those were during the three years of Kennedy's administration.

[00:22:42]

Here are a few of the greatest hits they tried using a poisoned milkshake, a scuba diving suit filled with fungus and a seashell rigged with explosives that would detonate when Castro swam close to it. At one point, the CIA even recruited Castro's girlfriend to slip poison pills into his drink. But when she went to meet with him, he just laid down on the bed chewing a cigar and asked, Did you come here to kill me? And she admitted, Yes, I did.

[00:23:12]

So Castro pulled out his pistol, handed it to her and said with a smile, You can't kill me. Nobody can kill me. So clearly, he was aware that the CIA was trying to assassinate him and the U.S. had already tried to invade once, he had no reason to think they wouldn't do it again. So he turned to the world's other leading superpower for help, the Soviet Union.

[00:23:42]

Coming up, I'm going to look at the defining moment of JFK's presidency, the Cuban missile crisis. This was the crowning achievement of the Kennedy's media manipulation. Jack and Bobby created a crisis out of thin air, nearly starting a nuclear war, made a backroom deal with the Soviets and somehow emerged as heroes. And now back to the story.

[00:24:08]

The official story of the Cuban missile crisis goes something like this on October 16th, 1962, U.S. intelligence learned that the Soviets were setting up nuclear missiles in Cuba and preparing to attack the U.S. But thanks to the strong cool-headed leadership of John F. Kennedy, the situation was resolved peacefully without making any concessions to the Soviets. It was the biggest success of his presidency. The problem is not a single fact of that story is true. To start off, the Soviets were totally provoked.

[00:24:45]

In 1961, JFK decided to set up nuclear missiles in Turkey, pointing right at the USSR. Some of his advisors warned him that this would be seen as an act of war. But Jack didn't listen. So, of course, to even the score, Khrushchev started sending nuclear missiles to Cuba in May of 1962. He knows that the U.S. is going to flip out if they find out about this. So all throughout that spring and summer, the Soviets have one of their agents feeding misinformation to Bobby Kennedy.

[00:25:18]

He tells Bobby that maybe they should stop surveilling Soviet merchant ships. Khrushchev isn't a fan of being watched. And if they lay off, things will go better diplomatically. The Kennedys eat this up and don't ever seem to question this guy's motives, not even when the CIA starts warning them in August that those Soviet merchant ships are carrying missiles to Cuba, Jack and Bobby say no, no way. The Soviets said everything's fine. So let's just not worry about this.

[00:25:46]

Well, by October 9th, a surveillance flight confirms that there are, in fact, ballistic missiles being set up in Cuba. Who could have known? Now, the reasonable way to deal with this situation would have been to quietly smooth things over with the Soviets before the public found out and blew it up into a huge crisis. But if you think John F Kennedy is going to make the reasonable decision, you have not been paying attention from the get go.

[00:26:17]

He told his team that it was politically unacceptable to leave those missiles in Cuba. This was the moment he'd been waiting for an excuse to invade Cuba again and avenge himself for the Bay of Pigs fiasco. He was going to milk this opportunity for all he could. So on Monday, October 22nd, Jack gives a speech telling the American people about the nuclear missiles in Cuba. As he tells it, the world is on the brink of destruction and JFK is coming to the rescue.

[00:26:50]

If anyone so much as thinks about using one of those missiles, he's going to bring the hammer down on the Soviet Union. The Soviets are totally blindsided by this. When their ships arrive off the coast of Cuba two days later, they're met by a U.S. naval blockade. Khrushchev is not trying to start a world war here, so he immediately orders the ships to stop. He writes a letter to Jack saying, OK, we will get rid of the missiles in Cuba.

[00:27:18]

If you get rid of your missiles in Turkey, this is a reasonable offer, but Jack naturally plans to ignore it. But then just a few hours after that letter arrives, a Soviet missile shoots down an American spy plane flying over Cuba. The Joint Chiefs of Staff are ready to escalate things with air strikes. This crisis of Jack's own making is suddenly spiraling out of control. So here comes the stroke of brilliance. Publicly, Jack denounces the offer of a missile trade.

[00:27:53]

He's not negotiating. The Soviets can either get out of Cuba or get ready for war. But behind the scenes, Bobby goes to the Soviet ambassador and works out a deal. He says we're good to go on. This will remove our missiles from Turkey as long as you don't tell anyone, ever, ever, ever, because it'll make us look weak politically.

[00:28:15]

For that same reason, the Kennedy brothers didn't tell anyone else about this secret deal except for a few top advisers who absolutely had to know. But even most of the military advisers didn't know. And in the public eye, Jack emerged as a hero, the level headed wise leader who pulled us back from the brink of nuclear war. So saving face on Cuba, mission accomplished. But if he really wanted to protect America instead of protecting his public image, there are a thousand things he could have done differently.

[00:28:52]

To be fair, though, Jack handled the situation pretty calmly. When you consider that he was taking enough drugs to get him banned for life from any competitive sport, Dr. Jacobson was giving the president his regular injections throughout this crisis alleged. Oddly, once every six hours and by this point, Jack's other half dozen doctors were getting really concerned, one doctor wrote a letter to Jack warning him that Dr. Jacobson's therapy is not for responsible individuals who at any Split-Second may have to decide the fate of the universe.

[00:29:28]

Another, more bluntly said, no president with his finger on the red button has any business taking stuff like that. But Jack didn't listen. Finally, in late 1962, the rest of the medical team stages a kind of intervention. Dr. Feelgood is out. Whether Jack likes it or not, they're putting him on a physical therapy plan and reducing the dosage of his other medications. After a while on this new treatment plan, his health actually stabilizes a bit physically and mentally.

[00:29:59]

But the truth is, the irresponsible drug use was never the root of his problems. It was just a symptom. The real problem was twofold. For one, he'd been on the brink of death since childhood. He never worried about long term consequences because for all he knew, there wouldn't be a tomorrow. And two, he never had to worry about consequences because he was a Kennedy. He was used to doing whatever he wanted and getting away with it scot free.

[00:30:27]

So after this nuclear scare and his medical intervention, did he start doing anything differently? Absolutely not.

[00:30:36]

Throughout 1963, the CIA keeps trying to kill Fidel Castro and Jack keeps sleeping with basically every woman he can get his hands on. By now, a few Secret Service agents have resigned because they're so annoyed. It's an endless nightmare having to just stand outside and hope the women on the president's lap isn't an assassin or spy.

[00:30:57]

And in the summer of 1963, all of those fears finally started coming true. On June twenty third, the New York Journal American ran a story claiming that a high level official in the White House had been linked to a call girl who was known to be a Soviet spy. Now, that's all it says. And obviously it's cause for alarm in the White House.

[00:31:19]

So Bobby calls the reporters into the Justice Department and grills them. The reporters are hesitant to say anything more. So finally, Bobby has to ask them point blank for the name of the official who was involved.

[00:31:30]

And one of them tells him it was the president of the United States. Bobby is able to kill that story before it spreads any further, but just a week later, on July 3rd, he gets a heads up from the FBI that Jack was involved with another suspected spy, a young woman from East Germany named Ellen Ramadge. Bobby rushes to put out this fire to by deporting Ellen back to Germany. Naturally, this sudden deportation raises some eyebrows, especially once the press starts linking Ellen to vague White House officials.

[00:32:07]

The Senate opens an investigation, and Bobby has to beg the FBI director to go in and shut it down, which he does by telling the senators that there's no evidence Ellen was a spy or that she'd ever been to the White House, which was a complete lie. But it worked, at least for the time being. The next election was right around the corner, though, and this could blow up into a massive career ending scandal. But before Jack had to deal with this looming disaster, he died a hero.

[00:32:44]

When JFK was assassinated less than three years into his term, it was a national day of shock and mourning.

[00:32:51]

No one could believe that this young, healthy, strong leader that they come to know and love had been killed so suddenly. And I don't want to undercut the tragedy of that. This was a terrible thing to have happened.

[00:33:05]

But what the public was wrong about was it didn't just come out of nowhere. From our perspective today, the dominoes that led to the assassination started falling way back at the beginning of Jack's term.

[00:33:18]

As it turns out, Lee Harvey Oswald was a member of the Fair Play for Cuba committee, which opposed the Kennedy administration's attacks on Cuba. Now, at almost the exact same minute when Jack was shot, an undercover CIA agent was meeting with a Cuban asset in a hotel room in Paris. They gave him a fountain pen filled with poison with this little hidden needle that would inject the poison into your finger. When you tried to write with it, it was intended for Fidel Castro.

[00:33:49]

So if the Kennedys thought it was OK to try and assassinate foreign leaders, they should have at least anticipated that the Cuba sympathizers would do the same thing. And there's an even stranger bit of irony on top of that one. A month or two before the assassination, Jack had torn a back muscle during one of his regular poolside afternoons with his girlfriends. He had to be outfitted with a new back brace that was so stiff it made it impossible for him to bend down.

[00:34:18]

A lot of historians agree that if he hadn't been wearing that brace, he would have slumped over after the first shot hit him in the upper back. The second one, which went through his head, would have missed saving his life.

[00:34:33]

But even though JFK's life was cut short, his dad made sure that his legacy would outlive him if he lived until re-election, his reputation probably would have been ruined. The man was a walking scandal bomb ready to detonate. Instead, he became a martyred hero, beloved by the masses. And all the issues he'd waded into during his term were left for his vice president to clean up the Cold War, Vietnam, civil rights. Those were now Lyndon B. Johnson's problem.

[00:35:20]

In the next episode, I'll be looking at the years right after JFK assassination and the presidency of LBJ. Thanks for listening. If you want to hear more episodes of very presidential, you can find them all for free on Spotify, very presidential was created by Max Cutler and Ashley Flowers and is a podcast, Studios' Original, starring Ashley Flowers.

[00:35:42]

It's executive produced by Max Cutler, Sound Design by Ron Shapiro with production assistance by Carly Madden. This episode of Very Presidential was written by Kate Gallagher with Writing Assistants by Drew Cole.

[00:35:54]

To hear more stories hosted by me, check out Crime Junkie and Audio Chuck Originals.