Kennedys Against King

Daniel J. Flynn is the author of numerous books, including "Blue Collar Intellectuals: When the Enlightened and the Everyman Elevated America," now available from ISI Books. Read Daniel's blog at www.flynnfiles.com.


Just released interviews of Jacqueline Kennedy conducted by Arthur Schlesinger Jr. in 1964 reveal a rift between the first families of sixties liberalism at odds with the historical narrative. “I just can’t see a picture of Martin Luther King without thinking, you know, that man’s terrible,” the former First Lady explained. She labeled the minister a “terrible sex pest.” Citing reports from her husband of the minister’s bacchanalian exploits (it takes one to know one?), and gossip that a drunk King had made rude remarks at her husband’s funeral, Mrs. Kennedy labeled the civil rights leader “a really tricky person.”

Neither King nor the Kennedys emerge from the airing of the half-century-old dirty laundry entirely clean. The Kennedys appear as peeping toms at best and as slanderers at worst. Perhaps King is entirely innocent of the accusations, but coming from his ostensible political allies they seem harder to dismiss than smears from racists.

So when the two-hour ABC News program on Jackie Kennedy’s long lost interviews blamed neither King nor the Kennedys for the mutual enmity but J. Edgar Hoover, the contention left viewers perplexed. Mrs. Kennedy, after all, maintains on the tapes broadcast on ABC that she derived all of her political opinions from her husband. She made no mention of the FBI director’s sway over her.

Caroline Kennedy told Diane Sawyer that her mother’s negative assessment of the civil rights leader demonstrates the “poisonous” influence of J. Edgar Hoover. She continued that “the idea that this is going on at the highest levels of government is really twisted.” Historian Michael Beschloss claimed that Mrs. Kennedy’s harsh words for King resulted from J. Edgar Hoover’s manipulation of the First Family. The FBI director “did everything possible to make Dr. King look like somebody from another planet,” John Lewis, sixties civil rights activist and current congressman, claimed. “I cannot believe that Dr. King ever said anything in a negative manner about President Kennedy.”

Ever? Even when the president attempted to strongarm King into canceling the March on Washington? When he sicced FBI snoops upon the minister? When he put civil rights legislation on the backburner?

The Kennedy brothers ordered J. Edgar Hoover to investigate Martin Luther King. The way the Kennedys, a court historian, and political allies tell it, the FBI director ordered the attorney general and the president around. To believe this upside-down story one must reject what we know about the structure of relationships between underlings and bosses; we must assume mesmeristic powers in J. Edgar Hoover and invertebrate weakness in the Kennedys; we must suspend reality for political comfort.

The controversy highlights two methods of historical revisionism employed to harmonize the problematic policies of liberal heroes with the outlook of contemporary liberals. The first imagines J. Edgar Hoover as the marionette pulling the strings of every Democratic president from Woodrow Wilson through Lyndon Johnson. The second projects beliefs fashionable among today’s liberals upon liberal icons, such as John F. Kennedy and his famous family.

The first tactic was on display when the Washington Post revealed in 2009 that President Lyndon Johnson had authorized an investigation into his friend Jack Valenti’s personal life. The paper claimed he did so only “under FBI pressure.” A 2007 book by Kenneth Ackerman takes the Hoover-made-me-do-it theory to preposterous extremes by blaming the Palmer Raids on a then 24-year-old, mid-level bureaucrat. “J. Edgar Hoover had been [attorney general A. Mitchell] Palmer’s special assistant when the raids began on November 7, 1919, and he had his fingerprints all over them,” Ackerman insists. The author actually claims that it is impossible to tie President Wilson to his own raids because he never said whether he supported them or not. Using J. Edgar Hoover to excuse Democratic presidents for trampling upon civil liberties is by now a familiar dodge.

So, too, are attempts to warp Kennedy history to fit the beliefs of their current admirers. Joe McCarthy serving as godfather to Kathleen Kennedy Townsend, the Kennedys illegally wiretapping Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter Hanson Baldwin, and President Kennedy’s involvement of U.S. troops in Vietnam are among the inconvenient truths that present-day liberals excuse away or airbrush entirely.

History isn’t a play to be tweaked to suit the audience’s fancy. The stories we live aren’t as neat as the stories we pay to see. The person offstage may differ from the center-stage persona. The leading actors that we like don’t always like each other.

In the wake of the assassinations of John Kennedy and Martin Luther King, the pair would find themselves linked in history and on the living room walls of many admirers. But to hear Jackie Kennedy talk, she couldn’t glance upon MLK’s visage later so often beside her husband’s without concluding: “that man’s terrible.”

  • drush76

    I think you would be surprised by the liberals' attitudes toward the Kennedys today. It's not as high as it used to be. And wasn't Jackie Kennedy a Republican?

  • trickyblain

    The point of this article eludes. Maybe it's that FPM want to find a conservative woman who likes black men. Wait.

    Run, Sarah, Run!

  • largebill

    While this article was amusing, the laugh out loud funny part was where you quoted Rep. Lewis. Lewis is not exactly on speaking terms with the truth.

    • http://www.contextflexed.com Flipside

      For the record, which major political movements to improve human life in the United States did you lead, and how long have you been working in Washington that you can impugn the decency of one of the most honorable Congressmen in US history? I want to know, because I don't to slight your life's work.

      • Dr. Doctor

        The sanatorium called. They want to know if you will be returning from your weekend furlough.

    • MinnieM

      Wasn't Lewis the black Congressman who said the sharks were still following the routes of the Yankee slave ships looking for food?

  • mrbean

    From 1955 to 1960, Martin Luther King's associate, advisor, and personal secretary was one Bayard Rustin. Rustin attended the 16th Convention of the Communist Party, USA in February, 1957. One month later, he and King founded the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, or SCLC for short. The president of the SCLC was Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Soon after returning from a trip to Moscow in 1958, Rustin organized the first of King's famous marches on Washington. The official organ of the Communist Party, "The Worker,- – openly declared the march to be a Communist project. Although he left King's employ as secretary in 1961, Rustin was called upon by King to be second in command of the much larger march on Washington which took place on August 28, 1963. Bayard Rustin's replacement in 1961 as secretary and advisor to King was Jack O'Dell, also known as Hunter Pitts O'Dell. According to official records, in 1962 Jack O'Dell was a long time member of the National Committee of the Communist Party, USA.

    • http://www.contextflexed.com Flipside

      Right. MLK was "Communist" in the same way that Nelson Mandela was "Communist." In other words he was opposed to apartheid.

      • mrbean

        The fact is that even Amnesty International refused to take on Nelson Mandela’s case because they asserted that he was no political prisoner but had committed numerous violent crimes and had had a fair trial and a reasonable sentence.
        Nelson Mandela was the head of UmKhonto we Sizwe, (MK), the terrorist wing of the ANC and South African Communist Party. He had pleaded guilty to 156 acts of public violence including mobilizing terrorist bombing campaigns, which planted bombs in public places, including the Johannesburg railway station. Many innocent people, including women and children, were killed by Nelson Mandela’s MK terrorists. South African President P.W. Botha had, on a number of occasions, offered Nelson Mandela freedom from prison, if he would only renounce terrorist violence. This Mandela refused to do. – Invictus Idolatry

      • mlcblog

        No, it's deeper than that. The commies always use acceptable, no one can argue premises to promote their evil agenda of enslavement for all with just their own power elite at the top to decide for all us schmuks and to feel smug in doing away with our freedom which they cannot understand. They gotcha. No one likes apartheid.

    • leon

      Wake the hell up! The white folks didn't want a negro saying nothing back to them in those days. Martin Luther King, told these white folks where they could get off at. Of course he wasn't considered a good negro. This country was putting dogs and police on black people for wanting basic rights, and she considered him to be bad. She was just intimidated to witness a black man who could wrap her ass up like a taco mentally! (lol)

      • arlid321@hotmail.com

        Hey hey, bruthah Leeon, The Half-way House just called to ask if your weekend furlough will, in fact, terminate on Sunday evening. Theys wants you back, Jackson.

  • BLJ

    The MSM's continued infatuation of the Kennedy family is getting tired. JFK was a skirt chaser, who cares? He was never the liberal that the MSM makes him out to be. He also was the last Dem worth anything.

    King was no saint either. Both men are long dead and gone as well as Jackie O. I think it is time for little Caroline to give up the Camelot Myth herself.

    • mlcblog

      I think give her a break. She has lost her whole family. So what if she writes a memoir with Art Schlesinger? It's just more of the tedium but she and lots of people can have some feel-good moments over the heroic myths of JFK. Hopefully, people will catch it if there's any major twisting of historical truths.

  • tagalog

    I suppose it's understandable that right-wingers might succumb to the knee-jerk-reaction syndrome after having observed it and how it has worked over the past 40 years or so, but let's keep a few things in mind:

    1. The Kennedys and Martin Luther King, Jr. were an issue 50 years ago. The main characters have been dead for a long time;

    2. The fact that they're all dead now might not mean much, except that we righties claim that if Thomas Jefferson was a slave-owner and a likely miscegenist it doesn't matter very much because he stood for the right ideas regardless of his private life, and we say that kind of thing about a lot of figures;

    3. If the Kennedys didn't like King or King didn't like the Kennedys, so what?

    • Nina

      So it shows the depths of hypocracy of these admired historical figures.

      • tagalog

        Fifty-year-old hypocrisy isn't interesting or valuable to anyone but historians, and even then its value is pretty minimal. The present interest in it strikes me as rather ghoulish.

  • CRC

    The Kennedys, Hoover, Congress and the military were all fighting against communism, and here comes MLK, Jr., with a worthy cause, yet affiliated and tainted by the same communism this country was resisting. Any wonder why the Kennedys et al, had to try to distance themselves?

    • leon

      Please, don't lose sight! It has nothing to do with Communism, in the 60's most white folk down south couldn't stand the air that a negro breathed! They wanted him to shout the hell up! And be a good negro.

  • Questions

    Good for Jackie. Any sane white woman would have reacted the same way to MLK.

    • Wideband

      Not any sane woman?

    • mlcblog

      I'm with you. He appears to have been quite crude in that way.

    • Comrade F. Marshall

      Did his bad self ever date a whites woman named Stanley Ann Dunham?

  • johnnywoods

    It is well known that MLK was no saint, yet his work in the Civil Rights Movement was a good thing. That being said, no Kennedy gets a pass for their sins either not even Jackie. Now let`s get on to more current issues.

    • Nina

      So history doesn't mean a thing? Just like the tv bred hordes.

  • MarkRich

    I think the funniest aspect of all this garbage is the left wing historians and news media in such deep need to STILL paint the pretty pictures of their icons no matter the evidence against it all. The old Nixon, Reagan, Hoover, Bush Jr. did it syndrome is the only mantra they use no matter how faniciful the circumstances would need to be to make their stories valid. I have lived 56 years listening to how wonderful liberal icons are and I used to get pissed- now I YAWN.

  • American Amused

    Flynn
    Hoover did not "mesmerize " anyone . How old are you Flynn ? Are you just a kid ,who's making stuff up to suit your ideology . HOOVER HAD THE DIRT ON EVERYONE IN WASHINGTON , THAT WAS HIS POWER .
    The constant memes around here are purposed to denigrate MLK . MLK was human as is everyone else , except he had the kahones to move ahead knowing full well he stood a very good chance of being assasinated . Scrubs like you and sophomoric uninformed ,"editorials "like yours , charading as journalism ,can not diminish the man's accomplishments , his courage ,nor his overall character . It's easy to piss on a dead man aint it Flynn ? And the sycophants here suck it up , as usual . As for Jackie 's memoirs you contradict the point you're vainly attempting to make .

    • Truthurts

      If MLK was such a good person why did Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall despise him? King was an opportunist at best, he plagiarized much of his writings, he was a womanizer, & he was always about himself.

  • Mark

    It's all history that should be remembered for what it contributed with an asterisk that no men are created perfect or infallible .

    JFK has been elevated to some sort of hero and MLK to pseudo god status.Neither is true.Their faults were as large as their reported greatness .
    MLK was a plagiarist even in college,his writings are full of other people's work.
    JFK gets the credit for Vietnam and the Bay of Pigs.
    Both used their power to seduce weak,greedy, hanger -on women like Jackie.A few memorable speeches does not make a man a hero,a god or intelligent .
    Their reputed greatness comes from good speech writers and being assassinated .

    • leon

      Mark you are truly amazing! Nothing is new under the sun,-son . MLK, stood up to an entire nation!(The American government) When you look back at those marches, theses are real cops, real dogs, and real bullets. And King confronted them. That take courage! When you look back at that footage of King, this not a reality television show. His real ass was on the line!(lol)

    • MinnieM

      People forget that Kennedy was such a disaster, although daddy Joe's press agents portrayed his failures as victories thanks to a complicit media, that the day before he was assassinated, people lined the freeways and stood in the median on the route from the airport to his speaking engagement site in Louisville KY, with signs saying "Less Profile and More courage." He was so unpopular, contrary to popular beliefs, when news that he had been assassinated was broadcast in the schools, children cheered. Daddy Joe's spin doctors started to work elevating him to sainthood immediately.

  • Amused

    Great small-minded view there Mark . I guess some are just "less perfect than others " . I doubt anyone looks upon MLK as a "psuedo-god " but rather just a good man , who had courage , and gave his life for a cause , and a good cause at that . JFK on the other hand is a contrast , he got elected with much help from papa Kennedy's gangster freinds , took one of Giancono's whores as a girl freind , got to screw and maybe kill Marylin Monroe , and you can take your pick as to who actually was responsible for his assasination . Both had foibles but one a much more clearly defined moral cause and character . Bet you have great trouble differentiating which eh ?

  • Amused

    Great small minded view Mark .Bet you had great difficulty differentiating which stuck more to hios moral compass . But I understand .

  • Amused

    I doubt anyone now or then looked upon MLK as a psuedo-god , but rather just a man with courage , who was willing to , and eventually did give his life .Atleast we know why MLK was killed , as for Kennedy ? take your pick .

  • Nina

    Oh, really? MLK no pseudo-god? You must have been living under a stone. All those streets, boulevards, and monuments, and especially the one on the Mall, and the adulations everywhere don'y mean anything?

    This doesn't mean that he wasn't a great man as his speach: I have a dream, clearly shows. But we must not close our eyes to the truth.

    • nightspore

      Notice how Amused (in the comment below) changes the subject and then acts as if he's refuting you. This is a typical rhetorical trick that I've come to expect from writers of this ilk. As far as I can tell, the motivation here is simply to discredit whoever he's decided to take issue with; in this case, coherence is not really important as long as one can have the 'last word'.

  • Amused

    Well Nina , how many Washington streets are there ? How many Ronal Reagan Parkways are there ? Streets , bridges , Turnpikes ,roads , highways ,I can think of thgousands across the country , that commemorate Presidents , War Heroes etc.
    Using your rationale , all these must "psuedo-gods " ?

    LOL….you can not be serious . I guess a blackman attaining the same status as other Great [white ] Americans , just sticks in your craw eh Nina ? What CAVE have you been living in ?

    • MinnieM

      Yeah…He was so great he was worthy of ursuping both Abe Lincoln and George's Birthdays. His main accomplishment was to inflict a Second Reconstruction of the entire country which has had the same results as the first Reconstruction imposed on the South. Now the whole country is poor, humiliated, down and out and reduced to third world status just like the South. was. It took the South over 100 years to recover from the first Reconstruction which only lasted a few years. This one was imposed 50 years ago and still .ongoing. How many years will it take to dig our way out of this one?

  • Dup

    MLK is seen as a pseudo-god. He is labeled the best thing coming out the US in its entire history and only mentioned in admiration. Little children learn about the pseudo-god in elementary and his image is not presented any differently in basic school, highschool, college or any documentary you will see on him. I do not particularly mind, unless people start to revise history.

  • Dup

    I like the way you pulled out that racecard though, slick. Kudos to you Amused.

  • Amused

    lol….there ain't no racecard , it's a bloody PLACARD . anyone who can read , and hasn't figured that one out is just …well…….stupid .

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