UPDATE: ABC News continues to dribble tantalizing details from its trove of Jackie Kennedy oral history interviews, which it plans to air on Tuesday in a two-hour Diane Sawyer special.
In between breathless descriptors of the footage, the network’s latest report focuses on Mrs. Kennedy’s relationship with her husband and the family’s home life in the White House. The intensity of JFK’s thousand days, it seems, brought the couple closer.
In the interviews, conducted in early 1964, she recalls his whirlwind presidency as “our happiest years.” She recounts insisting that come nuclear war, she and the kids stay with him in the White House rather than being sent somewhere safe. “I just want to be with you, and I want to die with you, and the children do too—(rather) than live without you,” she recalls telling her husband.
Adding to the romanticism are her remembrances of JFK’s foreboding about his own untimely death. The president had agreed with friends that Abraham Lincoln’s legacy was improved by his assassination, and in his exultation and relief at the conclusion of the Cuban Missile Crisis, he said, according to his widow’s account: “Well, if anyone’s going to shoot me, this would be the day they should do it.”
In the wake of his shooting, she grappled with a version of the debate that echoes today about the relationship between inflammatory speech and political violence. She concluded that ads such as one in a Dallas newspaper depicting JFK along with the text “Wanted for Treason” were partly to blame for the assassination.
POST Friday at 3:19 p.m.: Did Martin Luther King, Jr., really make snide comments at John F. Kennedy’s funeral? Did he try to arrange a sex party while in town for the March on Washington?
Those were among a series of claims that the notorious FBI director J. Edgar Hoover whispered to the Kennedy family in the 1960s in a bid to undermine the civil rights leader’s influence in the White House. Newly released tapes show that they profoundly upset JFK’s widow, Jackie Kennedy, in the months after her husband died.
“I just can’t see a picture of Martin Luther King without thinking, you know, that man’s terrible,” Mrs. Kennedy said at the time, according to ABC News.
She made the comments in a series of oral history interviews with the historian Arthur M. Schlesinger, Jr. in the spring of 1964. ABC acquired the tapes, sealed until now, and plans to air portions of them on Tuesday in a two-hour TV special anchored by Diane Sawyer.
The comments about MLK are among the most surprising that the network has so far revealed. Friends and family of both King and the Kennedys say they were the result of manipulation by Hoover and don’t reflect Jackie Kennedy’s overall opinion of the civil rights icon. She attended King’s funeral in 1968.
Hoover made the damaging allegations based on secret wiretaps of King, which he had arranged. What those surveillance tapes actually say remains unclear. They are scheduled to remain sealed by court order until 2027.
Other revelations from the oral histories include JFK’s apparent fear of a Lyndon B. Johnson presidency. Jackie Kennedy told Schlesinger her husband was “worried for the country” should LBJ succeed him in office, and was trying to find away to keep him from the Democratic nomination in 1968, which would have marked the end of Kennedy’s second term.