Love the Kennedys and Nobody Gets Hurt

“You can’t believe the calls I’m getting,” Little, Brown publisher Sarah Crichton told me and my agent, Joni Evans. Crichton said she’d been warned that she had been fooled by a greedy trickster. If she published my book, she and Little, Brown would look like fools.

Some of the stern conversations, Crichton told me, were with Esther Newberg and Gary Ginsberg, two confidants of Caroline Kennedy. The two exemplify the kind of standard-bearer on which this generation of Kennedys relies. Newberg, an executive vice president at International Creative Management, is Caroline’s literary agent. She earned her entrée to the family as one of the famous “Boiler Room Girls” with whom Ted Kennedy was partying before he drove off the bridge at Chappaquiddick. Newberg has never publicly spoken of that tragic night, earning the family’s trust and gratitude.

Gary Ginsberg, a lawyer, was a friend of John Jr.’s at Brown University who worked as an editor at George and also served as the magazine’s legal counsel. Ginsberg would eventually hitch his wagon to Rupert Murdoch, whom he served as a kind of back-channel dealmaker. In fact, John had recommended him for that job.

Ginsberg would reportedly later persuade Murdoch to spike a story in his New York Post about the rowdiness of Caroline’s teenage daughter Rose; Caroline eventually wrote a letter of recommendation to Brearley, a fancy girls’ school in Manhattan, on behalf of Murdoch’s daughter Grace. In 2008, when Caroline made her embarrassing sort-of Senate run, Murdoch’s Post, not known as a friend of Democrats, endorsed her. Caroline, in return, helped arrange a phone call between Murdoch and then–presidential candidate Barack Obama. Ginsberg eventually received a place on the board of the JFK library.

This is how it works with the Kennedys: Powerful people do things for them, and in return, they become known as friends of the Kennedys. The networking possibilities are epic, the social prestige even greater. It’s like being conferred an honorary doctorate by American history.

With the surrogates of Jack, Bobby, and Ted, the motivation to join the club was generally ideological, a loyalty based on common values and goals. Now that there are no Kennedys holding major public office, it’s more pragmatic — money, power, society, and, sometimes, self-esteem. Being friends with a Kennedy makes some people feel important. “When you’re dealing with personalities like the Kennedys, you’re dealing with a cult,” one Kennedy biographer told me. “Not even a group of friends. Admiration is too soft a word. It’s a cult.”  

Though she may not have dictated the specifics of the campaign against me — the people who carried it out assured her of plausible deniability — I have no doubt that Caroline Kennedy knew exactly what was going on. How do I know this? Because I wrote her letters describing what people whom she knew were saying about me. She did not write back.

  • Dave

    Excellent piece, Richard.

    I am proud to say that I was a George subscriber since day one. I thought the magazine you and John created was fresh, exciting, and way ahead of its time.

    I miss George and wish we had a magazine like that today. Often wonder what kind of coverage George would have given our post-9/11 world.

    Hope you are well. Thanks for this article and keep up the good work!

  • Joyce

    I WAS 16 YRS OLD DURING THE BAY OF PIGS. AT THE TIME, I THOUGHT JFK WAS ODIOUS>. TODAY, I WOULD HAVE VOTED FOR HIM. I FOUND THE MINI-SERIES TO HAVE OFFERED A COMPLES AND SYMPATHETIC PORTRAYAL OF ALL THE MEMBERS OF THE FAMILY, SEPECIALLY JOE, ROSE, AND ETHEL. I FELL IN LOVE , ALL OVER AGAIN, WITH JACKIE. AND I THINK KINNEAR CAPTURED EXACTLY THE ESSENCE OF JFK, THOUGHTFUL ENERGETIC, A CREDIT TO HIS COUNTRY. THEY WERE BOTH SO FULL OF HOPE AND PROMISE AS I ARRIVED IN DALLAS. OUR WORLD CHANGED IN 2 SHORT HRS. I BELIEVE THIS FILM WOULD BE OUTSTANDING FOR YOUNG PEOPLE TO SEE SO THEY COULD SEE WHAT A PRESIDENT OF PRINCIPLE IS REALLY LIKE. WE HAVE NOT HAD ONE IN A LONG TIME!!

  • Robbins

    Why would anybody expect anything else from this bunch?….here in flyover country,we don’t see Nazi Joe’s brood as ‘royalty’…we see them as ‘Anerica’s Mick dog$h!t’..and they have acted accordingly for the last half century or so

  • JeffW

    I thought the series was excellent,a good historical peek into the Kennedys.

  • Judy

    Run the series!! Thanks for a great artical! I will never understand the “powerful and infulencueal” people in charge think Americans can’t handle the truth! Big deal Jackie smoked! Or JFK ran around, and had a potty mouth….So What! He’s still bigger than life and we still love them! They were our First Family and nothing can change that.