Mimi Alford’s interview with Meredith Vieira on NBC’s Rock Center with Brian Williams was shocking, fascinating, and infuriating.
According to the very believable Ms. Alford, President John F. Kennedy knowingly took her virginity after luring her into his bedroom when she was a newly hired 19 year-old White House intern. Shockingly, this all happened on the first day that she met the man she always referred to as Mr. President.
During the course of the 18-month affair, Mimi was sometimes chauffeured between her college and the White House or other places to be at the President’s beck and call – sometimes waiting for hours at a time alone in a hotel room. Over the course of their secret affair, he gave her drugs at a party and asked her to perform humiliating acts on both his special assistant and his younger brother, Teddy.
Equally disturbing is the fact that to this day, Mimi Alford has no idea how she got the internship. She simply received a letter offering her the job while she was attending an elite East Coast finishing school – the same finishing school from which Jackie Kennedy had graduated. Since neither she nor her parents sought out this coveted internship, one wonders if the duties of JFK’s inner circle of enablers included trolling schools for attractive young girls for their famous and powerful boss. After all, she was only three days into her new internship when she first met the President who summoned her for a “personal tour” of the White House bedrooms.
While JFK’s infidelities are, by now, well known to the public, his preying on an innocent teenager (how many others were there?) and the demeaning things he asked of her were, until now, unknown.
For this reason, NBC felt the need to devote an entire segment after Mrs. Alford’s interview to three of JFK’s biggest fans and apologists – Chris Matthews, Doris Kearns Goodwin and Richard Reeves. It’s pretty hard to imagine NBC affording Ronald Reagan, a far more accomplished and successful president, the same treatment under such explosive and disturbing new charges.
In the segment, the JFK biographers did their best to rationalize his boorish behavior and patch up the PR problem Mimi’s story created for Camelot’s most nostalgic and prolific curators. Kearns, presuming to speak for all Americans, told us we don’t actually expect fidelity in our presidents – just leadership. Reeves assured us that John F. Kennedy never let his extramarital sex life interfere with his awesome presidency and then they all fawningly listed off all the awesome things JFK did.
Ok, they didn’t use the word awesome, but Chris Matthews did end the segment with the following choice quote: “The total picture [of JFK] still arouses the country.”
He’s half right. There will always be Boomers willing to overstate JFKs good looks, and overlook his grating voice and phony family imagery. But for those of us a generation or two removed, the home movies from the family compound and the black and white Kennedy coffee table books just don’t hold the same sway over us. Much to the dismay of his admirers, Mimi’s convincing and unvarnished account of President Kennedy will have a lasting impression on our understanding of the man they still insist is a hero.