History Buzz Michael Beschloss & Caroline Kennedy: Jacqueline Kennedy: Historic Conversations on Life with John F. Kennedy & ABC’s In Her Own Words


History Buzz



Jacqueline Kennedy


Caroline Kennedy, Michael Beschloss. Jacqueline Kennedy: Historic Conversations on Life with John F. Kennedy. Hyperion; Har/Com edition, September 14, 2011

Jacqueline Kennedy: In Her Own Words: Online Video ABC

Jacqueline Kennedy: In Her Own Words: Jacqueline Kennedy’s style, elegance and courage helped to define an era, but she never spoke publicly about her White House years. Four months after her husband’s death, she recorded a series of interviews for history, specifying the tapes not be released until the appropriate time. Now, nearly 50 years later, Kennedy’s tapes have been released to the public in a new book and audio set…. ABC News

In 1964, Jacqueline Kennedy recorded seven historic interviews about her life with John F. Kennedy. Now, for the first time, they can be heard and read in this deluxe, illustrated book and 8-CD set.
Shortly after President John F. Kennedy’s assassination, with a nation deep in mourning and the world looking on in stunned disbelief, Jacqueline Kennedy found the strength to set aside her own personal grief for the sake of posterity and begin the task of documenting and preserving her husband’s legacy. In January of 1964, she and Robert F. Kennedy approved a planned oral-history project that would capture their first-hand accounts of the late President as well as the recollections of those closest to him throughout his extraordinary political career. For the rest of her life, the famously private Jacqueline Kennedy steadfastly refused to discuss her memories of those years, but beginning that March, she fulfilled her obligation to future generations of Americans by sitting down with historian Arthur Schlesinger, Jr., and recording an astonishingly detailed and unvarnished account of her experiences and impressions as the wife and confidante of John F. Kennedy. The tapes of those sessions were then sealed and later deposited in the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum upon its completion, in accordance with Mrs. Kennedy’s wishes.
The resulting eight and a half hours of material comprises a unique and compelling record of a tumultuous era, providing fresh insights on the many significant people and events that shaped JFK’s presidency but also shedding new light on the man behind the momentous decisions. Here are JFK’s unscripted opinions on a host of revealing subjects, including his thoughts and feelings about his brothers Robert and Ted, and his take on world leaders past and present, giving us perhaps the most informed, genuine, and immediate portrait of John Fitzgerald Kennedy we shall ever have. Mrs. Kennedy’s urbane perspective, her candor, and her flashes of wit also give us our clearest glimpse into the active mind of a remarkable First Lady.
In conjunction with the fiftieth anniversary of President Kennedy’s Inauguration, Caroline Kennedy and the Kennedy family are now releasing these beautifully restored recordings on CDs with accompanying transcripts. Introduced and annotated by renowned presidential historian Michael Beschloss, these interviews will add an exciting new dimension to our understanding and appreciation of President Kennedy and his time and make the past come alive through the words and voice of an eloquent eyewitness to history.

“My mother willingly recalled the span of her married life and shared her insights into my father’s private and public political personality.” — Caroline Kennedy wrote


“Suddenly, everything that’d been a liability before — your hair, that you spoke French, that you didn’t just adore to campaign, and you didn’t bake bread with flour up to your arms — you know, everybody thought I was a snob and hated politics. I was so happy for Jack, especially now that it was only three years together that he could be proud of me then. Because it made him so happy — it made me so happy. So those were our happiest years.”

“Renewals of love after brief separations”… “He loved having those children tumbling around him”… He never asked me to change”

Martin Luther King, Jr.: “tricky” and a “phony”; “I said, ‘Oh, but Jack, that’s so terrible. I mean that man is a, you know, such a phony.’… He would never judge anyone in any sort of way. He never said anything against Martin Luther King, Jr.”
“He made fun of Cardinal Cushing and said that he was drunk at it. And things about they almost dropped the coffin. I just can’t see a picture of Martin Luther King without thinking, you know, that man’s terrible.”

France’s Charles de Gaulle: “egomaniac” and a “spiteful man” “He was so full of spite … I loathe the French, they’re really not very nice, they’re all for themselves.”

Indira Gandhi, the future prime minister of India: “prune — bitter, kind of pushy, horrible woman.”

Sukarno, the former Indonesian president: a lecher, he left “a bad taste in your mouth.”

André Malraux, the French novelist: “The most fascinating man I’ve ever talked to.”

Colombian president, Alberto Lleras Camargo: “Nordic in his sadness.”

Mr. Kennedy on Franklin D. Roosevelt: “Charlatan is an unfair word,” but “he did an awful lot for effect.”

President Dwight D. Eisenhower: “Really, he kept us [as a nation] standing still.”

First Lady Mamie Eisenhower: “There was venom or something there.”

Pat Nixon: Kennedy said she worried that the public wanted her to get a “frizzy perm and be like Pat Nixon.”

Lady Bird Johnson: “trained hunting dog.”

On Lyndon Johnson as President: “Jack said it to me sometimes. He said, ‘Oh, God, can you ever imagine what would happen to the country if Lyndon were president?’ And Bobby told me that he’d had some discussions with him … do something to name someone else in 1968”

On Lyndon B. Johnson, as a Vice President: “[He had] an enormous ego … [He] just didn’t do anything.”

On Johnson, after he took office as President: “People will think I’m bitter, but I just want it to be put in context the kind of president Jack was and Lyndon is.”

On her husband becoming President in 1961: “Once he was in control … all the best things would happen.”

On the Bay of Pigs invasion: “He started to cry … just with me. Just put his head in his hands and sort of wept. And, it was so sad. He cared so much … all those poor men.”

On the Cuban Missile Crisis in Octpber 1962 to JFK: “From then on, it seemed there was no waking or sleeping…. If anything happens, we’re all going to stay right here with you. “[I told John] please don’t send me away to Camp David … Even if there’s not room in the bomb shelter in the White House, which I’d seen…. I just want to be with you, and I want to die with you, and the children do, too — than live without you….
That was the time I was closest to him, I never left the house or saw the children. I stayed by his side.”

Eunice Kennedy Shriver: “She wanted to be a cabinet wife.”

On Joseph Jr. as President: “He would have been so unimaginative, compared to Jack.”

On Democratic governor of Texas, John Connally: “Jack was so sweet. He sort of rubbed my back … and said, ‘You mustn’t say that, you mustn’t say that.’ If you start to say or think that you hate someone, then the next day you’ll act as if you hated him.”

White House speechwriter Theodore Sorensen had a “big inferiority complex” and was “the last person you would invite at night.”…
“You know, Jack forgave so quickly, but I never forgave Ted Sorensen.” (On Sorenson encouraging the perception that he had ghostwritten her husband’s Pulitzer Prize-winning “Profiles in Courage.’)

On being asked if Mr. Kennedy was religious: “Oh, yes. Well, I mean, he never missed church one Sunday that we were married or all that, but you could see partly — I often used to think whether it was superstition or not — I mean, he wasn’t quite sure, but if it was that way, he wanted to have that on his side.
It was just like a little childish mannerism, I suppose like brushing your teeth or something. But I thought that was so sweet. It used to amuse me so, standing there.”

“I think he probably did it … rather thinking it might be such a brilliant thing to do because Vietnam was rather hopeless anyway, and put a Republican there.” — Jackie said JFK, a Democrat, had named Henry Cabot Lodge, a Republican he had defeated for a Massachusetts Senate seat in 1952, as U.S. ambassador to Vietnam because JFK was so doubtful of military success there.

“All these twisted poor little women whose lives hadn’t worked out … [They had] this queer thing for power…. resented getting their power through men
I get all my opinions from my husband, which is true. How could I have any political opinions? His were going to be the best…. Women should never be in politics, we’re just not suited for it.”

Schlesinger asks young John if he knows what happened to his father.
“He’s gone to heaven,” the boy replies.
Schlesinger asks what he remembers.
“I don’t remember ANY-thing,” John says playfully.

Jacqueline Kennedy recalled a 1962 White House conversation between Kennedy and historian David Donald about Abraham Lincoln’s presidency:
“‘Do you think’ – it’s the one thing that was on his mind — ‘would Lincoln have been as great a President if he’d lived?’ And Donald, really by going round and round, had agreed with him that Lincoln, you know, it was better — was better for Lincoln that he died when he did.”


“I think people really need to understand the purpose of an oral history. And it really – the value of it is it is immediate, it is honest. I think that was very brave of her to do that and to be honest. But it’s got limitations. It’s just – it’s a primary source document. It’s like a diary or something like that, it’s really a snapshot.

This was something where she felt the obligation to be honest and she had always told us that she was going to put it away for 50 years.

There are flashes throughout where I hear her and there are parts to me where it sounds like it was a very long time ago, just the way she speaks and the things she said.

It was funny because my daughters listened to it too and they were just absolutely horrified… ‘Did she really think that?’ And of course time has moved on and it shows you both there are many timeless things in here but it really is a snapshot of a world that we barely recognize.” — Caroline Kennedy on ABC’s Good Morning America

  • Caroline Kennedy on Jacqueline Kennedy’s ‘Brave’ Tapes: My Daughters Were ‘Absolutely Horrified’ at Some OpinionsABC News, 9-14-11
  • In Tapes, Candid Talk by Young Kennedy Widow: The seven-part interview conducted in early 1964 — one of only three that Mrs. Kennedy gave after Mr. Kennedy’s assassination — is being published as a book and an audio recording. In it, the young widow speaks with Arthur M. Schlesinger Jr., the historian and Kennedy aide, about her husband’s presidency, their marriage and her role in his political life. They do not discuss his death. The eight and a half hours of interviews had been kept private at the request of Mrs. Kennedy, who never spoke publicly about those years again before she died in 1994. The transcript and recording, obtained by The New York Times, offer an extraordinary immersion in the thoughts and feelings of one of the most enigmatic figures of the second half of the 20th century — the woman who, as much as anyone, helped shape a heroic narrative of the Kennedy years. Though the interviews seem unlikely to redraw the contours of Mr. Kennedy or his presidency, they are packed with intimate observations and insights of the sort that historians treasure…. – NYT, 9-12-11
  • Jacqueline Kennedy: In Her Own Words, Historic Conversations on Life with JFK: Hundreds of books have been written about the presidency of John F. Kennedy. Countless documentaries have been made, thousands of testimonials and oral histories given.
    But for almost 50 years, one voice was silent: Jacqueline Kennedy’s.
    Now, in an ABC News exclusive, Diane Sawyer will anchor a two-hour 20/20 special in September in which America will hear Jacqueline Kennedy’s conversations for the first time, put in context by historians and by the woman who knew her best: her own daughter…. – ABC News, 5-25-11
  • ABC News Kennedy Special Most Watched Program at 10pm: ABC News Special “Jacqueline Kennedy: In Her Own Words” averaged 8.4 million Total Viewers and a 2.1 rating/5 share among Adults 25-54 and 1.5 rating/4 share among Adults 18-49 for its two-hour broadcast, according to Nielsen Media Research. … – ABC News, 9-14-11
  • Did NBC spoil ratings for ABC’s Jackie Kennedy special?: Seventeen years after her death, Jacqueline Kennedy remains a big draw, especially with newly released recordings that find her dishing dirt on everyone from President Lyndon Johnson to Indian leader Indira Ghandi. But a rival network may have spoiled the big party ABC planned for the event.
    ABC’s two-hour special “Jacqueline Kennedy: In Her Own Words” delivered 8.4 million total viewers Tuesday night, according to Nielsen. Host Diane Sawyer picked her way through hours of tapes the former first lady made with historian Arthur Schlesinger Jr. in early 1964, just months after President Kennedy was assassinated. In the recordings, Jacqueline Kennedy glowingly recounts life with her husband but bashes leaders such as LBJ, Martin Luther King Jr. and Charles de Gaulle…. – LAT, 9-14-11
  • Jackie Kennedy Book Shoots to No. 1 on Amazon, Barnes & Noble: Jacqueline Kennedy: Historic Conversations on Life with John F. Kennedy, debuted at #1 on both Amazon and Barnes & Noble bestseller lists today, its first official release day. Early leaks of the book, which contains the transcript and CDs of the audio recordings of 8.5 hours of interviews Jackie Kennedy did with noted historian Arthur Schlesinger in March 1964, less than four months after the assassination of President John Kennedy, had been the subject of intense media jockeying over the last week. The book also contains introductory essays from Caroline Kennedy and presidential writer Michael Beschloss.
    The book was under a strict sales embargo to protect the exclusive for ABC News’ Diane Sawyer-hosted special, Jacqueline Kennedy: In Her Own Words, that aired last night. Some bookstores broke the embargo and The New York Times, the AP, and NBC News acquired early copies last week. Much to the dismay of executives at Disney and ABC, NBC aired audio excerpts on Friday night’s NBC Nightly News with Brian Williamsand followed with additional reports on MSNBC over the next few days. The publicity surrounding the ABC-NBC squabble and the early leaks certainly helped book sales. Eleven days ago, the book was not on Amazon’s Top 100 sellers list but as the publicity grew it steadily rose through the rankings to land at No. 1 today…. – Hollywood Reporter, 9-14-11
  • Audio tapes reveal Jackie Kennedy’s catty side: It wasn’t for her iconic stature as former first lady and wife to a Greek a shipping magnate. And it wasn’t for her doe-eyed beauty and fabulous haute couture wardrobe.
    As in the French salons she tried to bring to the White House, it was because of the conversation – the gossip, mainly, and the way she could skewer an acquaintance with just a few words.
    In the just-released book and audiotapes, made from interviews she gave almost 50 years ago, we get these examples…. – CBS News, 9-14-11
  • Audio tapes reveal Jackie Kennedy’s catty side: Now we know why Jackie Kennedy was such a sought-after dinner guest. It wasn’t for her iconic stature as former first lady and wife to a Greek a shipping magnate. And it wasn’t for her doe-eyed beauty and fabulous haute couture wardrobe.
    As in the French salons she tried to bring to the White House, it was because of the conversation – the gossip, mainly, and the way she could skewer an acquaintance with just a few words…. – CBS News, 9-14-11
  • In Her Own Words: Audio Tapes Reveal New Details of Jacqueline Kennedy’s Life: Jaqueline Kennedy is forever enduring in the national memory for her poise, grace, and impeccable style. But little is known about how she really felt about her years in the White House and of her relationship with President John F. Kennedy. Now, the world is privy to rare details of the presidency and private life thanks to an oral history of the president, conducted with the widowed First Lady in early 1964, just months after his assassination.
    The 8.5-hour-long series of audio interviews, as well as transcripts, are being released this week as a book entitled “Jacqueline Kennedy: Historic Conversations on Life with John F. Kennedy.” The interviews were conducted by Arthur M. Schlesinger Jr., a historian and Kennedy aide who was close to the family. Previously locked up in the Kennedy Library, the tapes are being released 47 years after they were first conducted. They’re chock-full of juicy gossip and surprising details of the iconic couple’s life…. – Time, 9-12-11
  • New book and audiotapes show new and more personal side to Jackie Kennedy: It’s a side of Jacqueline Kennedy only friends and family knew. Funny and inquisitive, canny and cutting.
    In “Jacqueline Kennedy: Historic Conversations on Life With John F. Kennedy,” the former first lady was not yet the jet-setting celebrity of the late 1960s or the literary editor of the 1970s and 1980s. But she was also nothing like the soft-spoken fashion icon of the three previous years. She was in her mid-30s, recently widowed, but dry-eyed and determined to set down her thoughts for history.
    Kennedy met with historian and former White House aide Arthur M. Schlesinger Jr. in her 18th-century Washington house in the spring and early summer of 1964. At home and at ease, as if receiving a guest for afternoon tea, she chatted about her husband and their time in the White House. The young Kennedy children, Caroline and John Jr., occasionally popped in. On the accompanying audio discs, you can hear the shake of ice inside a drinking glass. The tapes were to be sealed for decades and were among the last documents of her private thoughts. She never wrote a memoir and became a legend in part because of what we didn’t know.
    The book comes out Wednesday as part of an ongoing celebration of the 50th anniversary of President Kennedy’s first year in office. Jacqueline Kennedy died in 1994, and Schlesinger in 2007…. – AP, 9-13-11
  • Remembering Jacqueline Kennedy: Tomorrow Hyperion will release a set of Jacqueline Kennedy oral histories in book and audio format. The Times yesterday published excerpts from the tapes and tonight ABC will air a two-hour special on them. Mrs. Kennedy’s candid remarks about members of her husband’s Administration and other public figures, such as Martin Luther King, Jr., have already generated much controversy and discussion…. – New Yorker, 9-13-11
  • Jacqueline Kennedy’s candid look at life with JFK: In the conversations, Kennedy, then 34 years old, also recalls her time in the White House with her husband, John F. Kennedy, as “our happiest years.” The tapes, which have been kept under seal at the Kennedy Library, were released by Caroline Kennedy, 53, who was editor of the book Jacqueline Kennedy: Historic Conversations on Life with John F. Kennedy, being published this week by Hyperion. Conducted by Arthur Schlesinger Jr., the historian and Kennedy friend and aide, the interviews capture both the intimacy and Cold War tensions at the Kennedy White House…. – USA Today, 9-14-11
  • Will the Jackie Kennedy Tapes Change the Way You Think of Camelot? Audio tapes and book reveal a seven-part interview with Jackie Kennedy conducted in 1964: A 1964 seven-part interview between Jackie Kennedy and Kennedy historian Arthur Schlesinger Jr. was published as a book and audio tapes Wednesday. The interview was conducted soon after John F. Kennedy’s assassination as part of an oral history of the Kennedy presidency. The tapes were kept under wraps at the first lady’s request, but were finally released by her daughter Caroline to mark the 50th anniversary of the Kennedy administration.
    The tapes provide an intimate look of the marriage between Jackie and the president, as well as her perspective on the people and events that made up the “Camelot” era. In excerpts released in advance, she warmly recalls the 45 minute naps President Kennedy would take—in his pajamas—in the middle of each day. She also recounts the anxiety of the Cuban Missile Crisis, during which she says she told her husband, “If anything happens, we’re all going to stay right here with you. I just want to be with you, and I want to die with you, and the children do, too—than live without you.”
    Some of her remarks in the interview are much more controversial. She calls French President Charles de Gaulle an “egomaniac,” civil rights leader Martin Luther King a “phony,” and Indian Prime Minister Indira Gandhi “a real prune—bitter, kind of pushy, horrible woman.” She also remembers the president saying of his vice president Lyndon B. Johnson, “Oh, God, can you ever imagine what would happen to the country if Lyndon were president?”
    Some who have already heard the tapes describe them as “explosive.”… – US News, 9-12-11
  • ‘Jacqueline Kennedy: In Her Own Words’: Did Diane Sawyer’s special change your opinions about Jackie O?: On the eve of the release of historian Michael Beschloss’ new book, Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis: Historic Conversations on Life with John F. Kennedy, Diane Sawyer hosted a two-hour long special chronicling the previously unheard eight-and-a-half hours worth of audio of the former First Lady.
    The ABC special — watch it here — featured the revealing interviews that historian Arthur M. Schlesinger, Jr. conducted with Mrs. Kennedy just four months after the assassination of President John F. Kennedy, as well Sawyer’s interview with Caroline Kennedy, who revealed why she opted to release the tapes to the public now…. – EW, 9-14-11
  • Listening to the other voice in the Jackie Kennedy interviews: The voice of Jackie Kennedy’s interviewer belongs to the late historian and former JFK aide Arthur M. Schlesinger, Jr., whose writings are again timely in this tea-party era. He noted that the Founding Fathers embraced government as a vital help, not an obstacle, to progress…. — CS Monitor, 9-15-11
  • Jackie: JFK mused on own assassination: John F. Kennedy joked about his own possible assassination in the wake of the Cuban Missile Crisis, according to recently released tapes of former First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy.
    The tapes, which were the product of conversations with historian and former White House aide Arthur M. Schlesinger Jr. in the spring and early summer of 1964, have been released in book form as part of an ongoing celebration of the 50th anniversary of President Kennedy’s first year in office…. – CBS News, 9-14-11


    “It’s certainly not the Jackie that we knew later on. By then, she’s a different woman.” — Doris Kearns Goodwin, the historian and wife of Richard Goodwin, a Kennedy aide, said in an interview

    The Jackie Kennedy tapes: Catty, but won’t change history: “If people are looking for revelations about her, they will not find them. What I think they reveal is an unerring, all-observing eye…. She did not want to be implored and lobbied by people who wanted her to influence policy, so she assumed a public persona of the ‘anti-Eleanor Roosevelt.’ She was very tactical — almost like a spy.” — Carl Anthony, one of the country’s leading experts on first ladies — WaPo, 9-12-11

    “This book shows Jackie Kennedy unplugged. A lot of the rawness of her feelings, I think, as a young woman — she’s is only in her 30s when she is doing these tapes in 1964 — is very different from the more poised and discreet Jackie Kennedy we got to know in the 1980s and 1990s….
    I “was close to Arthur Schlesinger, the professor. He died a few years ago. Ted Sorensen, one of the other keepers of the flame, died, and I think Caroline Kennedy thought, it’s the 50th anniversary right now of the Kennedy presidency, and this is sitting there, and it was time to let her mother have her say, and decided to come public with this.” — Historian and CBS News analyst Douglas Brinkley on the “Early Show”

    Michael Beschloss: I was surprised that she seemed to have so much influence on JFK’s attitudes toward the people who worked for him. For instance, she she says she disliked Secretary of State Dean Rusk and wished JFK would fire him. He told her he intended to do so in 1964. Others she admired, like Robert McNamara, the Defense Secretary, did extremely well in the Kennedy government. She may not have been the only reason, but what she privately told JFK didn’t hurt. There are many other instances of this in the book.

    Her voice has been virtually missing from the thousands of books written about the Kennedys in the past half-century. After all that’s been written about her, it’s illuminating to listen to her speak for herself without that kind of filter.

    She occasionally would stop the recorder and ask Schlesinger if she should discuss such-and-such. As he later recalled, he almost always told her, “Say everything — you control the tape.” — EW, 9-14-11

    Catherine Allgor: Historian Offers Insight on Jacqueline Kennedy: Catherine Allgor, UC Riverside expert on American first ladies, calls Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis a “woman of her time and place.”
    Jackie Kennedy, Allgor says, “was a woman of her time and place.” “Her articulateness, her insight, her apparent education juxtaposes uneasily with her little-girl wistfulness and her aching insecurity. The Jacqueline we see in photographs and waving at crowds gives an impression of confident command, but the woman so happy that she has made her husband proud has more in common with her infamous relative, ‘Little Edie’ of Grey Gardens (the rundown mansion where Jackie Kennedy’s aunt and first cousin, Edith ‘Big Edie’ Bouvier Beale and Edith ‘Little Edie’ Bouvier Beale lived). Both were women of refinement and intelligence trapped in privileged worlds ruled by men. Both tug at the heart strings.”
    Popular consensus is that the Jacqueline Kennedy tapes won’t add much to our understanding of that period of U.S. history, Allgor says. She disagrees: “That depends on whose history. Her remarks about her marriage and how she felt about herself, about men and women, show Americans how much feminism changed our lives, and how far we have to go.” — UCR Newsroom, 9-14-11

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