Some unedited comments made by former first lady Jackie Kennedy just after her husband President John F. Kennedy was killed will be remembered not only for their historical value, but also because of their candid nature. Remarks she made about Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. have been highlighted in recent days for their inflammatory nature.
This Wednesday, a book (entitled Jacqueline Kennedy: Historic Conversations on Life with John F. Kennedy) and audio recording of a seven-part-interview conducted in 1964 with Arthur M. Schlesinger Jr, and Kennedy will be released, featuring the controversial statements .
In this oral history Jackie Kennedy questions King’s authenticity as a civil rights leader, calling him “phony”, “tricky” and saying: “that man’s terrible,” according to a report by the Associated Press. The New Yorker magazine has suggested: “These interviews will surely be most useful to the sort of historian who has an ear for unreliable narration.”
MSNBC’s Andrea Mitchell filed a report on the Kennedy comments yesterday, also mentioning other references Kennedy made in her oral history, which daughter Caroline decided to release unedited. In Mitchell’s report she provides some context to the negative comments towards King, mentioning former FBI director J. Edgar Hoover’s involvement with “trying to incite division between the Kennedys [Robert and John] and Dr. King.” Her report mentions that J. Edgar Hoover told her that King was heard in FBI wiretaps making crude comments about Jackie Kennedy kissing her husband’s coffin during Bobby Kennedy’s funeral.
WATCH ANDREA MITCHELL DISCUSS JACKIE KENNEDY ON MSNBC:
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Historians agree that Hoover was preoccupied with the idea that King was allying himself with communists. “King’s crusade depended to some extent on the physical, moral, and financial support of liberal, well-meaning whites, and Hoover and other FBI figures knew that,” says Professor Lewis V. Baldwin.
“I am absolutely convinced that Jackie O’s anti-King sentiments resulted from anti-King propaganda on the part of FBI sources. These sources were determined to also destroy King’s connections with the most powerful people in this country,” he says.
“I doubt seriously that King made negative comments about John Kennedy’s funeral,” says Baldwin, who is a professor of Religious Studies at Vanderbilt University and co-authored the book, Legacy Of Martin Luther King, Jr.: The Boundaries of Law, Politics, and Religion. “This would have been totally out of character for Dr. King.”
It been widely reported that members of the government had an agenda to bring down King during the 1960s. John Whitehead of The Rutherford Institute wrote in a 2006 essay, Spying on Martin Luther King, that “Hoover had a personal vendetta against King.” He also talked about the various ways FBI agents were keeping tabs on him, “One ‘bug’ hidden at the Willard Hotel during King’s stay yielded 19 reels of tape that allegedly picked up information about his extramarital affairs,” he wrote. Kennedy was responding to hearing the details of the wiretaps when she spoke ill of King.
Dr. King’s penchant for infidelity has also become something of an open secret over the years. However, Dr. King’s defenders have oft-argued that his personal misdeeds should not overshadow his significant impact on advancing the cause of civil rights.