Storm in a (Mimi) Teacup
(Initially published at reopenkennedycase.net on 2/7/2012)
Let me say right now, I have a few problems with the latest Kennedy scandal.
Problem One: the accusation that a bunch of clueless young things without any secretarial skills were hired as interns to be the play things of JFK and pals.
It simply isn’t true. Or at least, it certainly was not what Barbara Gamarekian told Dallek. The mild Ms Gamarekian was incensed enough by what Dallek wrote that she sent a letter of complaint to the editor of the New York Times dated May 25, 2003 and which I will quote here in its entirety:
To the Editor:
In my oral history for the Kennedy Library that Robert Dallek drew upon for his book ”An Unfinished Life: John F. Kennedy, 1917-1963,” I never used the term ”intern” (which resonates so today) in speaking of Mimi Fahnestock, who worked for two summers in the White House press office.
During a recent conversation with a former co-worker in that office, I observed, ”We didn’t even have an intern program back then, did we?”
My former colleague replied: ”But don’t you remember? Nora Ephron worked for us one summer as an intern.”
Nora Ephron! Surely I would have remembered Nora Ephron!
So thank you, Ms. Ephron, for your delightful ”All the President’s Girls” (Op-Ed, May 18).
It brought back vivid memories of that happy, congested workspace where we all operated within arm’s length of each other.
It is true. There was no extra desk.
There it is. There was NO INTERN PROGRAM. One intern hired by Pierre Sallinger… future script-writer, Nora Ephron.
And what did Ms Ephron have to say in “All the President’s Girls”? She didn’t remember ever meeting Mimi and laments being the only girl JFK had contact with that he didn’t make a pass at!
Problem Two: the timing.
2003: the story breaks the year of the 40th anniversary of the assassination.
2012: the story breaks out again in the lead up to the 50th anniversary with the release of a tell-all book by Ms Whatevernamesheusesthesedays.
Problem Three: relates to problem two. You see, here is what Ms Mimi said in 2003:
(excerpt from The Age, May 17, 2003)
Ms Lewinsky levered her fame into a tell-all book, a handbag business, and, most recently, a television job as host of a dating show, Mr Personality.
Mrs Fahnestock, now 60, revealed no such ambitions yesterday and issued a curt statement. “From June 1962 to November 1963, I was involved in a sexual relationship with President Kennedy. For the last 41 years, it is a subject that I have not discussed,” she said.
“In view of the recent media coverage, I have now discussed the relationship with my children and my family, and they are completely supportive.
“I will have no further comment on this subject, period. I would request that the media respect my privacy and the privacy of my family in this matter.”
Book launch anyone…?
Problem Four: The so-called “Bahamas Incident”
Here is how it was reported in 2003 – from the same Age story as above:
In the Bahamas, Mimi was spotted by aides after the Macmillan summit hiding in one of the cars waiting to take the president to the airport. According to the transcript, “they walked over and looked in the car and here seated on the floor was Mimi.”
The aides said nothing and neither did the press, who knew all about JFK’s girls. Mrs Gamarekian said at the time: “This is the sort of thing that legitimate newspaper people don’t write about or don’t even make any implications about. It was kind of a big joke.”
Okay. You got it? “They” ALL knew about it because “they” ALL saw it. Or did they? I mean, you don’t really forget things like that, do you?
Yet here is what TIME reported on May 26. 2003:
Mimi surfaced in a roundabout way. At the Kennedy Library, author Robert Dallek, when writing his new J.F.K. biography, An Unfinished Life, came across an oral history done in 1964 by one of the gentlest, most ardent Kennedy supporters in existence, Barbara Gamarekian. In it Gamarekian, who had worked in the White House press office and later became a reporter for the New York Times, talks about Mimi; but she had embargoed that section of her reminiscences. Dallek persuaded her to release it.
At first, the old White House reporters had a hard time recalling Mimi. But at a monthly luncheon last week, we pieced together sightings of her slipping out of Air Force One and confirmed Gamarekian’s account of the top of a female head being seen in one of the limousines in Kennedy’s motorcade at the 1962 Bermuda summit with British Prime Minister Harold Macmillan. When staff and reporters looked in, Mimi was sitting on the floor of the car like a child playing hide-and-seek.
So… at a Press piss up… they “pieced” it together after initially NOT RECALLING HER AT ALL? Well, that’s certainly solid evidence for it! I can just imagine how that conversation went…
Problem five: The church
Her former employer was The Fifth Avenue Presbyterian Church which has a long association with Republican Big Wigs including Bush II advisors such as Glenn Hubbard back to Charles D Hiller, Sr. chairman of the GOP National Committee from 1912 to 1916, and national committeeman from New York from 1920-1937.
Problem Six: Mimi’s alleged lack of qualifications to work with the WH press gang…
She had been editor of her college newspaper. In any case, apparently there was nothing to type on in her work area.
Did Kennedy have a fling with Mimi? Who knows? Probably? Maybe? No? What is certain is that the story has been beaten up to within an inch of it’s life. There was no intern program (real or pretend) and ergo, no gaggle of gigglers at JFK’s disposal. The only intern there at the time laments that she was not seduced by Kennedy. The two times the story has hit the headlines have been just prior to major anniversaries regarding the assassination – with such stories cutting away at the public’s ability to care about the fact that Kennedy was taken out by a coup d’etat. Despite reports that “everyone” remembered her and her liaisons with Kennedy – the Times exposed that as a lie in 2003 when it revealed no one recalled her that really should have – until they all got together for a “luncheon” and “pieced” it together.
A tour of the web tells me that there is little or no skepticism about this story at all. It is being accepted by just about everyone as the Gospel Truth.
A two-fingered salute to the Power of the Big Lie.
Just as I suspected. Barbara Gamarekian had no personal knowledge of any sexual relationship between JFK and Mimi Beardsley.
From her Oral History interview:
“There were some cute young attractive girls who worked with us in the White House and who went swimming with Dave Powers and the President and went on trips and Mimi turned up the following year when she was back in school on a trip to Nassau when the President and McMillan [M. Harold McMillan] and she also showed up at Palm Springs. Obviously she was flown out on one of the Air Force planes.
I don’t know what the relationship was. It was one of those areas where I’m not anxious to know and I hadn’t many opportunities to inquire. Most of these stories were told to me all second hand, and I think there are people who are no doubt going to be interviewed who can be a good deal more candid about this area of the President’s life than I can be.
It is enough to say that the White House Press Corp and the people working in the White House were very much aware that there were lots of fun and games going on.
Later in the interview, there is also this comment:
But of course, the Press Corp–I don’t think saw Mimi in Nassau…
So what are we left with? Barbara Gamarekian had no personal knowledge. It was all hearsay and innuendo.
Now we also know that TIME was right in 2003 when it stated that no one in the old Press Corp remembered Mimi – and therefore also had no memory of any liaisons with the Commander-in-Chief in Nassau. Gamarekian herself had said in the oral history interview that they did not see Mimi during that trip. But then, in 2003, this group of old scribes convinced themselves over a few drinks that they did in fact, remember her.
Another part of the oral history interview – together with the alleged Nassau incident may paint a very different picture: one of a spoiled rich kid used to getting what she wants and aggressively pursuing it.
It seems – despite claims that Mimi went on ALL the trips – she somehow missed one to Ireland. She was left to work with an “older woman” who refused Mimi’s request to have a Friday off. Mimi’s reaction is very telling. She phoned Kennedy in Ireland to complain and apparently had wanted the woman fired! She did not get her way.
As for Nassau: Gamarekian stated in the interview that she presumed Mimi had been “hiding in the car for several days” after being flown there by the Air Force. The problem is that at the time, Mimi was not even working in the White House. If she turned up in Nassau, it is more likely she got there under her own steam on the day she was allegedly seen, and somehow managed to get access into the car. Pursuit of what she wanted.
But the deeper one digs into this story, the more you have to doubt it.
Here’s a quick run down.
1964, Gamarekian gave an oral history interview in which she hinted at – but did not spell out – a sexual relationship between Mimi and JFK – based solely on hearsay and rumors she had heard.
2003: Robert Dallek talked Gamerekian into opening the file on this part of her interview for his Kennedy bio. He refers to Mimi as an “intern”. Gamerekian complains to a major newspaper claiming she never used the word “intern” and hinting that Dallek was only using it because of the Lewinski affair. Moreover, she states that there was no intern program and is reminded by a former colleague that the only intern there at the time was Nora Ephron. Ephron, meanwhile writes an Op-Ed piece stating that she has no memory of Mimi and that Kennedy never made any moves on her personally (much to her chagrin!). Mimi is located and gives a statement confirming she had a sexual relationship with Kennedy and that she had no more to say on the matter – ever. TIME reports that the Press Corp has a hard time remembering Mimi – until they start discussing her during a regular luncheon get-together. Then (no doubt with the drinks flowing), they “piece it [the Bahamas incident] together” – despite this being impossible if Gamerekian’s 1964 interview is correct – that they had not seen her in the Bahamas at all.
2012: Mimi has an upcoming tell-all book on her alleged affair with Kennedy. It, by all accounts, has much that is so outlandish, it is hard to imagine anyone but those with an agenda would swallow it. This includes such gems as JFK telling her he would rather his kids be “red than dead” and him spending time with her during the Cuban Missile Crisis. Other tidbits are a direct rip-off of other “tell-all” Kennedy books, including allegations of drugs and other forms of abuse. In short, it has the hall-marks of conservative / intelligence propaganda – all just in time to turn people away from giving a damn about the upcoming 50th anniversary of the assassination.
It is time people stopped swallowing this stuff without at least a cursory examination of the evidence.