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The Impact of the JFK Intern Scandal in Major Markets' Gossip Columns

Aired May 16, 2003 - 20:51   ET


DARYN KAGAN, CNN ANCHOR: Well a new biography now reports President John F. Kennedy had an affair with an intern. But he didn't have Ken Starr, so we didn't actually learn about it until this week when Ken Dallek's book came out.
Thursday a 60-year-old woman named Marion "Mimi" Fahnestock identified herself as having a sexual liaison with the president back in 1962 and '63. Affairs of state and otherwise don't always change the course of history, but sometimes they can.

Joining to us talk about some affairs to remember, "Washington Post" columnist Lloyd Grove. He writes "The Reliable Source" gossip column. With me right here in New York is "Daily News" columnist George Rush. And in Los Angeles is "Extra" correspondent Michael Bryant.

Gentlemen, good evening, great to have you here with us.


KAGAN: George, I'm going to start to my left here. "New York Daily News," it was huge headlines when you're braking the news that JFK had an intern. How has it been playing here in New York City?

GEORGE RUSH, "NEW YORK DAILY NEWS": People eat it up. It surprises me frankly a little bit. Because you think, is there anything left to find out about the Kennedys? But you put the words "White House intern" and "JFK" together and people will read that story. It's just amazingly after all the serious and trashy biographies of the Kennedys, there was a lover no one knew about.

KAGAN: Who knew there was a still a tidbit out there?

RUSH: I know. So it's a little something for everyone there.

KAGAN: Lloyd, how is this playing in D.C.?

LLOYD GROVE, "THE RELIABLE SOURCE": Well I think people are getting nostalgic for the good old days when the president can have an affair and it wouldn't result in an impeachment. I mean, a lot of the Clinton people I think are saying, ah-ha, see? He did it too and he didn't pay any consequences!

But look. This is Mimi Fahnestock who kept the secret for 41 years. Didn't even tell her family. Compare that to Monica Lewinsky who just e-mailed 20 of her closest friends about it.

KAGAN: Yes, she had a few more people to spare.

GROVE: Told Linda Tripp who told Lucianne Goldberg. I mean I think this points up the differences between JFK and Bill Clinton.

KAGAN: And to Los Angeles to see how it's playing in the land of scandal. Mike, how's it playing out there?

MICHAEL BRYANT, "EXTRA" CORRESPONDENT: Well really, and maybe because it is the land of scandal, just kind of a hiccup. Maybe minor indigestion, a little flurry there. But not really a big deal. We're too desensitized. I mean this is where Hollywood couples have little extramarital issues as often as maybe they change wardrobes for given movies or other projects. So it hasn't really rippled the waters that much out here.

KAGAN: (UNINTELLIGIBLE) you know you've seen it all out in the land of Hollywood.

Hey, Lloyd, you had a chance to talk -- you actually broke the story of the woman who broke the story. What was it like talking to her?

GROVE: Well, this all came out of an oral history by Barbara Ganarekian, who's now 77, a White House staffer in the '60s for Kennedy, and then went to work for "The New York Times." She's a very soft-spoken woman. She's hardly the kind of person you'd find at the center of a presidential sex scandal.

And frankly, she doesn't know what to do about this. Because she's getting calls from, as she puts it, inside this and inside that, wanting her to dish about Kennedy, and she won't do it. And now her neighbors are getting calls, the woman live going her basement is getting calls, and even her ex-husband is getting calls. And he called her, says, I'm getting all theses calls. What do I do? Should I give them your number? So she's a bit shocked by all of this.

KAGAN: Yes, and, George, I want to ask you about this woman. Mimi Fahnestock, this is a name we know now, we've seen her picture, we saw her getting stalked down the street by the television cameras. Do you feel as a gossip guy just even a little bit of remorse? You make your living off celebrities and people who put their faces out there. This woman wasn't looking for anything.

RUSH: Yes, I suppose. Except that she seems to be taking it with a good deal of aplomb. And there's actually talk that she might make a few dollars if she ever wanted to do a book or something.

I think it's extraordinary, though, that she did keep this secret this long. And even from her grandchildren. Imagine your grandmother finding out she slept with JFK.


RUSH: Hats off to you, Grandma. You just really have a new respect for her in a way.

KAGAN: But this is a woman, she hadn't even told her own daughters. Talk about telling no body. She had told nobody.

RUSH: Yes. I mean, she's really -- talk about a dying breed in this age, where no one felt compelled to spill. I have to respect that. But it's out now. At this stage in her life...


KAGAN: Hey, Mike, how about you?


BRYANT: ... because she sat on this thing for so long. She was the only one really suffering because had she come out earlier I don't know that things would have been any different. So she sat on this thing welling up in her for 40 years.

One thing I do want to point out, and this is a similarity between Hollywood couples and JFK who kind of cloaked himself with this Camelothian charm. That's a word I just made up, so don't look that up. But it's this Teflon status, that do what you want to do, it's not going to stick. Stars see that all the time. We hear bad things about stars all the time. But it just doesn't stick.

And I think if you look at Meg Ryan and her problems with Dennis Quaid and Russell Crowe, that little trifecta. Or Julia Roberts, Danny Modor and his wife. The wife being the, quote, "innocent victim" in that case.

I think you see the same thing. We like these people. JFK always looked good in a suit or he smiled, we liked him. And so we're quicker to forgive these things. Very similar between the JFK situation and the stuff that goes on here in Hollywood.

GROVES: I think JFK's Teflon is in large respect because he's dead. He was the mythic president who was cut down before his time. So that was Teflon, but it was heavily (UNINTELLIGIBLE).

KAGAN: I'm going to have to make that the last word. We had budgeted a lot more time for this, but because of our breaking news out of Casablanca not as much time as we would have liked.

Gentlemen, thanks for spending a little bit of time on this Friday evening with me. Appreciate it.


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