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LIVE FROM THE HEADLINES

Kennedy Controversy

Aired July 2, 2003 - 19:44   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: Well, yesterday we reported on a controversial new book about the late John F. Kenned Jr. and his wife, Carolyn Bissete. The book, called "the Kennedy Curse," claims Carolyn was a -- well, coke addict who was obsessed with an ex-boyfriend while John was on the verge of calling the marriage quits just days before their fatal plane crash. Excerpts were released in the new issue of "Vanity Fair" magazine and now more friends of John Kennedy Jr. are coming forward to refute the charges.
One of those friends joins us tonight, John Perry Barlow.

Thanks for being with us. Now how did you know the couple?

JOHN PERRY BARLOW, JFK JR. FRIEND: Well, John came to work -- I used to be a cattle rancher in Wyoming and John came to work on my ranch when he was 17. It was probably his first paying job and we had a very close, even familial relationship from that point on.

COOPER: And you maintained all through his life?

BARLOW: Yes.

COOPER: When you -- did you know about this book that was being written?

BARLOW: No.

COOPER: Did -- you were never contacted about it?

BARLOW: No. No, I had -- until the day before yesterday I never heard of that.

COOPER: When you read this article, the book excerpted in "Vanity Fair," some of the things that come out of it, largely from unnamed sources, what did you think?

BARLOW: Well actually, what I read first, and which still infuriates me just as much, was "The New York Post" Shamelot article which passed off the unattributed, unsubstantiated information in the story as though it were gospel, which I think is even more reprehensible than the "Vanity Fair" piece, actually.

COOPER: The portrait of these two that was painted not only in this article but I presume in the book --- larger book, was this the couple you knew?

BARLOW: No.

COOPER: In what way?

BARLOW: I mean, these people -- you know, look, first of all, they were human beings. They were godlike human beings, you know? And I felt that way even close up. But they were human and they had troubles like anybody else. Part of what bothers me is the assumption that somehow if you're famous you've either got to be a fairy tale or you've got to be a catastrophe. And they were neither a fairy tale nor a catastrophe. They were human.

But what I see in this book is basically lies and to the extent that it isn't lies it's distortion.

COOPER: I mean, a lot of the sources that we talked about -- in this article at least that were quote, because that's really all I've seen are totally unnamed. I mean, it's all --- I mean, one of them is a person who is sitting next -- allegedly sitting next to Carolyn Bisset having his toenails painted and overheard her discussion allegedly.

BARLOW: This is the lowest kind of journalism. I mean, I could go out and write a book demonstrating that Richard Nixon was a child molester using unattributed quotes and unnamed sources and because he's dead and therefore can't sue and because his family can't sue on his behalf, I'd get away scott free.

And that's exactly what's going on here. Ed Klein is doing something for economic gain that has no basis in fact and he knows he's safe because they're too dead to defend themselves and the families in question don't want to get any on them. They don't want to wrestle this tar baby.

COOPER: And I suppose as a friend of the couple, it's -- you're in this sort of Catch 22 because if you don't say anything, this stuff just remains throughout and if you do say something there's the fear that it just generates more publicity.

BARLOW: This has really been a terrible dilemma. When this came up, my first response was to just dummy up. But I had a feeling that if I didn't say something, I didn't know who was going to.

And, you know, quite apart from the invalidity of these charges, I think that, you know, everybody needs to stop at this point and take stock. When you're sliming people for either monetary or political reasons, who are dead about matters that are nobody's business. I mean, even if all this were true, it's not our business.

COOPER: That's certainly true. It's no one's business.

BARLOW: You know, it's not as if we have some God given right to know the inside of their marriage simply because they were famous. This does not depict the inside of their marriage, but even if it did it would be wrong. COOPER: All right. John Perry Barlow, appreciate you coming in and talking.

BARLOW: Thanks.

COOPER: Thank you.

Well, earlier this week we contacted both "Kennedy Curse" author Edward Klein as well "Vanity Fair." They said they are standing by the book and the decision to excerpt it.

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