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CNN PEOPLE IN THE NEWS
America's Royal Family: The Kennedys
Aired November 16, 2003 - 19:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
ANNOUNCER: Next on PEOPLE IN THE NEWS, they're America's royal family, in the spotlight for more than 80 years.
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CHRISTOPHER ANDERSEN, AUTHOR, "SWEET CAROLINE": You got power, wealth, glamour, beauty, and unspeakable tragedy. These factors, obviously, make it irresistible.
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ANNOUNCER: Their every move played out in the press.
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GAYLE FEE, "THE BOSTON HERALD": The Kennedy family, whether you love them or hate them, are always a great story.
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ANNOUNCER: A family tainted by scandal.
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LAURENCE LEAMER, AUTHOR, "SONS OF CAMELOT": There are people who hate the Kennedys. They delight in this kind of gossip.
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ANNOUNCER: A name steep in tradition.
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ROBERT DALLEK, AUTHOR, "AN UNFINISHED LIFE": Now, they've been schooled to be public servants, to serve in the national interest. They really carry this burden, one might say, of idealism.
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ANNOUNCER: A look at a generation who grew up in the shadow of Camelot.
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UNIDENTIFIED MALE: These are individuals and they fight for their individualism.
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ANNOUNCER: From service to scandal...
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UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I was kissing her.
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ANNOUNCER: ... through triumph and tragedy. On the 40th anniversary of a president's assassination, a look at those who carry on the Kennedy name now on PEOPLE IN THE NEWS.
PAULA ZAHN, HOST: Hi, welcome to PEOPLE IN THE NEWS. I'm Paula Zahn. November 22, 1963, shots rang out in Dallas. President John F. Kennedy is assassinated and a nation and family are changed forever. Some 40 years later, the Kennedys continue to fascinate, to intrigue, but tragedy and scandal has taken its toll. Now, the future, the legacy of America's royal family rests with the Kennedy children, the third generation. With a look at their stories, their triumphs, their failures and their ongoing devotion to politics and public service, here's Jonathan Mann.
JONATHAN MANN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): They were America's royal family, blessed with an abundance of wealth, good looks, charm, athleticism and over time, power.
DALLEK: The Kennedys gave people hope as early as the 1920's and 30's. They had nine children. They were a kind of classical American family, up from the bootstraps, achieving, you know, moving on, having a kind of dynamism that Americans love.
MANN: The Irish-Catholic clan led by Joe and Rose Kennedy represented the American dream and they became the country's first media darlings. The press breathlessly followed them at work and play. With their luxury vacation homes and fancy toys, the Kennedys every day lives were the stuff of other people's fantasies.
LEAMER: The Kennedys are the ultimate immigrant drama. It's what we all wanted to be when we came here, and they became it.
MANN: With a fortune estimated at $300 million, the wildly ambitious Joe Kennedy was one of the richest men in the world.
HUGH SIDEY, FORMER WASHINGTON BUREAU CHIEF, "TIME" MAGAZINE: And that fortune back in those days, $300 million, nobody -- you couldn't even conceive of it. Not even the oil barons of abroad -- I think -- and this was incredible.
MANN: He got his start in banking, but rumors of rum running during prohibition; shady business dealings and underworld connections dogged him. Desperate for legitimacy and respect to go with his money, the one-time ambassador to Great Britain and chairman of the Securities and Exchange Commission began hatching a plan for his sons. DALLEK: The next generation of big people in America said they're not going to be in business, they're going to be in government. He understood that big business, corporations, were now in bed over the cost of the Depression and that the weight of authority was going to be in Washington, in the hands of the federal government.
MANN: The pursuit of public service and the power that went along with it became the family's supreme goal.
LEAMER: The strangest thing about Joe Kennedy, see who this -- there was this man who said he was a natural sinner. He was a conniving, manipulative, self-involved person whose loyalties did not go beyond his immediate family and yet he taught his children and his grandchildren that they must give back. He truly loved America and as inexplicable as it is, that was the most genuine thing about him.
MANN: So in 1960 when John Fitzgerald Kennedy made a run for the White House, it was a dream come true for his father. The handsome young man along with his lovely wife was a made-for-TV candidate.
JOHN FITZGERALD KENNEDY, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: It's a pleasure to have you here. And I want you to meet my daughter, Caroline, and my wife, Jackie.
DALLEK: The TV cameras are able to capture Jackie, his beautiful wife, Jacqueline, these very attractive, frolicking children.
SIDEY: Jackie was just sensational. She was an exotic beauty, different, but beautiful. Of course, he rarely took a bad picture. He had the profile and the big, thick head of hair, which I am jealous of, of course, and always have been. But -- and teeth and all the things that go together.
MANN: The glamorous couple also had another thing going for them, their daughter.
ANNOUNCER: His daughter, Caroline's, third birthday, and a proud and happy little girl turns church-going into a playful romp.
ANDERSEN: Caroline, at the time, was the darling of the media, the darling of America, the biggest thing since Shirley Temple in a sense. There were Caroline dolls, Caroline books, Caroline games.
MANN: As the newly elected president was finalizing plans to move into the White House, the birth of his namesake added another sensation to the first family.
ANNOUNCER: John Fitzgerald Kennedy Jr., first baby to be, was whisked by, heavily swaddled, against the subfreezing weather.
MANN: The first lady hated seeing her children in the papers all the time. But the president loved it.
LEAMER: When Jackie was out of the White House, the president came and whistled in all of the press photographers into the White House to take pictures of his kids because he knew that was politically advantageous.
DALLEK: He didn't want to invade his children's privacy. He was sensitive to what Jacqueline felt. But on the other hand, he understood that a president doesn't any more have an entirely private life, that everything he does becomes kind of a risk for the public mill.
MANN: Affection for the first family seemed to go beyond politics. The public was genuinely attached to the Kennedys.
SIDEY: Suddenly, here is this young man and his wife who bring this beauty and eloquence and grace and intelligence. So I think all of those things kind of came to you. There were probably a million parts that just kind of came together at that time in our national life, and it worked.
MANN: The youth and vitality of John and Jackie Kennedy; presidential brother and attorney general, Robert Kennedy, his wife, Ethel, and their growing group; Teddy Kennedy, fresh-faced and newly elected to the Senate, the entire family seemed committed to making America better.
When John F. Kennedy was assassinated on November 22, 1963...
ANNOUNCER: There has been a shooting. Parkland Hospital has been advised to stand by for a sever gunshot wound.
MANN: It was an abrupt and violent end to a golden era.
ANNOUNCER: President Kennedy has been assassinated. It's official now. The president is dead.
DALLEK: Kennedy's speechwriter and White House counsel, Ted Sorenson, says that after Kennedy died people said to him that they felt Kennedy's loss more than the death of their own parents. And Sorenson thinks it was because when their parents died they lost a piece of the past, but when Kennedy died, they lost a part of the future.
MANN: Five short years later, the murder of Robert Kennedy again shook the nation. But it was the 29 grandchildren of Joe and Rose Kennedy who would suffer the greatest loss and take on the greatest burden. They were left to grieve and carry on the family name. The most poignant symbol of that grief was the heart-wrenching image of a 3-year-old boy saying good-bye to his father.
Next on PEOPLE IN THE NEWS, JFK Jr. grows up in the public eye.
JOHN FITZGERALD KENNEDY JR, SON: Thank you. Thank you very much.
ANNOUNCER: We now return to PEOPLE IN THE NEWS. (BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)
JFK JR.: The answers to the most frequently asked personal questions are as follows: yes; no; we're merely good friends; none of your business; honest, she's my cousin from Rhode Island; I've worn both; maybe some day, but not New Jersey. Thank you.
MANN (voice-over): That cheeky moment said it all. Things had come full circle for John F. Kennedy Jr. The country so interested in his well being as a 3-year-old child was still hooked on him 30 years later.
GLEICK: We grew up as a nation with this young man. We watched him from birth on. He didn't just kind of land in the middle of adolescence here, in the middle of his 20's as some brand new celebrity. We saw his entire childhood.
DALLEK: People were forever trailing him around, the press, the media, the photographers, the paparazzi, but he handled it very well with a -- I think a kind of dignity and a kind of good sense.
MANN: John's mature and confident adult persona was very different from the rambunctious little boy Americans had come to know.
ANDERSEN: John was a rascal. John would, you know, misbehave quite frequently, as a matter of fact, but it was often left to Caroline to say, "Stop that, John. Behave yourself. You're a big boy now."
LEAMER: He was that kind of a kid. He was always, you know, falling over the table or doing some impious act.
MANN: But neither his parents nor his sister could get mad at him. They were a very close-knit family drawn ever closer by tragedy.
ANDERSEN: The three of them were a unit. I think, as John said, you know it as Jackie, John and Caroline.
MANN: But in 1968 Jackie Kennedy became Jackie O., marrying Greek shipping tycoon Aristotle Onassis.
GLIECK: John and Caroline, for a time, while they grew up, were removed from the Kennedy clan because their mother had remarried and had remarried somebody who couldn't have been more different from the rest of the Kennedys.
MANN: They struggled to accept their stepfather and to forge their own identities. For John, that meant breaking rank with some long held Kennedy traditions.
LEAMER: Well, John was going to live his life and living his own life -- and that he wasn't going to go to Harvard. He wasn't go to go into the footsteps of his father and grandfather. He chose Brown. And Brown, when he -- when John entered it, it was a place you went to if you couldn't get into real Ivy League schools. MANN: Those attending Brown with John Jr. could often catch him and his hair on stage in campus plays. By the time he graduated in 1983, his acting talent was getting noticed, but John's mother wasn't thrilled.
GLIECK: He wanted to be an actor and she disapproved. And that it was her influence that made him go to law school.
JFK JR.: I was looking forward to taking the bar this summer and following...
MANN: Though John placated his mother by getting his law degree from NYU; he upset her by dating celebrities like Darrel Hannah, Sarah Jessica Parker, Julia Roberts, Brooke Shields, and Madonna.
GLIECK: He and his mother were very close, but I think it's also true that she exerted a very powerful hold on him. There was much over the years about which -- his girlfriend she approved of and which she disapproved of.
MANN: But it wasn't just John's girlfriends that were landing his name in the papers, despite his job as an assistant district attorney, John Kennedy couldn't escape tabloid taunts when it came to the bar exam.
JFK JR.: You know God willing I'll be back here in July and I'll pass it then, or I'll pass it the next time, or I'll pass it when I'm 95.
ANDERSEN: He handled the attention with great grace, I think, and a tremendous sense of humor. You know when you fail your bar exam twice and the headlines are everywhere, "The Hunk Flunks" and "The Hunk Flunks Again," it's humiliating.
MANN: Despite these episodes, the relationship between John and the press had been a good one.
ELIZABETH MCNEIL, DEPUTY NEW YORK BUREAU CHIEF, "PEOPLE" MAGAZINE: John was incredibly glamorous, sexy, handsome, gregarious, outgoing guy, and you know, he courted the press in his own way, and he had fun with it.
JFK JR.: It's no news day, I guess.
MCNEILL: One of his best friends once said he missed them if they weren't there.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: John Fitzgerald Kennedy Jr.
MANN: But almost over night, John F. Kennedy Jr.'s star power exploded.
JFK JR.: Thank you very much.
MANN: In 1988, the son of a beloved president became a full- blown icon in his right. ANDERSEN: He made an appearance before the Democratic National Convention and America was stunned by the transformation of this young guy. I mean here was a perfect combination, in terms of his appearance, of Jack and Jackie Kennedy. He took everyone by complete surprise. And from that point on the sex symbol John F. Kennedy Jr. was born.
MANN: Then came the magazine covers. "People" named him the sexiest man alive. His picture was everywhere.
GLIECK: He was rollarblading down the streets of New York. And he was riding his bicycles around. And he was playing Frisbee in the park with his shirt off.
MANN: But when John Kennedy appeared in front of the cameras on his own terms in September of 1995, he was fully dressed...
JFK JR.: Ladies and gentlemen, meet George.
MANN: ... and on a mission to introduce his newest venture. The magazine, "George" was John's attempt to get the public as interested in politics as he was.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I never looked so good.
LEAMER: John could have published some policy want magazine that all the eggheads in Washington would think was wonderful and be read by 10 people. He didn't do that.
MCNEIL: If Cindy Crawford was on the cover with her bare midriff, more people might open up the magazine and read about congressmen or what was going on in Washington D.C. And there was nothing wrong with that in his mind.
MANN: JFK Jr. was also tending to his personal life. He was seeing Carolyn Bissett. The strikingly beautiful publicist for designer, Calvin Kline, captured the heart of America's most eligible bachelor.
GLIECK: John Kennedy was really attracted to Carolyn Bissett because she was so like his mother in terms of her beauty, in terms of her style, in terms of her coolness and her elegance. He fawned on her. He couldn't get enough of her.
MANN: Neither could photographers especially when the passionate couple was at odds.
GLIECK: There was one very public incident where Carolyn and John had a fight in Central Park and I believe she hurled their -- her engagement ring back at him. It -- everywhere they went they were dogged by the media.
ANDERSEN: Carolyn Bissett was not accustomed to being in the limelight the way Caroline and John were. Occasionally, Caroline would call Carolyn Bissett and give her some tips on how to handle the paparazzi, which were, you know, camped outside their doorstep. MANN: When the couple got married in a top-secret ceremony in September 1996, the glare got even brighter.
When PEOPLE IN THE NEWS continues, a desperate search and another Kennedy tragedy.
ANNOUNCER: Welcome back to PEOPLE IN THE NEWS.
MANN (voice-over): He had the looks and he had the charisma, but did he have the desire? That was the question continually posed to John F. Kennedy Jr., heir apparent to the most famous political dynasty in America.
SIDEY: The pressure was immense on him to try to pick up the mantle.
MANN: But it wasn't exactly clear that that was the life he wanted for himself.
GLIECK: John Kennedy once said that, "if you're father's a doctor and all your uncles are doctors, and all your cousins are doctors and everybody in your family talks about medicine all of the time, chances are you're going to wind up being a doctor." But then he said, "Or else you'll be a baker."
MANN: With the 1995 debut of "George," his politics and pop culture magazine, some wondered if he was flirting with the obvious choice.
JFK JR.: I like not being in politics. I like the proximity to it that a magazine like this affords me. And -- but I'm just clearly fascinated. I mean I think it gives you a view on large issues of the day that few other professions do. So how can you not be thrilled by it?
MANN: There was talk that he would run for senator for New York, but romantic notions of a continuing Kennedy reign faded on one foggy summer night. It was July 16, 1999, a private plane piloted JFK Jr. carrying his wife, Carolyn, and her sister, Lauren Bissett went missing over the Atlantic Ocean. The Coast Guard finally recovered the wreckage on July 23 and the entire country mourned the loss of America's favorite son.
GLIECK: It was staggering that yet another Kennedy had met tragic ends, and in particular, that it was this Kennedy because he really was so beloved or so familiar to so many of us.
MANN: But no one felt the death of John Jr. more deeply than his big sister, Caroline. ANDERSEN: They would speak to each other on the phone every day. They would have lunch together sometimes two, three times a week. And whenever people spotted them, they'd be laughing.
MANN: The close bond between brother and sister was legendary.
ANDERSEN: John was born two days before Caroline's third birthday, so she was told that he was her birthday present. And she believed it. And from that point on, I mean no two siblings were...
ANDERSEN: ... following her brother's death, you never saw her lose her composure in public. And yet, behind the scenes, she was crumbling and she was devastated. If it hadn't been for Teddy Kennedy and Maria Shriver, who was counseling her on how to handle her grief, she never would have gotten through that time.
MCNEIL: She took a very public bike ride at the compound and it was a surprising thing for some, but yet, it almost sent the message as if she was carrying on that she would be strong.
MANN: This was clearly a strength she had inherited from her mother. They were extremely close. But Caroline was not the mirror image of Jackie.
MCNEIL: There might have been a little bit of teenage rebellion in the early years. You know Caroline did not like to dress up. Her hair was a bit on the long and loose and frizzy side. She wasn't suave like her mother, and there was a little bit of tension there.
MANN: It wasn't easy being the daughter of one of the most stylish women in the world.
ANDERSEN: Caroline's response to the pressure from her mother to lose weight was to rebel in her own fashion. At one point, she shaved off one eyebrow just to prove to her mother that she didn't really care about looks.
MANN: In 1975, the free-spirited Caroline graduated from Concord Academy and headed to her father's alma mater.
ANDERSEN: Caroline's choice of Harvard as the school to go to says a great deal about her continuing affection for the memory of her father and wanting to live up to what he would have expected.
MANN: Though strongly connected to her past, Caroline looked to her future. She graduated from Harvard in 1980 and started a job in the film department of the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York. She loved her job and soon she fell in love at her job with an artist and museum designer named Edwin Schlossberg.
ANDERSEN: They hit it off instantly. He was 13 years Caroline's senior. Jackie loved Ed Schlossberg from the beginning.
MANN: In 1986, after four years of courtship and some gentle nudging from her mother, Caroline and Ed tied the knot.
MCNEIL: One of the funniest things that happened that day was the press yelled out to Caroline that day, "What name will you go by" because, of course, there was a lot of intrigue if she would Caroline Kennedy, Caroline Kennedy Schlossberg. And she said, "Well, Caroline." And you know that's sort of Caroline in a nutshell.
MANN: In the years since, Caroline has worked very hard to keep her private life just that, private.
DALLEK: She's kept her children sort of out of the limelight and really given them the chance to grow up without the burden of being constantly harassed by the press, the media, the photographers.
MANN: But the camera shy, Columbia Law School grad, and mother of three has, at times, brought attention to herself. She's made the rounds on television promoting her books, and she even introduced her uncle, Teddy, at the 2000 Democratic National Convention in Los Angeles.
MCNEIL: She knows that her name has power. She knows that she has a place in the family that's very special and that nobody else has, and she uses it when she needs to.
MANN: After Jacqueline Kennedy's death in 1994, Caroline replaced her mother on the boards of several charities.
DALLEK: Caroline Kennedy Schlossberg is very good at this. You know she's not in public life, but of course, she's a public figure. And so, she lends her name to good causes and education and charity.
MANN: And now, she's lent her name to the beleaguered New York City Department of Education, taking a fundraising post for the yearly salary of $1.00.
ANDERSEN: Caroline has raised something in the neighborhood of $50 million for the New York City public schools in just a few short months. I mean she was the person behind the Dave Matthews concert in Central Park. She's very imaginative, has tremendous stores of energy.
MANN: An energy born from commitment and from pain.
ANDERSEN: She's constantly reliving the tragedies in her life with each anniversary of, you know, an assassination or a death. And yet, she just keeps going on and taking on a heavier and heavier workload who would flatten anyone else, frankly.
MANN: It's the legacy she's been handed as the sole survivor of Camelot.
LEAMER: Caroline would never have become the public person you see today if her brother had lived. It's nothing that she had chosen. She chose it because that was what's left of her. That responsibility was left to her.
MANN: When PEOPLE IN THE NEWS returns, politics, scandal and the future. The third generation of Kennedys carries on.
ZAHN: Welcome back to PEOPLE IN THE NEWS. To be born a Kennedy is to be born into a life of privilege and power. But it is also a life of intense public scrutiny. The Kennedy is often both a blessing a curse. Here again is Jonathan Mann.
JFK SR.: I, John Fitzgerald Kennedy, do solemnly swear...
MANN (voice-over): January 1961, inauguration day.
JFK SR.: ... and I will faithfully execute the Office of President of The United States.
MANN: Words from a young president that challenged a nation.
JFK SR.: The torch has been passed to a new generation of Americans.
MANN: Words that became the foundation of an era known as Camelot.
JFK SR.: Ask not what your country can do for you; ask what you can do for your country.
MANN: A gospel of public service handed down from Joe Kennedy to his children and to their children, the so-called third generation of Kennedys.
KERRY KENNEDY, ACTIVIST: We grew up in a family where public service was really valued. So whenever we got involved, we had a tremendous amount of positive reinforcement as children.
DALLEK: Now, they've been schooled to be public servants, to serve in the national interest. And they really carry this burden, one might say, of idealism.
MANN: The third generation of Kennedys originally consisted of 29 first cousins. The eldest is Kathleen Kennedy Townsend. She was 12 years old when John F. Kennedy was assassinated. The first-born daughter of Robert Kennedy, her father challenged her to carry on the legacy.
KATHLEEN KENNEDY TOWNSEND, ELDEST THIRD GENERATION KENNEDY: He wrote me a letter saying, you know, "I hope" -- "I think you understand what happened. You have a special responsibility to Joe and to John, to my brother, Joe, and to John, and" -- "as the oldest and be kind to your country."
TOWNSEND: How are you doing? Thank you.
MANN: Townsend took her queue, following her father and uncle into politics. In 1986, she lost a congressional race, becoming the first Kennedy ever to lose a general election.
TOWNSEND: We will make a difference.
MANN: She rebounded though, becoming lieutenant governor of Maryland. But last year, Townsend squandered a double-digit lead and lost her bid to become governor.
KAREN TUMULLY, NATIONAL POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT, "TIME" MAGAZINE: Most people thought it was just a matter of time, whether she made herself -- her way onto a national ticket. The only question was on -- in the number 1 spot, running for president or the number 2 spot, running for vice president. You don't hear people talking about Kathleen Kennedy Townsend that way anymore.
REP. PATRICK KENNEDY (D), RHODE ISLAND: How are you doing today?
MANN: The most visible member of the third generation currently in office is U.S. Representative Patrick Kennedy, a son of Senator Ted Kennedy.
P. KENNEDY: How are you this morning?
MANN: He began his political career as a 21-year-old college student, when he was elected to the Rhode Island state legislature with plenty of help from his family.
P. KENNEDY: The rumor is there's more Kennedys than voters in the 9th recently.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm Patrick's brother. I appreciate your vote.
TUMULLY: His famous cousins, including John Jr., were actually working the polls that day. And you could get your picture taken with John Jr. And if you were -- if you were a voter in that district, as you were walking into the polling booth, the Polaroid would be developing right in your very hand. It was just all about star power.
MANN: Patrick Kennedy is now in his fifth term in Congress and has used his family name as a major fundraiser for the Democratic Party. However, the Kennedy name is not automatic on trade to politics.
PATRICK ROGERS, SENIOR EDITOR, "PEOPLE" MAGAZINE: There was a day that if you wanted to run for office and your last name is Kennedy, I think, you just had to call up the family headquarters and they mobilized the machine and started the money rolling in, and the votes too. Those days are over.
TOM OLIPHANT, COLUMNIST, "BOSTON GLOBE": One of the things that this generation has learned -- and I don't care whether you're a Kennedy, a Rockefeller, or a Grabowsky. No nomination is automatic much less any election.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Good morning.
MANN: Several Kennedys have considered runs for public office but decided against it. The most recent, former Philadelphia prosecutor, Max Kennedy and William Kennedy Smith, who was acquitted of much publicized rape charges in 1991, and is now a doctor in Chicago.
ANDERSEN: I think a number of the Kennedys have chosen not to go into politics specifically because they've seen what's happened to other members of their family who weren't prepared for the level of scrutiny that they would have to undergo.
MANN: Ironically, the most high-profile third generation Kennedy in politics today didn't run for office, John F. Kennedy's niece, Maria Shriver, wife of California Governor-Elect Arnold Schwarzenegger.
LEAMER: Here is this wife who's been there from the time she was a little girl who saw these (INAUDIBLE) in her house and saw her father run for president, and saw her -- her father went for vice president on the Democratic ticket. She knows what it's all about.
OLIPHANT: She validated him for people with left to center political views, liberals. The message was he is not going to hurt vulnerable people.
MANN: Shriver also played an important role during the final days of the California recall election when allegations surfaced that her husband had groped women.
MARIA SHRIVER, THIRD GENERATION KENNEDY: You can listen to all the negativity and you can listen to people who have never met Arnold or who met him for five seconds 30 years ago, or you can listen to me. I advise you to listen to me.
ROGERS: The theater of it, the political theater of it was brilliant. Beautiful Maria Shriver, an independent journalist, a very smart woman, kissing her husband over and over again, saying, "I love this man. I know this man. You can vote for him."
MANN: The result, a Schwarzenegger victory and the surreal sight of members of the most prominent Democratic family in America celebrating a Republican victory.
ROGERS: Somebody asked Eunice Shriver, "What are doing up here? What's it like campaigning for a Republican? What's fun about that?" And she had a one-word answer, "Winning."
MANN: But the majority of third generation Kennedys interested in public service have chosen to work outside the political arena.
OLIPHANT: Part of it is that you profile is lower. But the other part of it is this seems to be where it's at. You can probably do more for the environment and the Sierra Club than you can as a freshman in Congress.
JOE KENNEDY, THIRD GENERATION KENNEDY: (UNINTELLIGIBLE), how are you?
MANN: Joe Kennedy, a son of Robert Kennedy, who served 12 years in Congress, now heads the Citizen's Energy Corporation, a non-profit that provides heating oil to the needy. Robert Kenney Jr. is a prominent New York environmentalist. And Tim Shriver, a brother of Maria, is director of the Special Olympics, founded by his mother, Eunice.
TIM SHRIVER, THIRD GENERATION KENNEDY: This family is not about entitlement or any of these kinds of values. It's about trying to make a difference. And we were always, I think, all raised to believe that if you were given a chance to make a difference, you should try and you should do it on behalf of those that need it most.
MANN: When PEOPLE IN THE NEWS continues, Kennedy fame turns into tabloid fotter. America's fascination with its royal family, especially when they get into trouble.
ANNOUNCER: Now back to PEOPLE IN THE NEWS.
MANN (voice-over): For more than 80 years the Kennedy aura has been woven into the fabric of American life.
FEE: The Kennedy family, whether you love them or hate them, are always a great story.
ROGERS: I think the Kennedys stand for two things in our culture. There's public service and politics and all of that grand stuff, and then, they are also a lightening rod for scandal.
MANN: Thirty-four years ago, a deadly accident at Chapaquitic was followed by front-page allegations of drunken driving and sinister motives. Kennedy behavior has been in the spotlight ever since.
FEE: They're an ongoing soap opera. There were sagas. And when you'd hear the latest it's like you're hearing something about, you know, your aunt or your uncle.
MANN: And over the decades, the scrutiny has grown more intense.
MARILYN MONROE, ACTRESS: Happy birthday Mr. President...
MANN: Even President John F. Kennedy's infidelity, once hidden, has become public knowledge.
MCNEIL: Certain things were left unsaid even if everybody knew that it was going on. This does not exist with the third generation. If there's a drug bust, if somebody's found having o.d'ed in a hotel room, that's going to get out. MANN: It was not uncommon for tragedy and scandal to go hand-in- hand for the Kennedys. In 1994, a major blow to the third generation, 28-year-old David Kennedy, Robert F. Kennedy's third son, was found dead from a drug overdose in a hotel room in Palm Beach, Florida.
MCNEIL: David was a bit of a lost soul. He never quite found his niche. Of course, he also died at a very young age. And it was very sad he had actually seen his father be assassinated on television. He was watching it that night, and he never quite fully recovered.
MANN: Other members of the Kennedy's third generation, like Robert Kennedy Jr., have also dealt with various addictions, struggles that have played out in the recently emboldened press.
ROGERS: In the last generation, you didn't have politicians from the Kennedy family having to admit in the newspaper that they've sought treatment for depression or that they're alcoholics, or that they've used drugs. But now you do. The press just bears down on them.
MANN: It was a feeding frenzy in 1991 when William Kennedy Smith was charged with raping a woman on the grounds of the family's Florida compound.
MCNEIL: Most of us didn't know who William Kennedy Smith was before this happened. It was a very unusual tale of both he and his cousin being woken up by their uncle to go out and have a drink. And then he ended up being charged with rape.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And we find the defendant not guilty...
MANN: While it took a jury only 77 minutes to acquit Smith, the damage had been done.
FEE: And enough people actually believed the victim's story so that the Kennedy family name got another big black mark.
MANN: But it also demonstrated the fierce loyalty of the Kennedy clan. Even John Jr. showed up at the Florida courthouse to support his favorite cousin.
ROGERS: The family famously comes together when a member gets in trouble. And I think the public often thinks that they form too tight a shell around those people who might have done wrong.
MANN: In 2002 another trial to test the Kennedy name and a conviction. Cousin, Michael Skakel, was found guilty of the murder of Martha Moxley, a crime that had been committed more than 25 years earlier.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Michael!
MANN: This time family support for the defendant was more limited. MCNEIL: Robert F. Kennedy Jr. has stuck by him, has spoken out on behalf of Michael Skakel. But I would not say that there was a great Kennedy outpouring at his trial.
MANN: One of the most salacious incidents involving the third generation came in 1997 involving one of its rising stars, Michael, the sixth of Bobby Kennedy's 11 children.
MCNEIL: He had taken on Citizen's Energy Corp., which gave fuel to the needy. He had run his Uncle Teddy's successful campaign. He was in line to run his brother, Joe's, upcoming gubernatorial campaign.
MANN: But Michael Kennedy's star faded quickly when news broke that he'd been caught having sexual relations with his family's teenage babysitter.
FEE: It destroyed his career. And his brother, Joe, who was running for governor of Massachusetts at the time, was forced to drop out of the race.
MANN: Even John F. Kennedy Jr. distanced himself. In an editorial in "George" magazine, he commented on the babysitter scandal and on the ugly and public breakup of Joe Kennedy's marriage, calling his cousins "poster boys for bad behavior."
ANDERSEN: It's not so much that we hold the Kennedys to a higher standard, I think, because of what's gone on before, the Peccadilloes and the scandals, and the various tragedies, and problems. Sometimes they've been the family's own making. The public is, you know, waiting to catch them in the act.
MANN: Later that year, Michael's story would turn from scandal into another Kennedy tragedy. While on vacation in Colorado, he died after crashing into a tree while skiing. Reports of the accident said Kennedy and his family had been throwing around a football while going down the slopes.
MCNEIL: It's always been said that they take more risks. And definitely with the men you can't help but think that they live life to the extreme.
PROF. RICHARD HOGARTY, PROFESSOR EMERITUS, UMASS BOSTON: The tragedies of the second generation were imposed by forces beyond their control, whereas the tragedies of the third generation were self- inflicted.
MANN: The continuing tragedies have spawned the theory of a Kennedy curse. There have even been entire books devoted to the subject.
FEE: It's hard not to think that there's some kind of curse because how much can one family suffer through and still keep getting whacked.
LEAMER: The Kennedy curse is having people write books like that about you saying that your family is cursed. That's the great Kennedy curse. They've had these great misfortunes. Fine. Let's write about them. Let's talk about them, but let's talk about their achievements. Let's talk about their accomplishments.
MANN: Still to come on PEOPLE IN THE NEWS, will the White House ever be home to another Kennedy, and the challenges of living up to a legacy.
ANNOUNCER: Welcome back to PEOPLE IN THE NEWS.
JFK SR.: The torch has been passed to a new generation of Americans.
MANN (voice-over): They are images as eternal as the flame that marks his grave. A young president, a young family, the days known as Camelot.
LEAMER: He's froze in our minds at the age of 46. People can't imagine that last May 29, he would have been 86 years of age. He just seems so young, and so vital, and so intelligent and witty, and charming, and charismatic.
MANN: The world, of course, has changed in the 40 years since the assassination of President John F. Kennedy.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Lift off! We have a lift off!
MANN: Man has walked on the moon. Communism has fallen. The scourge of AIDS has risen. Yet the grace and glamour of Camelot and the mystique surrounding the Kennedy family remain.
LEAMER: He was only there for a 1,000 days, but because there's an aura about him in relation to this hope, this better America, the sense of a better world that might have come about if he had lived.
ROGERS: They are the closest we've come to royalty. And they had their rituals, their meetings, you know, the family conclaves at Hyannisport. Compound, whoever used the word "compound" before the Kennedys came along? Everyone wants to have a compound like the Kennedys do.
MANN: Our fascination continues with the next generation of Kennedys, their weddings and funerals, their joy and pain.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The last two days have been very difficult ones. ANDERSEN: When you got power, wealth, glamour, beauty, and unspeakable tragedy, these factors, obviously, make it irresistible.
MCNEIL: They're something of a soap opera about their family both with the triumphs and the tragedies. We can't keep our eyes off of them.
MANN: But while previous generations were seen through almost rose-colored glasses, we watch this generation with a more critical eye, one that sees success and failure in the same bright light.
MCNEIL: They're definitely living it out right in front of our eyes, making mistakes, you know, falling on their face, picking themselves back up.
ROGERS: The third generation, they're more mortals. They're more like you and I. And they've struggled to get in politics. They've struggled in business. They've struggled in every area. They've also made great contributions, but it's a lot harder for them.
MANN: Previous Kennedy achievements still loom large, an ambassador, a president, two senators.
TUMULLY: At a time when most living Americans don't even remember, weren't even alive to know the Kennedys in their heyday, to really measure up to the legends, almost the ghosts of the family. No matter what they do, it's never going to quite measure up to sending a man to the moon.
MANN: But perhaps in a changed world there are other ways of measuring success, of carrying out the Kennedy legacy of public service.
OLIPHANT: In our culture today, I don't think you can make an unassailable case that being in an elected office is the way to get things done in American society. Sometimes you can do more as an activist than you can as an elected politician.
MANN: Or perhaps we haven't seen the last Kennedy in the White House.
LEAMER: Now, you have 80 years of Kennedy celebrity and there's no end in sight. There are so many Kennedys out there still and they are relatively young. It might be 10, 12, 15, 20 years when we can see another Kennedy very much in the limelight. And I don't think that aura will have been lost.
ZAHN: Celebrated, scrutinized, glorified and reviled, our ongoing fascination with the Kennedys is as complicated, conflicted, and contradictory as the family itself.
That's it for this edition of PEOPLE IN THE NEWS. Coming up next, 40 years after President Kennedy's assassination, an in-depth look at the dark days in Dallas from those who were there. Stay tuned for a special edition of "CNN PRESENTS."
I'm Paula Zahn. Thanks so much for joining us.
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