Today Show Mourns Over No More Kennedys in Congress
For the Today show, Democratic Representative Patrick Kennedy's departure from Congress was something to mourn because it represented, as NBC's Matt Lauer lamented, "The end of an era. There's been a Kennedy in Congress since John F. Kennedy entered the House back in 1947." The nephew of the late President was invited on Monday's Today show to commemorate the occasion with he and co-host Meredith Vieira fondly looking over newly-released photos of JFK from Life.com and reminiscing about his father, the "great" Ted Kennedy.
For the record the Today show got their facts wrong, as the MRC's Rich Noyes pointed out, there was no Kennedy in Congress from January 1961 to November of 1962 as Representative Ben Smith held that seat long enough until Ted Kennedy was old enough to take over.
The following teaser and exchange were aired on the November 8 Today show:
MATT LAUER: Then, the end of an era. There's been a Kennedy in Congress since John F. Kennedy entered the House back in 1947. Now his nephew Patrick is retiring, ending that streak. We're gonna hear from the Congressman. Also get his reaction to some never before seen photos of the late president.
MEREDITH VIEIRA: Back now at 7:45am with Congressman Patrick Kennedy. The nephew of President John F. Kennedy and the son of Senator Ted Kennedy chose not to seek re-election this year. So for the first time in more than 60 years, there will be no Kennedy serving on Capitol Hill. Congressman, good morning to you.
REP. PATRICK KENNEDY: Good morning.
[On screen headline: "The End Of An Era? Patrick Kennedy Gets Ready To Leave Congress"]
VIEIRA: The end of the Kennedy era, as so many people are saying. What are you thoughts about that? Have you thought about it?
KENNEDY: Well it's actually, for me, a beginning of a new chapter and it's actually seizing the remembrance of John F. Kennedy that we're gonna work on. My whole career has been working on the de-stigmatization of mental health, as you just heard from Ms. Lohan and then earlier with George Bush and his alcoholism. But frankly these are brain illnesses and need to be treated as such. We're gonna mark the anniversary of President Kennedy's moon shot address where he said we're gonna go to the moon and return a man safely before the decade is out and say now we need to research inner space, the inner space of the brain. And we need to do this, the Sputnik for our time are the suicide rates of our soldiers. Now our soldiers are killing themselves at greater numbers than are killed in combat. And these are active duty soldiers. We're not just talking veterans. Over 7,000 veterans take their own lives every year, which should be enough of a wakeup call to us.
VIEIRA: Speaking of John Kennedy, Life.com has some not photos that have never been released. We've been given access to them, exclusively. You're gonna see them, as well, at the same time. This was him campaigning during 1960. When you look at this, given the fact, that his call to service was what led you into politics, is this a bittersweet moment for you today? Because this is the day, 50 years ago, that he was elected president.
KENNEDY: That he was elected president. He ushered in so much promise and hope. And, you know, that's a moniker we can use today. Because it was a can do attitude, America had. The Peace Corps, you know the moon shot, the new frontier. He gave a sense of hope and promise for America. And that's still available to America. We're still the greatest country in the world. We can do whatever we set our mind to. We did his back in the '60s, we can do it now and now do it now for our soldiers and our veterans.
VIEIRA: And yet there's a frustration in America, right now. We just saw it in the midterm elections. People who are dissatisfied with the way things are going. Unemployment rates, lack of jobs. You, you came into office in 1994-
KENNEDY: During a similar time.
VIEIRA: A similar time, when the GOP took control of the House. Describe the mood then compared to the mood now.
KENNEDY: Well I think people are feeling frustrated, their economic situations dictate that. But you know our veterans have twice, three times the unemployment rate as the average American. If anybody ought to be the front of the line in this country, it ought to be our American heroes. And if we don't go in there and set them free from their being medical prisoners of war - because now they're coming home, we think the war is over, but it isn't. They're prisoners of their brain injuries, of traumatic brain injuries and PTSD. If John Kennedy were here today, he'd talk about a similar scientific endeavor and this one, "One small step for man," as Neil Armstrong said, "One giant leap for mankind," it would be a veteran getting out of a wheelchair because we repaired the spinal cord tissue of that veteran.
VIEIRA: And finally your dad, Senator Ted Kennedy, a great man, the last two years watching him pass and being with him. Greatest lesson he taught you politically and personally?
KENNEDY: To think about doing something for others because it takes the focus off yourself. And we always are in our own worst neighborhood when we're in our head. We're thinking about our own problems. Think about someone else's problems and you'll feel a lot better. It's selfish to be in public service because you're doing something that helps you.
VIEIRA: You gonna miss it?
KENNEDY: Well I'm going to do it in a new way, in a different way.
VIEIRA: Okay Congressman.
KENNEDY: Thanks Meredith!
VIEIRA: Thank you so much, good luck to you.
—Geoffrey Dickens is the Senior News Analyst at the Media Research Center. You can follow him on Twitter here