Endless Kennedy Love: ABC Yet Again Fawns Over JFK

ABC News found scant time for the just-passed political conventions, coming in dead last according to a Media Research Center study. But the network on Tuesday did manage to, yet again, obsessively focus on John F. Kennedy, a man whose presidency ended 49 years ago.

Good Morning America co-host George Stephanopoulos interviewed Caroline Kennedy about newly released tapes of her father. He played clips of JFK discussing serious issues and also playing with his daughter. Stephanopoulos marveled, "But here's the president on the one moment talking about the Cuban Missile Crisis, – boom – complete switching of gears." [See video below. MP3 audio here.]

The GMA anchor then played a clip of a journalist offering this fawning question to Kennedy: "Is being the President the ultimate of everybody who goes into politics?" Stephanopoulos deemed the gushing exchange "fascinating."

The ABC program has a long history of fawning over the Kennedys. On February 15, 2010, GMA celebrated one of JFK's many adulterous affairs as a "torrid" "love story" involving "American royalty."

On July 16, 2009, the hosts of GMA mourned the lost presidential talents of John F. Kennedy Jr., lauding the young man as a "critical link to our fairy tale past."

On June 5, 2008, GMA's Claire Shipman compared Barack Obama to Robert F. Kennedy. She weirdly declared, "The search to shift that mantle, futile of course. But also a quintessentially American desire for, if not a happy ending, some sense of completion."

Unsurprisingly, Stephanopoulos on Tuesday made no mention of recent revelations that JFK pressured a college intern to perform oral sex on an aide.

However, Stephanopoulos previously worked for Bill Clinton. So, it's not surprising.

A transcript of the September 25 segment can be found below:

[Thanks to MRC intern Matt Vespa for the transcript.]


GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: We're marking the 50th anniversary of the Kennedy presidency. An as part of that, the JFK library is releasing secret White House recordings to give us the chance to eavesdrop on the era's biggest issues. From civil rights to Vietnam – and we hear President Kennedy's first meeting on the Cuban Missile Crisis.

PRESIDENT KENNEDY: How far advanced is this?

ARTHUR LUNDAHL: Sir, we've never seen this kind of installation before.

KENNEDY: Not even in the Soviet Union?

LUNDAHL: No, sir.
 
STEPHANOPOULOS: The tapes accompany a new book, "Listening In: The Secret White House Recordings of John F. Kennedy." And his daughter Caroline is here to talk about it right now – and it's fascinating, Caroline, your father was taping after another crisis in Cuba – the Bay of Pigs crisis.  What was he trying to do?

CAROLINE KENNEDY: Well, I think maybe two things. I think that he probably, in the long run, would've used it to draw on for his own memoir. But I think people think in the short-term; that he really felt the advice he got particularly from the military during the Bay of Pigs was, was poor.

STEPHANOPOULOS: That he had been burned.

KENNEDY: He had been burned.  And then everybody said, they – they hadn't said it. So I think he wanted it, you know, an accurate record – And to keep people honest.

STEPHANOPOULOS: What is so fascinating about the tapes as you listen, these are real conversations, the shorthand that presidents and their advisers use. And you get the chance to see a presidency at work.

KENNEDY: I think it's an incredible window because we all want to be a fly on the wall and imagine what is going on in the Oval Office. How decisions are getting made – what's the judgment call – And here, you really get this.  And you know, we know what happened.  But when you're reading or listening to this, they don't know how it's going to turn out. And so, you get the raw emotion of these decisions. And it's incredibly dramatic.

STEPHANOPOULOS: No – it truly is.  And of course, as you were, as a very young girl, a fly on the wall- metaphor– I hope we have the picture right here. It shows you playing underneath the president's desk right there and you write about in the forward about doing that.  But here's another little snippet when you walk in on the president.

CAROLINE KENNEDY [as a child]: Know what? I won't let yo do much.

JOHN KENNEDY: Oh, okay. [Laughs.]

STEPHANOPOULOS: You're laughing there. But one of the things that's so amazing, you can't remember that moment. But here's the president on the one moment talking about the Cuban Missile Crisis, – boom – complete switching of gears.

KENNEDY: Right – right well, I think, you know, people with kids, keep you grounded.  And so I think he felt that the Cuban Missile Crisis is – he talked about it, you know, his obligation was to keep all of us safe.  And so, I think that probably – you know, you see him as a father. And that's a wonderful balance.

STEPHANOPOULOS: And you write a little bit about playing under the desk. Making little toys. Making little toys--

(crosstalk)

KENNEDY: Necklaces – from construction paper.

STEPHANOPOULOS: –with the paper clips. Right. Did hearing the recordings bring back anything else? Or was it just too long ago?

KENNEDY: Well, I guess the recordings themselves, not so much. But I do – it's just – kind of – it does bring it to life, that sort of, you know, being in the room – and I didn't realize that I was being ushered out. I thought that, you know, that was the big moment of his day, because it was the big moment of mine.

STEPHANOPOULOS:  It was.

KENNEDY: Maybe, it was.

STEPHANOPOULOS: We have one other tape we want to play a little bit of snippet of. This was a dinner the president had with journalists right after he announced that he was running for president. And it's a fascinating transcript – but he's very open here about his ambitions and the meaning of the presidency.

TONI BRADLEE: Is being the President the ultimate of everybody who goes into politics?

JOHN KENNEDY: Well, in the sense that being, I suppose, head of whatever organization you're in, I suppose. But the most important is the fact that this president, today, is the seat of all power.

STEPHANOPOULOS: In that dinner, he also though – very open about his vulnerabilities – called himself a physical wreck at the time.

KENNEDY: Right – Well, I think it's so interesting because, he talks about how relatively simple the problems were. And how frustrating it was to be in the Senate, where you can work so hard and then something could happen and then all that went for naught. And the presidency was really the place you could get things done. And bring change. And it's this era that is one of tremendous change both at home, civil rights, around the world.  You know, similar to what we have now. So, what he realizes, you're really talking about the kind of person and the kind of judgment that you want in office.

STEPHANOPOULOS And that's what I want to get to. We're never going to have tapes like this again

KENNEDY: Right.  Too bad.

STEPHANOPOULOS: After Watergate, there's no more tapes at all. This is one of the few ways that people can get a sense of how a president handles things, coming to them all day long.

KENNEDY: And how many different kinds of things are coming at them all day long. Big, small, you know, how they manage to maintain their sense of balance.

STEPHANOPOULOS: It's a fascinated look in. It's called Listening In – Caroline Kennedy thanks very much.

Scott Whitlock
Scott Whitlock
Scott Whitlock is the senior news analyst for the Media Research Center and a contributing editor for NewsBusters.org