ABC Devotes Yet Another Segment to Graceful, ‘Idealistic’ JFK Jr.

Eleven days after mourning the tenth anniversary of the death of "the prince of Camelot," John F. Kennedy Jr., Monday’s Good Morning America took yet another look back at the "grace" and "equilibrium" of the late presidential offspring. ABC’s Chris Cuomo touted JFK Jr.'s "gift for leadership" and recounted how "America watched him grow from young son, to idealistic lawyer, to loving husband."

The GMA news anchor interviewed Rose Marie Terenzio, friend and personal assistant to Kennedy, about a charity that JFK Jr. started to assist health care workers who help the disabled. Cuomo, however, gossiped over whether or not the President's son had planned on following his father into politics. Speaking of the health care charity, he fawned, "John's idea was ahead of its time. A foresight that may have indicated a gift for leadership."

Cuomo quizzed, "There was always the big question about him. Would he follow in his family's footsteps? Do you think he had politics on the brain?" On July 16, GMA featured side-by-side footage of JFK Jr. and Barack Obama. A worshipful, superimposed image of Kennedy’s face against the backdrop of the White House appeared as reporter Claire Shipman fawned, "And a decade later, it's still the potential we remember, the what-might-have-been."

On Monday, Cuomo promised that the segment would unveil information "that you have never heard of" about Kennedy. However, Terenzio’s insights included asserting, "I think John's wit and sense of humor was what really won me over. He was very wise. He was very intelligent."

She also revealed, "John had impeccable manners. It wasn't something he thought about it. He rarely made assumptions." Co-host Diane Sawyer closed out the segment by cooing, "Equilibrium. That's what he had. And grace. And grace."

A transcript of the July 27 segment, which aired at 8:05am EDT, follows:

DIANE SAWYER: So many people have talked through the years about John Kennedy Jr. But, few have known him as well as this woman. Ten years after his death, one of his closest confidantes has decided to come forward for the first time to talk to Chris about the JFK Jr. she knew. Chris?

CHRIS CUOMO: Rose Marie Terenzio. She is intensely loyal and she didn't want to talk about John. She never breached that confidence until now. And it's for a very important reason. She has something she wants to tell you about that you have never heard of, in all likelihood, about John Kennedy. Something that meant so much to him. It is information about John Kennedy Jr.'s living legacy. John F. Kennedy Jr. America watched him grow from young son, to idealistic lawyer, to loving husband. His life, a constant media spectacle feeding the public’s appetite. But, in his private life, loyal friends meant everything. And one such friend came after a rocky introduction. You may be the only woman I know who when you first met John, you didn't like him.

ROSE MARIE TERENZIO (Personal assistant to John F. Kennedy Jr.): I wouldn't say I didn't like him. I would say I was sort of indifferent to him, which is probably worse.

CUOMO: Few people knew John better than Rose Marie Terenzio, his personal assistant, his confidant. Someone who would always get his ear. But, it was a friendship that began as a chance encounter, when John was starting the magazine George, renting office space in Manhattan, sharing the same floor of the PR company Rose worked for.

TERENZIO: He came into my office one weekend. And I came in on Monday morning and I was not pleased. And as someone who once said who was in the office at the time, you could have been arrested in some states for the way you just spoke to him. So, I was really unhappy about that. And I was moving into a much smaller office. So, that went from indifference to dislike.

CUOMO: Right. That- It seems that way. But it also was a little bit of a spark of a friendship.

TERENZIO: Oh, absolutely. Oh, yeah. I think John's wit and sense of humor was what really won me over. He was very wise. He was very intelligent. And he was also someone who loved practical jokes, loved you know, he loved to tease.

CUOMO: Now, you got to see it all, because you worked closely with him. You were friends. You were helping him grow the magazine and the business. What did you learn about what kind of person he was and how he dealt with everything that was coming his way?

TERENZIO: Well, there's something about manners that go a long way. John had impeccable manners. It wasn't something he thought about it. He rarely made assumptions. He went into every situation, you know, open, willing to listen, patient. And, you know, he was very wise.

CUOMO: That ill-fated day in July of 1999, the plane John was piloting crashed into the Atlantic off Martha's Vineyard. Rose Marie had been staying at the Kennedy’s apartment in New York City when she got the phone call. That had to be frightening.

TERENZIO: Yeah. It was. It was. And the only thing I could do is behave if he were still here. What would he- How would I do it if he was still there?

CUOMO: And as it became fact that he wasn't coming back. They were gone. The plane was gone. What was it like for you to deal with that?

TERENZIO: It was difficult. It was very difficult. You lose someone suddenly. You lose someone dramatically. It's very difficult. You're not prepared.

CUOMO: And you couldn't hide from it because you had the work of winding things up there without him around.

TERENZIO: Right. Right.

CUOMO: There is a lot of history wrapped up in everything about him.

TERENZIO: Uh-huh.

CUOMO: Even packing up his house, there's all these things in there you have to be especially sensitive to. You had to deal with all of that.

TERENZIO: Yeah. But I think I would have been especially sensitive to everything anyway.

CUOMO: Over the years, Rose Marie has been approached by media outlets for her story. But, she's always declined. Now, she's decided to speak out for a very special reason. You always said no. You didn't want to talk to the media. You do it now, why?

TERENZIO: I think because it was really important to me to see that, with the 20-year anniversary of JFK Jr. Institute Reaching Up, I didn't think there was going to be as great of an opportunity as there is now.

CUOMO: In 1989, John founded Reaching Up, a non-profit organization that provides educational opportunities to health care workers who aid the disabled. Today, his legacy continues and Reaching Up is stronger than ever. It’s become the John F. Kennedy Institute at the University of New York.

TERENZIO: It was really important to John that this program survive without him, with him. And I think he would be really, really proud of the work they're doing today.

CUOMO: An idea central to the current dialogue around health care reform. John's idea was ahead of its time. A foresight that may have indicated a gift for leadership. There was always the big question about him. Would he follow in his family's footsteps? Do you think he had politics on the brain?

TERENZIO: I think it was something that he thought about. There was certainly an interest. But I think that John was someone who thought, when you and if you do this, you need to do it very carefully. And you need to be really prepared. And I think what he was really doing was focusing on making George successful. And he was really proud of it.

CUOMO: When you think about what we have lost, not having John, what do you think we have lost?

TERENZIO: Well, I think- I think for me, I lost a mentor, a great teacher, and a very dear friend.

CUOMO: Almost 1,000 people have gone through the Reaching Up program now. It’s still going strong. Rose Marie runs RMT- hose are her initials- PR management. She says, great guiding principle is something John told her. Nothing is as good or bad as it seems in the moment.

SAWYER: Equilibrium. That’s what he had. And grace. And grace.

CUOMO: Oh, yes.

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