USA Today's Request for Ted Kennedy-Related FBI Documents Ends with Surprising Lack of Chappaquiddick Papers

USA Today released the results of its Freedom of Information Act requests for FBI documents related to Ted Kennedy. John Fritze's story leans heavily on the sympathetic "barrage of threats" angle to begin his story, and downplayed the lack of documents on the death at Chappaquiddick. Fritze began: 

Sen. Edward Kennedy, who buried two brothers killed by assassins, endured a barrage of threats on his life that continued for much of his political career, thousands of FBI documents released Monday show.

More than 2,200 pages of previously secret documents reveal Kennedy, the brother of President John F. Kennedy, received a constant stream of anonymous threats and warnings from members of the Ku Klux Klan and the militant anti-communist "Minutemen."

Fritze arrived at Chappaquiddick late in the article, and hinted without outrage that the Kennedy family may have removed a pile of documents that might have tainted the Ted Kennedy image: 

"There might be a lead here or there," said David Kaiser, a professor at the U.S. Naval War College who has written on the Kennedys. But Kaiser said he is "surprised by what wasn't there," including correspondence between the White House and the FBI over Chappaquiddick.

The Kennedy family was given a chance to review the documents before they were released. Rep. Patrick Kennedy, D-R.I., and family representatives did not respond to requests for comment.

So much for "Freedom of Information." Remember this one the next time leftists start complaining about George W. Bush being tight with presidential records. Fritze reported that documents show Nixon aide John Dean was asking the FBI to determine if Mary Jo Kopechne, who died in the car Ted Kennedy drove off of Dyke Bridge in 1969, had visited Greece in 1968. Bryan Bender of the Boston Globe suggests the Nixon team was trying to see if Kopechne accompanied the Senator on a Greek vacation. 

The Washington Post story by Jerry Markon reported that former Kennedy adviser Bob Shrum said Ted Kennedy delayed running for president until 1980 because of the threats, and somehow not because the threat of Chappaquiddick would also be hanging over his campaign: 

Kennedy waited 12 years after Robert was assassinated before running for president, largely because of his family's concerns about such threats, according to a longtime aide, Robert Shrum. "You took precautions," said Shrum, Kennedy's speechwriter during his 1980 presidential campaign. "We had a doctor with us everywhere we went. We had ambulances in most places. The memory was there. But you just lived with it."
Markon's story ended by relaying only 77 of the 2,200 pages of Ted Kennedy documents were on Chappaquiddick:

The files include 77 pages on the drowning of Mary Jo Kopechne when Kennedy drove his car off a bridge on Chappaquiddick Island off Martha's Vineyard in 1969. The pages are nearly all newspaper articles, but one internal FBI document informed Hoover of the accident and says the police chief in Edgartown, Mass., "confidentially" advised that Kennedy was the driver.

"Stated fact Senator Kennedy was driver is not being revealed to anyone,'' the document said.

Tim Graham
Tim Graham
Tim Graham is Executive Editor of NewsBusters and is the Media Research Center’s Director of Media Analysis