NBC Promotes New Kennedy Book, Author Claims 'Medical Reason' for JFK's Infidelity

Setting up an interview on Tuesday's NBC Today with author Christopher Andersen about his new book on President Kennedy's final days, co-host Savannah Guthrie began with a gauzy introduction: "As we approach November's 50th anniversary of the assassination of President Kennedy, the facts and folklore surrounding his life and family are still captivating the world....the images of President John Fitzgerald Kennedy and his young family continue to inspire nostalgia for a bygone era filled with hope and promise." [Listen to the audio or watch the video after the jump]

After labeling him and Jackie Kennedy "one of the original power couples," Guthrie noted: "But plagued by personal tragedy and allegations of infidelity, the veil over Camelot has long since been lifted." Turning to Andersen, Guthrie observed: "You write about the alleged infidelities of the former president." Andersen had to correct her: "Yes. Well, not alleged. Established."

Given an exclusive interview NBC conducted with former Kennedy intern and mistress Mimi Alford in 2012, Guthrie should have been aware of just how "established" those accusations were. However, Alford's account was never mentioned during Tuesday's segment.

At the time Alford came forward, then-Today co-host Ann Curry grilled her over revealing the affair: "What about Caroline [Kennedy], who is still alive?...Did you think about, as you talk about unburdening yourself, the idea that you've burdened other people now with this?"

On Tuesday, Andersen worked to excuse Kennedy's multiple affairs by blaming mixed medications:

Way before anybody was talking about Viagra – decades before Viagra and Low T and those kinds of things, Jack Kennedy was getting massive doses of testosterone. His doctor, Dr. Janet Travell, the White House physician, told me these were huge doses to offset the medication he was taking for his Addison's Disease. This combined with the anphetamines he getting from Dr. Max Jacobson, "Dr. Feelgood." You know, and again, you have to remember, people didn't think there was anything wrong with anphetamines at the time, these combined to kind of throw his libido into overdrive, as it were, so there may have been a medical reason for his cheating.

Guthrie failed to challenge that absurd suggestion.

Monday's CBS This Morning also reported on Andersen's new book, but co-hosts Charlie Rose and Norah O'Donnell glossed over the details of JFK's infidelities to focus on how he "could never take a bad photograph."  


Here is a full transcript of the August 6 Today segment:

8:19AM ET

SAVANNAH GUTHRIE: As we approach November's 50th anniversary of the assassination of President Kennedy, the facts and folklore surrounding his life and family are still captivating the world.

He served in the White House less than three years, but the images of President John Fitzgerald Kennedy and his young family continue to inspire nostalgia for a bygone era filled with hope and promise.

[ON-SCREEN HEADLINE: "These Few Precious Days"; The Kennedys' Final Year in the White House]

JOHN KENNEDY: That the torch has been passed.

GUTHRIE: He was a natural politician from a wealthy and well-connected east coast family. She was a striking beauty, a Newport socialite whose natural grace caught the eye of the ultimate bachelor. Together they were one of the original power couples.

KENNEDY:  I am the man who accompanied Jacqueline Kennedy to Paris.

GUTHRIE: But plagued by personal tragedy and allegations of infidelity...

MARILYN MONROE [SINGING]: Happy birthday, Mr. President.

GUTHRIE: ...the veil over Camelot has long since been lifted. In his new book, These Few Precious Days, author Christopher Andersen claims despite all of their difficulties, it was their years in the White House that brought Jack and Jackie the closest, before that fateful day in Dallas took it all away.

And Christopher Andersen is with us now. And Christopher, good morning, it's good to see you.

CHRISTOPHER ANDERSEN: Good morning, good seeing you.

GUTHRIE: Is this your fifth book on the Kennedys?

ANDERSEN: It is.

GUTHRIE: And you were sure there was still more to write?

ANDERSEN: Oh, absolutely. You know, they were a fascinating from day one, they've captured the world's imagination in a way that no other first couple has. And I think anybody – you know, if you're a certain age, this is a defining moment in your life. Everybody remembers where they were and what they were doing when Dallas happened.

GUTHRIE: Well, for lack of a better word, there are parts of this book that are dishy.

ANDERSEN: Yes.

GUTHRIE: You write about the alleged infidelities of the former president.

ANDERSEN: Yes. Well, not alleged. Established.

GUTHRIE: Okay, and that brings me to my question. How did you get this information? Who did you talk to? Some of this stuff has never been heard before.

ANDERSEN: Well, I've been writing about the Kennedys for 30 years. People like Pierre Salinger and Ted Sorensen and John Kenneth Galbraith and Arthur Schlesinger, you know, all the people that really were there. And during their lifetimes they asked me to keep certain things quite. They have passed on now and I was able to use material from those interviews, and new interviews, and new tapes have been released by the archives that show that. For example, Jackie Kennedy was very much aware of her husband's infidelities, and that the one person that she was most worried about was Marilyn Monroe.

GUTHRIE: And let me ask you about Marilyn Monroe. Because there's a part of your book that says Marilyn actually called the White House. What's that story?

ANDERSON: Absolutely. You know, Peter Lawford, who was a brother-in-law of the president, said that she called Jackie and said, "Look, you know, he's going to marry me." And Jackie's response was, "Well, that's fine. You move into the White House, you'll have all the problems." And this was verified by a number of people who were close to them that I name in the book, very intimate of the Kennedys.

GUTHRIE: People are so fascinated by that relationship and they've looked at it so closely. Do you come to any conclusion about whether it was truly a relationship of love versus professional convenience?

ANDERSON: Oh, Absolutely, the Kennedys, Jackie and Jack, the point of the book is that, you know, indeed they had huge obstacles to overcome, but they did overcome them in the last year. The death of their infant son, Patrick, you know, the world was riveted by that. He lived only 39 hours, Jackie never got to hold him, he died in Jack's arms. It was a huge tragedy that finally brought them together as a couple and Jackie said, "You know, it's so sad, because we were just about to have a real life together."

GUTHRIE: And one of the arguments you make in the book is that actually it was that time in the White House that really cemented their relationship, when originally Jackie thought, "This will tear us apart."

ANDERSEN: Absolutely. She said, "We'll be in a goldfish bowl, I won't see him, he'll be so busy." But they were living over the store, so she saw him more during that period in the White House than she had ever seen him before. I mean, they spent time in the afternoon. They took naps together almost every day, because he took a nap – a 45-minute nap every day in the White House. You know, they grew close in a way that they hadn't, and after Patrick's death, there was an intimacy between them that had never been there. You know, he had a phobia about being touched. He didn't like touching people, it came from his childhood. And she said he found holding hands distasteful. But then after Patrick's death, people saw them hugging, embracing, kissing, and were kind of stunned by how close they'd grown.

GUTHRIE: Speaking of stunned, a lot of people know now that JFK had some pretty profound health problems, it wasn't known then. But you write about a doctor, someone you call "Dr. Feelgood," who supplied, according to your book, both Jack and Jackie with anphetamines.

ANDERSEN: Oh, Dr. Max Jacobson. But you know, it's a larger picture than that. Way before anybody was talking about Viagra – decades before Viagra and Low T and those kinds of things, Jack Kennedy was getting massive doses of testosterone. His doctor, Dr. Janet Travell, the White House physician, told me these were huge doses to offset the medication he was taking for his Addison's Disease. This combined with the anphetamines he getting from Dr. Max Jacobson, "Dr. Feelgood." You know, and again, you have to remember, people didn't think there was anything wrong with anphetamines at the time, these combined to kind of throw his libido into overdrive, as it were, so there may have been a medical reason for his cheating.

GUTHRIE: I only have about 20 seconds left. You give a riveting account of that day in Dallas and you also say that he may have had a premonition about his death.

ANDERSEN: He had what Oleg Cassini, his good friend, called "an elegant fatalism." Indeed, I think he knew that was going to happen that day. On the flight down to Dallas, he told Jackie, "You know, if somebody wants to shoot me from a window, there's no way I can stop him. So why worry about it?"

GUTHRIE: Well, it's a fascinating book, Christopher Andersen, thank you. Once again, the book is called These Precious – Few Precious Days, The Final Year of Jack and Jackie."

Kyle Drennen
Kyle Drennen
Kyle Drennen is a News Analyst for MRC