Jacqueline Kennedy had a window on the world as wife of President John F. Kennedy and she made razor sharp remarks that now appear shocking compared with her public image as a genteel and elegant first lady.
Kennedy provided the rare personal insights in a series of taped interviews with historian Arthur Schlesinger four months after the president was assassinated in Nov. 1963.
Many of her views wouldn’t be considered politically correct today, but her sentiments were in context with the times in which she spoke them.
She made the tapes, hoping to leave a record of her husband’s presidency that he would never get the opportunity to do. The details were released last night (Sept. 13) in an ABC Special.
In some of her more pointed remarks, she called India’s future leader Indira Gandhi a “pushy, horrible… bitter prune.”
French president Charles de Gaulle, a World War II hero, was a “spiteful egomaniac” and she even had a jaded point of view about revered civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr.
She described him as a “terrible” man and a “phony,” who allegedly arranged sex parties.
In his case, though, Kennedy may have been reflecting views that were planted by then FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover, who was seeking to discredit the civil rights leader.
Hoover despised King, considered him a threat to the United States and used disinformation to attack his standing among world leaders.
Daughter Caroline Kennedy also said her mother’s views on King were the result of Hoover’s “poisonous” smear campaign.
But she harbored her own bitterness toward King.
“He made fun of Cardinal Cushing and said he was drunk at it [her husband’s funeral] and things about they almost dropped the coffin. I mean Martin Luther King is a really tricky person,” she said.
She also had choice words for her husband’s rivals and predecessors, including Vice President Lyndon B. Johnson.
She described him as bitter, hard-drinking and uninspired. She even attacked one of the 20th Century’s greatest presidents, Franklin D. Roosevelt.
She called him “an insincere show-off” and thought Britain’s wartime political leader Winston Churchill was “really quite ga-ga.”
She had little to say about her own marriage, however, or he husband’s alleged womanizing, which she reportedly knew about, but did not acknowledge in the tapes.
She also had little regard for women who held power.
She derided two prominent women in their own right Madame Nhu, South Vietnam’s First Lady, and then Rep. Clare Boothe Luce, a conservative and enemy of her husband.
“I wouldn’t be surprised if they were lesbians,” she said.