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The press and rumors about Senator Kennedy's bachelor days
Eagle-Tribune, North Andover, Mass. ^ | February 06, 2006 | William B. Ketter

Posted on 02/06/2006 12:33:36 PM PST by presidio9

Ever since reporters took up Gary Hart's challenge to put a tail on him, then sunk his 1988 presidential candidacy with details of a tryst with an attractive model, the private sex lives of prominent politicians have been considered fair game for the press.

The journalistic rationale is that character counts and voters have a right to know about questionable personal conduct because it may tell something about how an individual will perform in office or serve the public interest without fear or favor.

Yet most mainstream news outlets continue to grant a reasonable right of privacy to public officials, depending on their notoriety, the nature of reports about their private lives and whether reporters think the sordid details are newsworthy and, therefore, worth checking out.

Supermarket tabloids operate under different rules. They take a devil-may-care approach, often basing stories about bad behavior by public figures on hearsay more than first-hand accounts or records such as a birth certificate. Lack of official confirmation is not an obstacle.

The contrast can create public confusion. If a tabloid touts a curious story about a well-known person, why does the mainstream media all but ignore it? Shouldn't there at least be a mention of the story, and an effort to press the person for a response?

Those were the types of questions asked by newspaper readers, Web bloggers and callers to talk-show programs after the National Enquirer's front-page story two weeks ago that said Sen. Ted Kennedy was the biological father of a boy born to a Cape Cod woman 21 years ago.

At the time, Kennedy was single, having divorced his first wife, Joan, in 1982. He married his second wife, Victoria Reggie, in 1992. There have been plenty of rumors about Kennedy's conduct during his bachelor days between marriages, but nothing about fathering what the National Enquirer described as a "secret love child."

The supermarket tabloid based its story on anonymous sources in the Kennedy and the woman's families | and published the identities and pictures of the woman and her adult son. It said Kennedy had urged her to get an abortion but she declined, was paid at least $15,000 "from someone in the Kennedy camp" and later married a local man who adopted the son.

A few mainstream populist papers | the Boston Herald and the New York Daily News, for example | printed stories about the National Enquirer's account. Kennedy's hometown paper, The Cape Cod Times of Hyannis, published an editor's column saying it had refused to sell a picture of the young man to the Enquirer but, strangely, never mentioned Kennedy by name, referring to him only as a "prominent politician." The paper said it had tried to authenticate the story on its own but couldn't.

Follow-up stories included a terse statement from Kennedy's office | but not the senator directly | that the Enquirer's story was "irresponsible fiction." There was also speculation by Kennedy friends that it was timed to embarrass him for his aggressive questioning of Supreme Court nominee Samuel Alito. The woman and her son declined to comment.

No major mainstream paper or broadcast network carried the story. Ditto most of the Massachusetts and New Hampshire newspapers, including the Eagle-Tribune papers. And that befuddled some readers, mainly Kennedy's critics. If the story wasn't true, they reasoned, then why didn't Kennedy himself come out and say so, and also announce he was suing the National Enquirer for defamation. A few people suggested Kennedy, who turns 74 this month, had influenced the press to largely ignore the story.

To understand the news media's dichotomy on this story you need to know that the journalistic standards for publishing information about private lives of public figures can differ from news organization to news organization, but that most mainstream outlets publish only if they are certain the damning details are accurate and pertinent to the individual's public performance.

In Kennedy's case, the National Enquirer's reputation for rumor-mongering would automatically cause concern about the truthfulness of the story. Beyond that, journalists could legitimately question the newsworthiness of the story, given it happened two decades ago and had no apparent tie to the senator's public life.

Nearly every public figure has a skeleton or two in his or her closet. Sometimes reporters discover them while scrutinizing backgrounds, and sometimes they don't. Sometimes they write about them, and sometimes they don't. There is no hard-and-fast ethical guidepost. If a story is verifiable, then many mainstream journalists tend to ask if it is something the public needs to know, and if it is so important that it eclipses a public figure's reasonable right to privacy. Public curiosity is a factor, although not usually the most important one.

The threshold for publishing or broadcasting such a story is also determined by the level of prominence. A candidate for president, for instance, will find journalists more willing to disclose the smallest intimate details. The logic goes that candidates who pursue the highest office in the land should expect total visibility of their private life. Few things are considered off-limits.

Gary Hart found that out when he tested the press to check out his reputation as a womanizer while seeking the White House more than 18 years ago. His risky behavior with model Donna Rice led him to become the first candidate to be asked in public if he was an adulterer.

Kennedy isn't running for president this year, but he is a candidate for re-election to another six-year term in the Senate. Thus far no Republican has announced plans to challenge him. Still, it would not be out of bounds for reporters to ask him during the campaign if he fathered a child out of wedlock in the mid-1980s and paid the mother to keep quiet about it.

That's a question now out there whether he likes it or not. And his answer may affect how some voters view his character and future effectiveness when casting their ballots in November.

---

William B. Ketter is editor-in-chief of The Eagle-Tribune in North Andover, Mass.


TOPICS: Crime/Corruption; Culture/Society; Editorial; Politics/Elections; US: Massachusetts
KEYWORDS: camelot; kennedy; kopechne; maryjo; maryjokopechne; secretlovechild; taxachusetts; teddykennedy; tedkennedy; theswimmer

1 posted on 02/06/2006 12:33:39 PM PST by presidio9
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To: presidio9

For the life of me I don't know why everyone in Massachusetts turns a blind eye to this killer and treats him like a god.


2 posted on 02/06/2006 12:37:42 PM PST by 1Old Pro
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To: presidio9
National Enquirer's front-page story two weeks ago that said Sen. Ted Kennedy was the biological father of a boy born to a Cape Cod woman 21 years ago.

Imagine the boy's humiliation.
All these years he thought his father was a pimp.

So9

3 posted on 02/06/2006 12:38:16 PM PST by Servant of the 9 (Trust Me)
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To: presidio9
Yet most mainstream news outlets continue to grant a reasonable right of privacy to public officials, depending on their notoriety, the nature of reports about their private lives and whether reporters think the sordid details are newsworthy and, therefore, worth checking out. party affiliation.
4 posted on 02/06/2006 12:38:19 PM PST by Onelifetogive (* Sarcasm tag ALWAYS required. For some FReepers, sarcasm can NEVER be obvious enough.)
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To: presidio9
Still, it would not be out of bounds for reporters to ask him during the campaign if he fathered a child out of wedlock in the mid-1980s and paid the mother to keep quiet about it.

Ask Joan.

5 posted on 02/06/2006 12:41:00 PM PST by COUNTrecount
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To: 1Old Pro

Camelot immunity.

6 posted on 02/06/2006 12:41:10 PM PST by presidio9 ("Bird Flu" is the new Y2K virus -only without the handy deadline.)
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To: presidio9
Yet most mainstream news outlets continue to grant a reasonable right of privacy to public officials, depending on their notoriety

depending on their party.

In New Jersey, the press not only knew about McGreevey's sex life, they also knew he appointed his grossly unqualified boy-toy as the state's director of homeland security, despite the fact that the federal intelligence services considered him ineligible to receive a security clearance.

But they let that information sit out there unprinted, until McGreevey decided to go public with his homo story to divert attention from his growing corruption story.

I really doubt such a "courtesy" would be extended to Haley Barbour or Arnold Scharzennegger.

7 posted on 02/06/2006 12:41:17 PM PST by dead (I've got my eye out for Mullah Omar.)
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To: 1Old Pro

I don't get it either. Is there anybody out there from Taxachusetts who can explain how Kennedy and Kerry have been elected and reelected?


8 posted on 02/06/2006 12:42:18 PM PST by kjo
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To: presidio9
Caption for that pic:

“Everythings fine Senator... she's dead.”

9 posted on 02/06/2006 12:44:57 PM PST by johnny7 (“Iuventus stultorum magister”)
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To: kjo

Well, lets start with THE BIG DIG. A budget of 1 billion grows to 15 billion (or so). Follow the pork.


10 posted on 02/06/2006 12:50:48 PM PST by MadeInAmerica ( - Tested in the Middle East)
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To: 1Old Pro
For the life of me I don't know why everyone in Massachusetts turns a blind eye to this killer and treats him like a god.

I promist you that not EVERYONE in Massachusetts turns a blind eye to Kennedy's appalling history.

Besides myself and my fellow Mass Freepers, I remind you that Rush, Howie Carr, Michael Graham and Jay Severin all do very well here adn have significant audiences.

P.S. Did I mention:

DISCLAIMER: This photo is FAKE but ACCURATE.

11 posted on 02/06/2006 12:52:13 PM PST by Maceman (Fake but accurate -- and now double-sourced)
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To: dead

"I really doubt such a "courtesy" would be extended to Haley Barbour or Arnold Scharzennegger."

Remember Henry Hyde, Gingrich,Livingstone,and that conservative congresswoman, that the media revealed had gone out with a married man when she was a young single woman. How about the widespread coverage of that ridiculous adultery claim against Herbert Walker Bush?


12 posted on 02/06/2006 12:52:17 PM PST by ansel12
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To: 1Old Pro

pork


13 posted on 02/06/2006 12:53:30 PM PST by A.A. Cunningham
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To: presidio9

"Before Jacques Cousteau became Ted's chauffeur".


14 posted on 02/06/2006 12:54:36 PM PST by sheik yerbouty ( Make America and the world a jihad free zone!)
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To: presidio9
Still, it would not be out of bounds for reporters to ask him during the campaign if he fathered a child out of wedlock in the mid-1980s and paid the mother to keep quiet about it.

That's a question now out there whether he likes it or not. And his answer may affect how some voters view his character and future effectiveness when casting their ballots in November.

The Lawrence Eagle-Tribune has yet to ask The Swimmer if he considers himself a murderer not.

15 posted on 02/06/2006 12:54:53 PM PST by metesky ("Brethren, leave us go amongst them." Rev. Capt. Samuel Johnston Clayton - Ward Bond- The Searchers)
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To: presidio9

As far as I'm concerned, Mister MSM guy, if you're searching for credibility for your line of work, you can check the dictionary.

Somewhere between "crap" and "cretin".


16 posted on 02/06/2006 12:57:05 PM PST by Unrepentant VN Vet (I can't really accept a welcome home until the last MIA does.)
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To: presidio9

Er-ah, where-azh my Chevis?


17 posted on 02/06/2006 12:57:49 PM PST by meandog (For all lurking Mooo-slew-ems: Sahada: "There is no Satan but "Allah" and Mohammad is his pig!)
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To: presidio9

18 posted on 02/06/2006 1:03:19 PM PST by dead (I've got my eye out for Mullah Omar.)
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To: 1Old Pro

Dunno. But if you find out let me in on the secret. Wonder if Mary Jo Kopechne was pregnant?


19 posted on 02/06/2006 1:03:30 PM PST by lilylangtree
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To: presidio9

In a perfect universe, one day Fat Teddy will keel over like the grossly obese whale that he is, and he will find himself spending eternity undergoing a never ending frontal lobotomy (like his sister Rosemary did at the hands of Teddy's depraved old man Joe), sexually violated over and over (as he and others in his shameful family have done to many, many women), and all of that taking place (the lobotomy, the sexual assaults) while he is gasping for breath, as he watches a little pocket of air in the roof of his '67 Oldsmobile grow smaller and smaller, except that he never passes out from the carbon dioxide, he never loses consciousness from the water that ultimately fills his lungs, he just suffers throughout all eternity, suffering similar fates as other victims of the Kennedy family.


20 posted on 02/06/2006 1:12:58 PM PST by mkjessup (The Shah doesn't look so bad now, eh? But nooo, Jimmah said the Ayatollah was a 'godly' man.)
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To: 1Old Pro
For the life of me I don't know why everyone in Massachusetts turns a blind eye to this killer and treats him like a god.

Two words "Big Dig"

21 posted on 02/06/2006 1:14:23 PM PST by thepatriot1 (...brought to you courtesy of the Red, White and Blue)
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To: dead

Ted: What's the verdict?
Diver: The engine's flooded.
Ted: %@&^%$!! I know that. What about my 8-tracks?
Diver: Hey, there's a girl in the back?
Ted: Focus, son, focus. What about my Alice Cooper tapes?
Diver: I think she's dead
Ted: Well, hit her with that pipe then and make sure.

22 posted on 02/06/2006 1:21:54 PM PST by AppyPappy (If you aren't part of the solution, there is good money to be made prolonging the problem.)
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To: presidio9

I remember how the media respected President Richard Nixon's privacy. Right!

Some politicians are protected while others are not. It is the perogative of the press, and it is obvious which way that cookie crumbles.


23 posted on 02/06/2006 1:22:53 PM PST by billhilly (The Democrat symbol is no longer the donkey, it's a strait Jacket.)
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To: kjo

Apparently, they like them. It's crazy, I know; but they do for some strange reason. I am not sure the people who voted for these two really thought it through.


24 posted on 02/06/2006 1:26:47 PM PST by freekitty
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To: mkjessup
For the life of me, I simply do not understand why so many folks on this thread seem to have discomfort with the character of this extraordinary man.

Over these many years, Senator Kennedy has consistently reflected uniquely sound judgment, superb character traits, and consistently has epitomized a superlative example of Public Service.

Well Done, Senator. And, may you rot in hell!
25 posted on 02/06/2006 1:31:27 PM PST by dk/coro
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To: presidio9
Camelot immunity.

Puuuhhh-Leeeeeezzzzzze....."Camelot" was only for like--3 years and that automatically makes EVERY member of the Kennedy Fmaily an instant Hero or Role Model???

26 posted on 02/06/2006 1:36:10 PM PST by ExcursionGuy84 ("Jesus, Your Love takes my breath away.")
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To: kjo

Not from Taxachusetts, but most of the ones who could leave...have gone.

They had 16 Congressional Seats in the 1920's, now down to ten, and soon to lose one or two more in the next census.

Their votes for President have seen the same decline.

Unfortunately many of the DUmmies went to New Hampshire...

Taxachusetts is left with an increasing mass of lazy beggars who will not work ...

With all their nice benefits, Taxachusetts is now an International magnet.


27 posted on 02/06/2006 1:37:17 PM PST by george76 (Ward Churchill : Fake Indian, Fake Scholarship, and Fake Art)
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To: presidio9
Kennedy had urged her to get an abortion but she declined

This would be a shocker if true, and it seems believable to me. No wonder he wants to keep abortion legal. So many womens rights groups scream about a woman's right to choose, they ignore the possibility that many young girls may be pressured into an abortion against their will. It really should be called a "man's right to avoid responsibility. Please don't flame me, I am not slamming all men, just women who say it is all about a woman's right to choose when they make no effort to protect a woman's right to choose to have the baby.

28 posted on 02/06/2006 1:43:52 PM PST by sportutegrl (People who say, "All I know is . . ." really mean, "All I want you to focus on is . . .")
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To: 1Old Pro

There are a few million sensible people in MA who've never voted for any Kennedy, including Fatso.


29 posted on 02/06/2006 1:45:03 PM PST by hershey
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To: hershey
I am told that the Orca has been receiving many donations in his pre-paid campaign solicitation on 1 or 2 cents in the name of Mary Jo. Costs 'em 39 cents to receive 2. And reminds the staff workers of the character of the man they support.

I hope it's true.

30 posted on 02/06/2006 1:56:17 PM PST by Thom Pain (Supporting the Constitution is NOT right wing. It is centrist.)
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To: presidio9

Mary Jo Kopechne was unavailable for comment.


31 posted on 02/06/2006 1:59:59 PM PST by Roux
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To: AppyPappy

Alice Cooper votes Republican. Please don't like him to Ted Kennedy.


32 posted on 02/06/2006 8:44:16 PM PST by presidio9 ("Bird Flu" is the new Y2K virus -only without the handy deadline.)
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