Jaqueline Kennedy is forever enduring in the national memory for her poise, grace, and impeccable style. But little is known about how she really felt about her years in the White House and of her relationship with President John F. Kennedy. Now, the world is privy to rare details of the presidency and private life thanks to an oral history of the president, conducted with the widowed First Lady in early 1964, just months after his assassination.
The 8.5-hour-long series of audio interviews, as well as transcripts, are being released this week as a book entitled “Jacqueline Kennedy: Historic Conversations on Life with John F. Kennedy.” The interviews were conducted by Arthur M. Schlesinger Jr., a historian and Kennedy aide who was close to the family. Previously locked up in the Kennedy Library, the tapes are being released 47 years after they were first conducted. They’re chock-full of juicy gossip and surprising details of the iconic couple’s life.
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The New York Times recounts some of the most scintillating details from the interview, describing Jackie as delivering “tart commentary on former presidents, heads of state, her husband’s aides, powerful women, women reporters, even her mother-in-law.”
Jackie doesn’t seem to hold back as she describes the many political figures she encountered during her time as first lady; she calls Charles DeGaulle an “egomaniac” and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. a “phony” and a “terrible man” after learning of his infidelity. She also reveals that JFK didn’t have much faith in his vice president, recalling him saying, “Oh, God, can you ever imagine what would happen to the country if Lyndon was president?”
She also offers some private details into John F. Kennedy’s daily life, which included 45-minute daily naps (for which he would change into his pajamas), and his nightly bedside prayers in which he’d kneel down like a schoolboy.
Throughout the interviews, she solidifies her role as a doting and traditional wife and mother, and only speaks highly of “Jack.” She recalls begging him not to send her away during the Cuban Missile Crisis, telling him “I just want to be with you, and I want to die with you, and the children do, too—than live without you.”
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