Thursday, February 09, 2006

Wiretap skulduggery

Blogs bristled yesterday with the news that (mercifully) former President Jimmy Carter had yapped indecorously at Coretta Scott King's about the injustice of "secret government wiretapping" of Mrs. King's husband, MLK -- a necrological non sequitur that leads us to believe Jimmy would serve his party better if he had his larynx removed. It has been noted, of course, that the wiretapping of Dr. King was a Democratic affair, but not that it was a Democratic "affair" -- namely the affair between President John F. Kennedy and Judith Campbell Exner -- that enabled J. Edgar Hoover to coerce the two sane Kennedy brothers (John and Robert) into allowing him to eavesdrop on the civil rights leader.

Here's an excerpt on the topic from our forthcoming book, Donkey Cons: Sex, Crime and Corruption in the Democratic Party (Nelson Current April 2006):

Scripps-Howard journalist Dan Thomasson, his partner Dan Wyngaard, and later New York Times columnist William Safire would be among the first to dig into the Exner-Kennedy link, particularly with respect to mobster Sam Giancana. It was a brief footnote in the 1974 Church Committee Report on intelligence activities that sparked the reporters’ interest. The notation summarized Kennedy’s links to the mob, making several references to a “friend of the president” who acted as a courier between the two.

The “friend” was Judith Exner. While a senator on the presidential campaign trail, Kennedy met the Elizabeth Taylor look-alike through his friend, Frank Sinatra. Kennedy, either horny or smitten, pursued Exner enthusiastically. The two launched a passionate affair that Kennedy, once elected, managed to work in between hookers and noonday trysts in the White House pool with a pair of healthy young secretaries known as “Fiddle” and “Faddle."

Sinatra also introduced Exner to Mafia don Sam Giancana, who, as we’ve shown, was already a good friend to the Kennedy clan. One evening, according to several accounts, Kennedy showed Exner a large satchel containing about $250,000 in hundred-dollar bills and asked her to take it to Giancana. Exner said she would—then continued to carry money and messages between the mobster and the president. The affair ended in 1962 after Hoover, a Kennedy antagonist, confronted him with a top secret agency memo depicting a politically lethal triangle: a president, his lover, and the mob.

“Hoover got pretty much what he wanted after that,” Dan Thomasson wrote after Exner’s death in 1999, “including authorization to eavesdrop on Martin Luther King, Jr., whom he claimed had communist connections.”

It has been popular among historians to allow that, well yes, John Kennedy was a Massachusetts horndog, but well gee, all those affairs he had didn't really affect him as president, and well, who wouldn't want to boff Marilyn Monroe? The fact is, though, that Kennedy's affair with Exner forced him to sell out Martin Luther King, Jr., an American hero.

And in addition to Dr. King, there was another tragic figure in all this: Robert Kennedy. As JFK's attorney general, Bobby had to authorize the eavesdropping order Hoover had coerced from his brother, an order that must have seared Bobby's conscience since he had fought passionately for black civil rights, while JFK was merely sympathetic.

-- VINCENT