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Oral History

Robert Healy Oral History, Journalist, The Boston Globe

Copyright 2016 the Miller Center Foundation and the Edward M. Kennedy Institute for the United States Senate.

Knott

Thank you very much for having us in your home.

Healy

Yes, you’re welcome.

Knott

You know I appreciate it.

Healy

I hope I can help you.

Knott

What will happen is in about three or four months you’ll get a transcript of this interview and you can make any changes to the transcript at that time.

Healy

Yes, put it in English.

Knott

If there’s something you remember—don’t clean it up too much. We like the local color you know.

Healy

Don’t worry, I won’t.

Knott

If you have second thoughts about anything you said, you also can retract it at that point. Nothing will be open without your permission. That’s the bottom line.

Healy

I just—a couple of things just for your background. With Teddy, I’d like to give you the official version. There’s nine versions of the cheating story and everybody has a part in it, but you know, I’d like to get that squared away—

Knott

That will be fantastic.

Healy

—formally, and the other thing would be on the judgeship, the Pulitzer—the one on [Frank] Morrissey.

Knott

Great, great.

Healy

You know, I was the central figure in the Morrissey thing and it involved Teddy, Bobby [Kennedy], and Jack [Kennedy] too, who told me before it happened that it wouldn’t happen. But the old man put the screws on the two kids, you know.

Knott

I see, OK. Well, could we start? Perhaps if you could just give us some background as to how you first came—you mentioned earlier that you were close to John Kennedy.

Healy

Yes, well we were both—I’ve got some notes. My wife is much more diligent than I am about notes. I was in the Eighth Air Force. In fact, I served with Kenny O’Donnell, who became the White House Chief of Staff, not officially, but that’s the function he served for Jack. I met Jack. I had a very close friend of mine, a fellow by the name of Jack Fallon, who’s dead but who was very close to Teddy. He was CEO of R.M. Bradley. He introduced me to him at the—Joe Kennedy had set up in ’46 or so—right after we both got out of the service—the Veterans of Foreign Wars post, believe it or not in the old Hotel Vendôme, which is at the corner of Dartmouth and Commonwealth Avenue—

Knott

The one that burned?

Healy

—and probably the only hotel VFW in the world. That’s where they met. And that’s how I met him. I was not a very big stick in the globe at that time. I mean, you know, I was covering—it was a hello-and-goodbye job. I mean I wasn’t—I really didn’t have any close relationship to him other than when I went to Washington and he, by that time, was in the Senate. Before he was killed I started a book with which he was very cooperative—on the making of a President. It was a [Theodore] Teddy White job but it was a different slant and Teddy hadn’t done it. I was going to take him from him campaigning in Charlestown and East Boston through to the point where he got elected, but not anything in the Presidency.

Knott

Yes.

Healy

Then when he got shot, McGraw-Hill pulled the book on me because [Theodore] Sorensen came out, another on [James] Schlesinger came out—and mine looked like a nickel-and-dime job. So I said the hell with it, and it died on the vine.

Knott

Have you held on to that manuscript?

Healy

Yes, I have it.

Knott

You should.

Mrs. Healy

You gave it to Doris [Kearns Goodwin]. You gave it to Doris.

Healy

Oh yes, but I can get it, yes. Anyway it’s about, I don’t know, probably half finished. But it’s all finished vis-à-vis the legwork in it.

Knott

Yes, yes.

Healy

And it’s kind of interesting because—well, it brought a different light to the guy. Anyway, that’s how I got to know him at that point. Life was different. That’s the biggest part of it too. I mean, here I go now with my problem about telling you why I’m important—

Knott

[laughs] That’s OK.

Healy

—but you asked for it. Mary and I have gone over some stuff and one of the things was that the White House—I mean, he used to call me from the President’s office and say to me, “I haven’t seen you.” Well, things have changed a little but on the other hand, in the campaign process, nobody thought he was going to be President of the United States, quite frankly, with Lyndon [Johnson] running against him. For us it was a pretty—I was in Washington at that point. I went to Washington in ’57 and at that point he was a big story for us, you know.

Knott

Yes, that’s right.

Healy

He had gotten his ass handed to him in the convention in ’56, which I’m sure you have, and we would go out and I’d frankly be the only guy covering him.

Knott

Yes.

Healy

I’m talking about ’57, ’58. I made the first trip out that really was a Presidential trip in ’58 to California and Oregon and so forth, and then in the primaries, the primary states that he was hitting. I always remember one night—this is just an anecdotal thing. We were in Superior, Wisconsin, and he had been over at the copper range there—what did they call it? Masabe? No, not Masabe, [Mesaba] but anyway, the big copper range in Minnesota.

Knott

Right.

Healy

He was coming back to Wisconsin in Superior and frequently we’d go out to supper together, you know. He sat on the edge of the bed while I was finishing the piece I was writing, and when it was all through he said to me, “Do you think I can be President of the United States?” And I said, “Jesus, Jack, I can’t imagine anybody I know as well as I know you being President of the United States. I’ve covered [Dwight] Eisenhower in the White House you know, and he was a majestic figure to me in World War II.”

Knott

Sure.

Healy

I flew in the Eighth Air Force and he was a majestic figure then and he was a majestic figure as the President.

Knott

Right.

Healy

We used to call him “Bubblehead,” because when he’d get pissed off his bald head would shine red. But anyway, Jack said, “Well, thanks a lot.” And then we went out to dinner. I tell you that just so—that was the relationship and it was so different from what anybody has or could have in today’s world.

Knott

Yes, right.

Healy

It all changed, I think, with the assassination, really. It began to change anyway, the association. Anyway, that would be my relationship with him and it sort of led to—I think that’s all you need from that, I mean in terms of how I knew him.

Knott

You said you went to D.C. in ’57. You were a reporter for the [Boston] Globe.

Healy

Right.

Knott

Yes, yes. You’re not the chief of the—

Healy

I was the bureau chief.

Knott

You were the bureau chief at that time?

Healy

And there was no other help. [laughs]

Knott

OK, you were it.

Mrs. Healy

He was a one-man bureau.

Healy

[laughs] I was a one-man bureau, yes, yes.

Knott

OK.

Healy

Actually, I was sent there to fix the television license, which I did do.

Mrs. Healy

Also, about the ambassador asking you to write the book.

Healy

Oh yes, this is kind of interesting. Joe [Kennedy] used to call when—Jack was always in the tub at the end of the day soaking his back because his back was always sore and Joe would call almost every day of his life, you know, when he was out in the campaign, I mean the only time I saw it at least. Frequently, Jack would say, “That’s the old man calling.” If I was in his room he’d say, “Talk to him.” So I’d tell him—you know, the questions were always the same. “What kind of a day did you have?” “Gee, it was pretty good,” and then it always ended up, “Is Jack behaving himself? And I’d say, “Sure, oh yes.” 

Anyway, when Jack got elected, he wanted me to do the PT 109 book—Joe did. Joe said to me, “I’ll handle the agency business for you free, and we’ll probably get a movie out of it.” At the time, we now had a three-man bureau in Washington and I was a Bureau Chief and I couldn’t do it. I mean I just didn’t want to. First of all, I had to have—believe it or not, I did keep some credentials with [Richard] Nixon and people like that. And what I wrote was probably not as reflective as it might have been, being a pal of his. I mean I never used any of the closeness that—you know, we covered him pretty straight.

Knott

Was he a good source? Would he feed you things?

Healy

Oh yes. One of the things I always get a bang out of is declassification, you know, and this current thing. The President of the United States can declassify anything he wants. I mean literally. I mean he can take top secret stuff and—at one point, I was out playing golf up here. I was on vacation and I got a call. The President calls Evelyn Lincoln and says, “Get me Bob Healy,” and they don’t know where you are. You could be in Washington or you could be in Vancouver, but anyway, I was out on the golf course. They came charging out and told me the President wanted to talk to me, and I came back to the pro shop. 

Kennedy, you know, would pick up a phone and he’d never say, “This is the President.” He’d never say anything like that. He’d begin talking, and he said to me—I’ll never forget it—he said to me, “Did you see what Cushing said to the—” meaning Archbishop [Richard] Cushing. He was the head of—Pope John named him head of St. James Society, but he was sort of the policeman of the cardinals for South America and so forth. Cushing had gone down there and just chewed the ass off the cardinals about owning property and their wealth and that they weren’t very holy people for where they had a lot of poor people. It was a pretty good speech and Cushing could be tough as hell.

Knott

Yes.

Healy

So Jack’s reading from the transcript of this session that was a private session that Cushing had, and I finally said to him, “What are you reading from?” And he said, “Oh, I’ve got a CIA [Central Intelligence Agency] report here.” And I said, “Well how the hell did you expect me to get it?”

Knott

[laughs]

Healy

So he said, “I’ll send it to you.” [laughs] That was the kind of thing that he would do.

Knott

Yes, yes.

Healy

You know? And, and it wasn’t unusual either. I mean there would be times when he’d be kind of cheesed off at me. I remember once with Bobby, and I think this was true of [Benjamin] Bradlee and all these people. Ben and I were good pals. As a matter of fact he tried to hire me for Newsweek, he and the publisher. But anyway, Jack would call you up. 

When he was President-elect I had a background group called the Healy Group that I formed because I couldn’t get into the better one that was run by the Newsweek guy down there—I forget his name now—a very distinguished guy. They were all old timers and I was in my thirties and they were swapping what they used to call black sheets among them and I wasn’t going to get any of their black sheets anyway, not that I wanted them and not that I needed them. 

But I had access to these people, and we had Bobby in for a background and it was pure background, and I policed it very tough. Bobby said that Jack was going to appoint blacks to the Cabinet. Now that may not sound like a hell of a story today, but that was a big story and we almost all dropped our cookies in the room because, you know, this was a hell of a story. But if you—you had to either get it confirmed someplace else, or—

Knott

I see.

Healy

You know, the background rule. I mean it was deep background. So I went with the story in a column that I could write myself without attributing it to anybody and I got a call from Jack. He knew where I got it because—I don’t know how he knew but he said to me, “You’ve got to keep in mind who the President of the United States is. It’s not Bobby Kennedy.” He was bullshit that it got out. He never did appoint—he did appoint one later, but the original Cabinet did not contain—

Knott

Right, yes.

Healy

It was supposed to be the guy from Cleveland who was—I forget his name now. He was a housing guy, I think, who was a real jerk. 

Knott

When does Edward Kennedy appear on your radar?

Healy

Well, I was just going to say. Yes, we get to Edward. I didn’t know him really. I didn’t know him until—I think I was introduced to him on the floor of the ’60 convention in LA. I beg your pardon. No, I had met him—

Mrs. Healy

Wisconsin.

Healy

—in Wisconsin. I met him on the ski trip.

Knott

OK.

Healy

It was the one where he jumped off the—he was in the gin mill one night and somebody challenged him and—Teddy was a really bold figure, you know.

Knott

Yes.

Healy

I mean you really have to understand he was—first of all, he was unlike the Kennedys. Bobby was kind of a tough guy, but Teddy was a big physical presence too. He was strong as hell and he was a pretty fair football player although he didn’t—he got screwed up in Harvard.

Knott

Right.

Healy

And of course we’ll get to that, but he was big and he was daring and he went off—that’s where I met him. I can’t think of the town, either, but I’m sure it’s in somebody’s notes. I met him the night that he was challenged. I was with him and I think there were a couple of other news guys there but I don’t—I may have been alone, I don’t know. He was pasting it up—what was that story? He was pasting it up. Who was the other guy? Was it [John] Culver?

Mrs. Healy

I think it’s in your notes that we wrote down.

Healy

Oh, is it? Anyway, he did the jump. He went off the damn thing. I thought he’d kill himself. He wasn’t a jumper. At the time, I was a pretty good skier because I skied with the mountain troops out in Aspen, the Tenth Mountain Division. I wasn’t in the division but I was—He was not a bad skier, but he had more guts than he had brains, you know.

Knott

But he survived the jump.

Healy

He survived the jump and he took the—yes, there it is. The guy said to him, “You won’t do the jump,” and he said, “Yes I will, if you’ll vote for my brother.”

Knott

[laughs]

Healy

So that’s how it was. The same night he was getting bitten by dogs. Instead of putting the Kennedy stickers on the back of cars, he would put them on the windows inside and a dog attacked him. Then, I really didn’t see much of him during the campaign. And I wouldn’t, because he went west.

Knott

Yes.

Healy

Yes, he went west and he delivered Wyoming, if you remember, which was the big casino in ’60. My assignment there was I was with Jack out to that guy’s house who lost his voice who was a movie actor, where they hid Jack for three days. I spent those three days at the house with him in LA.

Knott

This is during the convention?

Healy

This is during the convention and then the night he got the—he went down to the convention hall and then I met Teddy again that night. So that would be—you know, these are just hello-and-goodbye because—

Knott

Sure, sure.

Healy

And he wasn’t a heavy, as they say.

Knott

Do you recall when you first heard whether he might make a run for the Senate seat that JFK vacated? Was that in the air at all?

Healy

Oh yes, well, that’s another thing. That kind of coincided with this period. Jack said to me, “Are you doing some stuff on people who are out here from Massachusetts?” And I said, “Yes, if I run into something,” you know, in Wisconsin. This was in Wisconsin. 

Ben Smith was out there working for him. Ben was this quiet guy who had been a classmate of Jack’s at Harvard, and he wasn’t a gofer, if you know what I mean. Jack had two styles of friends and some of them were gofers, making sure his coat never touched the floor, as they say, and the others would be guys like Ben Smith, who would be on the same level as he was with Harvard. Ben was a pretty good football player and everything. Anyway, that’s how I met Ben. As I recall—and my memory is not too sharp on this—Jack suggested Ben, and I didn’t know him from a hole in the wall. When I went back, they then asked me what I thought of Ben. Ben was a nice guy but didn’t come on very impressively and was the last guy in the world I would think would be eligible to be a Senator.

Knott

Right.

Healy

Or even thinking about being a Senator. And I don’t think he was. But anyway, Jack made some comment to me about that time about Ben succeeding him in the Senate if he got elected. It was the first time I had ever seen him and the minute I—the thing that went through my mind immediately was, a seat warmer.

Knott

OK.

Healy

Because I would describe Ben—Jack was a dog about getting descriptions of people, what you thought of them, and he was asking, do you think this guy could do a political job and my answer was no. I mean how does he get elected? Jack would kind of slough that off as—and all of a sudden I realized that he’d be a seat warmer. So Jack was thinking about the seat warming operation as early as—and that whole [Foster] Furcolo fight. They didn’t like each other and—

Knott

Right, right.

Healy

[Thomas] Tip O’Neill refereed that for Jack because the father asked him to.

Knott

The father asked Tip?

Healy

The father asked Tip to referee that, yes, and Tip wasn’t that hot about doing it but did it for the old man.

Knott

Right.

Healy

That was the first time you got the notion that maybe they were thinking about who they would appoint if Jack got elected.

Knott

Yes.

Healy

And it came to me, as I say, through the business of—and at that time Teddy wasn’t even old enough to serve in the Senate.

Knott

Right, right, right.

Healy

So you know, the old man was all over everything.

Knott

Yes, I was going to ask you about that.

Healy

The old man was over in those days, and then of course the stroke was devastating for those guys because the old man kept calling them all the time. I don’t know this firsthand but I know he called all of them, including Teddy. He would call all of them every day and then when he had the stroke, you know, he couldn’t talk but he still called them.

Knott

Oh, he did?

Healy

Yes. He would call them and Jack told me that some of the conversations were brutal, because he knew what he wanted to say and he couldn’t say it.

Knott

Yes.

Healy

I mean because of the stroke. He had a very serious stroke and lost his ability—I think he lost some of his marbles too but I don’t know. I mean he certainly didn’t have it all together after the stroke. But he also was very determined about what he wanted, on the other hand. I’m talking about with Jack. Like he wanted the Morrissey thing and he wanted—

Knott

The father wanted this?

Healy

The father wanted the Morrissey thing. We had a party at Duke Zeibert’s when Dick Donahue—Dick was the Congressional guy for him, a guy from Lowell. Dick’s old man told him he either had to come home—He had served as a Congressional Liaison guy for Jack. We had a party and it was days before Jack went to Texas where he got killed. At the party, I was in the back room with Bobby, arguing with Bobby Kennedy over the Morrissey appointment. I was going back to be executive editor at that point and—

Knott

So you were going back to Boston?

Healy

To the Globe.

Knott

Yes.

Healy

I was kind of a policy guy, even at the level that I was at, and because I was about to leave, they made a deal with me. But I told him we’d be against it and—

Knott

What was that? What were the problems with Judge Morrissey?

Healy

Well, he was a dented-fender guy, a judge. I mean that’s all he ever—and for him to sit on a Federal Court on cases of antitrust, that was incredible, which I’ll get into in the Morrissey case. Secondly, he never went to law school. I mean that whole Georgia thing was a fake. 

Knott

Some mail-order law degree?

Healy

Yes. It was a mail-order job, you know, and it was not unusual, by the way, down there. They had these setups and the guy just wasn’t qualified to be a Federal Judge. I mean he wasn’t going to do any damage, as they say, deciding who hit who in the rumble seat of a car, but if you were going to put him on the Federal bench—Jesus. Anyway, that night, Jack walked into this sort of standoff between me and Bobby in the back room at Duke Zeibert’s and he said to me, he grabbed me aside, took me away from Bobby and he said, “It ain’t gonna happen.”

Knott

Really? 

Healy

And as I’ll tell you later—well, I can tell you now. The thing was, the way the story actually broke was I knew he didn’t go to law school but you had to prove it, and at one point—and I can’t remember who was there but I know Kenny O’Donnell was there. This is when Jack was President and we were out at Frank Sinatra’s house. Morrissey I think was there, or he may not have been.

Knott

Yes. 

Healy

And Jack used to berate him. I mean Jack actually put him out in the street on a trip from Worcester to Boston one time, stopped the car and said to Frank, “Get out.” And that’s no joke. I mean, that’s a fact. And we’re out in the boonies in those days.

Knott

That’s right.

Healy

Morrissey is standing there in the street saying, “What do I do now, coach?” [laughs] He said, “Well, put your thumb out.” Anyway, that’s what happened. I mean that was his take on Morrissey. He knew he was the old man’s guy. I know personally he resented Morrissey’s role, meaning he was a spy for the old man, even with Jack.

Knott

Oh, OK. 

Healy

And at that thing there—and as I say I’m a little hazy now on precisely who said—I do remember exactly what it was though, because it all came from Jack. Jack was talking to Morrissey about, “Frank, why doesn’t the popular—” They were all having drinks, you know, and Jack was having his one daiquiri and the rest of them were swilling down some beers, and he said to Morrissey, “Why didn’t you ever run for office in Massachusetts, since you’re a popular guy?” It was all a put-on, and I remember the words, too, because Frank said, “Well, a lot of people have asked me to run for the State House and State Rep and so forth.” And Jack looked at him very coldly and said, “Frank, you’re a fucking liar. You ran in 1932. You finished seventh in a field of eleven,” and you had, you know, 640 votes. In the Morrissey case, when Jack was now dead, he testified before the Senate. You know, they have to put in a blue slip.

Knott

Yes, right.

Healy

[Leverett] Saltonstall has to put in a—the guy who’s the Republican Senator has to put what they call a blue slip, which means a no objection. You don’t endorse the candidate from Massachusetts for the Federal Bench but neither do you oppose it. [Everett M.] Dirksen was hot on the trail of Morrissey and he used to call me, Dirksen being the Minority Leader in the Senate. I got a call in the Morrissey case from Kenny O’Donnell. Kenny and I served in the Eighth Air Force together. He was in my bomb group so we were kind of pals, you know. I mean we weren’t that close over there because you weren’t close to anybody except your air crew. The guys next to you didn’t last long so you didn’t get friendly with them. 

But Kenny called me when Frank had testified before the Senate Judiciary Committee, getting into great detail about his experience at this Georgia law school. Kenny called me and he said to me, “I’m going to just tell you this once and then I’m going to hang up. Remember the story of Jack Kennedy facing down Morrissey on running for office?” And I didn’t know what the hell he was talking about, to be honest with you, and then I said to myself, 1932. Have you ever seen the clips on this?

Knott

Yes, we’ve got a few of them in here.

Healy

Anyway, that blew the—so what happened was, I put the two and two together that he had to sign an affidavit that he had lived in the district to run for state office, at the same time he said he was in Georgia going to law school. So I went up—I was in Washington during the thing because I had told Bobby and Teddy, which is where Teddy comes in, that we were going to oppose it and that I hoped that they’d play it square and I’d play it square, but that I didn’t think he was qualified and if I came upon something like this—and I, at that time vaguely suggested to Bobby that this guy never went to law school and that I would look into it.

Knott

So Bobby was irritated with you, I think you said.

Healy

Oh, right away, yes.

Knott

How was Ted? Do you recall Ted’s reaction to any of this stuff?

Healy

Well, I had spoken to both of them, and I don’t think I had done it together but I think I had done it separately, that we were going to oppose it. Bobby was very aggressive about it but he knew, you know, and it kind of frosted my ass because the guy knew he was a dented-fender judge and he didn’t belong on the Federal Bench. But the old man wanted it and that was it.

Knott

Yes, yes.

Healy

So I went up to the State House and sure enough he had a sign. I dug out the affidavit and then I went to Dirksen and to Teddy and I told them I was going to write the story. Dirksen knew we had him beat and he made that famous speech—it’s a pretty good speech—on the floor of the Senate. Teddy then came in and did the withdrawal of the nomination. And of course Johnson was tickled shit at the whole event because he went through for them and was glad that they got embarrassed. He wasn’t worried about Teddy’s future, although he liked Teddy.

Knott

Johnson liked Teddy?

Healy

He liked Teddy a hell of a lot better than he liked Bobby.

Knott

Yes, sure.

Healy

They kind of hit it off. I think he bounced Bobby around on the issue, you know what I mean?

Knott

Yes.

Healy

—with Teddy and Bobby, you know, like two brothers. “I like you but I don’t like your brother,” like Gene McCarthy. Gene did the same—played the same game with Teddy in Chicago in ’68.

Knott

Saying, “I like you, Ted, but not—”

Healy

“But I wouldn’t support your brother,” who was dead.

Knott

He told him this after Bobby was killed?

Healy

Yes.

Knott

Wow.

Healy

Yes. Gene was a mean bastard but you know it’s funny, I never had—Gene asked me to run his campaign.

Knott

Yes, we noticed that, yes.

Healy

Yes. In 1968 at the—I mean, he didn’t win New Hampshire but he was going to win Wisconsin. He always had—he thought he should have been the first Catholic President. That’s where it all starts with Gene McCarthy. And we helped him in New Hampshire, mostly because of the war. I had been to Vietnam and I went over there as a hawk. When I came back I was going to be executive editor. I was writing editorials and we were one of the first papers in the country to come out against the war.

Knott

Yes. 

Healy

It was a result of, well, it was a result of a lot of things, but in ’64 before we put the troops in there, you knew it wasn’t going to be successful if you—I lived in the Mekong Delta with the Ninth ARVN [Army of the Republic of Vietnam] Division. I got a good look at it because [Paul D.] Harkins—General Harkins was the commanding officer and he was very nice to me. In those days, you could call Harkins and he’d send a helicopter for you wherever you wanted to go. There was some—they had good troops. This was the best ARVN group in the Delta. It was an indigenous war then, too. 

So, we helped McCarthy in ’68. That was four years later and Gene got me at the Pfister Hotel there in Milwaukee. We both finished a bottle of scotch, and we were both pretty drunk at about 5:00 in the morning. All night long he was typing things on my typewriter, the portable. I remember him sitting on the side of the bed with my typewriter, making promises about giving me the whole show, and the big tall guy, Blair Clark—you know Blair?

Knott

Yes.

Healy

Blair was rich, you know. He was a white-sneaker guy and a pretty good fellow, but he couldn’t run a two-car funeral when it came to—and Gene and I departed—I quit. I actually quit to run it.

Knott

You did?

Healy

Yes, I did. And the old man [Laurence L.] Winship was running the paper and he said, “I’d like you to take a leave for a couple of weeks. You work on the campaign, do anything you want and then make up your mind.” We had a funny—this is irrelevant. Now here I am talking about myself.

Knott

No, no, that’s fine, that’s fine.

Healy

Anyway, Gene said to me—I remember the night in Wausau, Wisconsin. We were in the hall Sunday night, the night Johnson makes a speech with a snap-line at the end about—

Knott

About withdrawing?

Healy

About withdrawing. And at that point I’m working for him. And Gene had a problem with women, Gene McCarthy I mean. He would—they’d romance him and I don’t think there was anything going on, by the way, but he loved to have a whole crowd of women around him telling him what a hell of a guy he was. Shana Alexander was there. At that point, my relationship with him had already changed [laughs] because I said to him—we’re coming in a car from Wausau to Milwaukee—I said, “Gene, this is the worst thing that could have happened to you.” You know, they’re all—the kids are going bananas because they’ve accomplished their mission.

Knott

Yes, right.

Healy

Their mission was to cream Johnson, and I said to him, “You needed this victory because you’ve never had the victory.” Then he said, “What the hell, are you crazy? I drove this guy out.” I said, “But it doesn’t mean you won. It doesn’t mean you’re going to be President, and in fact I don’t think you are going to be President now.” And he said, “Well, what do I do?” And I said, “Well, I’ll get up at 6:30 in the morning and I’ll have a list of people, including the Senator from Georgia and all these freckle-bellies and right-wing guys in the Democratic Party you have some appeal for.” You know, he was kind of a conservative guy economically, on his economics. I mean a lot of people thought he was in the tank, to be honest with you.

Knott

Really?

Healy

To some of the big interests, yes. I said, “I want you to get on the phone and I want you to call these Senators and tell them why you are going to win this fight. That’s why Johnson got out, not because of any other reason.” Johnson was going to get—he was, too. He was going to get murdered.

Knott

He was going to get beat in Wisconsin.

Healy

Oh, he was going to get murdered in Wisconsin, yes. Well, Wisconsin, you know. If you’ve been—I’ve been there about five times on primaries and it’s a pretty liberal state.

Knott

Yes, true.

Healy

And then it has some good old-fashioned Democrats. Anyway, he agreed to do it. And the next morning I got up at 6:30 and he said, “I’ve rethought that and I’m not going to do it.”

Knott

Really?

Healy

So I said, “See you later.” But we always remained pretty good friends; that was the funny part. Because he made a mistake.

Knott

Right.

Healy

And maybe, I mean Gene would never admit that he made a mistake in a hundred years, but he did.

Knott

Yes. Can I get you to dial back to the—you mentioned earlier there are nine different versions of this Harvard expulsion.

Healy

Oh, the cheating story?

Knott

The cheating story.

Healy

Yes, yes.

Knott

We’re taking it out of context here. I apologize, but—

Healy

I’ll tell you, I just want to get it all straight because I’ve thought about it and refreshed some of my memory with some clips and the like. We knew about the story about Teddy being bounced out of Harvard.

Knott

Were his opponents spreading this story?

Healy

No. We always had pretty good connections at Harvard, you know what I mean?

Knott

OK.

Healy

You know what I mean. I ran a study group over there for eight years, too, so you’d have faculty, and the faculty guys knew about it.

Knott

OK.

Healy

But you couldn’t get them to talk about it and these were days when you didn’t run a story just because somebody told you.

Knott

Sure.

Healy

You had to get some evidence, and we made a rule that until Harvard gave us a shot at what happened, which they would not give us until they got permission from the Kennedys to do it—I’m sorry. I’m a little obscure there. What I meant was you had to get—Teddy had to—the Kennedys had to call Harvard and say, “Look, give him the story.”

Knott

I see.

Healy

So I was up negotiating my own thing to come back to Boston. I was going to jump. We had all 80-year-old editors in those days and it was a big deal for a guy who was young to even penetrate that. And I was not a white-sneaker guy, although I did a fellowship to Harvard. But it was a WASP operation and I was a Catholic.

Knott

Right, right.

Healy

So the whole notion was pretty radical, if you know what I mean, and I was well aware of it. My father was a socialist police striker so I was well aware of those kinds of things, growing up. 

But anyway, Harvard just resisted it. I had pretty good contacts over there, and I was up negotiating my return, which would have been two years hence, to become three years hence, to become executive editor. I was at the Globe. I was stationed in Washington but I was at the Globe, and I had had a meeting with the publisher and he was outlining what the deal was for me. 

I got a call from Dick Maguire. He’s dead. He was the treasurer of the Democratic National Committee. He said to me, “I’d like to talk to you.” I always got stories from him and so it wasn’t unusual, and I said, “I’m up here doing some business now. I’ll give you a ring.” He said, “No, I’m in Boston.” And I said, “Where are you?” And he said, “I’m at the Parker House.” So I said, “Well, we’ll do it.” He said, “No. Why don’t you come down? You might be—I want to talk to you if you’ve got time.” So I said, “Sure.” 

Anyway, I finished my business and went down there and Dick was kind of uncomfortable, you know. You could tell he wasn’t giving me anything—nothing that I was interested in—and then all of a sudden he said to me, “What do you know about Teddy?” It came just like that, right out, changed the subject, and I said, “What do you mean? The cheating story?” And he said, “Yes. What do you know about it?” And I said, “Not a whole lot. We know there was an exam involved. Someone took it for him and we don’t know—we know that much but we can’t confirm it. Harvard won’t confirm it. Our guys aren’t going to run it.” And he said, “OK.” 

Then he left and the next thing I know, he came back to the room. He excused himself. I thought he was going to the bathroom. He came back and he said to me, “I got a phone call for you.” Like I said before, Jack would get on the phone with you and he never introduced himself. I mean he just began talking, and so it was the President on the phone and he said to me, “So you just told Maguire about how much you knew about the cheating story.” And I told him what I just told Maguire. And he said, “Well, we could sit on this thing.” And I said, “Yes, and Eddie McCormack will blow you out of the water in the first debate.” He laughed and he said, “Yes, you’ve got it.” 

Knott

[laughs]

Healy

Anyway, he said, “Come on over to see me,” and I said, “Hey, I’m in Boston. I’m negotiating my future.” He said, “When are you coming back?” I said tomorrow morning and he said, “Come over to see me.” I went over and he has in the room—well, I met with him first and we just went over the details.

Knott

The two of you one-on-one?

Healy

One-on-one, yes. And then he invites in Kenny O’Donnell and Mac [McGeorge] Bundy. I got a great line here for you. Jack is going over this whole thing about the play, and of course initially he wants—this is just the two of us. He wants it in a biographical sketch of Teddy. I said, “Christ, you’ve got to be kidding. I’d write that story, put it in the tenth paragraph and the AP [Associated Press] would lead with it all over the country that Teddy got caught cheating at Harvard. No way am I going to do that.” Then Jack got involved with the play of the story and so forth.

Knott

Did he get irritated with you at all during that meeting?

Healy

No. I mean the Oval Office is still the Oval Office but I had been there enough and I had known him well enough so that—I’ve watched guys go in that Oval Office, you know, and they’re shaking.

Knott

Yes.

Healy

But I wasn’t shaking. I mean, not that I was so bold, but I was accustomed to him.

Knott

Sure.

Healy

And also, he knew I was telling him the truth. I wasn’t the first one to think about the debate, I’m sure. The only reason they did it was for that reason, you know, to blunt the possibility of McCormack. I said McCormack is coming out and he’s going to be tough. 

Jack then brings in Bundy, and somebody else was in there too but I can’t remember who. But Bundy was there, and O’Donnell. I remember when Jack brings them in. I knew Mac Bundy pretty well and I knew Kenny, a pal. Jack could swear like a pirate, as you probably know. He says, “We’re talking about the cheating story at Harvard.” And he said, “I’m having more fucking trouble with this than I had with the Bay of Pigs.”

Knott

[laughs]

Healy

And Bundy, I’ll never forget Bundy. Bundy says, “And with about the same results.”

Knott

[laughs]

Healy

So that was the way—so I got the deal that I wanted, basically. They opened the gates. Bundy was instructed at that meeting to call Harvard. He had been the Dean at Harvard and he called somebody and when I called, they knew exactly what they had to—they gave me the whole record. And I told them, I told Jack—and he wanted to know what day it would run, too. Kind of interesting. I hadn’t even thought of that. They were going to hold up the Harvard transmission so that the news magazines would be out for the week. Are you following me?

Knott

Yes, I got you.

Healy

We got the story on Monday so that by next Friday—

Knott

It was old news.

Healy

It was kind of old news and you’ve got to consider that the news magazines in those days were terribly important—Life magazine, Newsweek, and Time, and particularly out in the Middle West. It was a big story. And I wrote it pretty straight. You’ve got copies of it so there’s no point—

Knott

Sure.

Healy

It led with the cheating. I mean there was no question about—and they didn’t have—I had a guy then who was sort of our executive editor. He was Winship’s assistant. Not Tom’s, but Laurence Winship, the old man, who was my mentor. He was tough. Victor Jones, his name was. He was executive editor of the paper, whose job I took. He had a little trouble with the sauce but he was smart as hell. He was very watchful of my copy on this thing and properly so. You know, I welcomed it because I didn’t want to—

Knott

What were the concerns? 

Healy

Well, he didn’t want me to go in the tank for the Kennedys.

Knott

Oh I see, sure.

Healy

That was the main concern and that it be straight and that it be complete. And they also gave me—they also threw into the package Teddy’s record at the University of Virginia, which was a plus of course for him because he had done his work pretty well. It was good. It was as close as you could come to a one-day-wonder story as you could have. It ran quite lengthy and it was pretty complete with comments on—the only thing they didn’t give me—Harvard would not give me the name of the other student.

Knott

Oh yes.

Healy

—who was from Connecticut.

Knott

The person who took the exam?

Healy

Yes. But that’s how it happened. There’s nine versions of it but, you know, everybody gets the idea that Healy was a Kennedy guy in private, and obviously I was, but the stuff that I wrote was pretty straight, if you read the stuff. And pretty complete. But in those days, Nixon had his guys who wrote a—what was that guy’s name there? Do you remember? You weren’t born, but—I mean you were only a kid but—

Mrs. Healy

A reporter? Are we looking for a reporter?

Healy

Yes, a reporter. He worked for the Herald Trib. [Herald Tribune]

Knott

Big Nixon guy?

Healy

Big Nixon guy. He wrote the first book on Nixon.

Knott

Ray Price?

Healy

No, although Ray was pretty much in the bag for—

Knott

[William L.] Safire?

Healy

This guy worked for the Herald Trib.

Knott

Yes, OK.

Healy

No, Safire was in the bag for years. I mean, you know, I worked that Sherman Adams story.

Knott

Oh yes, right.

Healy

I got screwed out of a Pulitzer that year, too. Went to the finals and the guy at the Herald Traveler who’s a—well, I got the stuff—[Bernard] Goldfine—that got Adams fired.

Knott

Yes.

Healy

Wonderful story too. I look back at that story and think of this current job. I remember old Bubblehead Eisenhower gets up there one day and he’s all over the map. He could be incoherent almost. 

Knott

Right.

Healy

He says in the middle of a—they’re asking him why, pressing him why doesn’t he fire Adams. Adams went in the tank for this guy. We were on the verge, I was on the verge of getting the story that he had gotten a free house on Martha’s Vineyard, and they knew it. The White House knew it because [James] Haggerty was a pal of mine. He was the Press Secretary and he was feeding me stuff because he didn’t like Adams. But they didn’t want that kind of—you know. I mean they wanted me to stay in Washington to do the Kennedy—that was the deal I had with them, that I would be the bureau chief as long as Kennedy was President.

Knott

Yes, yes.

Healy

And they wanted me to have my skirts clean. Anybody in those days, like Bradlee and Hugh Sidey and those guys, in terms of the press in those days you had to have some kind—I mean, the President would talk to me. He wouldn’t tell me everything I wanted to know, but he would also tell me when I was wrong.

Knott

Sure.

Healy

And he wouldn’t lie to me about that, and that’s big casino. That’s the trouble with these guys nowadays. Everything is spin and you never—I sat next to [Karl] Rove recently at the Gridiron Dinner.

Knott

Karl Rove?

Healy

Yes, and he’s a born hooker. I mean he doesn’t even understand there’s an interplay here between reporters and sources, which is critical.

Knott

Did Ted Kennedy ever speak to you at that time or years later? Did he ever talk to you about this whole Harvard thing and your story, your role?

Healy

Oh yes, yes. That’s another item that is not very complimentary to old Ted but that became—as I was going out the door after this long session with the President, Jack said to me, “Jesus, we ought to call Teddy. Will you call him?” Which I did, and he’s quoted in there. He didn’t say much.

Knott

Right. He’s never said anything to you even years later, maybe in a joking manner?

Healy

No. Well, he’s made a few cracks at parties about nailing him a couple of times on the Morrissey case.

Knott

Yes.

Healy

Although Bobby, on the night of the Pulitzer—the Pulitzers—they send it to you in the mail, and the night we won—we won at the 75th anniversary of the Pulitzers and they had a dinner in New York at the—What’s the name of that hotel, Mary?

Mrs. Healy

Pierre, was it the Pierre?

Healy

Pierre—no, not the Pierre.

Mrs. Healy

The Plaza?

Healy

At the Plaza, and Bobby walked across the entire hall to shake my hand.

Knott

Really?

Healy

Yes.

Knott

That’s interesting.

Healy

Well, it had been a done deal. A lot of water had gone under the bridge by that time. I’m talking about between the time we did the stories and it was eight or nine months later that the Pulitzers went out. But the only reason—it was the 75th anniversary. Normally, as I said—but they awarded the Pulitzers in person that year. But anyway he walked across the hall to congratulate me. Ted wasn’t there.

Knott

Yes. Is there a point where you really—you mentioned again that you were much closer to Jack. He’s killed in November of ’63. Bobby—you said there was always some friction of sorts between the two of you. Is there a point where you become close to Ted Kennedy or did that never happen?

Healy

Yes.

Knott

Could you tell us about how that relationship evolved over time?

Healy

Well, as I say, you know him. He knows my relationship with Jack and Bobby at that point, which is good. My relationship with Bobby changed dramatically after the assassination.

Knott

Yes, that’s right. OK, yes, right.

Healy

We would see each other socially occasionally and in one of the first sort of encounters that we had, which was friendly, we were in the back room of Paul Young’s restaurant at a dinner for somebody. I don’t know who the hell it was, and it was during the Louise Day Hicks thing in Boston.

Knott

The whole busing stuff?

Healy

Yes, the busing stuff. Teddy was laughing about his ability to argue cases and so forth, and he said something on the order—I don’t remember the exact words—but something on the order of, “I could argue the case for Louise Day Hicks.” This was very early in the Louise Day Hicks thing because the President was still alive, and she wasn’t—I forget the issue. I think she ran for Mayor like in ’67 or something like that.

Knott

That sounds right, yes.

Healy

This was quite a bit before it, but she had made her ground statement of, “Never—” one of the bywords there. Teddy got up and just for the hell of it we did a point and counterpoint kind of debate. My point was Louise was a disaster for Boston as a Mayor and would throw a—would hurt the town and everything, and he did the counter business. Then we went back to his house and had a drink. 

The next morning I got a call from the President. It didn’t surprise me, because there were a lot of White House guys there that night, but it was a closed party. There were not a whole lot of people there. He said, “I understand you got my brother talking about defending Louise Day Hicks,” whom he hated, you know. So that was—he was—and then I’d have to jump a long way. I’d have to jump by Bobby, actually. I’d have to jump to ’68, really.

Knott

OK, yes.

Healy

One of the cruelest things I think I ever saw was when McCarthy was—McCarthy and I still maintained a pretty close friendship and the guys who were doing the Secret Service stuff around him, which is kind of critical to a news guy, knew me because I had sat in on—with him.

Knott

Yes.

Healy

So I went up to the Conrad Hilton Hotel where he had a suite, when they were beating the hell out of the students down on the avenue there in Chicago. I went up on Tuesday night—I guess it was before the thing—and said to McCarthy, I said, “Jesus, those kids are getting beat up because of you. Why don’t you do something for them and go down and save the peace plank?” Remember they had the—and Robert Lowell was there and Jesus, it was a weird night because Robert Lowell—I knew Lowell pretty well—the poet, you know.

Knott

Yes, yes.

Healy

Lowell could be a little cracker—I mean he was in and out. Then the two of them started—as a put off for me—started talking about a—they made a contest out of it: early sounds in the morning, the opening of a flower, the drying out of a barn, a horse getting up off the ground. They would go back and forth.

Knott

This was while the kids are getting—

Healy

This is while they’re getting their brains knocked in. At that meeting, at that session when Gene started that crap, I knew I was out of business. I knew he wasn’t going to do anything. At that meeting he told me, Gene did, that he had told Teddy that he could support him. Now, Bobby’s dead at that point, just got killed, and Teddy doesn’t run because of Bobby’s death, and Gene McCarthy says that he told Teddy that he could never support Bobby but he could support Teddy for President. He didn’t go into detail but the context of it was that he described Bobby as a mean shit and Teddy was really upset about it. 

He told me later and it was sort of, I don’t know what, but I think that kind of broke the ice for us, too, because I told him—I’m talking about between me and—not that I’m important to him but the point was that it sort of leapfrogged what I was talking about, this relationship between Jack and then Bobby and then—and they all kept very separate friends. Then Mary and I became very friendly with John Culver, who was going through a midlife crisis—a great guy, just a super guy, Culver was. I think that kind of helped a little too, don’t you?

Mrs. Healy

Well, at that point, too, you were back as bureau chief in Washington and we were seeing Ted socially and we were invited to the house.

Healy

That’s true. It was later on, yes.

Mrs. Healy

That was after the run in ’80. Bob went back to Washington.

Healy

Yes.

Mrs. Healy

And that was when we began to see him socially more.

Healy

Yes, and then we began seeing a lot of him. I mean we made the trip to South Africa with him and that was interesting too because they had a—[Ronald] Reagan had this hooker of—

Mrs. Healy

[Chief Mangosuthu] Buthelezi?

Healy

—of an ambassador who had been involved in the Nestle scandal in Switzerland.

Mrs. Healy

Oh, right.

Healy

It was the end of the era. [Nelson] Mandela was still in the slammer over in Robbins Island. Teddy had made a speech that was a real pistol and the guys from Pretoria, the S.A. PM [Frederik Willem] de Klerk’s outfit, had gotten this U.S. Ambassador to actually do the—it was a business group that Teddy had been invited to and the Pretoria guys had insisted that the U.S. Ambassador be given a spot to answer.

Knott

OK, yes.

Healy

This you probably haven’t seen before. It was kind of interesting because we were traveling with him, Mary and I with Teddy, and so when this guy gets up, he’s not even on the program, the U.S. Ambassador, but he’s a Reagan guy. He gives his speech, cutting Teddy’s ribs out and when it was all over, the press—this was in Joburg, Johannesburg—I said to one of the guys who used to be a stringer for us—I was executive editor at that time. No I wasn’t; I was back in Washington. But it doesn’t matter where I was. 

The point was that I said to this guy who had worked for us in South Africa—He had been a stringer for us. He worked for the Rand Daily Mail. I said to him, “ That speech was written in the White House, I’ll bet,” and he said something like, “We’ll never know.” I said, “Well goddammit, I’ll go up and ask them.” And he said, “You can’t do that,” and I said, “Bullshit, I can’t. I’ll go ask him.” So I walked up and of course this guy who had been one of the money guys for Reagan virtually admitted that it had been. First I asked him—I led into it. I said, “Did you talk to the White House?” He said, “Oh, yes.” Which I knew anyway because Ambassadors don’t go to the men’s room without clearing it with the White House.

Knott

Right.

Healy

Secondly, I said to him, “Did they write something for you?” And he admitted that, too, so I had a good story and I gave it to all these guys, because they asked me what the hell I said. That was a good trip for us because it showed how Teddy was blossoming as a Senator, I think.

Knott

Yes, yes.

Healy

You know, I think he had gotten—he had shed the presidential thing, although the Jimmy Carter period was interesting. I was involved a little bit there. In fact, Mary and I were at the—what’s the name of the hotel in LA? Where were we? Were we in San Francisco or LA?

Mrs. Healy

I don’t know what you’re referring to.

Healy

When I met the lawyer, Carter’s guy. He asked me to pull Teddy off the race. What’s German’s pal there? They go to the racetrack together. The old guy.

Mrs. Healy

Oh, from Texas. [Robert] Strauss.

Healy

Yes, Bob Strauss.

Knott

Strauss asked you to—

Healy

Strauss called me up when we were—I think we were in San Francisco, as a matter of fact. Yes, we were. Strauss called me up and asked me to have breakfast with him and I went down and it was during the California primary.

Knott

Yes, OK. I see.

Healy

He said, “He’s going to lose it.” Strauss made the case that Teddy was going to lose it, and would I get him out of the race? I said, “Jesus, I don’t have any—I wouldn’t ask him, number one, and number two, I couldn’t do it if I did.” But he was committed to it. Strauss sort of gives you the wink, you know, Well you could do it. You could ask him. But anyway, I never asked him.

Knott

You didn’t pass that on to anybody?

Healy

No.

Knott

Any of the Kennedys?

Healy

No. I wrote it later. 

Knott

Oh, you wrote it.

Healy

Yes, that Strauss was playing the field and looking for somebody to—

Mrs. Healy

The Cliff. The Cliff in San Francisco.

Healy

Cliff Hotel, yes, in San Francisco.

Knott

Can I ask you, did the Globe pursue the Chappaquiddick story?

Healy

The what story?

Mrs. Healy

Chappaquiddick.

Knott

—the whole Chappaquiddick story aggressively? I mean, were you involved in that? Let’s start there.

Healy

Yes, I was, yes. We had a team of about three or four guys who were on it and there wasn’t—let me describe the shape of the thing from our standpoint at least. It was an extraordinary story. If you remember the play on the night of the thing, it was a case of somebody on the moon, I think it was. The moon shot.

Knott

The moon landing, yes.

Healy

Yes, and I was executive editor but we had a funny—I don’t mean to get into this but the reason I’m getting into it is that one of us had to pass on the Sunday paper and you had to decide whether you’ll lead with the moonwalk or Chappaquiddick. We did a dual job that night. If you remember the page, it’s kind of interesting.

Knott

Split right in half.

Healy

Yes. Well, it was sort of a split job with Chappaquiddick and the moon story, but I’m saying that if there was a big story we would decide for the managing editor of the Sunday paper. We’d listen to what he wanted but we might change it [laughs], and one of us was in charge of it because the publisher had a rule that he didn’t want to talk to city editors or managing editors. If he wanted to chew someone’s ass out, it would be either me or Winship.

Knott

OK.

Healy

Which was good management.

Knott

Yes, yes.

Healy

But we also ran the editorial page, too, which was unusual. We both ran the—and I wrote a lot of editorials. At any rate—so we basically set up the rules of engagement on Chappaquiddick. You knew you weren’t going to get anything from the Kennedys, number one, but you had a guy down there doing the story who was coming to see him, and you had the Washington end of it, and then—My recollection is a little flimsy on this but my recollection is that we pressed the police chief pretty hard but he was clearly a pal of the Kennedys. That’s a bad phrase. He wasn’t a pal but he knew them and he had a relationship with them. I don’t know what his relationship—I mean I don’t think he was a—I think he was being careful about dealing with the United States Senator from Massachusetts.

Knott

Yes.

Healy

He was a pretty good guy, by the way. I’ve since—

Knott

Is this Dominick Arena?

Healy

Yes, Arena, and I think he tried to do a pretty good job but there were constraints put on him that some people, in retrospect, wanted him to break.

Knott

Yes.

Healy

And maybe he should have. I’m not judging that one way or the other. Was he tough enough? You know, you had a homicide, or you had a homicide investigation I should say, and what happened? The answers weren’t quite fulfilling in the statement, certainly, that they made. We had at that time what we call a spotlight team in business, which we stole from—Mary and I got to be pretty good friends of Harry Evans before he got fired by the Times of London when Bozo [Rupert Murdoch] took over the ownership of the Times and—

Knott

[laughs]

Healy

So he started that and he won world acclaim with the thalidomide story. The way it was set up was you would take these—whoever was on the team—you would take them out of the run-of-the-mill stories, and we put the spotlight team on it and they did a pretty good job. I’m talking about taking them out from underneath the city editor and putting a separate team on it with no time element factor.

Knott

Yes, yes.

Healy

That was the thalidomide story. You know what thalidomide is?

Knott

Yes, yes.

Healy

On the thalidomide story in London, they hired chemists and experts to do wonderful stuff. Their libel laws are much more brutal than ours, you know. He was a giant on that story, the editor, Harry. We picked up basically the same formula, which we used in Chappaquiddick. You ought to talk sometime to Steve Kurkjian. Steve and Gerard O’Neill.

Knott

These were the reporters on the spotlight team?

Healy

Reporters on the spotlight—They never used a byline on their stories but the names of everybody who contributed were on there.

Knott

Do you recall, was a there a feeling that things were being covered up?

Healy

Well, they weren’t very forthcoming.

Knott

They were not forthcoming.

Healy

I mean they weren’t going to give you anything.

Knott

Yes, yes.

Healy

And you knew that going in because they brought in the lawyers. In fact, [Joseph] Gargan could tell you every bit of it. And he might be more forthcoming now about that than you think. When are you going to see him, tomorrow?

Knott

Tomorrow, yes.

Healy

Really? Down the Cape?

Knott

Yes. We’re heading to Hyannis tonight.

Healy

Oh are you? Yes, well that’s good, a good night to go down there. So Joe had—we never got anything from Joe. And I talked to [Theodore] Sorensen, who came up here. Who else did I talk to? 

Knott

Did you ever hear any reports as to whether Senator Kennedy thought of resigning at the time? Or was that not—

Healy

Oh, I think it definitely was.

Knott

He was.

Healy

Now, I have no firsthand knowledge of that. But was it rumored? Yes.

Knott

Right, yes.

Healy

In fact locally there was talk about who would take his place, but that’s Boston politics, too. You know, it could be a very thin reed. [laughs] Everybody’s available, if you know what I mean.

Knott

Yes, yes.

Healy

But here was a guy who was prepped to be President. That was the impact of the story. Not that Mary Jo’s [Kopechne] death wasn’t—but here was a guy who probably would have been President of the United States. 

I’ll tell you another thing that was fascinating to me, and again, Mary’s going to criticize me for talking about myself too much, but it happens to be relevant. I used to get invited to San Clemente by Nixon. I remember at one dinner up there he said—Nixon always gave speeches at dinners, like he wore black socks on the beach. [laughs] Nixon was a weird son of a bitch. But anyway, Nixon says, “We’ve got the entire spectrum of the American press here.” This was out for dinner. There were ten to fourteen editors and of course, who was I with? I was there with the guy from the Arizona Republic. I was there with all the right-wing papers. The Washington Star was there. The Post wasn’t, and the Times wasn’t there. 

Once when Teddy was messing around, being talked about recovering from Chappaquiddick and how far he had come and was he thinking about running for President, he sent—You would go to the tarmac in LA where—I was coming from Boston in those days—and Nixon would pick you up in the helicopter. You know, fourteen editors and they’d all come in on the helicopter at roughly the same time, but not me. He would send the helicopter for me to bring me in early—I didn’t know, I had no arrangement—because all he wanted to talk about was Ted Kennedy. 

He had a fixation, Nixon did, on the Kennedys. Of course, what the hell? He was looking down the barrel of a gun at Bobby and Jack, and the guy was paranoid anyway and the Kennedys just wiped him out. But I always found that kind of interesting, you know? And the first thing he said to me—I’m there sitting on—with Alexander Haig serving us martinis. Out in San Clemente they had a deck out there. Haig was a light colonel in those days and he was a gofer. I often laugh. I reminded him of the story when he became the White House Chief of Staff. “I’m in charge, you remember?” [laughs]

Knott

Mm-hmm.

Haley

So he was serving us martinis. That’s on the side. Anyway, it’s just funny. Nixon was just—he wanted to know everything about him, everything about Teddy Kennedy. What was he doing? What were people saying in Massachusetts? What were people saying elsewhere? What did I pick up from the Democrats? I probably was—not probably—I wasn’t as forthcoming as I could have been, but on the other hand, I’d fish around a little bit there and give him a nugget or two. 

Then I remember I leaked the story to—they take you in, “in the box,” as they say, to San Clemente on the helicopter, and then they take you out the same way so that you couldn’t run into any of the guys. In those days if you were covering the White House you stayed in Santa Barbara. So they take you right back to the plane—

Knott

So you couldn’t talk to any of the other reporters?

Healy

So you wouldn’t talk to any of the other reporters. Lou Cannon was out there at the time. He was the Post guy and Lou and I were pals, so I told Lou, when I was going out there, I said, “This is the way they’ll do it. You give me your phone number and I’ll give you the story.” These were all off the record.

Knott

Yes, OK, right.

Healy

I gave Lou the story and they were, “Bullshit.” They probably knew who did it, because the other guys wouldn’t tell you your coat’s on fire, you know.

Knott

Right, right.

Healy

I mean those right wing, liberal press guys from the Arizona Republic. 

Knott

[laughs]

Healy

Literally. I mean the Times wasn’t there, nor was the Post—the entire spectrum. Nixon had a thing about Teddy and it was different from the thing he had about Jack.

Knott

How would you characterize that difference?

Healy

Well, first of all he was President.

Knott

Yes, OK. Yes.

Healy

That was probably the main thing, but the second thing was that Nixon had a thing about Eisenhower and particularly the WASPS in New England, not that the Kennedys were WASPS; they weren’t, but he put Jack in that category.

Knott

Sure, sure.

Healy

Why, I don’t know, but he did. I know that because one time he told me in the ’60s that they were part of the establishment, and I told him that when I was a kid we couldn’t get into the hotels on the Cape because I was Irish, which was true. They used to have restrictive hotels down on the Cape, including the Belmont and Dennison. But anyway, he put Kennedy in that category and I don’t think he put Teddy in that category. In fact, I’ve heard him say that he thought Teddy was not a bad guy. And I think he had done business with him as President.

Knott

Yes.

Healy

So, what the hell, that gives you a leg up, definitely.

Knott

Sure, sure.

Healy

Yes, they take you out on that back porch there and they can show you the world without giving you anything. That’s kind of an interesting aside on Teddy. Teddy’s reaction was—Teddy, the year he ran for—I did a magazine piece. I don’t think you have it either. I don’t see it in the clips. Ward Just, who is a pal of mine, did a piece—some review. I did the whole magazine on Teddy. Who was the other guy that did it for the New York Times? The ABC guy, Mary. Your pal? The ABC television guy.

Mrs. Healy

Frank Reynolds?

Healy

ABC.

Mrs. Healy

Frank—I don’t know who you’re talking about. Did something with the Times?

Healy

Yes, he did it for the Times. He did a piece on Teddy the year Teddy was President, as we used to call it, 1980.

Knott

Yes, right.

Healy

What was the guy’s name?

Mrs. Healy

I have no idea.

Healy

Ward Just wrote a piece comparing the two pieces—

Mrs. Healy

I don’t know.

Healy

—in which he said in the piece something about you could tell Healy knew a lot more about Teddy that he didn’t put in the magazine. [laughs] Anyway, he was a White House guy for ABC for many years and he did that New York Times piece. 

I’ll tell you, one of the things that struck me about Teddy was—that year I sat in the back of the car. He had this old Pontiac. Joe Kennedy used to tell his kids, “Don’t ride around in new cars.” So they all had these old shit cans that they used to drive around in, and Teddy had this convertible with a light on the back that was built into—it was a funny light, you know. You don’t have a light in a convertible but he had it built in in the backseat. It was during the period of Carter’s deregulation.

I was doing this magazine piece on Teddy and he had two guys who were—I mean this is the most arcane crap you ever saw in your life. I’m talking about the SEC [Securities and Exchange Commission] and the ICC [Interstate Commerce Commission] and dereg, and all that stuff. You’re talking about the size of a truck, how much weight they have, and all that stuff. Teddy’s in the backseat preparing for one of the debates with Jimmy Carter and I’m in the— no, Teddy’s in the front seat and the two guys, his staff guys who were working on this committee are on either side of me, and I’m sitting in the middle and he’s literally correcting these guys.

Knott

On detail.

Healy

On detail.

Knott

Yes.

Healy

I mean, the most arcane crap you ever saw in your life. I was really impressed, because as you remember, he gave my pal [John] Chancellor that incredible response about, why do you want to be—

Knott

Oh, Roger Mudd?

Healy

Roger Mudd. I’m sorry, yes. “Why do you want to be President?”

Knott

Yes, yes. “What do you think the—”

Healy

And it made him look awful.

Knott

How do you explain that to this guy—?

Healy

I don’t. That’s what I’m saying. I don’t have any answer for that, because first of all, the notion that he would go into a debate without preparation was crazy, was wrong.

Knott

Yes.

Healy

Those guys used to really prepare. I mean, Jack had a formula. I was around Jack at that first debate with Nixon, and he didn’t do that well in that debate. I don’t know if you ever read it but if you read it carefully, what saved him was Nixon hadn’t shaved. [laughs]

Knott

He was sweaty and—

Healy

He was sweaty. And Nixon was sick. He had injured his foot or something.

Knott

He banged his knee on the car door.

Healy

The knee, you’re right—like I am right now. And it was bandaged, yes. But the idea that they wouldn’t prepare was just not the case.

Knott

Sure.

Healy

And the idea that that wouldn’t be the first question you’d have to deal with, you know, with any of these.

Knott

Sure, sure.

Healy

Either that or it says something about softballs. Jack had a notion of, the tougher the guy, the better he loved them.

Knott

The tougher the questioner?

Healy

Yes, the tougher the questioner. And also, Jack had a wonderful sense of the press. I did an NBC special right after he became President, with this guy who wrote the book—he was a big, Jewish fellow who smoked cigars—I’ll think of the name. Anyway, I went over there to get some information from him before I did it. This guy was a Nixon guy and he wrote a tough book on Kennedy, and Jack said to me, “Half of the stuff he uses will be from the Congressional Record, and three-quarters of the stuff in the Congressional Record is pure bullshit and isn’t even accurate,” which is true. You know, just because it appears in the Congressional Record you don’t—but this is the way. So he said to me that time, “The best thing you can do when you go up against this guy is when he throws one of these Congressional Record stories at you on me, don’t ask—just come back with one of yours. Give him the same treatment with Nixon. And don’t answer the question.” What the hell is his name?

Knott

Is this Victor Gold?

Healy

No, no, it wasn’t Gold. I knew Gold pretty well though, yes. This guy never worked for—well, he was on the payroll I’m sure, but in those days there were a lot of guys. Anyway, at the end of the break—we taped it. It was a half-hour show and at the end of the break this guy came over to me and twirled his cigar a little bit and he said, “Hey kid, if you cut out this bullshit, I’ll cut out this bullshit.” [laughs]

Knott

[laughs]

Healy

I tell you that because Jack—well, first of all, Jack grew up in a much tougher world than Teddy. I’m talking about in that era. If you ever want to read something that’s riveting, it’s the Houston appearance before the Baptist ministers in 1960. It’s absolutely riveting and he put them on—he really set them on their ass. I mean, it was really something.

Knott

Yes. 

Healy

It was a tough audience and I had been—Ralph Coghlan had been the editor of that big Catholic paper that’s published in St. Louis. I forget the name of it now, but anyway it was the Catholic—I don’t think there is any national journal now in the Catholic—but anyway, Ralph Coghlan. No relation to Father [Charles Edward] Coughlin because Ralph was a real leftie. It was the leftie paper for the Catholic Church, and he did some of the interrogating of Kennedy. I was in the room with him.

Knott

When they were prepping him?

Healy

Before Houston.

Knott

Yes.

Healy

Jack just said, “Bring it on.” The tougher it got, the better he got.

Knott

So you don’t think Teddy had gone through a similar sort of baptism before?

Healy

I don’t think Teddy had ever gone through that baptism, no. I don’t think he had to. That was the problem.

Knott

Right, sure.

Healy

Now, the debate with Eddie McCormack was certainly a tough debate. Don’t think Eddie backed off, and Eddie made it very clear here in Boston that that’s the way it was going to be. He didn’t hold back. If your name was Edward Moore, you’d be out shoveling you-know-what. So, Teddy ran into it occasionally. You know, the George Lodge thing was—George and I covered police headquarters together and I had lunch with him in the last couple of years. He was kind of the gentleman candidate for the Republicans and not too different really with his philosophy than Teddy.

Knott

Yes, right. 

Healy

So there were—and then after that—’64 was a joke.

Knott

Right.

Healy

He really never had a tough campaign, not for the Senate.

Knott

Do you know why he took on Carter? Why he would challenge an incumbent President of his own party?

Healy

Yes, I do, I think. We were down—where was that, Mary, in Memphis?

Mrs. Healy

In ’78, the midterm.

Healy

Seventy-eight, yes, the midterm election and he had supported—Well, first of all there was a tribal thing, not that there aren’t tribal things with every candidate for President, but the Carter people—and Mary worked for Jimmy—the Carter people were pretty tribal. I mean they were smart people and they were tough, but they were very tribal.

Mrs. Healy

They were very parochial.

Knott

Georgia?

Healy

Yes, they really were, and Mary worked with the top guys.

Mrs. Healy

I worked early on in the campaign. Volunteer.

Healy

And once she claimed to know me, she was dead. [laughs]

Knott

Is that true?

Mrs. Healy

Yes.

Knott

Really?

Healy

It was funny too.

Mrs. Healy

The Boston Globe wasn’t Jimmy Carter’s favorite paper. I wasn’t that important. I mean I was just a volunteer, but I was a volunteer very early on when there were very few people outside of the Georgians.

Knott

OK.

Healy

Yes, she was from Tennessee. Anyway they were very tribal. They would do silly things, you know. The guy she knew pretty well was a Congressional guy who was pretty good. He was pretty good but he fought an uphill battle.

Mrs. Healy

Frank Moore. But you know, Jimmy Carter was a very ineffectual President and he was not in the Democratic tradition, certainly at that time. He looks like a liberal now.

Knott

Right, right.

Mrs. Healy

And I think—I don’t think it was personal. I think it was philosophical.

Healy

Yes it was, and I think that was the difference. Tip [O’Neill] used to say that they went out of their way to stiff him.

Knott

The Carter folks?

Healy

Yes, and they did it like—

Mrs. Healy

There was a Southern chip.

Healy

The seats, remember the—

Mrs. Healy

There was a Southern chip on their shoulder.

Healy

Yes, and I know Teddy—Teddy made a speech on healthcare in Memphis that’s a pisser because it gets at his real concern, and not only that, but he really felt that they had a shot at it at that time.

Knott

To get national healthcare?

Healy

To get national healthcare. Well, not—he never believed in—that’s where he parted company with Clinton, too, Teddy did. He believed that nobody would buy the package, that you had to do it incrementally.

Knott

OK.

Healy

And that that was the way to do it, that was the proper way. You know, feed it in every year but make the commitment to it.

Knott

Yes.

Healy

He made a speech that was—geez, it was a pisser—in Memphis at that midterm convention—on healthcare. You know, when somebody does the handout on healthcare, [makes snoring noise] all the press goes to the men’s room. But it was a hell of a speech.

Knott

Yes, yes.

Healy

I think if you were to pinpoint the timing of it, Carter was bullshit at it. Instead of placating Kennedy and doing something for him, they fought him, and Teddy at that point had enough seniority. He had very great success dealing with the Republicans. He still does.

Knott

Yes, yes.

Healy

I mean I’m sure you’ve got stuff from [Orrin] Hatch.

Knott

We’re getting it.

Healy

It’s incredible, his success in dealing—and they really respect him. You know [George] Mitchell—I worked for Mitchell in the Irish thing. One day I was shooting the breeze with Mitchell, and Teddy walked by and we exchanged some pleasantries outside the Senate, and Mitchell says to me, “Jesus, I need one guy as Majority Leader to do all his legislation.” And the reason is that if you sit in on any of those morning breakfasts out in McLean when they were out there, he used to start—he’d be out half the night and he’d still be up at 7:00 in the morning with his staff guys. And in December before the session began he’d have an outline of half a dozen programs, plus he would have legislation written. I don’t know how much you know about the presses down there, but 99 percent of those guys’ staffers don’t know how to write a bill. His guys knew how to write bills and they knew how to do them.

My son worked for the Democratic study group with William Conlon. I don’t know if that name rings a bell. He died in a boating accident. But they used to write legislation and they’d have to do the judicial rewrite of all the crime bills, and you talk about an arcane job. That’s about as bad—and Teddy’s guys could all do that stuff.

Mrs. Healy

But the point was, we were walking with Mitchell and Teddy came up and was all over Mitchell.

Healy

All over him, yes.

Mrs. Healy

“What are you going to do about this?” “What about this?” “What about this?” 

Healy

That’s right, yes.

Mrs. Healy

And he was just bombarding him with pieces of legislation about getting it on—

Healy

They were all his pieces of legislation.

Mrs. Healy

Actually George said to Ted, “Jesus, Ted, I need one staff guy just to handle you.” And he was laughing and very rueful, you know, sort of shaking his head because Teddy was just bombing him with stuff.

Knott

Yes.

Healy

But that’s something that people don’t see in this guy.

Knott

Yes, right.

Healy

And they don’t connect—the thing that strikes me is that one statement. I go back to that one statement, “Why do you want to be President of the United States?” And he doesn’t know, and yet he can tackle—if you were writing a piece on him you’d sit back and say, “Why?”

Mrs. Healy

I’ve never heard anyone give an explanation of that, and I think he didn’t think about it because it was so obvious to him. You know, “I want to promote my brother’s—”

Knott

Finish the legacy.

Mrs. Healy

Legacy, right.

Healy

He wanted the legacy.

Mrs. Healy

“I want to keep our idea of—”

Healy

But you read that—

Mrs. Healy

I think it was just so obvious to him, that he was stunned that anyone would ask him such a question like that, but I’ve never heard anyone give an explanation.

Healy

No.

Mrs. Healy

And never heard a news person.

Healy

Well, I don’t think most people—

Mrs. Healy

A lot of the news has talked about it.

Healy

—fully appreciate him, his confidence. Do you follow me?

Knott

Yes, yes.

Healy

You talk to the press guys in Washington and—I ran a background group and I was bureau chief down there for a lot of years. A lot of them think he’s a lightweight, and I don’t know how you figure that. I mean I don’t know how you can—Teddy Kennedy is—when he gets at something, boy, he’s like a bulldog. Isn’t he, Mary?

Mrs. Healy

And he has the best staff—

Healy

And he has the best staff.

Mrs. Healy

—and a devoted staff.

Healy

That’s another thing.

Mrs. Healy

And he inspires that.

Healy

They inspire those guys.

Knott

Yes, yes.

Mrs. Healy

Wow, I mean they are very devoted to him.

Healy

And when I say inspire, they work their ass off.

Knott

Yes, right.

Healy

And he works them. He demands that they produce.

Mrs. Healy

And you know he supplements some of the staffers’ salaries.

Knott

With his own private—

Healy

His own private funds.

Knott

I don’t know if I did know that.

Healy

Yes, we know some people that—so that whole notion of what you would call Presidential quality is relevant there, that this guy is a guy of great substance and will tackle some tough issues.

Knott

Yes.

Mrs. Healy

When I met Bob I was asking about the different brothers and he said to me, “Jack was all head. Ted’s all heart.”

Healy

Yes.

Mrs. Healy

That was the description of the difference between the two.

Knott

Sure.

Mrs. Healy

And I think that’s probably true.

Knott

We’ve had some people tell us he was the most Irish of the brothers.

Mrs. Healy

Yes.

Healy

Yes, well that’s true. He is, although Jack—

Mrs. Healy

More a gut guy.

Healy

Yes. Jack changed a lot. The Irish trip just changed Jack. Teddy tells this story about—he is funny too—He tells this story about Jack coming back. We’ve heard it at dinners. You know, Teddy will tell the story about Jack showing the film of the Irish trip and that he was the only one in the family who saw it four times.

Knott

[laughs]

Healy

He’s really funny. He gets into this—But the Irish trip for Jack was a real revolution. First of all, if you look at Jack’s pals, they were all British. He knew goddamn little—he was very classically Boston-Irish. I mean particularly successful Boston-Irish who didn’t know beans about Irish history.

Knott

Yes.

Healy

And knew nothing about the—and it’s so funny, even today people who are relatively—you know, I’m doing a book on this thing, on my thing on Ireland.

Healy

Because I’ve got to submit the book, but I have a whole chapter on her and him in the book, and it’s pretty good stuff because it begins with Jack’s trip. She was, you know, after Jack got killed, Jacqueline [Kennedy] used to talk about it all the time. Of course Teddy will tell you, again, that—I told you—he had to sit through four sessions when the other members of the family would say, “Hey, we’ve seen that,” and Jack would say, “Well, see it again.” But Jack became very Irish. And Jacqueline told me that.

Knott

That’s interesting.

Healy

Yes.

Knott

In the last few months of his life.

Healy

Yes. It was ’63. The trip was in the spring. It was ’63 and—[Gerald A.] Jerry Behn. Is he still alive, do you know?

Knott

I don’t know.

Healy

You know who he is? He was the point guy in the—every Secret Service operation has their own point guy and he was Kennedy’s guy to make sure he wasn’t shot. Jerry said to me one day, he said, “Jesus, I never saw so many big shoulders in my life.” And I said to him, “Well, my father will tell you, they’re all hod carriers over there.” But they loved him.

Knott

Yes, sure.

Healy

They loved him and Teddy’s the same way. They love Teddy over there. They love anything Kennedy. And the Kennedys and Teddy, certainly, picks it up. Do you follow me? I mean if Nixon went to Colombia and they loved him, he wouldn’t see it. You know?

Swerdlow

I am Colombian. That’s the reason he looked down on me.

Healy

Oh really? Are you?

Swerdlow

[laughs] Yes.

Healy

Oh you are, yes. But you know what I mean.

Swerdlow

Yes, I do.

Healy

I’m using that place as a remote place for a presidential love affair.

Knott

Right.

Healy

But the point is that he wouldn’t get it, and a lot of guys wouldn’t. [George W.] Bush wouldn’t get it, I don’t think. The trouble with Bush is he’s just a—but that’s another thing. 

Knott

[laughs]

Healy

I love the old man. You know, I loved the old man.

Knott

You did? Poppy [George H.W.] Bush?

Healy

He and I were good pals. And this guy, you have no idea how bad he is. Yes, I know, but I’m telling you. I used to go up there about twice a month up to the Naval—when he was Vice President. I was batching it in those days. Mary wanted to stay in Boston. [laughs] That’s a lie; she stayed in Boston to educate my kids and her kids. She worked at a university, so we sent a few of them for free. But anyway, I would go up there for dinner—Mary says I threaten people sometimes but I was a boxer, you know.

Mrs. Healy

He does.

Healy

I was a light heavyweight champion in the Second Air Force when I was 18 years old, and I just never took any bullshit from anybody. This guy used to come in and he’d be half stiff and he’d be threatening everybody. I mean he’s the weirdest bastard I ever saw, and in those days the old man had a guy, a little guy who used to be in the CIA with him, who was his keeper, literally. Our President of the United States. And you know something? He acts that way. I mean he acts that way now.

Knott

The bullying?

Healy

The bullying, yes. He’s a bully and I felt like—you know, I told him once one night, “You’re going to pick the wrong guy and he’s going to flatten you,” and I was speaking for myself. But I mean he really is, you know. I hate bullies.

Knott

Yes, sure.

Healy

I really do. If you want to be a big shot, don’t do it on my territory.

Knott

Right.

Healy

But anyway, I’ll give you that—

Knott

That would be terrific.

Healy

That would be interesting on the Irish thing.

Knott

Yes, because we’re to pursue this Irish angle with this oral history. We’re going over there in a few months.

Healy

Oh, are you really?

Knott

Next month.

Healy

See a guy by the name of [Maurice] Manning.

Knott

Manning?

Healy

Manning. He was a former State Senator.

Knott

OK.

Healy

He was a pal of mine who introduced me to my pal who was the source for—the Minister of Justice.

Mrs. Healy

I have a suggestion for someone who’s very Boston, very Irish, and who actually worked for me. Then I introduced him to some of Ted’s local people and he worked in one of Ted’s senatorial campaigns maybe two or three times back.

Healy

But very close to him. Oh yes, you ought to talk to him.

Mrs. Healy

Close to him but close in a different way. You know, as a driver and an aide and—but I remember him telling me a story. He was from Allston-Brighton and his father died, and his was the sort of house that had the picture of Jack Kennedy and the Pope. His mother was in the kitchen and people were waking the father and Ted Kennedy walks in the door, sits down next to her in the kitchen, takes her hand at the kitchen table and sits there for four-and-a-half hours with her. That’s the sort of man Ted Kennedy is.

Healy

Yes, he is.

Knott

We keep hearing these kinds of stories.

Mrs. Healy

He’s a remarkable man. He’s a really lovely—

Healy

He’s a remarkable guy on what he does for people.

Mrs. Healy

I’ll tell you another thing that—I was astonished—We used to go to his house when Bob was bureau chief, for parties, and he would be having a rollicking good time, but all of a sudden he would come over and he’d say, “Those people aren’t talking over there in the corner. Go over there and talk to them.” He was just aware. He’s very mannered. He always writes a note. I mean he’s just a very interesting—

Healy

Yes, there’s a side to him that’s very unknown, too, you know.

Mrs. Healy

He’s an interesting man.

Knott

Yes, yes. His name?

Mrs. Healy

Oh, his name is Tom Keady. K-E-A-D-Y.

Healy

He’s at Boston College.

Mrs. Healy

He’s a Vice President at BC.

Knott

Oh, that’s my Alma Mater.

Healy

Oh did you go to BC.?

Knott

I got my Ph.D. at BC.

Healy

Really? What year were you over there?

Knott

I was there from ’85 to ’91.

Healy

Timmy was over there—when? 

Mrs. Healy

My son graduated from BC.

Healy

Timmy’s a big Wall Street Journal man now. He graduated about—

Knott

He was an undergrad then?

Mrs. Healy

Yes, he was an undergrad.

Knott

I was a grad student there. But I might have—I did a lot of—

Healy

Who did you work with over there?

Knott

Well, I was in the politics department. The chair there was a guy named Marc Landy. Bob Faulkner, John Tierney—

Healy

Oh I knew Landy, yes.

Knott

We can take a break now.

Healy

Ethel [Skakel Kennedy] was a horsewoman, and she was a kid. You know, she was probably sixteen—

Mrs. Healy

Eighteen.

Healy

Seventeen years old and she knew our pal, whose name was Dot [Dorothy] Tubridy. She was married to this—Captain, was it?

Mrs. Healy

He wasn’t married to Dot at the time.

Healy

Oh, he wasn’t?

Mrs. Healy

No.

Healy

OK. Anyway, so she later married this guy, but he was the head of the equestrian team. They were young. This is years ago. Ethel had an appointment with them through Dot. No?

Mrs. Healy

She didn’t know Dot. Dot didn’t know this guy.

Healy

Oh right.

Mrs. Healy

She wanted to meet him. He was her hero.

Healy

Oh yes, he was her hero—

Mrs. Healy

He was her hero and she couldn’t get in to see him.

Healy

—on the equestrian team.

Mrs. Healy

Which made Ethel mad.

Healy

Mad. So Ethel painted his horse.

Mrs. Healy

Green.

Swerdlow

No way!

Mrs. Healy

[laughs]

Healy

Painted the horse.

Knott

Wow.

Mrs. Healy

And then later he married this woman, Dot Tubridy—

Healy

Then he married Dot and they laughed at the whole thing.

Mrs. Healy

—and she was widowed. Soon after, he was killed riding his horse and he was dragged. She and Dot have remained friends for, well, at least 50 years, but Ethel’s very funny.

Healy

That tribe is really something. I mean they think all the crap shooters come from the Kennedy side of the family.

Healy

Yes, one of the things I think that bothers Ted—because the crazy people are not Kennedys. The crazy people are the Skakels.

Knott

Yes.

Mrs. Healy

That’s the bad gene. [laughs]

Healy

Boy, you ain’t kidding.

Mrs. Healy

It’s the Skakels that are nuts. Good people. Fun people, but—

Healy

But, brother, off the charts.

Mrs. Healy

When they talk about, you know, a Kennedy relative, sometimes it’s not a Kennedy. It’s a Skakel relative.

Healy

They put everybody in the Kennedy box.

Mrs. Healy

Sometimes it’s an in-law.

Healy

Ethel’s old man was kind of a crap shooter. They tell this story—Ethel tells the story about—the old gent rode the caboose. You know what a caboose is? It’s the back end of a freight train.

Knott

Yes, right.

Healy

They used to have a car there. They slept and they went across country, and he and his pal went by these huge slag fields in Utah where they’d mine and throw the slag on the thing. And they discovered that this stuff made terrific roads. So the old man and his buddy there hire a Cadillac convertible and go down to Texas and they sell a bank on upping some dough to buy the slag, which they in turn got for nothing, just to take it off the property, and they sold it to the government. It’s perfect for building these long roads out West.

Knott

Right.

Mrs. Healy

And that’s how he made his money.

Healy

That’s how he made his first hit. And then of course Jack used to—

Mrs. Healy

They were far, far wealthier than the Kennedys, and Republicans.

Healy

Oh yes, than the Kennedys.

Knott

Oh, really?

Mrs. Healy

Oh, they’re far—I mean I think the Skakels thought Ethel was definitely marrying down.

Healy

Jack used to laugh at the—when we were out on the lakes I remember him telling me—He said to me one time, “Ethel—the family—owns those.” These are the loaders. You ever see those loaders? They’re automatic. I mean, you load coal and ore and whatever into the boats and vice versa, out of the boats. And Jack always said, “And they run 24 hours a day.” [laughs]

Swerdlow

The Senator has made a big difference from what we hear with his brother’s children, Bobby’s kids. He’s really tried to be there for them.

Healy

Oh yes. He’s been very active with them, yes. Well Bobby’s into more good things now than you can shake a stick—young Bobby [Robert F. Kennedy Jr.].

Knott

Bobby Jr., yes.

Healy

He’s into this mercury thing, which—

Knott

Right.

Healy

Apparently there is really something to it.

Swerdlow

The autism issue?

Healy

The autism, yes. And when he sinks his teeth into something, boy, he’s a bulldog. He’s like the old man. 

Knott

Yes, right.

Healy

And he knows how to get publicity, which isn’t bad either.

Knott

Yes, he’s been on the TV a lot in the last few weeks with this issue.

Healy

He was on [Don] Imus [Imus in the Morning radio show] the other day.

Knott

Yes, right.

Healy

Yes. I don’t think Imus knew what the hell he was talking about.

Mrs. Healy

[laughs]

Healy

Actually, that’s not fair. Imus is a pretty good interviewer. I mean, even if he doesn’t know what he’s talking about, he lets the guy talk. I find him pretty interesting.

Mrs. Healy

He’s had some controversy, too, Imus has.

Healy

I guess he has. What is it? I don’t listen to him every day.

Mrs. Healy

Something to do with his ranch?

Knott

Yes.

Healy

Oh, the ranch.

Mrs. Healy

Yes.

Healy

Oh, I heard him railing against somebody out there.

Mrs. Healy

Yes, he was really hot about that.

Healy

Well, if it’s on the level I don’t blame him.

Knott

Yes.

Healy

I’ve often wondered, though, if it wasn’t a boondoggle that he will eventually own—I mean other people have thought of that I’m sure. You know what I’m saying. He apparently raises all this dough for the kids, you know, and he uses it pretty much exclusively. Except that if he’s buying into a huge ranch with a government subsidy taxation line, which I’m sure you can do, and I’m sure a lot of people have done stuff like that—I don’t know. Imus drives me nuts. I hate him on the women’s issue too. He’s such a pig. I mean I can laugh at it—

Knott

Right. No, I know what you mean.

Mrs. Healy

Tangent.

Knott

Actually, we should shut this down.

Healy

Oh, I know.

Mrs. Healy

And just such good staff.

Knott

Right.

Healy

Yes, we talked about that. I think without a question it’s probably the best staff in Washington.

Knott

Yes.

Healy

And guys will tell you that—Republicans or Democrat—As I told you, my son represents all the rapid transit systems in America—Chicago, New York and the like—but he tells me that one of the big failings in a lot of Senate offices is they can’t write legislation, I mean the actual bills. He said that in Kennedy’s office, when they get interested in something they have the bills ready on January 1st.

Knott

Right.

Healy

That’s what Mitchell said. As Mary said, that’s what Mitchell said that day.

Knott

Yes.

Healy

They’re all ready to go while the other guys are discussing whether they are going to hold hearings on it.

Knott

Right. That was a great story.

Mrs. Healy

Do you want to see our Hall of Shame here?

Knott

Sure.

Swerdlow

That would be great.

This is one of the many interviews that comprise the Edward M. Kennedy Oral History. For more information about the Edward M. Kennedy Oral History, including links to all interviews, please click here.

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