No, not that ‘C’ word. I’m talking about Chappaquiddick.
This weekend, Meet the Press, Face the Nation and This Week all devoted their full broadcasts to fond remembrances of Sen. Kennedy. I was curious whether they would mention the most controversial episode in his long career. On the one hand, a special measure of deference is appropriate for the recently departed. On the other, how can a serious news organization devote an entire broadcast to one man and ignore his flaws?
ABC struck the more deferential pose with no mention of what transpired on the night of July 19, 1969. In contrast, David Gregory mentioned it twice on Meet the Press. However, he provided no details about what Kennedy did or why it mattered. Perhaps one can safely assume that the audience already knows that. Yet professional news organziations rarely mention events from forty years ago without providing some measure of background.
To my surprise, Gregory directly asked Kennedy’s niece, Kathleen Kennedy Townsend, about Chappaquiddick:
[MR. GREGORY:] Kathleen, the imperfect part of his being was something that was very public, from Chappaquiddick to the incident in Florida in 1991 to other struggles.
MS. TOWNSEND: Right.
MR. GREGORY: How did he make–take stock of that in the end?
MS. TOWNSEND: Well, that’s what–I mean, I have to say, I think that’s one of the great, important parts of the Catholic faith. We used to joke we were the church of sinners rather than the church of saints, and therefore you–we’re all sinners. And you can pray to God and say, “I–are you going to believe that I can make, make something better of my life?”
Half way between ABC and NBC is CBS, where Bob Schieffer made a coded reference to the incident. He said,
Ted Kennedy crashed and crashed again during the early turns of his life but somehow he kept on going through the sorrows and tragedies over which he had no control and the self-destructiveness over which he did and in the final laps he won. His children loved him.
“Crashed and crashed again”? That’s eerie. On a more substantive note, Schieffer was the only Sunday morning host who challenged his guests to defend Kennedy’s condemnation of Robert Bork in 1987. Schieffer said to Dianne Feinstein,
BOB SCHIEFFER: You were not there during the Bork hearings when Senator Kennedy said some very tough things. I mean, the — the thing we always remember is the quote he gave, where he said, “Robert Bork’s America
is a land in which women would be forced into back-alley abortions, blacks would sit at segregated lunch counters, rogue police could break down citizens’ doors in midnight race — raids children could not be taught about evolution.” Many people said that after Senator Kennedy said that, that the whole confirmation process about Supreme Court candidates changed after that. Do you think that was a good part or a bad part of his legacy?
Well when you put the question that way…
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