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The mysterious demise of John F. Kennedy’s mistress

Katie Vernon

The Kennedy family has long been influential in American politics. Of the nine children born to Rose Kennedy and business tycoon Joseph P. Kennedy, Sr., three rose to distinguished political positions: John Fitzgerald, Robert Francis, and Edward Moore — or Jack, Bobby, and Ted.

The Kennedy dynasty has been instrumental in shaping all kinds of national and global events since the 1940s. But the family has also been blighted by a string of fatal accidents and assassinations, and the “Kennedy curse” seems to have affected more than just the bloodline.

Robert Kennedy speaking to civil rights demonstrators in front of the Justice Department on June 14, 1963

Robert Kennedy speaking to civil rights demonstrators in front of the Justice Department on June 14, 1963

In July 1969, 28-year-old Mary Jo Kopechne died in a car accident at Chappaquiddick Island. Senator Ted Kennedy, who was at the wheel, received a two-month suspended jail sentence for the charge of leaving the scene of a crash causing personal injury.

The media was full of speculation about the relationships between the Boiler Room Girls and the male attendees at a party they had attended earlier that night. It was also full of speculation over what really happened to Kopechne that night.

She was definitely not the first woman alleged to have had sexual relations with one of the Kennedy brothers.

Mary Pinchot Meyer, friend of Jackie Kennedy and ex-wife of CIA official Cord Meyer, was murdered three weeks after the publication of the Warren Commission report on the assassination of JFK. In his 1995 autobiography, A Good Life, Meyer’s brother-in-law confirmed as true the rumors that she had also been a mistress to President John F. Kennedy.

Mary Pinchot Meyer at JFK’s 46th birthday party on the presidential yacht Sequoia. Photo by Robert L. Knudsen CC BY 3.0

Mary Pinchot Meyer at JFK’s 46th birthday party on the presidential yacht Sequoia. Photo by Robert L. Knudsen CC BY 3.0

John and Jackie Kennedy had a ten-year-long marriage filled with love and respect according to their close friends — and with his love affairs according to the media.

President John F. Kennedy, First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy, and their children, John Jr. and Caroline, at their summer house in Hyannis Port, Massachusetts.

President John F. Kennedy, First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy, and their children, John Jr. and Caroline, at their summer house in Hyannis Port, Massachusetts.

However, although the public exposure of Kennedy’s alleged extramarital relationships might have been humiliating for Jackie, it appears that she knew about them before anyone else. She seemingly accepted what biographer Robert Dallek describes as JFK’s “compulsive womanizing” as a part of their life together.

John Kennedy allegedly had several long-term mistresses during his marriage. Certainly the man who claimed “If I don’t have sex every day, I get a headache,” had a reputation for promiscuity going back to his high school days.

The Kennedy family in Hyannis Port, Massachusetts, in 1963.

The Kennedy family in Hyannis Port, Massachusetts, in 1963.

On the list is Judith Exner, who introduced the president to Sicilian American mobster Salvatore “Sam” Giancana (another relationship with many unanswered questions). Exner and Kennedy had a two-year-long relationship during which she claimed that she got pregnant. Years after his death, in an interview for People magazine, Exner said: “Jack couldn’t have been more loving, more concerned about my feelings, more considerate, more gentle.”

JFK with Robert Kennedy and Marilyn Monroe in 1962.

JFK with Robert Kennedy and Marilyn Monroe in 1962.

Then there was Mimi Alford, who claimed in her memoir Once Upon a Secret: My Affair With John F. Kennedy and Its Aftermath to have had an 18-month-long relationship with him while working as an intern in the White House, aged just 19.

According to her, Kennedy never looked for a relationship to replace his marriage.

The Kennedy brothers. Presidential candidate John F. Kennedy, Bobby, and Ted, July 1960

The Kennedy brothers. Presidential candidate John F. Kennedy, Bobby, and Ted, July 1960

And of course, there is the question of JFK and Marilyn Monroe. Did this President “have sexual relations with that woman”? The evidence indicates that there was indeed a romance, and that Jackie Kennedy chose to look the other way. Even though her death in 1962 was ruled as a probable suicide, stories of foul play began to bubble up immediately. Each of the various stories claims Monroe was killed because of reasons relating to her affair with John F. Kennedy — several also involving the CIA and/or Robert Kennedy.

With this still a hot topic seven years later, when another alleged mistress was murdered in broad daylight on a towpath in Georgetown, Washington, D.C., many wondered if something odd had happened to this blonde woman, too.

Lieutenant Cord Meyer Jr. with his bride, the former Mary Pinchot, after their marriage at the home of the bride. April 19, 1945, New York, NY.

Lieutenant Cord Meyer Jr. with his bride, the former Mary Pinchot, after their marriage at the home of the bride. April 19, 1945, New York, NY.

Meyer was smart, charismatic, and blonde with blue eyes. It is said that she took acid with Timothy Leary, painted abstract art with Kenneth Noland, and fascinated the elite of Georgetown with her “out of the box” behavior.

Great U.S. Presidents quotes

Although she was anti-militarist and associated with the Communist Party of the U.S.A. in her youth, Mary got married to Cord Meyer, a CIA official, one of the architects of the nascent security state.

Meyer had two sons during her 13 years of marriage; a relationship that broke down after the couple lost their son in a car accident. The relationship between Mary Meyer and President Kennedy began sometime after that.

President Kennedy with his brother Robert, 1963.

President Kennedy with his brother Robert, 1963.

Last year a letter written to her by JFK was sold at an auction. In the letter was written: “Why don’t you leave suburbia for once — come and see me — either here — or at the Cape next week or in Boston the 19th,” Kennedy wrote in the four-page letter. “You say that it is good for me not to get what I want. After all of these years — you should give me a more loving answer than that. Why don’t you just say yes.”

The Kennedys and the Connallys in the presidential limousine moments before the assassination in Dallas.

The Kennedys and the Connallys in the presidential limousine moments before the assassination in Dallas.

On October 12, 1964, while taking her daily walk along the Chesapeake and Ohio Canal path in Georgetown, Meyer was shot and killed at point-blank range; one bullet in her back and one in the temple.

An African-American man named Ray Crump was arrested because he matched the description of the suspect given by eyewitnesses, but he was acquitted in 1965 due to a lack of forensic evidence.

The case was described as a sexually motivated incident, with the police stating that Mary Meyer was first assaulted and then killed while trying to defend herself.

President Kennedy’s family leaving his funeral at the U.S. Capitol Building

President Kennedy’s family leaving his funeral at the U.S. Capitol Building

So, was the wife of a former top CIA agent and lover of the President murdered “because she knew too much”? People continue to speculate on this, and many other wild theories surrounding her death. Or perhaps she was just unlucky enough to be in the wrong place at the wrong time.

In his autobiography, published in 1982, Cord Meyer refuted the many claims made in the media regarding his ex-wife’s death, firmly stating his belief in the police reports.

As with so many stories that surround the lives of the Kennedy family, conspiracy theories about this case will continue to be hotly debated.