The newly released audio tapes of Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis offer a never before heard oral history of her years in the White House. To help preserve history, the former first lady allowed herself to be interviewed by her trusted friend and ally, former White House aide Arthur Schlesinger Jr. They recorded more 8.5 hours of tape in 1964, just months after JFK was assassinated.
Most of us are used to seeing black-and-white footage of a breathy first lady quietly giving a White House tour. In these tapes, Kennedy let’s loose and her raw emotion shines through the cracks of her seemingly perfect exterior. These tapes reveal new details of this period that might alter our perception of the so-called American Camelot:
- On feminism, Jackie Kennedy Onassis said, “women should never be in politics, we’re just not suited for it” and “I get all of my opinions from my husband.” Ouch. Caroline Kennedy seconded that, saying her own daughters were “absolutely horrified” by Jackie’s old-fashioned views.
- In the Bay of Pigs standoff, President Kennedy broke down and sobbed. Jackie recalled, “He started to cry just with me… Just put his head in his hands and sort of wept. And, it was so sad.”
- Jackie called Martin Luther King Jr. “such a phony.” According to Jackie — who heard it from RFK, who heard it from JFK, who heard it from J. Edgar Hoover — King allegedly tried to arrange a sex party in Washington. She didn’t like that so much.
Coming up tonight, we’ve got a Last Word exclusive with presidential historian Michael Beschloss on how Jacqueline Kennedy’s newly released audio tapes change our understanding of American history. He co-authored the highly anticipated book on the Jackie O tapes with Caroline Kennedy.