Shock: CNN Exposes Press Love for JFK, Kennedy’s Shoddy Civil Rights Record

In a refreshing change from the usual fawning over John F. Kennedy, CNN’s new series, Race for the White House, portrayed JFK as an opportunist when it comes to issues of race and someone who may have stolen the 1960 election from Richard Nixon. Additionally, the show, narrated by Kevin Spacey, discussed the extreme liberal bias of that presidential race. University of Virginia professor Larry Sabato declared, “The press loved Kennedy and Kennedy loved the press.” 

Former Newsweek editor Evan Thomas conceded that reporters thought Kennedy “was charming. They thought he was fun. They went on sing-alongs on the campaign plane.” He contrasted with the Republican Nixon: “They thought he was awkward, weird, uncomfortable. The press liked Jack, and they did not like Dick.”   

On the issue of race, the CNN series bluntly identified Kennedy’s opportunism and Nixon's strong civil rights record: 

EVAN THOMAS: There's a huge public mis-perception on civil rights. They think that Nixon was some kind of hideous racist and jack was the friend of the black man. Not true. Nixon had a strong civil rights record in the 1950s. He was a friend of martin Luther King. 

PAT BUCHANAN: The Republican Party was the party of civil rights. The Democratic Party was the party of secession and segregation. Every single member of the Ku Klux Klan was a member of the Democratic Party.  

Spacey explained to audiences that, after Martin Luther King was arrested in the fall of ‘60, Nixon worked behind the scenes to secure his release. That effort failed. The Kennedy campaign made a phone call to King’s wife. 

The show even looks at the ugly vote stealing that may have given Kennedy the White House. Spacey narrated, “But as the sun rises on Washington, accusations start circulating of electoral fraud in Illinois. Republican officials set off to investigate.” 

Thomas revealed, “As time goes on, it leaks out that, in one black district, there were more votes cast than there were people living in the district. It was corrupt.” Buchanan bitterly noted, “The cemetery wards were coming in strong for Kennedy.” The program concluded: 

SPACEY: As the dead of Illinois cast their votes for Kennedy, there are more allegations of fraud in Texas. 

SABATO: If Texas and Illinois had gone for Nixon, he would have won the election. So it mattered. 

This is quite a contrast from the tone of coverage usually given to the Kennedys. In 1969, Edward Kennedy drove his car off a bridge. He then fled the scene with Mary Jo Kopechne still in the car drowning. The woman died. On January 5, 2003, Boston Globe writer Charles Pierce wrote, “If she had lived, Mary Jo Kopechne would be 62 years old. Through his tireless work as a legislator, Edward Kennedy would have brought comfort to her in her old age.” 

The six part CNN series will continue to air on Sunday nights at 10pm. Future episodes will look at the elections of 1824, 1948, 1988 and 1992. 

A partial transcript is below: 

Race for the White House: John F. Kennedy vs. Richard Nixon
3/6/16
10:20

LARRY SABATO: The press loved Kennedy and Kennedy loved the press. 

EVAN THOMAS: They thought he was charming. They thought he was fun. They went on sing-alongs on the campaign plane. 

SABATO: Nixon was exactly the opposite. 

THOMAS: They thought he was awkward, weird, uncomfortable. The press liked Jack, and they did not like Dick. 

SABATO: Nixon's staff had urged him to develop a better relationship with the press, and finally Nixon had agreed to go down and socialize with them at the pool at the hotel in the evening. Well the press was all there drinking and enjoying the pool, and all of a sudden they saw Nixon appear at the opposite end of the pool. He waved, jumped in, got out and went right back to his hotel room. And that was Nixon press relations. 
...

PROF. MARGARET WASHINGTON: I met Richard Nixon when I was in the ninth maybe tenth grade. And we got to shake hands with him. I thought Richard Nixon would be a good president. 

THOMAS: There's a huge public mis-perception on civil rights. They think that Nixon was some kind of hideous racist and jack was the friend of the black man. Not true. Nixon had a strong civil rights record in the 1950s. He was a friend of martin Luther King. 

PAT BUCHANAN: The Republican Party was the party of civil rights. The Democratic Party was the party of secession and segregation. Every single member of the Ku Klux Klan was a member of the Democratic Party.  


BUCHANAN: There's no doubt that Bobby and John F. Kennedy exploited that brilliantly. Jack Kennedy was no civil rights hero. He wasn't marching anywhere, that fella. 

...

SPACEY: But as the sun rises on Washington, accusations start circulating of electoral fraud in Illinois. Republican officials set off to investigate. 

BUCHANAN: They said in Chicago, the cemetery wards were coming in strong for Kennedy. 

THOMAS: As time goes on, it leaks out that, in one black district, there were more votes cast than there were people living in the district. It was corrupt. 

SPACEY: As the dead of Illinois cast their votes for Kennedy, there are more allegations of fraud in Texas. 

SABATO: If Texas and Illinois had gone for Nixon, he would have won the election. So it mattered. 

NB Daily Campaigns & Elections CNN Video Evan Thomas Kevin Spacey
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