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16 May 2003 07:29
Bill Clinton was surely cursing his luck and wishing Monica Lewinsky was a little more like Marion “Mimi” Beardsley, who yesterday admitted having an affair with John F Kennedy while she was a teenage White House intern.
According to newly declassified archives, Ms Beardsley’s relationship with JFK went much further than the furtive Clinton-Lewinsky encounters in and around the Oval Office.
At the age of 19 she was one of a harem of young girls hired by the press office principally to be at the president’s disposal. She was flown around the country on air force planes so that she was on hand for JFK on his travels.
She was even spotted crouching on the floor of his limousine during the president’s 1962 summit with Harold Macmillan in the Bahamas, where the two leaders discussed British use of the Polaris nuclear missile.
As the world knows well, Ms Lewinsky gushed about her affair to a White House secretary, Linda Tripp, and her hidden microphone.
Beardsley—now a grandmother and New York church worker known by her married name, Marion Fahnestock—told no one, including her family, until yesterday when she was tracked down by the New York Daily News.
Lewinsky levered her fame into a tell-all book written by the British author and Princess Diana confidant, Andrew Morton, a handbag business, and most recently a television job as hostess of Mr Personality a dating show.
Fahnestock, now aged 60, revealed no such ambitions yesterday.
She issued a curt statement saying: “From June 1962 to November 1963, I was involved in a sexual relationship with President Kennedy.
“In view of the recent media coverage, I have now discussed the relationship with my children and my family, and they are completely supportive.”
“I will have no further comment on this subject, period. I would request that the media respect my privacy and the privacy of my family in this matter,” the statement concluded.
She told the Daily News, which had cornered her in the Fifth Avenue Presbyterian church in Manhattan, that it was a “huge relief” to have the curtain of secrecy lifted, but she refused to supply details of the affair with President Kennedy. “I think the world knows what he was like,” was all she would say.
The particulars have instead been supplied in the transcript of a 39-year-old interview with a Kennedy press aide which had been kept secret in the JFK archives until this year, when they were released on the request of a historian, Robert Dallek, for a new biography of the assassinated president, An Unfinished Life. The full transcript was leaked yesterday.
The press aide, Barbara Gamarekian, described life in Camelot, as the JFK term in the White House is popularly known, to a researcher in 1964, but she referred to the intern only as Mimi, and asked for the section about her to be kept secret.
She said Mimi had gone to the same exclusive girls’ college as Jacqueline Kennedy and was editor of the college paper when she first came to White House in 1961 to write a profile of the first lady. Mrs Kennedy was too busy to see her, but “apparently the president did meet her on this visit,” Mrs Gamarekian said. “He had more time than Mrs Kennedy.”
On the president’s instructions, Beardsley was quickly hired by the White House press office despite her evident lack of qualifications.
“Mimi had no skills. She couldn’t type,” Gamarekian recalled. “She could answer the phone and she could handle messages and things but she was not really a great asset to us.” Nevertheless, the 19-year old ingénue was one of a group of girls who were invited to pool parties and dispatched on presidential trips.
“She made almost all of the interesting trips and the trips are normally rotated among the girls. We all went on trips one time or another, but Mimi who obviously couldn’t perform any function at all made all the trips!” Gamarekian said. “Obviously she was flown out on one of the air force planes.”
In the Bahamas, Mimi was spotted by aides after the Macmillan summit hiding in one of the cars waiting to take the president to the airport and a holiday in Palm Beach.
According to the transcript, “they saw the top of a little head over the door and they thought there was a little child sitting in the front seat of the car… And they walked over and looked in the car and here seated on the floor was Mimi!”
The aides said nothing and neither did the press, who knew all about JFK’s girls. Gamarekian said at the time: “This is the sort of thing that legitimate newspaper people don’t write about or don’t even make any implications about. It was kind of a big joke.”
When the Profumo scandal about Christine Keeler’s affair with a cabinet minister broke in Britain, the press aide thought JFK might become more cautious. But nothing changed.
“It is the sort of thing you don’t discuss, something you profess ignorance of when you attend the inevitable cocktail parties where this is the subject for discussion,” she said. Bill Clinton could have done with a few more aides like her.
Age at time of affair: 19
How she got White House job: Went to the same school as Jackie. Spotted by JFK when she came to interview the First Lady
The affair: She was flown around the country and beyond to be on hand for JFK’s “sexual release”
Discretion: Remained silent for 41 years, not even telling her family
Consequences: Affair with JFK remained unknown until yesterday
Age at time of affair: 21
How she got White House job: Father was a campaign contributor
The affair: A few hasty encounters with Clinton in the Oval Office and an adjoining room
Discretion: Famously told her colleague Linda Tripp every detail about the “Big Creep” and later told all on a prime-time talk show and in a book by Andrew Morton
Consequences: Affair consumed Washington for more than a year, leading to Clinton’s impeachment. His presidency was saved by the senate, who voted against conviction. - Guardian Unlimited Â
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