New Movie Wants To Tell What Ted Kennedy Had to Endure at Chappaquiddick

New Movie Wants To Tell What Ted Kennedy Had to Endure at Chappaquiddick

New Movie Wants To Tell What Ted Kennedy Had to Endure at Chappaquiddick

Imagine you are a young woman in an upturned car that has just plunged into a shallow body of water. It’s not sinking, but you can’t get out. You are in complete darkness, up to your head in water, desperately breathing the air remaining in a tiny pocket, hoping that someone will rescue you. Then the air eventually runs out, leaving you to a slow, panicked death by suffocation.

That’s what happened to Mary Jo Kopechne, a young Kennedy campaign worker in July of 1969. She had attended a party at Martha’s Vineyard along with other “boiler room girls” who had worked for Sen. Robert Kennedy’s presidential campaign until the time of his assassination earlier that summer. The party consisted of six married men and six unmarried women, and one of the married men attending was the young Sen. Ted Kennedy, who offered to take Mary Jo back to her hotel in Edgartown.

Somewhere between 11:30 pm and 1:00 am Kennedy accidentally drove his car off the now-infamous Chappaquiddick bridge into a tidal channel and swam off, leaving Mary Jo in the car to die of suffocation.

Diagram from inquest of Mary Jo in car. Click to enlarge.

Now Hollywood producer Mark Ciardi will be releasing a biopic about the Chappaquiddick incident, but the focus is not on the ill-fated Mary Jo and her agonizing demise. No, Ciardi wants the viewer to see what Ted Kennedy ‘had to go through.’

He said, “Everyone has an idea of what happened on Chappaquiddick and this strings together the events in a compelling and emotional way. You’ll see what he had to go through.”

When I read that my stomach churned.

I remember when the incident happened. I was a young teenager, and I recall what a scandal it was at the time, especially because my family and I were vacationing in New England at the time. I remember my mother especially becoming incensed at Mary Jo’s death, and she knew how Kennedy would be given a pass simply because he was a Kennedy.

Indeed he was given that pass. Despite the fact that he failed to report the incident until the following morning, he merely pleaded guilty to leaving the scene of the accident and received a suspended sentence.

In a television statement, Kennedy told authorities that he made “repeated efforts to save Mary Jo by diving into the strong murky current” which led to “only increasing my state of utter exhaustion and alarm. My conduct and conversations during the next several hours, to the extent that I can remember them, make no sense to me at all. I was overcome … by a jumble of emotion — grief, fear, doubt, exhaustion, panic, confusion, and shock.”

That may not be the truth. A book published in 1988, Senatorial Privilege: The Chappaddick Cover-Up by reporter Leo Damore, tells a much seedier story, especially after interviewing Kennedy cousin Joseph Gargan. Gargan was one of two men who accompanied Kennedy to the upturned car and futilely attempted to rescue Mary Jo. Kennedy then tried to get Gargan to conspire with him to concoct a false scenario, which included Gargan “discovering” Mary Jo and reporting to police that she had been the only driver.

Mary Jo was eventually buried in her hometown in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania. Ted Kennedy went on to be profiled in Life magazine as recovering from the accident, which included a cover photo showing him in a swimming pool sporting a back brace.

Ted Life

Kennedy’s presidential aspirations were ruined on that night, although he remained in the Senate until his death in 2009, idolized by Democrats as the “Lion of the Senate.”

Mark Ciardi’s movie proves once again that no scandal is so bad that Democrats won’t excuse their own.

Written by

Kim is a pint-sized patriot who packs some big contradictions. She is a Baby Boomer who never became a hippie, an active Republican who first registered as a Democrat (okay, it was to help a sorority sister's father in his run for sheriff), and a devout Lutheran who practices yoga. Growing up in small-town Indiana, now living in the Kansas City metro, Kim is a conservative Midwestern gal whose heart is also in the Seattle area, where her eldest daughter, son-in-law, and grandson live. Kim is a working speech pathologist who left school system employment behind to subcontract to an agency, and has never looked back. She describes her conservatism as falling in the mold of Russell Kirk's Ten Conservative Principles. Don't know what they are? Google them!

  • Rebecca says:

    One imagines the opening frame: “Inspired by true events”

  • Chris in N.Va. says:

    But of course he had to drive. Tipsy Teddie probably had a premonition that he’d one day be on a No Fly List, so he surely didn’t want to break the law by flying.

    Or something….

  • gerald says:

    Actually, that Life magazine cover is from 1965, when Ted was recovering from a plane accident. There is a photo out there of Ted in a neck brace, taken outside of Mary Jo’s funeral in Plymouth, PA. I suppose the brace is to make it look like he was injured in the Chappaquiddick accident. I’m not sure he was.

  • Mutaman says:

    So this genius reviews a movie before it comes out and naturally gets it all wrong. “Chappaquiddick” is hardly sympathetic to Kennedy. Just a sloppy job of commenting.

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