The Worst Things The Kennedy Family Was Ever Accused Of

Blessed with good looks and charisma, members of the Kennedy clan have courted the spotlight ever since Joseph P. Kennedy first made the family a fortune back in the 1920s. Wild speculation about the so-called crimes of the Kennedys followed soon after — with everyone from the family patriarch, to President John F. Kennedy himself becoming the subject of scandalous rumors. Known as one of America's foremost political dynasties, their fame has gone hand-in-hand with their infamy, and today they are as associated with sleaze as they are with glamour.

From assassinations to organized crime, the family has been accused of crossing every legal and moral line imaginable. In fact, the Kennedy family history is so twisted and filled with tragedy it is often said that the family is plagued by a curse. While many of these stories must be discounted as nothing more than malicious rumors, there are also a surprising amount of scandalous accusations against the Kennedy clan that have never been definitively disproved...

The William Kennedy Smith rape accusations

In 1991, a lesser-known Kennedy — William Kennedy Smith (the nephew of John F. Kennedy) — was accused of raping a woman at the Kennedy family compound in Palm Beach Florida. Smith had been out on the town on the night of March 30, along with two other Kennedys when he arrived home with a 29-year-old woman in tow, who he took for a walk along the beach.

According to the Los Angeles Times, over the course of the next 24 hours, the alleged victim was admitted to hospital with a suspected rib fracture, and some minor abrasions and bruises. The woman (who later publically identified herself as Patricia Bowman), claimed that she had sustained the injuries when Smith tackled her at the family home, holding her down and raping her by the pool. During the ensuing investigation, she also claimed that private investigators hired by Smith had been sent to intimidate her.

When the story hit the press, it caused a sensation — especially after three more women came forward to make rape accusations against Smith. Despite the uproar, ultimately the case went nowhere; Smith argued that the sex had been consensual and was acquitted of all charges. It was not the last time he was accused of sexual assault, however — Smith's assistant made a similar claim against him in 2004, alleging that she was raped in his Chicago apartment in 1999. The case was thrown out by the judge and never went to trial.

If you or anyone you know has been a victim of sexual assault, help is available. Visit the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network website or contact RAINN's National Helpline at 1-800-656-HOPE (4673).

The JFK's sexual relationship with Mimi Alford

Hypersexed, short-lived President John F. Kennedy is rumored to have had many extra-marital affairs during his time in the Oval Office, however, his supposed tryst with intern Mimi Alford (then Mimi Beardsley) remains by far the most controversial of the lot. Although Alford herself has claimed her sexual encounters with the president were consensual, the nature of the relationship and the uncomfortable power dynamic between the two continues to raise eyebrows. On her fourth day working at the Whitehouse, the 19-year-old intern was plied with alcohol and wound up having sex with the president in an empty room. It was the start of an affair that would go on for many months.

Aside from the huge age difference between the then 45-year-old president and his teen employee, some of the stories Alford told about the affair range from shocking to downright creepy. At one point in her memoir "Once Upon a Secret," Alford recounted that she performed a sex act on presidential aide Dave Powers in front of JFK. In other places, Alford mentions taking drugs with the president and she also describes his request that she "take care" of Ted Kennedy — a request she refused to carry out.

At least parts of Alford's story have been confirmed by relevant witnesses who also worked at the White House. Alford was engaged at the time of the affair but has received sympathy and condemnation in equal measure for her vulnerable position and young age.

Was Joseph Kennedy a bootlegger?

Rumors that the patriarch of the Kennedy clan, Joseph P. Kennedy was a bootlegger have been around since at least the 1960s. While it is true that the elder Kennedy made a great deal of money from alcohol, it remains unclear whether or not the accusation is true.

According to John H Davis' "The Kennedys: Dynasty and Disaster," Kennedy profited from the sale of alcohol just after prohibition ended — whether or not he was involved in bootlegging before that is unknown. Using his British connections (he spent some time as ambassador to the U.K.), he imported whiskey and gin from Great Britain and made a tidy sum on the back of America's renewed thirst for liquor.

Rumors about supposed bootlegging prior to this emerged partly thanks to Kennedy's Harvard reunion in 1922, during which witnesses claim he helped to supply the alcohol. This may have been a singular incident — however, there are also many other rumors that Kennedy used mob connections to get into the game when booze was banned. Crime boss Frank Costello for example, is one of several men who has claimed Kennedy got rich selling liquor during prohibition. Kennedy's mysterious rise to great wealth — money he made mostly through trading stocks — has made the story that much more compelling.

Michael Kennedy's involvement with an underaged girl

In 1997, Michael Kennedy, son of Robert F. Kennedy, was accused of having sexual relations with a 14-year-old girl. The story, which originally ran in the Boston Globe, claimed that Kennedy had gotten involved with the young girl while she was babysitting for the family. If true, Kennedy would have been guilty of statutory rape in the state of Massachusetts. No charges were ever filed after the allegations came to light.

The Chicago Tribune reported that neighbors of the family had publicly named and shamed the then-39-year-old Michael, who was caught in bed with the young girl at one point. The young woman had been babysitting for the family for seven years — since she was just 12 years old. The incident allegedly resulted in Michael seeking treatment for alcohol addiction; however, it was claimed that the pair kept seeing each other in secret until the young girl went away for college. Time magazine reported that Michael had also sought out treatment for sex addiction as a result of the relationship.

While the story was retold in great detail in the press, Michael coincidentally died on New Year's Eve that year, during a freak skiing accident in which he crashed into a tree. Although Kennedy split from his wife around the time that the story broke, nothing was ever conclusively confirmed about the rumor before his death.

If you or anyone you know has been a victim of sexual assault, help is available. Visit the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network website or contact RAINN's National Helpline at 1-800-656-HOPE (4673).

Joseph Kennedy's antisemitism and support for the Nazis

Throughout his prestigious career as U.S. ambassador, Joseph Kennedy made a number of infamous antisemitic remarks and successfully embarrassed the country by expressing sympathy for fascists in Europe. Rightly or wrongly, many people today remember Kennedy as a Nazi sympathizer and an all-around awful person.

Stories about Kennedy's Nazi sympathies arose partly due to his enthusiasm for appeasement — he believed that Great Britain could never beat Hitler and he advised Franklin D. Roosevelt to stay out of the matter (via John H. Davis, "The Kennedys: Dynasty and Disaster"). Becoming increasingly unpopular in the U.K., Roosevelt began talking to Winston Churchill without Kennedy. After Japan attacked the U.S., Kennedy was officially toxic, and Roosevelt passed over him completely when it came to awarding war offices.

However, Kennedy was not merely short-sighted, he had also expressed disturbing admiration for Hitler at times that now seemed wildly inappropriate. He had for example, publically spoken of Hitler's great military prowess and strength to a graduating class at the University of Notre Dame. On another occasion, he had tried to halt the production of a Hollywood film on the grounds it might offend Hitler and Benito Mussolini. But worst of all were his antisemitic remarks. Declassified documents from the German Foreign Ministry show that Kennedy expressed his sympathy for Germany's "Jewish problem," and complained that Americans were heavily influenced by Jewish points of view.

The Chappaquiddick incident accusations

In July 1969, political hopeful Ted Kennedy drove his car off a bridge, crashing into a pond on Chappaquiddick Island. His passenger — a young woman named Mary Jo Kopechne — drowned that night ending his fledgling political career in one fell swoop and resulting in a two-month prison sentence for Ted for leaving the scene of the accident (time that he never served).

Following the crash, Ted hadn't acted terribly innocent. He waited until 10 a.m. the next day to tell the police, and according to John H. Davis' "Kennedy: Dynasty and Disaster," he only spoke to them after his car had already been found. When Ted Kennedy retold the story later on, he claimed he had driven back to the crash site that night with one of his political aides and his cousin, in an attempt to rescue the young woman. However, Ted's nonchalant behavior upon returning to his hotel, along with the fact that he was seen apparently bone dry in the lobby at 2.25 a.m., added to the strangeness of the story.

Some suspected Ted of drunk driving — however, it was far too late to administer a sobriety test. Others suspected an illicit affair of some kind. Kopechne had worked on Robert Kennedy's political campaign and had been at a party with the family that night but it was not clear why she would have been out so late with Ted Kennedy. He claimed Kopechne had been taken ill — but she had curiously left her purse and keys behind. To this day many people still do not believe his story.

The Marilyn Monroe assassination accusation

Probably the wildest accusation about the Kennedy family is the rumor that they assassinated Marilyn Monroe. The actress was found dead on her bed next to a bottle of sleeping pills in 1962, and although her death was officially ruled a suicide, countless rumors made the rounds in the years that followed.

Monroe is said to have had an affair with John F. Kennedy, however, if the rumor mill is to be believed it was Robert whom she truly loved. Many of Monroe's friends claim she was heavily preoccupied with the already-married attorney general in the days leading up to her death. According to Vanity Fair, on the day she died, Monroe phoned friend and hairdresser Sydney Guilaroff to complain that Robert Kennedy had shown up at her house to yell at her, and had called off their secret relationship. She responded by threatening to expose the tryst to the public, and before hanging up she told Guilaroff she was privy to secrets from the highest rungs of government.

The close relationship between the Kennedy brothers and Monroe and the fact that the FBI kept a file on the starlet inevitably led to rumors of murder. In 1964, author Frank A. Capell wrote a bizarre pamphlet entitled "The Strange Death of Marilyn," in which he alleged that Monroe was assassinated as part of an elaborate conspiracy. Other early rumors came from Norman Mailer, who did not believe his own story but thought it would make him money. He was right — the story is still popular today.

JFK's secret marriage

Everybody knows that John F. Kennedy was unfaithful to Jackie Kennedy — but did he really have a secret second marriage as well? According to this bizarre rumor, John supposedly married a young woman named Durie Kerr (later Durie Malcolm) in 1947 before marrying Jackie.

The story was printed in several books, starting with "The Blauvelt Family Genealogy" in 1957 according to Time magazine. Although Malcolm herself dismissed the rumor as ridiculous, the story has persisted and it was more recently printed again in Seymour M. Hersh's scandalous tome, "The Dark Side of Camelot." In Hersh's book an alleged "long-time friend" of the president, Charles Spalding, claims to have known all about the "secret marriage" which supposedly took place in Palm Beach. Spalding goes on to say that he personally confiscated the court documents related to the marriage with the help of a lawyer and upon John's request.

While this odd rumor is still floating around some dark corners of the internet, the story is rarely taken seriously — and for good reason. An investigation conducted by The Tampa Bay Times found evidence that although JFK and Malcolm had dated for a brief period, Malcolm had in fact dumped the former president to marry a lumber baron in 1947.

The JFK mob connection

Did John F. Kennedy's considerable charisma win him the presidency or was it his secret mob connections? According to John J. Binder writing for the Mob Museum in Las Vegas, there are various iterations of this theory but the basic gist is this: The Kennedys had some form of cozy relationship with Chicago mob boss Sam Giancana, so Joseph Kennedy approached the gangster to ask for help getting his son elected. The Giancana clan agreed, promising to intimidate voters in exchange for an easy life if Kennedy got elected. In some versions of this story, Robert and John F. Kennedy were then assassinated by the mob in retaliation for not holding up their end of the bargain; as attorney general, Robert Kennedy was actually pretty tough on organized crime.

While the source material is interesting — one version of this story appears in a book written by members of the Giancana family, while another comes from a former FBI agent — Binder himself dismisses all of these claims on the grounds there is no corroborating evidence of voter intimidation from the time. Still, the rumors persist — and JFK's assassination is still routinely connected to the mob which has added more fuel to the conspiracy fire. Both Lee Harvey Oswald and the man who shot him (Jack Ruby) seem to have had tenuous mob connections of some kind — connections that have been linked to a wider conspiracy involving a mob-orchestrated revenge hit.

Joseph Kennedy bankrupts Gloria Swanson

This accusation against Joseph P. Kennedy comes from the glamorous Gloria Swanson herself. During Kennedy's brief foray into the film industry, he developed a romantic relationship with the legendary star but their affair ended on very bad terms.

Kennedy had come to Hollywood to invest his fortune, hoping to make large profits out of the rapidly growing industry. While there he met Swanson who was already in some financial trouble due to her lavish lifestyle and was only too happy to let Kennedy help her out. Together the pair developed a business relationship and attempted to make a movie together — an endeavor that proved to be a total failure.

A consummate hustler, Kennedy bought Swanson a series of fabulous presents while they were together, including a house. However, it transpired that Kennedy's gifts weren't gifts at all — he had billed all these presents to "Gloria Productions," leaving a shell-shocked Swansons with millions in debt. Swanson alleged in her autobiography "Swanson on Swanson" that Kennedy made a cool $5 million during his time working with her in Hollywood, while she was left bankrupt as well as broken-hearted. Despite the best efforts of her lawyers and accountants she never got her money back.

The $1 million dollar divorce bribe story

Perhaps to satisfy the people who never understood how Jacqueline Kennedy could stand to stay with her adulterous husband, a rumor was once printed Jackie had actually been paid to stay in the family. According to Barbara Lemming's biography "Jacqueline Bouvier Kennedy Onassis," the story appeared after it was noted that the young couple spent a great deal of time apart. Supposedly, both her husband's cheating and her own political aspirations had caused a great deal of resentment between the two. The rumor ran that Joseph Kennedy, thinking of his son's future political career, offered Jackie $1 million dollars to stay — and she accepted.

While there is no way of knowing if the story is true, when the original article was printed in Time magazine, Jackie responded with characteristic grace, "Why not 10 million?" she supposedly quipped to Joe (via Sarah Bradford, "America's Queen"). Either way, the couple stayed together, and JFK made his bid for the presidency in 1960 with his wife by his side — and a few other women as well.