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Monday, July 19, 1999 Published at 09:48 GMT 10:48 UK

World: Americas

The Kennedys: A family cursed

The Kennedys are the foremost liberal family in the US political establishment but they have been haunted by tragedy since President John F Kennedy's assassination in 1963.

Kennedy Tragedy
JFK was America's 35th president when he was assassinated in Dallas, Texas, in 1963. Lee Harvey Oswald was arrested but he too was murdered before facing trial.

John's brother Robert Kennedy was shot dead in June 1968, while campaigning in Los Angeles for the Democratic presidential nomination.

[ image: The killing of the president shocked the world]
The killing of the president shocked the world
Long before that another brother of President Kennedy had died in a plane crash in 1944 and his sister killed in another plane crash in 1948. A second sister was forced into a mental home by the Kennedy's overbearing father, Joseph.

The late president's remaining brother, Senator Edward Kennedy, ruined his chances of the presidency after he was involved in a car accident in which he left his passenger to die.

A car he was driving plunged off a bridge and into water on Chappaquiddick Island near Martha's Vineyard.

A passenger in the car, 28-year-old Mary Jo Kopechne, was found dead in the car's back seat about 10 hours later.

The late Robert Kennedy's son, Joe, was also in an accident which left a passenger paralysed.

A year and a half ago, further tragedy hit the family when Michael Kennedy, one of the nephews of the late President, was killed in a skiing accident.

And Michael's brother died of a drugs overdose in 1984.


As well as tragedy, the family has also been beset by scandal. A nephew of Edward Kennedy, the late president's brother, was accused of rape then acquitted. Other Kennedys have had drug problems.

The private life of the late president has been the subject of much scrutiny amid allegations about his compulsive womanizing and ruthless political methods.

One biography by the American writer, Seymour Hersch, accused the late president of being a drug addict.

However the former presidential speechwriter, Hendrick Herzberg, believes the posthumous disgrace of the president's name may not be justified.

"I'm not sure that people really do see it that way despite the dozens and dozens of books. Hersch went after every rumour and allegation ever made about Kennedy's private life and most of the really good stuff he was not able to pin down," he says.

But despite the scandals, the Kennedy name has kept its mythical status in the United States.

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