What's the Most Shocking Part of Mimi Alford's Story?
By now, you've probably heard of the delicious new book out by Mimi Alford, a White House intern during the administration of John F. Kennedy. Her memoir, Once Upon a Secret: My Affair With John F. Kennedy and its Aftermath, details her eighteen-month affair with the president. And the details are bizarre (rubber ducky races in the bath, secret phone calls, Alford was snuggled up in a White House bed during the Cuban Missile Crisis--bizarre, definitely).
The Daily Beast has an excellent and—more importantly—detailed review of Alford's book:
Uncertain and all of 19, tall and striking Marion “Mimi” Beardsley rode the train from Trenton, N.J.., down to Washington, D.C. in the summer of 1962 to intern at the White House. The Wheaton College undergraduate was puzzled as to why she’d been chosen for the internship—she hadn’t applied. Beardsley had, however, written an article for her all-girls boarding school, Miss Porter’s School, about one of its most famous alumnae, the first lady. A trip to the White House had led to a chance meeting with the president. And a year later, there she was, on her way to one of the cushiest posts available to a young woman whose parents frequently consulted the Social Register.
What happened over the next week—and continued for the following year and a half—forms the body of Once Upon a Secret: My Affair With President John F. Kennedy and Its Aftermath. Alford, now 69 and a grandmother of seven, reveals that from the first week of her internship in the summer of 1962 through November 1963, she conducted an affair with President Kennedy, spending nights with him in his private bedroom, traveling to be with him at the height of the Cuban Missile Crisis, and seeing the president for the last time shortly before his fateful trip to Dallas. In this memoir, part confession, part hagiography, Alford divulges the intimate details of the time she spent with one of America’s most beloved presidents.
So Mimi went from sharing Jackie's high school to sharing her bed. Literally. JFK chose Mrs. Kennedy's private bedroom as the place where he'd take the 19-year-old's virginity.
There is plenty that will shock and awe in this story (click here, read the heading "In the Company of Other Men," try not to faint), but one of the most interesting tidbits comes from Alford's interview with NBC's Meredith Vieira, which aired last night. You can see some clips here.
Vieira, quoting Alford's book, describes how the affair began: "I wouldn't described what happened that night as making love, but I wouldn't call it nonconsensual either. He had maneuvered me swiftly and unexpectedly, and with such authority and strength, that short of screaming, I doubt I could have done anything to thwart his intentions."
Responding to Vieira's intimation that Kennedy forced himself on her—that the sex was nonconsensual, that it was rape—Alford denied the allegation, saying she was "not overpowered physically [in the sense] that someone had grabbed me and made me do something that I wasn't really willing to do, because I really think I was willing to do it." I wouldn't say that this admission--her willingness--was the most shocking part of the story, but her candor here did take me aback and made me wonder: by coming forward, and talking in plain and honest terms about the affair, should we praise Alford for her courage, or consider her a petty opportunist? I liked her honesty and, since admitting that on national television took some guts, I'd be willing to call her brave.
Anyhow, that's my take. What's yours? What's the most shocking part of this story to you?
And, a related question: Was JFK too immoral to serve? Historian and presidential biographer Robert Dallek weighs in, but what do you think?