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The Kennedy Character Assassination

October 16, 1994

I am delighted by the extensive, generous coverage you gave my book, "The Kennedy Women" (Book Review, Sept. 11). I confess, however, that I am one of these hopelessly old-fashioned authors who believe that nothing matters more than getting the facts right. And it's simply beyond me how your reviewer, Marie Brenner, could have made so many errors.

I found one clue in her review. At one point she describes "The Kennedy Women" as full of "many fine anecdotes and scenes: gossip as insight." Gossip is half-truth, rumor. My book has no gossip in it, but intimate truths about the lives of these women.

If you don't see any difference between gossip and fact, then facts and half-facts can be pushed around to prove one's thesis. Brenner begins by writing about the television program "At Home With the Kennedys" in which the Kennedy women "burbled about their lives at Hyannis" in 1960 during the final week of Jack Kennedy's presidential campaign. Alas, that television program took place in 1958 during Kennedy's senatorial race, though it sure makes interesting reading to move it up two years.

Brenner writes that when Joe Kennedy has a stroke around noontime in 1961, Rose has a long lunch and a swim and it is not until late afternoon that Rose "arranges to take her husband to the hospital, and by that time, he is beyond help." That makes for great reading, but Joe was taken to the hospital hours before, as any reader of my book will know.

Brenner writes that at Jackie Onassis' funeral, the Kennedy women entered the funeral "indefatigable, almost jaunty," the wake was "raucous" and that at the deathbed the Kennedy "sisters . . . seemed as if they were at a cocktail party, one friend told me." This is not from "The Kennedy Women." This is gossip. This is wrong-headed, wrong-spirited, simply wrong. This really doesn't belong in a review of my book.

Brenner is correct when she writes that "Leamer is more interested in the personalities than the politics of the Kennedy White House." I would have been delighted to write about the politics of the Kennedy White House if the women had taken part, but they did not.

LAURENCE LEAMER, WASHINGTON, D.C.

Marie Brenner responds:

Thanks for your letter. You are right about the date on "At Home With the Kennedys." The commercial was made in 1958, not 1960. It was frequently discussed during the 1960 Presidential campaign and has been replayed often since, thus the confusion. As for the rest, I respect your absolute right to disagree with my opinions.

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