When Jacqueline Kennedy learned that missiles in Cuba were aimed at American cities in October 1962, she begged her husband, President John F. Kennedy, not to send her or the children away.
“If anything happens, we’re all going to stay right here with you,” Jacqueline Kennedy recalled in an oral history kept under seal for the last 47 years and scheduled to be released Wednesday, the New York Times reported. “I just want to be with you, and I want to die with you, and the children do, too — than live without you.”
It’s just one of many personal revelations that came out of the interviews, in which the former first lady talked to longtime Kennedy aide Arthur M. Schlesinger about her marriage to Kennedy and his presidency just months after his assassination. She did not discuss her husband’s death or infidelities. Below, the top five revelations from the interviews:
1. Jacqueline Kennedy’s “tart” commentary on those who visited the White House:
She referred to the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. as “a phony” because of his dalliances with women. French president Charles DeGaulle was “that egomaniac.” Indira Gandhi, the future prime minister of India, was “a real prune — bitter, kind of pushy, horrible woman.” And she told Schlesinger in a stage whisper of Madame Nhu, the sister-in-law of the president of South Vietnam, and Clare Boothe Luce, a former member of Congress, that “I wouldn’t be surprised if they were lesbians.”
2. Equally tart comments made by John Kennedy:
She quoted her husband as saying of Vice President Lyndon B. Johnson, “Oh, God, can you ever imagine what would happen to the country if Lyndon was president?” And she said that her husband said of Franklin D. Roosevelt, “Charlatan is an unfair word,” but “he did an awful lot for effect.”
3. She was a doting housewife.
The Times writes that she “presents herself as adoring, eager for his approval and deeply moved by the man,” and calls her marriage “rather terribly Victorian or Asiatic.” Her goal, she said, was to provide “a climate of affection and comfort and detente,” and to keep the children in good moods.
4. But she could have had a great deal of behind-the-scenes control.
While she insisted in the interview that she took all her opinions from her husband, historian Michael Beschloss wrote: “I would take that with a warehouse of salt.” Beschloss said there was a “a very high correlation” between those she insulted in the interviews and those who did not do well in the White House. It’s unclear, he wrote, whether she influenced her husband or the other way around.
5. The president wept before his wife several times.
She described how her husband cried in his bedroom with his head in his hands several times, most notably over the attempted invasion of Cuba at the Bay of Pigs in 1961.
The oral history is being released in a book, “Jacqueline Kennedy: Historic Conversations on Life with John F. Kennedy,” this month. On Tuesday, ABC News will host a two-hour special on the revelations. Listen to some of the audio from the oral history below: