News and Commentary

CNN On ‘Chappaquiddick’: It Was Poor Ted Kennedy’s ‘Darkest Hour.’ Twitter Explodes With Outrage.

On Tuesday, CNN decided to tweet about its coverage of “Chappaquiddick,” the new film revolving around Senator Ted Kennedy and the drowning of Mary Jo Kopechne in the back seat of Kennedy’s car.

It wasn’t just the tweet that completely ignored the real tragedy of Kopechne’s death while moaning over Kennedy’s poor feelings; even the article it linked to started like this: “Director John Curran was at first hesitant to sign on for ‘Chappaquiddick,’ a film that explores a tragic chapter in the life of Sen. Ted Kennedy.”

A little history:

Kennedy and Kopechne had attended a party along with 10 other people July 18, 1969. Half the guests were married men, half were single women in their 20s. Kennedy and Kopechne left the party; Kennedy drove, allegedly with Kopechene in the back seat. He later said at the inquest that he made a wrong turn onto Dike Road, which was an unlit dirt road that led to Dike Bridge.

As Jeff Jacoby has noted, “But the road to the ferry, which Kennedy had already traveled several times that day, was the only paved road on the island. Anyone driving from the house where the barbecue was held would have felt the road bank unmistakably to the left — toward the ferry — and would have seen the shiny left-turn sign. By contrast, it required a deliberate effort to turn right, toward the bridge. Dike Road was unpaved and very bumpy. Its entrance was obscured behind bushes and necessitated a 90-degree turn — hard to do inadvertently.”

Kennedy’s car dove into the Poucha Pond and rested upside down. Kennedy swam out; Kopechen was trapped. Her body was not recovered until a Fire Department diver got it at 8:45 the next morning. The diver, Capt. John Farrar, said Kopechene had not died quickly; she had slowly suffocated to death. Kennedy did not report the accident to the Edgartown police until 9:45 a.m. the next morning.

Kennedy later claimed he couldn’t rescue Kopechne because of the “strong and murky current” in which he kept getting “swept away.” But at 12:45 a.m., roughly the time of the accident, there was no current.

Although Kennedy said he didn’t call for help because he was in shock, Jacoby noted:

Yet he was not too traumatized to return to the barbecue and fetch two close lawyer friends, Joey Gargan and Paul Markham. He was not too traumatized to make more than 16 long-distance phone calls that night to aides and advisers (none of whom tried to get help to Kopechne, either). Despite his “shock,” he managed to: return to his motel, complain to the manager about a noisy party, go to sleep, chat with a friend the next morning about the boat race, order two newspapers, meet again with Gargan and Markham and return to Chappaquiddick to call another lawyer from a pay phone — all before going to the police.

After the secret inquest, District Judge James Boyle found “probable cause” that Kennedy had driven “negligently” and had engaged in “criminal conduct” that “contributed to the death of Mary Jo Kopechne.” But Kennedy was never prosecuted and never tried.

Twitter was aflame with those slamming CNN for its sympathy for Kennedy: