Ted Kennedy biographer Neal Gabler, whining in The New York Times on Friday, accused Chappaquiddick of “outright character assassination.” He insinuates that the critically-acclaimed film dishonestly portrays the night Kennedy killed a young campaign secretary by drunkenly driving her off a bridge and leaving her to drown, but Gabler fails to point to any historical inconsistencies other than the amount Bruce Dern’s Joseph Kennedy Sr. should have slurred his speech. The charge rings hollow, as Ted Kennedy’s character committed suicide long ago, no assassination necessary.
Everything about Chappaquiddick — writing, acting, directing, casting, etc. — is quite good. Most importantly, the film accurately depicts the events that took place the night of July 18, 1969. Ted Kennedy, then the senior senator from Massachusetts, invited a group of six single, female campaign secretaries to join him and five married, male friends for a party at a cottage on Chappaquiddick Island near Martha’s Vineyard. At 11:15 p.m., Kennedy drunkenly took Mary Jo Kopochne, who left her purse and hotel key at the cottage, for a late night drive in his mother’s car. He drove off the bridge, swam to safety, and left Kopechne to drown. Kennedy then walked past four houses without alerting any neighbors to the accident, returned to the cottage, told his cousin and friend what had happened, and eventually returned to his hotel room in Edgartown. Throughout the night and early next morning, Kennedy attempted to establish an alibi and made several phone calls to friends for advice on how best to cover it all up. He lied in official testimony, temporarily donned an obviously unnecessary neck brace, and played the victim. At no point before police discovered the submerged car and Kopechne’s body did Kennedy report the crash to authorities.
Since that hazy night, Ted’s co-partisans have likewise attempted to cast him as the victim in the whole affair: the persevering public servant who overcame tragedy to emerge as the “Lion of the Senate.” When Kennedy died in 2009, accolades poured in from Democrats and the mainstream media — but I repeat myself — almost all of which lauded the “the Lion of the Senate.” Now at last the popular culture honestly depicts Ted Kennedy as the womanizing, man-slaughtering, duplicitous, lying, cheating, cowardly drunk that he was.
So why now? It certainly is not because some crypto-conservatives have managed to sneak one by Hollywood’s left-wing gatekeepers. Virtually everyone involved in the film appears to lean politically to the left, from star Jason Clarke to director John Curran, who responded to an interview request from Fox News’ Sean Hannity with a curt, “No f***in’ way. I’m not embracing the Right.” Even the notoriously left-leaning critics like it. No, Chappaquiddick got made, not because Hollywood has embraced the Right, but because Democrats have embraced the Left. The Democrat Party still excuses all sorts of evildoers and ne’er-do-wells, but “time’s up” at least for the degenerate, straight, white men in its ranks. Intersectional hyenas are devouring their own — even their lions of the Senate. Conservatives should grab some popcorn and enjoy the show.