Secret interviews with President John F Kennedy’s wife claim he ominously warned his assassination would protect his legacy about a year before his death.
Riding high after successfully averting nuclear war in the Cuban Missile Crisis, JFK made the chilling assessment about his reputation privately to wife Jackie.
Previously unheard conversations involving JFK’s wife in the months after his murder – and not due to be made public until September – relay the president’s dark realism.
The astonishing revelation was made by eminent Kennedy historian Professor Robert Dallek after examining the pages of Jacqueline Kennedy’s Oral History - conversations the former First Lady had with historian Arthur M Schlesinger Jnr in 1964.
“(JFK) said to Mrs Kennedy after his success in the Cuban Missile Crisis: ’If anyone’s going to kill me, it should happen now,”’ Professor Dallek said.
JFK was shot on November 22, 1963 as his open-top motorcade travelled through Dallas, Texas. He was both the youngest US president, and the youngest to die.
Mrs Kennedy gave a series of seven undisclosed interviews in the early part of 1964 during which she talked about JFK’s early campaigns to the Cuban Missile Crisis, including an evolving sense of herself and her role as First Lady; family and married life in the White House; and the president’s plans for a second term.
To mark the 50th anniversary of the Kennedy administration, Mrs Kennedy’s family is making available both the interview transcripts and the six-and-a-half hours of audio recordings of those interviews.
US television channel ABC will broadcast the interviews this September.
Prof. Robert Dallek claimed the ominous anecdote was uncovered when the oral history was being examined.
He said JFK had previously been told by an historian that Abraham Lincoln’s reputation may not have been as great had he lived long enough to become embroiled in tough domestic challenges.
“He had heard a lecture at the White House by distinguished historian David Herbert Donald, a Lincoln, Civil War expert,” Prof. Dallek said.
“At that lecture, Kennedy asked Professor Donald if Lincoln had lived, would his reputation be as great as it currently is in the United States? And predictably, Donald said probably not because he would have had to have wrestled with the problems of reconstruction, the post Civil War era.
“And Kennedy remembering that said to Mrs Kennedy after his success in the Cuban Missile Crisis, he said if anyone’s going to kill me, it should happen now.”
A book is also being released based upon the oral history, with a forward by Caroline Kennedy, JFK’s daughter.
Prof. Dallek, author of Mr Kennedy’s biography "An Unfinished Life", was in Dublin to mark the 50th anniversary of JFK’s inauguration and deliver the John F Kennedy Memorial Lecture for the University College Dublin Clinton Institute.
Previous speakers of the Kennedy Memorial Lecture include Dan Fenn, former staff assistant to Mr Kennedy.
Artefacts of Mr Kennedy’s historic visit to Ireland in 1963 will also be shown to Taoiseach Enda Kenny by Prof. Dallek after being brought from Queens University to Dublin.
These include a hand-written poem about the River Shannon, which Mr Kennedy scribbled on the back of a diary schedule after hearing it recited by Sinead de Valera – wife of then Irish President Eamon de Valera – and a copy of the speech Mr Kennedy delivered to the Dáil on June 28 1963 – just five months before he was shot dead.