Imagine for a second that Richard Nixon had allowed a woman to drown in a car while conspiring with all of his aides to figure out how to cover up the entire incident. Do you think it would have taken 5 decades for Hollywood to chronicle the events in a movie?
Let me answer that for you. The Watergate break-in occurred in the middle of 1972. After becoming involved in the subsequent cover-up and investigation, Nixon resigned in the middle of 1974. Less than two years later in April of 1976, Hollywood released “All the President’s Men,” a major cinematic exposé on Nixon’s crimes that grossed over $70 million at the box office. And since then, there have been countless Nixon/Watergate films produced and released from the movie industry.
Interestingly, three years before the infamous break-in and presidential humiliation, one of America’s wealthiest and most privileged families experienced a scandal and cover-up of their own. Except rather than political espionage, theirs involved nothing short of manslaughter.
When Ted Kennedy drove his alleged mistress Mary Jo Kopechne off a bridge and left her to drown submerged in the car all night without reporting the accident to any authority while he conferred with his friends instead, he should have been found guilty of worse than manslaughter. Here’s why:
When Mary Jo’s body was recovered the next morning, it appeared that she died not of drowning but suffocation. She likely lived for hours. There she had been, her head and neck jammed at a sharp angle up against the foot board, gasping through a small air pocket. Was she wondering where Kennedy was? Was she convinced he was on the verge of coming back for her? That he had gone to get help?
After all, who would leave someone in this situation alone? Least of all someone who had suffered so much loss so young?
Ted Kennedy passed by nearby lighted homes and the local fire department as he walked back to his inn, away from the pond he’d later claim was deep and at high tide. He slept that night as Mary Jo took her last breaths.
Ted had testified that Mary Jo was kicking him frantically as he escaped the car, proving she did not die from the accident. His negligence in not reporting the incident coupled with Mary Jo’s apparent ability to keep herself alive should have complicated the charges for the brash and arrogant Senator.
Nixon stole secrets and lied about it. Kennedy allowed a woman to suffocate to death and lied about it. Which one seems more of a made-for-Hollywood plot line? Yet not until last week – in 2018! – has Hollywood touched this despicable crime.
Bias comes in many forms, but one of its most profound manifestations isn’t the way stories get told, but whether they get told. As much as we may like to poke fun at the self-impressed stars offering their standard political rants at awards shows, Hollywood still has enormous cultural impact. The fact that Ted Kennedy even had a political career is proof enough of that.