When Richard Blow worked for John F. Kennedy Jr. as one of the top editors at George magazine, he signed a confidentiality agreement: His relationship with Kennedy and the details of Kennedy's personal life would be kept private.
Three years after Kennedy's untimely death in an airplane crash, Blow has written American Son: A Portrait of John F. Kennedy, Jr.
As a storm of controversy swirls around the new book — a book some critics and Kennedy loyalists insist should never have been written — Barbara Walters has the first interview with Blow.
Following are excerpts.
ABCNEWS' Barbara Walters: You signed a confidentiality agreement. Now there are people who say John Kennedy is gone, but that agreement still stands. You have betrayed him, they say. You're not loyal. How do you answer this?
Richard Blow: This was something that John asked the original group of staffers to sign right at the beginning of George when he was uncomfortable surrounding himself with journalists. But in time, John did become more comfortable with us and stopped asking people to sign that. So I think that those of us who were there know quite clearly the intention of that agreement. It was not intended to keep people from writing about John after his death.
Walters: Would John Kennedy have wanted you to write this book?
Blow: I don't know. You know, John was someone who often had contradictory positions. He had an antipathy to the media, but he started a magazine. He didn't like the paparazzi, but he admitted that he would buy paparazzi shots to use in George. He liked his privacy, but he took his shirt off a lot in Central Park. So I wouldn't presume to say what John would feel about this book.
Walters: What are the biggest misconceptions about John Kennedy?
Blow: That he wasn't smart … He flunked the bar, he was kind of a lightweight. He was more interested in being a jock than in more substantive work … John was a very bright guy with terrific intuition.
Walters: You write about John Kennedy watching the interview that I did with Monica Lewinsky.
Blow: He was not happy. You asked Monica Lewinsky about that now-infamous stain on her dress. And John groaned. He was sitting next to me and sort of sat back in his chair and he just looked like someone had punched him in the stomach. He was very troubled by the investigation of President Clinton's personal life and his attitude about that was this is a man who's made enormous sacrifices. He shouldn't have to sacrifice all his privacy.
Walters: Carolyn [Bessette Kennedy] was beautiful, but again and again you write in the book about the efforts that she made to look beautiful. She dieted herself rail-thin, she had botox injections to forestall wrinkles at a time when people weren't doing that much with botox. She dyed her hair very blond. I mean it sounds like a woman torturing herself to look good the way you describe her.
Blow: I think that she felt that John Kennedy's wife had to look just as good as John Kennedy did. It was not as easy for her as it was for him. That was my impression. … She said, "John, don't stroke my hair. I've got so many chemicals in this hair you're going to break it." She was half-serious, but she was half-joking … She could make the effort like that to be beautiful, but at the same time make a joke about it.