Kennedy Curse: Turbulent Life and Tragedies

Kennedy Haunted By Chappaquiddick

When Ted Kennedy emerged, he came back strong, passing legislation to end quotas on immigrants and becoming a vocal critic of the Vietnam War. He was elected as the Senate majority whip in January 1969.

Yet his victory was short-lived. Six months after becoming majority whip, Kennedy was involved in a near-fatal car accident that almost ended his political career.

Following a party, Kennedy, then 37, accidentally drove his car off a narrow bridge on Chappaquiddick Island, drowning his passenger, 28-year-old Mary Jo Kopechne. Kopechne had worked on Robert's presidential campaign with a group of women known as the "boiler girls." Kennedy managed to escaped, and said he dove into the water repeatedly to rescue Kopechne, but was not able to save her. Kennedy did not report the accident for nearly nine hours.

A week later, Kennedy reported to a courthouse in Edgartown, Mass., with his pregnant wife, Joan. He was charged with a misdemeanor for leaving the scene of an accident. He pleaded guilty, and was given a two-month suspended sentence.

After a week of silence, Kennedy delivered a speech broadcast live, in which he called his failure to report the accident immediately "indefensible."

"I would understand full well why some might think it right for me to resign. This would be a difficult decision to make….And so I ask you tonight, the people of Massachusetts, to think this through with me," Kennedy said on July 25, 1969.

The Massachusetts public indeed forgave Kennedy. But unanswered questions surrounding the accident left the national public less forgiving.

A Sick Son, a Failed Campaign

In 1973, Kennedy's oldest son, Ted, Jr., was diagnosed with bone cancer and had to have a leg amputated.

On Nov. 7, 1979, Kennedy announced his decision to run for president. Although he began ahead of a weak incumbent President Jimmy Carter in the polls, a late start and a lack of a strong message hampered his campaign.

Nine months later, in August 1980, Kennedy lost the democratic nomination to Carter.

The next year, he and his wife Joan divorced. After the divorce, and before he remarried 11 years later, there were stories of womanizing and heavy drinking -- and a scandalous incident in Palm Beach, Florida in 1991.

Ted Kennedy Testifies in Nephew's Rape Trial

Kennedy went drinking on Good Friday with his son, Patrick, and nephew, William Kennedy Smith. Smith left them with a woman who later accused him of rape.

Smith was acquitted, but only after a trial that put Kennedy on the witness stand and called his own conduct into question. He addressed the issue several weeks later, in a speech at Harvard.

"I am painfully aware that the criticism directed at me in recent months involves far more than disagreements with my positions," Kennedy said on Oct. 25, 1991. "To them I say, I recognize my own shortcomings – the faults in the conduct of my public life. I realize that I alone am responsible for them, and I am the one who must confront them."

A woman, Victoria Reggie -- or Vicki, as she would later be known -- was in the audience at that Harvard speech. Reggie and Kennedy married the following year, in 1992. Reggie was interested in politics, and they both shared Catholic faith. Reggie brought two children to the Kennedy family from a previous marriage, Caroline and Curran Raclin.

Faced with enormous personal hurdles, Kennedy plowed forward.

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