The campaign of presumptive Democratic presidential nominee John Kerry has long been challenged by the outspokenness of his wife, billionaire philanthropist Teresa Heinz Kerry.
In the last few days alone, she has told a reporter from a conservative newspaper, the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, to "shove it," and taken a thinly veiled shot at President Bush's reading habits despite attempts by her husband's campaign to assume a more positive, less Bush-bashing tone for swing voters tuning in to the campaign for the first time this week.
Her unscripted and off-the-cuff remarks have raised eyebrows along the campaign tale, but it doesn't seem to bother her.
"You know I have been campaigning nine days a week almost since September and I haven't offended anybody. … I have campaigned unscripted from the heart, from the gut. And I will say again that is someone really treads unjustly on something I consider very important — my honor — and what I say with meaning, I defend myself," she told ABC News' Peter Jennings.
Heinz Kerry's "shove it" comment, while it drew some public support, was rough language for a would-be first lady. But Heinz Kerry defended her anger at the reporter. "When someone tries to trap you, and to put words that you have not said, which indicate not very nice meanings, you have a right to defend yourself. And I did and I think you would too," she told Jennings.
Long History of Combative Comments
Heinz Kerry's predilection for speaking her mind, regardless of the consequences, has apparently been long held. In a 1976 newspaper interview, Heinz Kerry — then the wife of Sen. John Heinz, R-Pa., who died in a 1991 plane crash — had some rather unkind comments about Massachusetts Sen. Edward Kennedy, the Democratic Party, and the women's movement — all three of which have been key to her current husband's success.
In the Jan. 13, 1976, interview with the Boston Herald American (now the Boston Herald), Heinz Kerry said she didn't trust President Richard Nixon but added, "Ted Kennedy I don't trust either."
She went on to say that she knew "some couples who stay together only for politics. If Ted Kennedy holds on to that marriage just for the Catholic vote, as some people say he does, then I think he's a perfect bastard."
Kennedy's 22-year marriage to Joan Kennedy ended in 1981. He married Victoria Reggie in 1992.
The Kerry campaign insisted there is no animosity between Kennedy and Heinz Kerry.
"John Kerry and Teresa Heinz Kerry and Senator and Mrs. Kennedy have a genuine friendship that's grown stronger and closer through the years. They each share an abiding commitment for public service and building a stronger America," the Kerry campaign said in a statement.
"Teresa Heinz Kerry is a mother, wife and philanthropist who has given back in so many ways," the statement said. "It's unfortunate that the Republicans are attacking John Kerry's wife about a quote from the early 1970s. You'd think that with the challenges our nation's facing they could find something better to talk about."
A spokesman for Sen. Kennedy said: "Over the years, Senator and Mrs. Kennedy and John Kerry and Teresa Heinz Kerry have developed a deep friendship and a strong mutual respect. A 30-year-old quote dug up by the Republican attack machine — made long before they became friends — is irrelevant."