Sen. Ted Kennedy Received Numerous Death Threats After Chappaquiddick: 'Target #3'

Late senator received numerous threats reminding him of brothers' assassinations

June 10, 2010, 8:56 AM

June 11, 2010 -- The late Sen. Ted Kennedy -- the sole surviving Kennedy brother after the assassinations of John and Robert Kennedy -- received numerous death threats himself, according to documents released by the FBI today after a request made by ABC News under the Freedom of Information Act.

Kennedy was the subject of more than 100 threats through the years from across the country and from a variety of groups -- the Ku Klux Klan, "Minutemen" organizations and the National Socialist White People's Party, the FBI said.

One threat to the police captain in Lynn, Massachusetts in 1965 warned: "Kennedy will not reach city hall tonight."

Another call to the Palm Beach Post-Times in West Palm Beach, Florida, on Feb. 12, 1967, had a similarly eerie message: "Senator Kennedy will be dead by Friday. Thank you."

The threats were often very specific, with one letter warning, "Ted Kennedy number three to be assassinated on Oct. 25, 1968. The Kennedy residence must be well protected on that date."

The documents released today show that the constant drumbeat of threats against Kennedy only grew after the controversial 1969 Chappaquiddick incident that killed Mary Jo Kopechne, the young political staffer who was riding in Kennedy's car when he went off a bridge on Martha's Vineyard in Edgartown, Massachusetts.

A drawing sent to Kennedy in 1970 included the words: "You'll never shake Mary Jo... She will haunt you the rest of her life. You are marked man. A bullet will kill you."

The FBI was constantly sent requests to investigate the accident but the bureau declined, saying it did not have jurisdiction. There was also no request from local authorities for FBI support.

The FBI files include an FBI teletype from the day of the Chappaquiddick incident that contained information from the Edgartown police chief, Dominic Arena. The teletype said, "body of female found in overturned car in water... Mr. Arena confidentially advised that driver of automobile was Senator Edward M. Kennedy who was uninjured. Stated fact Senator Kennedy was driver is not being revealed to anyone."

President Nixon's White House sent a "discreet" request to find out whether Kopechne visited Greece in Aug. 1968. The letter, dated Oct. 17, 1969, stated that Kopechne spent "some time with a young hoodlum who is now behind bars for cashing hot checks."

The files took note of many of the rumors that swirled around about Kennedys, including a tip in 1965 that an Italian outfit wanted to kill Ted and Robert Kennedy by working with some of Frank Sinatra's associates "to arrange for their women to be placed in compromising situations." That rumor was not confirmed.

As part of that investigation, Jacqueline Hammond, the wealthy former wife of a U.S. ambassador to Spain, was said to have "considerable information about sex parties" at which all three Kennedy brothers, Sinatra and Marilyn Monroe were present. The parties were purported to have taken place at the Hotel Carlyle in New York City, where Hammond maintained a room.

There were also wild rumors about an assassination plot hatched by Sirhan Sirhan, in jail for the killing of Bobby Kennedy. An inmate told the FBI that Sirhan offered him $1 million and a car to kill Kennedy in 1977.

Ted Kennedy Subject of Numerous Death Threats

Kennedy's office received death threats constantly.

One of the letters included an August 15, 1970 newspaper clipping from the Boston Globe that was sent to the senator's Boston offices. The writer wrote on the newspaper clippings: "Killer of Mary Jo," and "Mary Jo will haunt you... you are living in fear."

On the side of the page, the person also wrote, "Why to you kill Mary Jo SOB." On a page from the paper with obituaries the writer of the threatening letter writes, "You A**hole."

The FBI laboratory concluded that some of the threats were from the same person. On Oct. 22, 1970 the FBI noted that the U.S. Attorney's office had decided not to prosecute the case because it was not "a definite threat to injure the addressee or any other person."

Another letter contained newspaper clippings questioning why Kennedy didn't go to jail.

"Killer of Mary Jo. Someone gun him down like 2 brother," the letter read. "Wanted dead or alive Ted Kennedy, murder of Mary Jo rewards 50,000 dollars."

Another threat targeted Kennedy's brother-in-law, Sargent Shriver, when he ran as the 1972 Democratic vice-presidential candidate. The newspaper clip had rants against the Kennedy family including a reference to the senator: "Ted Killer of Mary Jo." The picture of Sargent Shriver had a circle around his neck, and the words, "A bullet this neck."

In subsequent years, Kennedy continued to receive letters warning him not to run for president or chiding him for the Vietnam War.

A postcard to his office from Pittsburgh in June 1969 urged him to vote for the Anti-Ballistic Missile treaty, or else: "Remember what happened to Bobby and Jack!"

A letter to Kennedy from Michigan in June 1969 said: "You are one of the richest Senators in the Senate. When you are dead you can't take it with you!"

Many of the threats were bizarre. For example, in December 1969, a letter from New Paris, Ohio, warned that 67 people would come to Massachusetts and harm Robert Kennedy's widow, Ethel, if Ted did not come to New Paris at a certain time later that month and meet with residents at a local Dairy Queen.

The threats continued well past the 1970's. The senator's office received a letter in 1985: "Brass tacks, I'm gonna kill Kennedy and (President Ronald) Reagan, and I really mean it."

The FBI today released more than 2,000 pages of documents from Kennedy's files, dated from 1961 to 1985. Kennedy himself was never investigated by the FBI and the agency was not asked to provide support to the local police investigation into the Chappaquiddick incident.

Kennedy was the driver of the car that drove off a small bridge and killed Kopechne, then 28, on the night of July 18, 1969. Kennedy, who walked away from the scene and was initially not identified as the driver, maintained his innocence in the accident but the scandal plagued his political career and personal life.

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