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A Tribute to JFK Jr. on the Second Anniversary of His Death

Aired July 15, 2001 - 21:00   ET


LARRY KING, HOST: Tonight: On the eve of the second anniversary of his untimely death, highlights of a special conversation with John F. Kennedy Jr., and remembrances from his friends. All next on LARRY KING WEEKEND.

Thanks for joining us. Tonight we have a special tribute to a special guest. Two years ago John F. Kennedy Jr., his wife Carolyn and sister-in-law Lauren Bessette died in a plane crash off Martha's Vineyard. Tonight, we thought we'd take a look back at our interview with JFK Jr. and hear thoughts from some of his friends. He was on the show in 1995, and I wondered if it was tough being a junior.


JOHN F. KENNEDY JR.: I mean, sure. Being -- I mean, I wouldn't know -- I don't have a basis of comparison.

KING: I mean, are there ever days you say I wish my name were David?

KENNEDY: No, I'm pretty happy with what it is. I mean, if you're asking if it's hard being me?

KING: Well, it's brought you a unique life.

KENNEDY: Absolutely, and great opportunities and some challenges. But all in all, I feel very fortunate, so it's not so bad.

KING: Do you think...

KENNEDY: I recommend it.

KING: You do. You think -- it's very good to be the son of a legend?

KENNEDY: I mean, it's complicated, and it is -- it makes for a rich and complicated life. So -- but that's, I think, part of the puzzle to figure out in my life.

KING: More complicated for you then your sister?

KENNEDY: I'm not sure. No, different. KING: Different. Do you think some day you might write about you in "George," there being so much interest in you -- a first-person piece? I mean, you wrote a terrific introduction -- but just about you?


KING: Why? You don't think ...

KENNEDY: Well, I mean, I'd let somebody else do it. I don't know if I'd bring an objective eye to it.

KING: Has privacy been the toughest thing?

KENNEDY: For me?

KING: Yeah. I mean, you go out, people follow you, right? You don't have a normal life.

KENNEDY: I have a pretty normal life, surprisingly. I mean, you know, every now and then sort of strange things happen. But I mean, up until the cavalcade of publicity for "George" I was, you know, I was a private citizen...

KING: You weren't easily recognized on the street?

KENNEDY: No, but people, I think -- you're not in the business of really selling your personality. So I think people kind of understood that -- and you know, sure people would ask. Except people are generally nice, and it's not a -- it's not a crazy situation.

KING: Your mother was a hell of an editor at Doubleday.

KENNEDY: That's what I hear.

KING: Would she have liked "George"?

KENNEDY: I think she would have.

KING: Because?

KENNEDY: I think that when we first talked about the idea, she said, well John you're not going to be the "Mad Magazine" of politics. And I said, well no. And I felt that was good advice to keep in the back of my mind, what direction we wanted to go.

Which -- but I think she would have appreciated the fact that people had always said that you can't do a fun magazine about politics, that combines the serious as well as the playful, which is about personalities, because that's what public life is about. And in the sense that we think have flouted a lot of conventional wisdom. I think that that would have appealed to her?

KING: Because she had that -- she had a good sense of humor, right? KENNEDY: She had a good sense of humor, and I don't think she was a slave to conventional wisdom. And I think that there's a certain irony in the whole enterprise, and I think she would have appreciated it.

KING: She would have said, this is a cute idea, right?

KENNEDY: I think something more than cute.

KING: It works.

KENNEDY: It works. And it's, you know, for me personally it's an interesting opportunity. And one that probably is a way of engaging some of the issues that are unique to my life, and doing it in a little bit different way.

KING: Sister like it?

KENNEDY: Yeah, but she's...

KING: Have reservations?

KENNEDY: No, no, no, she does like it, she does like it. She's about to come out with a book soon.

KING: Another one?

KENNEDY: Yeah, a book on privacy, which actually, she's a very well suited to write about.

KING: Why a magazine?

KENNEDY: Well, I mean, one of the things that you sort of have to understand about this enterprise was that the opportunity to do a entrepreneurial venture, to really start to take a big risk, and to have an idea and see it through, and develop it and nurture it. And as we went along, I mean, there were plenty of opportunities where we could have said, well this idea isn't going to work. But what kept happening was, that we would get feedback, or when we tested it we would get a certain response through direct mail which said, wow, there's something here.

KING: But in you there was always this editor/writer wannabe?

KENNEDY: I'm not sure, no. No, and I think, you know, Michael and I kind of came -- I think what happened was there was this synergy. He came at it from a really marketing point of view and said, there is an unfilled marketing niche here.

And I had come from my family, we had always been, sort of grew up around politics, that it was a fascinating way to spend one's career. And I had always been always kind of interested in how you could get that idea out to more people. Because as I grew older, it became clear that not that many people share that view.

KING: It was also a family that liked the press, generally, commiserated with the press, enjoyed the...

KENNEDY: The generation before me, more so.

KING: But are you now -- this is it? This is going to be your life, editing, publishing, magazines, writing? Is that it?

KENNEDY: Well, starting a magazine is a huge enterprise. We were two years in starting this. And we started this ourselves and now that Hirshette (ph) is our partners in it, there is a considerable investment. We have a staff. So this is a big enterprise; and it is enormously exciting for both of us. So this is what we're doing, you know...

KING: For the time being, or you want to stay with it?

KENNEDY: Well, I would hate to say I'm going to do anything until I'm 70, but I'm going to be doing this for the foreseeable future.

KING: We'll be back in a moment with just two ordinary guys and a little mag, after this.



KING: The day after his tragic plane crash, the friends of John Kennedy Jr. were still clinging to hope he was still alive. CNN's Christiane Amanpour was one of those friends; and I asked her when their friendship began.


CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, CNN CHIEF INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: It began nearly 20 years ago in college. We were college mates. I didn't go to the same university as he did, but we shared a house off- campus, along with others of his friends who remain friends today, for a couple of years. And we have kept up our friendship all these last 20 years.

I never have spoken or felt it appropriate to speak about John in public before, and I'm doing so tonight because sometimes, and today is one of those cases, a friend needs a little bit of help. And so on behalf of his friends, I would like to say a few words and repay his loyalty and generosity on a day when we are all still praying for him to return safely.

Last weekend, my husband and I spent the weekend with John and Carolyn and John's beloved cousin Anthony and his wife, Carol, up in Martha's Vineyard.

It was a very happy, lovely, normal, friendly couples weekend. And I says this because that is the lesson that John has embodied to all of us and teaches us all the time. All of those who know him have been constantly impressed by the way he manages to keep his normalcy, to keep his sense of self, to be a man who is a happy man, a fulfilled man, a man who lives life to the full, despite the fish bowl that he has lived in all his life. And that really has been one of the things that we have all taken from John, and we continue to do so, particularly in this world where there is so much pressure and so much spotlight on him.

KING: Back a little. What college did you go to, and where did he go? He went to...

AMANPOUR: He was at Brown, and I was at the University of Rhode Island.

KING: And they are right near each other?

AMANPOUR: Yes, yes.

KING: And you struck up a friendship through...

AMANPOUR: Well, through college friends. You know, we met at parties; we met on campus. I had a lot of friends at Brown, and...

KING: Did you like each other right away?

AMANPOUR: Absolutely. Yes, we were friends almost from the beginning. But the thing about John is that his friendships speak to the man himself. He is a man who has kept the friends that he has made throughout his life. He is a loyal and generous and faithful guy, and if you look at his friends, they are all the people who have been with him for the last nearly 40 years of his life.

And I think that is very, very, very important to realize that about this man. He wasn't swept away by the life he led, by the riches he had, by the fame. Instead, he wanted -- and does want -- to use that, and is a sort of man who believes that from whom -- to whom much is given, much is also asked.

KING: He has impressed, at least us at CNN when with us, well within himself. Is that correct? He was comfortable in himself.

AMANPOUR: Absolutely, and all of us are still praying for him to come home safely, and, as you can imagine, his family as well.

And let's not forget also that Carolyn's family, parents, are waiting for two daughters to come home. Her eldest sister is waiting for two sisters to come home.

So, on behalf of those friends, we want to send that message out. But I think, you know, let's see what's important about his life. And I think that he lived so much of it in the public domain that many of you know much about him.

The last time my husband and I saw him, we were come back to New York, and he was getting on his plane, his wife was saying goodbye to him, and he was going to fly to Toronto on a mission for "George." He was going to...

KING: This same plane? AMANPOUR: The same plane. He was going to do a mission for "George," his magazine. And his magazine is an embodiment of him. If you look at the magazine, it's a witty magazine; it talks about serious issues, but in an accessible way. It is not self important; it is not pompous; it is not partisan. He has always tried and always wants to make politics accessible. He has been always the kind of man who is amused by life, serious about life, but has never been and is not cynical. And I think that comes across so often.

KING: The magazine doesn't take itself all that seriously. Yet it is -- can be -- very serious.

AMANPOUR: Well, exactly. I mean, it is a very serious topic that he chose to write about. And, you know, he took a big risks when he launched it. You know how difficult it is, in this day and age, to launch a magazine. He took a big risk. You know, there are many people who are just delighted to see somebody like John fail. He didn't fail. He succeeded. It's challenging, it's difficult, and he continues to push and work for that magazine.

KING: Christiane, what prompted his interest in flying?

AMANPOUR: It has been a passion for as long as I have known him. He started taking flying lessons in college. He dropped them for a while went on to do other things, and then when he had time, he finished up and got his license.

It's a passion; it's not a frivolity. It's not something that he thought, well, you know, I can do it, why not? No, he used it for almost -- not just as a hobby, but also to facilitate his job. And, you know, went off on "George" missions, and he comes to Martha's Vineyard, and that's what he does with his plane.

KING: Because many of the reports today were making it like not. So he has flown that a lot.

AMANPOUR: Oh, absolutely. Yes, I mean, I think he bought the plane only several months ago, but he has flown a lot, yes.


KING: Our tribute to John F. Kennedy Jr. continues right after this.


KING: What do you think John Jr. would have done?

KATHLEEN KENNEDY TOWNSEND: I think he could have done anything he wanted. He had a real sense of what this country was about. He had a sense of himself. You know, you talked about him taking the train.

And his loss is our loss.

KING: He had no ego, did he? I mean, his ego -- he had a well- controlled ego.

KENNEDY TOWNSEND: Right. I mean...

KING: He was in the right place.

KENNEDY TOWNSEND: He was in the right place. And he had a beautiful bride who loved him deeply, and he loved her.




KING: We're back with Christiane Amanpour.

He just said to us, in that 1995 interview, that he wasn't that all bothered with -- he handled himself pretty well with fame. As you viewed it as a friend. how did he deal with that?

AMANPOUR: Well, he was -- he is incredible about it, you know. I mean, for a boy who grew up from the first moment until now in the public spotlight -- I mean, imagine what it must be like, Larry, to simply know that every waking moment, everything you do is fodder for the public arena. And if you look at the pictures of John, you will always see him being trailed by cameras...

you will always see him being trailed by cameras, being -- being, you know, followed all the time, and yet does he look like he's basking in it or glorying in it? No. Does he look like he's being rude and pushing people aside? No. He very graciously takes it as part of what has been hoisted upon him and lives his life with that in mind, and lives his life trying to just deal with that the best and most gracious and dignified way that he can.

But of course it's been extremely difficult for his wife, who is a private person. He married a beautiful girl-next-door, not a starlet, not a celebrity. And she has had a terribly difficult time and is only just coming to terms with what it means to live in that spotlight.

Imagine what it must be like for somebody to have had hoards of people camped outside, photographing her every mood -- move, you know, making up lies, writing things in the press, and yet they love each other, they live together, they have a lovely relationship, a lovely marriage, and they get through it. And this is an incredible tribute, and it's terribly, terribly difficult. And they have chosen not to be on the celebrity circuit, not to be on the benefit circuit. They do serious things and things that please them as individuals and with their friends and other members of their family.

KING: A couple of other things. In all these years you have never discussed being a friend of his -- we didn't know you were a friend of his -- never written about him, never thought of that, never asked? I mean, you know, you've been a great friend to a very famous person. AMANPOUR: Well, a very famous person has been a great friend and is a great friend to all the people who know him. And again, that is a tribute to the person he is. And it is incredible. You know, in this society that we live in, you know, dime-a-dozen celebrities, cardboard-cutout imitations, he is the real thing. He is a big man with a big heart, a big mind. He's traveled a lot, he has many, many interests. Many people want to put their own projection and characterization on to him and make him fit into some kind of mold that they would like to create for him, but he has lived his own life.

Look at his professional life, for instance. He has done public service, public service, public service. He was an assistant D.A. He could have been a high-priced attorney, but, no, he did the assistant D.A. He struggled through his bar exams, and when everybody ridiculed him he kept going and he did it. He chose when he left the assistant D.A. to do a magazine, to start a magazine. Yes, his name helped launched it but it doesn't necessarily help carry it. And he's fighting every day to make sure it's a good magazine, something that's relevant, something that's useful, something that is serious in a way that's not pompous. And I think, you know, that's the kind of man he is, and I think that's what his friends would like people to know about him.

KING: And one other thing, Christiane, did you ever discuss or have you, yourself, thought about this curse that seems to harbor over this family?

AMANPOUR: You know, his friends just always talk about the present and we don't look at the past and we don't project into the future. Everybody wants to say are you going to be president? Are you going to be a senator? We knew where to draw the lines and we simply watched the way he lived his life, in increments as it builds.

KING: But how do you personally feel about what this family and this country?

AMANPOUR: You know, the Kennedy family is an incredible, important family for this country and for the world, and I think many members have acquitted themselves with dignity and with stoicism and have been examples, really, for everybody who has been able to look at this family, and certainly I believe John is an example and somebody, as I say, where people are always trying to, you know, say something negative. And he was always above it, above that kind of trivial, petty, daily stuff. I'm not trying to sanctify him, I'm just trying to give you perhaps a different view.

KING: You've done very well.

Thank you so much, Christiane. We really appreciate it.



KING: Welcome back to our tribute to John Kennedy Jr, two years gone. We're going to show you more now from our 1995 interview with John. Although he did many things in his life, he'll always be remembered for something he did as a child. And I asked John if he remembered that famous salute.


KING: Things have always fascinated us. That famous picture that you must have seen a half a zillion times -- the little boy. Do you remember that?

KENNEDY: I think that what happens is that you see an image so many times that...


KENNEDY: ... believe -- remember the image. But I'm not sure I really do.

KING: What's your earliest memory? Mine, I guess, is 4 years old or something -- 5. What's your really -- what you can crystallize in memory?

KENNEDY: We had a dog who was named Pooshinka (ph), who was given to my father by the premier of Russia -- was it -- Soviet Union at that time. And it was the...

KING: Khrushchev?

KENNEDY: Was it -- I don't think it -- I mean, Khrushchev was at the time, but I don't think it was actually from Khrushchev, I think it was head of the parliament. And it was the daughter of the first dog in space. And it -- we trained it to slide down the slide that we had in the back of the White House. And that's -- sliding the dog down the slide is probably my first...

KING: But probably, memories of your father are not great.

KENNEDY: They're great, but they're not plentiful.

KING: Or of your uncle Robert, right?

KENNEDY: They're more vivid of him...

KING: You were how old when he died?

KENNEDY: I was 8.

KING: SO that's a vivid memory to you?

KENNEDY: Fairly, yes. He was a very vivid character. He was quite a forceful presence.

KING: Was he involved in raising you, too?

KENNEDY: At times. I mean, raising many of us. I mean, all in our family -- I mean, Teddy and Bobby, I mean, one of the things that they really took a great interest in was the family and the cousins, and making a kind of a sense of community, especially in the summertime. So, you know, I saw a good bit of Bobby.

KING: That still exists, that togetherness in the Kennedys?


KING: Doesn't go away, right?

KENNEDY: No. It's one of the great, lucky things about being in my family, which I am -- which has stayed.

KING: That gathering concept, right? It is familial, right? It's a touching family, too right? I mean, it's -- the boys get along. It's a -- each -- go for each other kind of family, right?

KENNEDY: Absolutely.

KING: Did that start -- it must have started with your grandfather.

KENNEDY: I mean, I had heard. I mean he, you know, certainly took a great interest in his, and I think he created that sort of environment, and that ethos within the family, and it passed on.

KING: Now, when you look at him, John -- you look at your father -- and you must see him all the time. I mean, you see him everywhere. You see him in tapes and visions, and on cameras and at Democratic Conventions. He's everywhere. You didn't know-him, know-him, right?

How do you look at him? Is he, my father? A president? A great man? My family? What's the association?

KENNEDY: I think it's complicated. And I think that you see it in a variety of ways. I mean, I understand that my father is part of the mythology of this country, and he was also a very compelling political figure. And I think, you know, you can certainly -- certainly he was aware, himself, of the opportunities for politics to be both fun and serious. And that's one of the things that we have tried to -- that mix.

I mean, if there is, you know, bits and pieces of family history which go into creating something, you know, on my end, that's part of it.

KING: One of your father's great friends told me once in an interview that he believed, had your father filled out two terms, he would have probably purchased or been involved with "The Boston Globe," he would have traveled and written and gotten into magazines; he would have been on the reporting end. Does that surprise you?

KENNEDY: No; I mean, I had heard that also -- and would have probably been a very helpful...

KING: He would have been a contributing...

KENNEDY: Contributing editor. A gray eminence.

KING: How old now?

KENNEDY: He was born in 1917, so my math is a little bad.

KING: Mine is too; so it's, 70...

KENNEDY: 78, or 7?

KING: I can't picture him that way.


JOHN F. KENNEDY, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Let me say first that I accept the nomination of the Democratic Party. I accept it without reservation, and with only one obligation: the obligation to devote every effort of my mind and spirit to lead our party back to victory, and our nation to greatness.



KENNEDY: Over a quarter century ago, my father stood before you to accept the nomination for the presidency of the United States. So many of you came into public service because of him. In a very real sense, because of you, he is with us still.



KING: Welcome back.

Tonight we're looking at John F. Kennedy Jr. through his words and those of his friends. John Perry Barlow joined us after John, his wife Carolyn Bessette-Kennedy and Laurin Bessette were pronounced dead. Barlow had known JFK Jr. for 22 years. I started by asking how they met.


JOHN PERRY BARLOW, FRIEND OF JOHN F. KENNEDY JR.: His mother -- his mother sent him out West. She rather unceremoniously kicked him out of the nest and dumped him into the lap of a Republican rancher from Wyoming that she didn't know.


KING: To do what?

BARLOW: Well, you know, to dig post holes and string barbed wire and run cows around and get his hands on real things, and deal with, you know, the sort of people that didn't even know what the Upper East Side was.

KING: How much older were you, John?

BARLOW: Well, at that point it seemed like quite an age difference. I'm 51 now. He was 38. So, you know, 13 years.

KING: Did you sort of get like older brotherly toward him?

BARLOW: Well, I think, you know, it's been interesting. Over the course of time -- and our relationship has been a verb throughout. I mean, I started out as kind of a father figure and then became a brother. And you know, I would say in recent years he was as much a father to me as I'd ever been to him.

KING: How long were you -- how -- would you communicate a lot? Talk a lot? See each other often?

BARLOW: I would say it was a rare month in that 22-year period where we didn't at least talk on the phone, and more often would see each other face to face.

KING: And I understand this is a lot of tragedy for you. Your mother just died. And is that true, the funeral was Saturday and you got an e-mail from John on Friday?

BARLOW: Well, no. Actually, I came back from my mother's funeral. And this was poignant, because I'd spent a lot of time with John after his mother died and had been thinking a lot about him as mine went. And I came back from the funeral and found an e-mail that he had sent, I would guess, almost as he was leaving the office to go to the airport -- expressing his...

KING: A message of condolence?

BARLOW: Well, not only expressing his condolences, but also I think in a sense congratulations at having had the rare experience of being able to be there with one's mother as she died and seeing her out of this world and -- and -- and inviting me to the Vineyard to spend time with him and -- and reflect, as -- as he and I had done together when his mother died.

KING: We'll of course be coming back to you, John. But quickly, what kind of friend was he?

BARLOW: John was one of the greatest friends I've ever had. And I think he was in general an excellent friend. He was loyal and -- and honest and clear, and had an enormous heart. And you know, as his character developed into the -- into the burnished, fine thing that it was over the course of time, he only became a better friend.



KING: Welcome back to our tribute to John F. Kennedy Jr. We knew him as a lawyer, a publisher, very briefly, an actor.



CANDICE BERGEN, ACTRESS: What the hell is this?

KENNEDY: It's a copy of "George." It's the new political magazine I'm editing. I had the guys in the art department mock up a cover with you on it. It's pretty great, huh?

BERGEN: That's it?

KENNEDY: No, no, there's a one year free subscription with the card.

BERGEN: Gee, I hope you didn't have to sell the compound.

KENNEDY: OK, fine, if that's your attitude. But don't come crying to me when you have to pay full newsstand price.


KING: Hey, that was pretty good. Did you enjoy it or not?

KENNEDY: I have a fall-back career if the publishing...

KING: Yes, I like that little move, a little acting. Did you like it?

KENNEDY: I did. It was really interesting to see. I'd never seen a show being put together. So it was -- you know, you walk from all these cables, and...

KING: Walk to the red spot.

KENNEDY: There's this little world all created there.

KING: Were they nice to you?

KENNEDY: They were very nice.

KING: They do a lot of takes?

KENNEDY: For me, yes, they did a few.

KING: Would your mom have liked that?

KENNEDY: Yes, you know.

KING: Because she shunned publicity a lot at the end. Would she have liked all this -- would she have liked your being here? Proud or...

KENNEDY: I think she would have -- you know, she understands that -- you know, that that's part of the enterprise. And that if you're going to do a public enterprise, like making a magazine about the public forum, then you should rightfully expect that you should go out there and do it. And I'm proud of it, so I think she would have, yes.

KING: And the obvious: your own interest in politics. You write about it, you're raised in a family that lives off it, and on it, and through it, and with it. What about you?

KENNEDY: Well obviously, you know, I -- as I said, I grew up in a family where we were saturated with politics, and I have -- I've lost count -- five or so relatives in politics now.

I like not being in politics. I like the proximity to it that a magazine like this affords me. And -- but I'm clearly fascinated -- I mean, I think it gives you a view on the large issues of the day that few other professions do. So how can you not be thrilled by it in a way?

KING: Well thrilled enough to someday want to run? It's logical.

KENNEDY: Well, you know, I -- I mean, as you can imagine, I get asked that, but I think when you -- you know, a public career is -- it's a lot to bite off, and you better be ready for it, and you better have your life set up for it, and you better be prepared to do it for the long haul, and -- because that's -- you know, the nature of the thing is that you stay in it, and you -- you know, whether it's seniority in the House or the Senate.

And -- I mean, I had some other interests in other sort of things that I was eager to do, and, you know, in the old definition of politics was that you bring it at the end of your life when you really have something to, sort of, offer, and maybe that's a good thing for me.

KING: Colin Powell says he's not sure if it's burning inside him. There's nothing burning in you yet. Or is there, other than the magazine?

KENNEDY: Well, this is -- I mean -- no, I mean...

KING: I'm not talking about male/female. I'm talking the magazine, John.

KENNEDY: Burning for public life? Well no, but if there was, you know, I would be in it. But they are -- you know, I may have sentiments that are burning, but do I have a burning desire to jump in the public arena? Not right yet; I'm doing this.


KING: When we come back, Kennedy family friend Billy Graham, and later, more from JFK Jr. himself.


WILLIAM J. CLINTON, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: For more than 40 years now, the Kennedy family has inspired Americans to public service, strengthened our faith in the future and moved our nation forward. Through it all, they have suffered much and given more.


KING: Welcome back to our tribute to John F. Kennedy, Jr.

Reverend Billy Graham is a long-time friend of the Kennedy's. He's also great at consoling a nation during times of grief.


KING: How well did you know young John, Billy?

REVEREND BILLY GRAHAM: Well, I got to know him fairly well. I crossed paths with him on several occasions, including the "Time" magazine gala in New York and places like that. And he and his wife postponed coming home from their honeymoon about two days in order to come and see me in New York. They spent about an hour and a half to two hours in my room at the hotel. And the paparazzi people were after him at that time very strongly, and he had been more or less trying to shield his wife from it. I think it was new to her.

KING: You knew his father very well. Was this a very good chip off the old block?

GRAHAM: Yes. I think that I was impressed with him in every way, everything I've read and heard about him since then. He was coming to my home. He wanted to come -- he asked if he and his wife could come and spend the weekend with us. And I said, "Of course you can." And I have found out from some of his people that know him very well that he was really a searching Christian. He was searching for something more in life than he already had.

And it seems to us, you know, that he had everything. But he wanted more. And I think that he really wanted Christ to come and take over his life.

KING: You must have seen him as baby, didn't you, Billy?

GRAHAM: Yes, I saw him as a baby when his mother was feeding him, and we were going out to play golf, and we stopped by. And that was the first time that I'd ever met Jackie, but I met the president, Kennedy, several times before.

But his father is the one -- Joe Kennedy is the one that wanted me to come down there because there had been a religious issue in the election between Catholic and Protestant. And he thought that I could help the president adjust to a new situation.

KING: All right, Billy, I assumed you heard Father Moynihan, the Catholic priest who spoke...

GRAHAM: Yes, I thought he was wonderful.

KING: What -- what do you say to -- well, you're kind of America's voice to the heavens in a sense. What do you say to family in a case like this? And then what do you say to America? What do you say to parents who've lost a child? How can you possibly deal with that?

GRAHAM: I would say that God loves you. God has a plan in your life. No accidents happen to a true believer, that this was in somehow the plan of God, but we cannot understand it. And to try to analyze it as to why, it's impossible.

We have to say by faith that God had a plan, and I believe he did have a plan. And there's a passage of scripture that John Kennedy Jr. read at his mother's funeral that was read by Cardinal Cushing (ph) at his father's funeral. I was there as a guest of the family at St. Matthew's in Washington for that funeral. And here was the passage, if I may read it.

KING: Sure.

GRAHAM: It says: "For the Lord himself will come down from heaven with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel"...


KENNEDY: ... "and with the trump of God. And the dead in Christ shall rise first. So then we, which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so shall we ever be with the Lord.


KING: What do you say to the public, not the direct family, the public which is taking this loss terribly?

GRAHAM: Yes. It has shocked us all. When I first heard it, it shocked me because I thought of him, you know, he was more handsome than I think any man I ever knew, and he was strong physically, and he was so kind to everybody. And I have talked to people who worked for him at "George" magazine, and they've told me that what a kind and considerate person he was. He always had time for everybody. He signed their autographs if they wanted it. And he was -- he just was a remarkable young man.

KING: You told John Jr. about the last time you were with his father. And we understand he was really intently interested in that. What happened?

GRAHAM: Well, the last time that I was with his father was -- I spoke at all the presidential prayer breakfasts when he was the president. He's reportedly said that Billy Graham is the only Protestant I feel comfortable with.


GRAHAM: And so I spoke at all of them. And so at the end of the breakfast, he and I would walk out together to his limousine. And we went out -- I had flu. And it was in the -- February. And I said -- he said to me -- he said: "Can you ride back to the White House with me? I want to talk to you about something." And I said, "Mr. President, I'd like to postpone that if possible because I have flu and I don't want to give to it you." And I had a fever. And he sort of thought a minute, and he turned and said goodbye and got in his car. But I have often wondered, what did he want to talk to me about? And I have been haunted by that, because I know that he wanted to talk to me about something religious, because the first time I was over with him, I played golf with him in Palm Beach at his father's place. And he stopped the car -- he had driven to the Seminole Golf Club in Palm Beach, and we had played golf. And on the way back, he stopped car and he suddenly turned to me and he said, "Billy," he said, "I want to ask you a question." He said, "Do you believe that Jesus Christ is coming back to this earth again?"

And I said: "Yes, I do. I believe the Bible teaches that."

He said, "Does my church believe that?"

I said, "Yes, it's in their creeds."

He said, "Well, why don't I hear more about it?"

I said: "I don't know. I wish that we all could look forward to that day when Christ is going to come back and he's going to rule in peace and all the suffering and pain of this world will be finished."


GRAHAM: Let us as a people and as leaders this day rededicate ourselves to the moral and spiritual principles that have undergirded this nation from the beginning. I challenge you here today, and the governors prayer breakfast that are watching by television, to lead this nation back to the God of our fathers and trust him for our deliverance and our salvation.




KING: Who will ever forget the riderless horse? When you watch that -- I don't know why we left that caller -- you watch that emotionally, or is it hard to be emotional?

KENNEDY: Of course.

KING: It is emotional?

KENNEDY: Absolutely.

KING: But you don't have the pain of it?

KENNEDY: No, but it is what it is.

KING: So you feel what it is? Do you ever fear your own health?

KENNEDY: My own health? Sure.

KING: Yes, there's nuts in this country.

KENNEDY: No, I don't feel it. I mean, no.

KING: I mean, Kennedys must think about it. How could they not think about it? Any Kennedy, in public life or not.

KENNEDY: But, I mean, it's not something that -- it's sort of like walking around wondering if you're going to be struck by lightning. It's kind of -- it's just not something that you keep in the forefront of your mind much.

KING: But it might affect decision-making, right? Going into politics might.

KENNEDY: It might, but it doesn't.

KING: It seems not to for the five that are in. But it wouldn't -- in other words, if you went in or thought about going in, the thought of being harmed by going in would not enter into you?

KENNEDY: That wouldn't be one of the considerations, no.

KING: Westminster, Pennsylvania, hello.

CALLER: Hi. Good evening, gentlemen.

KING: Yes.

CALLER: What was your inspiration into going into publishing?

KENNEDY: Well, I had grown up around words and the like. And my partner had understood, I think, more than me the commercial opportunities that a magazine like this presented. And we had a good idea. And we thought we could do something with it. And it was the thrill of being an entrepreneur, I think, which was -- in an endeavor which both of us knew something about.

KING: So the inspiration came from -- it was in you. It's in your culture, right?


KING: Your mother was an editor. Everyone liked writing.

KENNEDY: Yes, and it was what I was comfortable with. I'd always liked magazines. I mean, certainly that doesn't qualify you necessarily to be an editor, but we spent enough time on it, and we took enough care and we articulated a premise enough that -- that it was really a fully articulated idea. KING: What do you make of this whole ballpark now: the tabloids? They're everywhere. Everywhere we turn, there's something going on in the media, left-hand people, right-handed people, shocking stories, daytime television. What do you make of it all? It's like a morass.

KENNEDY: I mean, yes. It's part of -- I mean, we're bombarded with information, and it's of all different types and timbres, so it makes life more exciting.

KING: Do you dislike tabloids, even though they're crazy with you?

KENNEDY: I kind of like them.

KING: You're kidding?

KENNEDY: Nothing like that tabloid and a cup of coffee, sure.

KING: You read them?


KING: When you read about yourself, and let's say it's a lie or it's an absurdity, how do you treat it?

KENNEDY: I chuckle, depending on what it is. But most of the time, I just -- I mean, you have to understand that a lot of that stuff, really, as strange as it may seem, it doesn't have a lot to do with my life. It's this kind of thing that's...

KING: Out there.

KENNEDY: that's sort of out there and it drives on, and you just...

KING: Great that you can be amused by it, though.

KENNEDY: Yes, well I'm not always amused by it, but mostly...


KING: It's funny, but when John Kennedy and Carolyn left the studio that night -- she was there accompanying him -- they hadn't married yet, he didn't want to wait until the next morning to catch a plane and he didn't want to hang around the hotel, so he took off down the block, walking by himself with his girlfriend Carolyn the two blocks it took to get to Union Station. He took a 10:20 train to New York, got there at 2:30 in the morning.

One news item of not tonight: Late last week a Manhattan court agreed to let the mother of Carolyn Bessette Kennedy and Lauren Bessette settle her claim against the estate of John F. Kennedy Jr. Settlement talks have been underway for more than a year.

And we'll leave you tonight with scenes from the memorial service for the crash victims. Good night. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)





4:30pm ET, 4/16

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