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Interview With John Perry Barlow

Aired July 2, 2003 - 08:17   ET


MILES O'BRIEN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: A new book claims John Kennedy, Jr.'s marriage was falling apart at the time he, his wife and her sister were killed in that plane crash. An excerpt is in the August issue of "Vanity Fair." Author Edward Klein describes a very difficult and fussy Carolyn Bessette Kennedy. He says the couple lived apart and suspected each other of cheating. He quotes Kennedy as complaining that his wife didn't want children and was using cocaine.
An except from the article reads as this: "Once when John returned in the evening to their loft, he found Carolyn sprawled on the floor in front of a sofa, disheveled and hollow-eyed, snorting cocaine with a gaggle of fashionistas. 'You're a coke head!' John screamed at her, according to one of the people who were present that night."

Now, John Kennedy, Jr.'s friend John Perry Barlow is here to comment on Klein's book.

Mr. Barlow, good to have you with us.


O'BRIEN: You haven't seen the book, of course. You've seen the article. So you're really commenting on the article until the book comes out.

BARLOW: Well, I'm commenting on the article and I'm also commenting on the coverage of the article, especially by various parts of the Rupert Murdoch organization, which I think has been especially irresponsible.

O'BRIEN: All right, and what you're saying is the "New York Post" there has a headline, "Shamelot!"...


O'BRIEN: ... referring to the marriage.

Let's talk about just some of the things we just brought out there, cocaine use, first of all.

BARLOW: Well, you know, first of all, let's talk about the fact that this book exists at all. Personally, I never saw any cocaine use and I knew those folks as long as they were together, and I knew them well enough so that if there had been any, I would have seen it.

O'BRIEN: So...

BARLOW: But, you know, quite apart from that, these are people who are dead. They're too dead to defend themselves. And to exploit their memories, given the fact that they're not in a position to defend themselves, and with the knowledge that the family will not engage because they don't want to get wrestling the tar baby, is a form of grave robbery, as far as I'm concerned. I mean it's about as ghoulish a thing as you can do.

And all the sources in the article -- not all of them, but all of them that have sort of scurrilous information attached to them -- are unnamed. I mean I could write a book demonstrating that Richard Nixon had been a child molester with unnamed sources and it would be just as valid.

O'BRIEN: All right, what, then, is the motivation for this book at this moment, besides money?

BARLOW: Well, I think that probably the author's motivation is economic. But I think that there are other organizations, notably Fox or Rupert Murdoch, who have a political motivation, which is to slime anybody who is on the left and to make them, you know, if they're at all heroic, to bring them down to some kind of culpable level.

O'BRIEN: So Murdoch is behind this?

BARLOW: I feel like that's -- I mean this is, this is just some of the worst journalism I've ever read. The article covering the book in here has a pull quote from John as though he had said this in some authoritative way. It says, "I want to have children, but when I raised the subject, she turns away from me and refuses to have sex with me," John Kennedy, Jr.

Well, this is actually a quote of some unnamed friend who said this to Ed Lewin, supposedly.

O'BRIEN: Well...

BARLOW: It's not a quote from John Kennedy, Jr. It may not even be a quote from the unnamed friend. And it's cited as though it were the real deal.

O'BRIEN: The sourcing is thin, to say the least.


O'BRIEN: Let me ask you this. As a friend of the late John Kennedy and Carolyn Bessette Kennedy, were you called for this article?


O'BRIEN: All right.

BARLOW: No and...

O'BRIEN: Do you know about -- what about his circle of friends that you know of?

BARLOW: I had not heard anything about this book until it surfaced. I mean I'm quoted in the article, and misquoted, I might add.

O'BRIEN: Well, this is a quote that goes back to the plane crash in '99.

BARLOW: Yes, but -- and in this case it's taken completely out of context.

O'BRIEN: Well, let's talk about that. The quote is, and I'm paraphrasing it now, but basically you said, you know, just enough to be dangerous in the cockpit of an airplane. Why don't you explain...

BARLOW: Well...

O'BRIEN: ... what you felt about his piloting and how that ended up in the article and what that's all about?

BARLOW: I told him, I had a phone conversation with him a couple of weeks before the accident and I said, you know, it occurs to me -- because I'm a private pilot -- and I said it occurs to me that you know just enough now to be dangerous, you know, that you're in that narrow window between 300 and 500 hours where a lot of pilots get killed, which is a generally true statement. It didn't have anything to do specifically with him.

I am quoted as saying that he was over -- I thought he was over confident. You know, so even in something as innocuous as this, the angle of the ball is different.


BARLOW: You know, there's a lot of English put on it. And throughout the piece things that might be relatively inoffensive are tweaked so that it seems, you know, breathless and scandalous. But, you know, the real issue here is sort of a breakdown of what I think is normal etiquette, you know, journalistically. I mean this is, this is none of our business. Neither of these people had been elected to political office. You know, whatever they did or didn't do -- and, as I say, I don't think there is a true allegation in here -- it's not our business. And they're not in a position to defend themselves. And I just, I really hate to see American society gobble this stuff up and I hate to see it be fed this stuff. We can do better than this.

O'BRIEN: All right, John Perry Barlow, friend of John F. Kennedy, Jr.

Thanks for being with us.

BARLOW: Thank you.

O'BRIEN: We appreciate it.


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