Babysitter sex charge casts fresh cloud over Kennedys

Just when it seemed a popular member of America's most famous political dynasty might be heading for a governorship, the family jinx has struck again, reports David Usborne

Outside the Blue Lilac Antique Store, three women reminisce about the last extraordinary thing to happen in their town, Cohasset, an impossibly genteel New England village south of Boston.

It was 10 years ago, and the actor Jack Nicholson was literally being blown down the main shopping street flat on his back by a battery of giant stage fans. The film was The Witches of Eastwick and Mr Nicholson had been hexed.

Of Cohasset's current drama, they are much less willing to talk. It has placed their town at the epicentre of an earthquake that is shaking all of Massachusetts. And eerily, it too features a famous man who might also be said to be under a hex. He is Michael Kennedy, son of the slain Robert Kennedy.

It has already been a week since the Boston Globe took the lid off allegations that Mr Kennedy had until last autumn been conducting, under the roof of his shingled Cohasset house, an illicit affair with the family baby- sitter. The girl, the daughter of another Cohasset power couple, may even have first been bedded by Mr Kennedy when she was only 14. Unnamed by local papers, she is now 19.

It is as if the Kennedy curse has returned once more. The political dynasty that weathered the rape trial of William Kennedy Smith in Florida in 1991 and the more famous, and tragic, Chappaquiddick affair in 1969 when the car of a then young Edward Kennedy plunged into the ocean killing Mary Jo Kopechne is in crisis again. The local District Attorney is currently investigating whether formal charges should be pressed. If Mr Kennedy indeed slept with the girl when she was 14 he could be convicted of statutory rape.

Politically, the timing is awful. The man with the most to lose aside from Michael himself is his brother, Joe Kennedy. Blessed by the Camelot mantle and formidably popular, Joe has long been favoured one day to step up from his seat in the House of Representatives in Washington to the office of the Governor of Massachusetts. That opportunity unexpectly presented itself at the beginning of last week, when President Clinton nominated the current Governor, Republican William Weld, to be US Ambassador to Mexico.

But at the very moment he needs it, Joe Kennedy finds his popularity is eroding like a sand bar in a hurricane. Part of the blame lies with Michael, who is now separated from his wife, Vicki, with whom he has three children. Michael is close to Joe. He also managed the tough, but ultimately successful, 1994 re-election campaign of his uncle, Senator Edward Kennedy.

"There is no question this hurts him [Joe]," observed Lou DiNatale, a professor of politics at the University of Massachusetts. "It means the continuing image of the Kennedys and their relationship with women will hang in the background while the campaign unfolds. While to date that has never been a fatal electoral flaw, it could be moving to critical mass".

While all this is going on, Joe has been smacked by an entirely different kind of woman problem of his own. It centres on a highly public campaign being waged against him by his ex-wife, Sheila Rauch Kennedy.

Joe, a Catholic of course, obtained a civil divorce from Sheila in 1991. Two years later, however, he told her he was asking for an annulment of their marriage so he could marry his new wife in church and begin taking communion again. The annulment was granted by the Archdiocese of Boston last autumn, but Sheila has appealed against it, taking it all the way to the Vatican. She has also written about it.

Sheila's book, Shattered Faith, has just hit the book shops - and the TV talk shows. Of Joe, it is hardly complimentary. She says over the years she was increasingly bullied by Joe who treated her as a "nobody". She wrote: "By the end of the marriage I had simply become afraid of him". Of the day he asked for the annulment, she says: "As I rushed to the bathroom, I tried to remember when I had last actually vomited ... I remember thinking Joe must simply be out of his mind."

If Mr Weld is confirmed as ambassador, the governorship will pass first to the current Lieutenant Governor, Republican Paul Cellucci, until an election for the post in November 1998. A Globe poll last week showed Joe Kennedy trailing Mr Cellucci and even his likely Democratic rival in the primary. And 28 per cent of those polled said the combination of the annulment controversy and the allegations against Michael made them less likely to support Joe.

Outside the antique shop, Marjorie Devoe acknowledges that the damage done to Joe might be real. "I grew up in the JFK era and we tolerated Ted at least because he came with such clout. But how much clout does Joe really have? I think this will come to affect him". She also believes that the anger against Michael is only just below the surface. "When the dust settles, the outrage will come out."

Just tonight, however, Cohasset has the perfect chance to escape from it all. The Witches of Eastwick is on television.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
Arts and Entertainment
Sheeran arrives at the 56th annual Grammy Awards earlier this year
musicYes, that would be Ed Sheeran, according to the BBC
Arts and Entertainment
AKB48 perform during one of their daily concerts at Tokyo’s Akihabara theatre
musicJapan's AKB48 are one of the world’s most-successful pop acts
News
Ian Thorpe has thanked his supporters after the athlete said in an interview that he is gay
people
News
The headstone of jazz great Miles Davis at Woodlawn Cemetery in New York
news
Arts and Entertainment
Brendan O'Carroll has brought out his female alter-ego Agnes Brown for Mrs Brown's Boys D'Movie
filmComedy holds its place at top of the UK box office
News
newsBear sweltering in zoo that reaches temperatures of 40 degrees
Arts and Entertainment
Professor Kathy Willis will showcase plants from the Royal Botanic Gardens at Kew
radioPlants: From Roots to Riches has been two years in the making
Arts and Entertainment
TV The follow-up documentary that has got locals worried
Arts and Entertainment
Eminem's daughter Hailie has graduated from high school
music
Arts and Entertainment
Original Netflix series such as Orange Is The New Black are to benefit from a 'substantial' increase in investment
TVHoax announcement had caused outrage
Life and Style
Swimsuit, £245, by Agent Provocateur
fashion

Diving in at the deep end is no excuse for shirking the style stakes

News
One Direction star Harry Styles who says he has no plans to follow his pal Cara Delevingne down the catwalk.
peopleManagement confirms rumours singer is going it alone are false
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Reception Teacher

£21588 - £31552 per annum: Randstad Education Chelmsford: YEAR 1 TEACHER - FUL...

Year 1 Teacher

£100 - £120 per day: Randstad Education Chelmsford: Ofsted have said "Good te...

Advertising and Marketing Communications Manager

£52000 - £58000 per annum + benefits, company car: Ashdown Group: Advertising ...

Senior Marketing Executive (B2B/B2C) - London

£32000 - £35000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: Senior Marketing Executiv...

Day In a Page

Super Mario crushes the Messi dream as Germany win the 2014 World Cup in Brazil

Super Mario crushes the Messi dream

Germany win the 2014 World Cup in Brazil
Saharan remains may be evidence of the first race war, 13,000 years ago

The first race war, 13,000 years ago?

Saharan remains may be evidence of oldest large-scale armed conflict
Scientists find early warning system for Alzheimer’s

Scientists find early warning system for Alzheimer’s

Researchers hope eye tests can spot ‘biomarkers’ of the disease
Sex, controversy and schoolgirl schtick

Meet Japan's AKB48

Pop, sex and schoolgirl schtick make for controversial success
Iraq crisis: How Saudi Arabia helped Isis take over the north of the country

How Saudi Arabia helped Isis take over northern Iraq

A speech by an ex-MI6 boss hints at a plan going back over a decade. In some areas, being Shia is akin to being a Jew in Nazi Germany, says Patrick Cockburn
The evolution of Andy Serkis: First Gollum, then King Kong - now the actor is swinging through the trees in Dawn of the Planet of the Apes

The evolution of Andy Serkis

First Gollum, then King Kong - now the actor is swinging through the trees in Dawn of the Planet of the Apes
You thought 'Benefits Street' was controversial: Follow-up documentary 'Immigrant Street' has got locals worried

You thought 'Benefits Street' was controversial...

Follow-up documentary 'Immigrant Street' has got locals worried
Refugee children from Central America let down by Washington's high ideals

Refugee children let down by Washington's high ideals

Democrats and Republicans refuse to set aside their differences to cope with the influx of desperate Central Americas, says Rupert Cornwell
Children's books are too white, says Laureate

Children's books are too white, says Laureate

Malorie Blackman appeals for a better ethnic mix of authors and characters and the illustrator Quentin Blake comes to the rescue
Blackest is the new black: Scientists have developed a material so dark that you can't see it...

Blackest is the new black

Scientists have developed a material so dark that you can't see it...
Matthew Barzun: America's diplomatic dude

Matthew Barzun: America's diplomatic dude

The US Ambassador to London holds 'jeans and beer' gigs at his official residence – it's all part of the job, he tells Chris Green
Meet the Quantified Selfers: From heart rates to happiness, there is little this fast-growing, self-tracking community won't monitor

Meet the 'Quantified Selfers'

From heart rates to happiness, there is little this fast-growing, self-tracking community won't monitor
Madani Younis: Five-star reviews are just the opening act for British theatre's first non-white artistic director

Five-star reviews are just the opening act for British theatre's first non-white artistic director

Madani Younis wants the neighbourhood to follow his work as closely as his audiences do
Mrs Brown and her boys: are they having a laugh?

Mrs Brown and her boys: are they having a laugh?

When it comes to national stereotyping, the Irish – among others – know it can pay to play up to outsiders' expectations, says DJ Taylor