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Meet JFK’s Alleged Mistresses – and How Some Met Mysterious Ends

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What did Jackie really know? Get new details about her complicated marriage to JFK, suicidal despair after his death and how she found the strength to go on. Subscribe now to get instant access to this Kennedy confidential, only in PEOPLE!

Tales of President John F. Kennedy‘s infidelities during his 10-year marriage to First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy have circulated for more than half a century.

In this week’s cover story, PEOPLE profiles some of the women who claimed or were reported to be involved with the 35th president. Here’s what we know.

Judith Exner

TED LAU/ IPOL

Exner, who served as a conduit between JFK and mobster Sam Giancana, famously claimed that she had an abortion after she became pregnant with the President’s child.

“Jack couldn’t have been more loving, more concerned about my feelings, more considerate, more gentle,” Exner, the daughter of a well-off architect, told PEOPLE of JFK in a 1988 interview.

Longtime gossip columnist Liz Smith, who wrote extensively about Exner in the years after the latter’s 1977 memoir My Story‘s publication, says Jackie was unsurprised — and fascinated — by what she learned.

“Her good friends Truman Capote and Gore Vidal told me she knew all about Judith Exner and everybody else, and she read my stories on Judith with high interest,” Smith says.

Exner died at age 65 in 1999 after a battle with breast cancer.

Marilyn Monroe

MPTV Images

JFK’s relationship with sultry actress Monroe has long been the subject of speculation, spurred by her iconic “Happy Birthday” performance for the Commander-in-Chief at a May 1962 Madison Square Garden fundraiser.

Cecil Stoughton/Time Life Pictures/Getty

In his 1997 book The Dark Side of Camelot, journalist Seymour Hersh wrote that the star’s “instability posed a constant threat” to the President before she mysteriously overdosed at age 36 in 1962.

Mary Pinchot Meyer

Bettmann

The sister-in-law of legendary Washington Post editor Ben Bradlee chronicled their alleged affair in her diary, Bradlee later revealed.

Earlier this year, a handwritten love letter from JFK to Meyer surfaced in an online auction from Boston’s RR Auction.

“Why don’t you leave suburbia for once — come and see me — either here — or at the Cape next week or in Boston the 19th,” Kennedy wrote in the four-page letter. “I know it is unwise, irrational, and that you may hate it — on the other hand you may not — and I will love it.”

Hank Walker/The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty

He continued, “You say that it is good for me not to get what I want. After all of these years — you should give me a more loving answer than that. Why don’t you just say yes.”

Meyer was murdered in Georgetown in October 1964. Shot twice at a close range, her death is still unresolved and has often been associated with JFK-related conspiracy theories.

Mimi Alford

Courtesy Mimi Alford

As a White House intern in 1962, Alford claimed to begin an 18-month relationship with JFK — an affair outlined in her explosive 2012 memoir, Once Upon a Secret: My Affair With John F. Kennedy and Its Aftermath.

She found the President “magnetic” but told PEOPLE in 2012 that “he wasn’t looking for a relationship to replace his marriage.”

Alford also wrote that her alleged dalliances with JFK were arranged by the President’s special assistant Dave Powers — the “procurer” of willing women, according to Kennedy biographer Laurence Leamer.

RELATED VIDEO: Natalie Portman Reveals How Motherhood Made Preparing for Her Role as Jackie Even Harder


Jill Cowan

Office of Pierre Salinger

Cowan was a secretary in the White House Press Office and often accompanied the president on official trips. She never commented on the details of their relationship.

She did however, say that JFK was “fascinated with youth” in a 1965 oral history housed at the JFK Library. She also said in the same interview how much he admired his wife, noting he was “very proud of the fact Mrs. Kennedy had kept a book of all the place settings and pictures of the flowers, the whole sort of personal touches in the White House.”

Priscilla Wear

Wear also was a White House staff member who worked under JFK’s secretary, Evelyn Lincoln.

The alleged affair was apparently something that Jackie was aware of, according to Barbara Gamarekian, a Kennedy press aide.

While speaking in French to a Paris-Match reporter, Jackie commented about Wear, Gamarekian recalled in an oral history housed at the JFK Library.

“Mrs. Kennedy said, ‘This is the girl who supposedly is sleeping with my husband,’ and the reporter was utterly taken aback.”