Joan Kennedy Denies Working on Son Patrick's New Tell-All Book
"I was not given a copy of the book and have still not seen it or read it," Joan Kennedy says in a statement about son Patrick's new memoir
In the tell-all book, titled A Common Struggle: A Personal Journey Through the Past and Future of Mental Illness and Addiction, the former Rhode Island Congressman writes that his father suffered from “disabling alcoholism” that eventually led the family to stage an intervention for Senator Ted Kennedy in 1991.
Although Patrick told PEOPLE he had consulted his mother on the memoir, the senator’s first wife is now speaking out to distance herself from the book – and all the drama that surrounds it.
“I had no knowledge that Patrick was writing a book and did not assist him in the project in any way,” Joan said in a statement relayed to PEOPLE by her close friend Margo Nash, a Cape Cod lawyer. “I was not given a copy of the book and have still not seen it or read it.”
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For his part, Patrick’s rep told PEOPLE Monday night that he stands by his spokesman Jeff Valliere’s previous statements to the Boston Globe.
“That goes against what the process was,” Valliere told the Globe Monday of Joan’s statement. “She was aware and participated and has been very supportive of his efforts as an activist for mental health and addiction.”
The spokesman added that Joan was also interviewed for the memoir by co-author Stephen Fried. However, when asked if Joan knew what her son was planning to write about his father in the book, Valliere said, “I can’t comment on any back-and-forth conversation. The fact she didn’t get an advance copy of the book would lead me to believe she did not know what was in it.”
In an interview with the Globe Sunday, Patrick, 48, said his mother was the only member of his family who supported the book.
The same day, his brother, Edward M. Kennedy Jr., released a statement saying that Patrick had depicted an “inaccurate and unfair portrayal of our family” and that he was “heartbroken” by the book, the Globe reports.
Patrick, who also details his own struggles with drug addiction, alcoholism and bipolar disorder in the book, writes that he believes his father experienced post-traumatic stress disorder following the assassinations of his brothers, President John F. Kennedy and Senator Robert F. Kennedy.
The former Congressman first opened up about his famous family’s issues in an interview with CBS’ 60 Minutes Sunday, explaining that he was “breaking the family code” by publishing his memoir but adding, “I don’t tell, in this book, about my family stories as some way to talk about their story. This is my story. These experiences are embedded in me.”
Patrick also discussed his mother’s public battle with and triumph over alcoholism in an interview with PEOPLE last week, saying, “My mom is an extraordinary figure. She really was one of the very first public people in this country to have her story of seeking both psychiatric treatment and alcoholism treatment – to have that story publicly told When word [got out] about one of the Kennedys having this illness, I guarantee it made a little bit of a difference in the fact that people could be a little bit freer to talk about it because, well, this is an illness that affects everybody The fact that my mom did talk pretty openly for her day about her struggles meant that she helped a lot of people.”
Patrick, who says he has been sober for five years, added that his mother participated in his book. “She was very good to sit down with me and talk to me when I interviewed her for the book,” he told PEOPLE. “My mom has attended many of my Kennedy Forum events and been properly saluted for the fact that she has frankly suffered a lot under the weight of these illnesses not being treated the way they should be treated.”
Patrick touched on Joan’s denial statement during an appearance on MSNBC’s Morning Joe Monday.
“The point is the fact that she feels that this is shameful,” he said, “which is the reason she’s disavowing herself with any relationship with the book – that should tell you how deep shame is in this illness.”
“She comes from a time where these issues were really stigmatized – so, for her, the default mode is: distance myself from it,” he continued. “And I understand that and I don’t fault her for it.”
Patrick added that he loves his family and prays every day “to do God’s will” and not his own.
“I get on my knees every morning,” he said. “And all I can do is do the next right thing and pray that my brother will understand that what I’m trying to do here is bigger than both of us.”
• Reporting by LIZ MCNEIL