If Ted Kennedy was nervous about anything on the morning of July 19, 1969, he certainly didn’t show it.
At around 8 a.m., shortly before his black Oldsmobile was found upside down in a tidal pond just off the Dike Bridge, he was on the porch of the Shiretown Inn in Edgartown, Massachusetts.
There, he chatted with friends Ross Richards and his wife, Marilyn, about the sailboat regatta that had taken place the day before. Ross had won the race. Ted had come in ninth. Ted mentioned “What a beautiful day” it was. And he seemed quite insistent that the three of them go to breakfast together.
Marilyn Richards’ son says she later wondered whether the senator was trying to set up an alibi for himself.
The previous night, Kennedy’s car crashed off the Dike Bridge on Chappaquiddick Island and plunged into the water below –– killing his passenger, Mary Jo Kopechne, a 28-year-old campaign worker for Ted’s brother Bobby.
To share your thoughts and theories on the case, join our Facebook group
The events that unfolded that night sparked a mystery that has lasted nearly 50 years.
People’s new podcast, Cover-Up, produced in conjunction with Cadence13, explores the fatal accident through interviews with over 50 people, including Kopechne’s cousin and closest living relative, law enforcement officials who oversaw the investigation, the diver who recovered her body from the car, and many more.
Fourteen years after the crash, Kennedy’s cousin and unofficial “fixer” Joe Gargan told Damore that the senator had asked him to lie about what happened that night.
Damore recalls in an interview how Gargan, an attorney, described pleading with Kennedy to report the accident to the police –– but Kennedy had another idea.
“Clearly Mr. Kennedy does not want to report the accident,” Damore says in a taped interview exclusively excerpted in the episode. “Ultimately, he proposes a hypothetical and that is, ‘Why couldn’t Mary Jo have been driving the car? Why couldn’t she have dropped me off at the cottage and taken the car herself in order to return to Edgartown, made a wrong turn and had the accident?’ ”
When Gargan resisted, Kennedy lost his temper and snapped that he would “take care of it” himself, Damore explains.
It’s still unknown exactly what happened in the 10 hours between the time the senator escaped from the car and the time he reported the accident to police.
One week later, Kennedy gave a televised address in which he tried to explain the inconsistencies in his story and his delay in reporting the accident –– saying he had been “overcome” by a “jumble of emotions: grief, fear, doubt, exhaustion, panic, confusion, and shock.”
But years later, when discussing the speech with author Leo Damore, Joe Gargan, the man who had always protected his cousin, said: “It was made up, all of it, including thoughts and emotions.”
For more on the Chappaquiddick scandal, subscribe now to Cover-Up on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Google Play or wherever podcasts are available. And to continue the discussion, join our Facebook group or reach us directly at firstname.lastname@example.org.